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Tom Galli


I've seen the star of Bethlehem, very early on Christmas morning.  While peacekeeping in Egypt's Sinai Desert, I would run before daybreak as soldiers are prone to do. Although the desert is quite cold in December, dawn running was a habit hard to break.  I ran the camp perimeter to check the defensive positions and greet soldiers enjoying the banter in three different languages.  Starting in the south perimeter and running counterclockwise, the predawn western sky was dark except for the stars that were so clear, they were painted on the black night sky. Passing along the northern perimeter, the sky lightened and my expectation was the sun starting its rise.  But, no, not that day. Right on the distant horizon was a cosmic anomaly, a false dawn, but a bright shining nevertheless.  I was looking at the star in the east seen by the Three Wise Men as they rode in search of Jesus. I would later learn, it was not a star but a rare conjunction of the planets -- Jupiter, Saturn and Mars -- all rising in the east slightly before being washed out by the rising sun.  I am awestruck by that memory.

Many years later after surviving a years worth of cancer surgery and while waiting the results of my first post-surgical diagnostic scan, my entire family gathered to celebrate Christmas. Mom, dad, four brothers, daughter, and a posse of nieces who overwhelmed my one nephew comprised the gathering.  Despite my manifest uncertainty, we had a joyous time.  I can count on a single hand the times my family gathered.  With two Galli soldiers, someone was always missing on deployment.  But Christmas in 2004 was an assembly formation, and the clan was all present and accounted for.  We celebrated Christmas and my life.  I am awestruck by that memory.

Then started the clammer of lung cancer treatment. In my treatment years after the Christmas 2004 assembly, my life hovered in sadness and despair. I allowed myself to become overwhelmed by uncertainty, indeed I could think of little else. I forget there are only two things certain in the human experience: birth and death.  Everything else is uncertain; outcomes are unpredictable. Treatment was working for I was granted extra life.  There were many opportunities for joy but they were frittered away.  I am awestruck by those memories.

In common with all lung cancer survivors, having been born, I have only one certain human experience yet to deal with -- death.  Its timing is uncertain with or without lung cancer. In my memories of active treatment, I chose to let life pass me by forever losing opportunities for joy.

Today we celebrate a birth, a new beginning.  It was announced by a star. I've seen the star.  Let the joy of this birth be a new beginning for all lung cancer survivors.  Let us live and find joy in the life we have and be awestruck by the memories of life well lived.

Stay the course. 

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