Me looking sexy in chemo.

A Bad Day

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Yesterday was a hard day – a low day. I think those in treatment for cancer need to acknowledge these. It was also a hard day for me in considering the directions and actions in my country and I think we need to acknowledge those as well.

Yesterday was my last infusion on chemo before a PET scan to see what effect it has been having. The infusions with mega steroids left me bone tired where just blinking seemed like work. Leaving the plan of chemo treatments to await a PET scan is not a comforting feeling – it takes a set schedule and direction forward and replaces it with a host of possibilities allowing you to go to the worst-case scenario – did the chemo work? Is it still growing? What’s next? It can get pretty dark in your head.

At the same time, I watched my social media feeds with stories of migrant camps on military bases; separated migrant children with little prospects for reuniting with their parents; potential roll backs of social safety nets and basic human rights; roll back of what little insurance protection people with pre-existing conditions have; the fact that our national policies seem to be an embrace of tyrants over our European and Canadian allies; and finally deaths in a newsroom shooting made worse by a direct linkage to a national dialog that demonizes those that do not agree with us.

Tired and sad and pessimistic is not an image I project. It is the opposite of the projection I want in my life and career…a fact that many of my critics are happy to point out (“library apologist” and “library cheerleader” being my favorite repeatable phrases). But even a pragmatic utopian gets tired.

So, I went with it. I moped, and I despaired, and I read the damn comments.

Then, I slept. I took the sleeping pill. This morning I woke up and read about librarians working collaboratively to track separated migrant children. I read about libraries improving communities around the globe. I read about female library directors speaking out about their right to be professionally respected and seeing men step up to acknowledge that right and their obligations to support these great directors. I read about the increase in first time candidates for public office who in the face of the same depressing news went to do something.

I saw my journalist colleagues call the public discourse to task and celebrate their own bravery. I have seen light in local politics that seek to make life better for students and citizens regardless with the gridlock at the national level. I re-read the letters my colleagues at the University of Washington condemning family separations and saw the social impact and responsibility mission of the LIS field is still there.

I chose to seek the way forward and not focus on all the obstacles…not to ignore those, but not to surrender to the hopelessness. It takes work. I have read many people talk about fatigue in the face of the constant negativism. For some that means needing regular escapes to reading or fiction or time off online. I respect those choices. As a profession and as human beings we must acknowledge that self-care is part of being a good professional. But for me, I have to do something.

So today I will get my sleep. I will acknowledge that I have options in my health (and acknowledge that that is a privilege I need to fight to expand to all). I need to acknowledge my past mistakes and re-evaluate past actions in light of new learning (let us all acknowledge the difficult irony that being a life-long learner means acknowledging that you are also to a degree ignorant for your entire past life). And I will make a plan to make a difference. I will seek out allies and be an ally. I will call out the bad, but also sing out the good. And I will rest. Elections matter, but so do daily calls to politicians. Tweets can express outrage, but programs and curriculum make changes.

I have cancer, but I also have power. I work in a profession that is awakening to the true difficulties of taking diversity of ideas and creeds, and people, and social classes into itself and what that means for neutrality. These are essential and difficult conversations and I need to be ready for them. Yesterday I was mad for what I lost. I was depressed. I have to allow myself to be there. Today? Today I chose to create something new in place of those losses.

8 responses on “A Bad Day

  1. asmoments

    David, your post has shined some light on my highly depressed mind and body…I want to fight it and your post is helping me a little. Get your rest and know that you have helped me today a little, with your writings and thoughts. I know you will take care of yourself.

  2. Daniel Barron

    Know and feel that you valued in many ways including your honesty, optimism, and tenacity regarding your quality of life for yourself and that of all the other people on this earth.

  3. dianehillmann

    Dave, I’ve been watching you face your health challenges and come out swinging time and again. But having the courage to talk about your ‘down’ times and what pulls you back is a wonder. I think about you often and send best wishes and best hopes your way.

  4. Tim Lowan

    David – Although I’ve had hard times and family members who went through cancer treatment (successfully), I don’t pretend to know what you are going through and I wont offer sympathy to someone who hasn’t asked for it.
    Perhaps instead I can just say that I’m not a librarian but have read your work, taken the library transformation MOOC, and worked with you a few years back on a libraries conference in Canada. Your approach, insights, and particularly the novel ways you align what you present with your beliefs of what should be have changed the way I perceive my work, information generally, libraries and their potential.
    For all that, and continuing to be faithful to who and what you are, even in the hardest of time, thank you.

  5. Katie Howe

    Catching up on your blog and p-o’d that the cancer is back and thinks it can detract from your spark. I no longer work directly in LIS but your energy, passion, and realistic approach to life and work has stayed with me (and tbh, your humor/humility and ability to discern what matters vs what to shake off has made me a better parent; most important job of my life). Take good care of yourself (and allow your squad to take care of you); and beat this, again, no matter how exhausting it may be. You are larger than life. Pulling hard for you and thinking of you and your family. Be well.

    With great fondness,
    Katie (Schisa) Howe, from the iSchool

  6. Elisabeth Simon

    Dear Mr. Lankes. we are deeply sorry for the outbreak of the illness and hope so much, that you will be better soon. You are so popular in Germany as you see by the prize of the best book of 2017, but apart of it is really used and read espescially by small communities who have required it. Therfore do not be depressed by the activities of your president, you and American librarianship are still very popular in this country and by those whom you have addressed by the hard working and the devoted librarian. We would like so much to invite you to come to Germany. So get better, and we hope that we might to have you over here we are with you with all our good wishes. Best regards Elisabeth Simon

  7. Sue Wurster

    Still on your virtual team, Dave. Sending kind and good thoughts your way for health and recovery. All the best to you.

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