Poignant Quote by Tim Russert   September 18th, 2011

I was exploring the fabulous news and media museum called the “Newseum” in Washington, D.C. yesterday.

One of the exhibits there is the office of Tim Russert, a news personality who died a few years ago at the tender age of 58. And one of the items there was a Starbucks coffee cup inscribed with the following words of wisdom from Russert:

“You can shower a child with presents or money, but what do they really mean, compared to the most valuable gift of all – your time? Vacations and special events are nice, but so often the best moments are spontaneous ones. Being there. Every moment you spend with your child could be the one that really matters.”

— Tim Russert, former host of NBC’s Meet the Press and author of Wisdom of our Fathers.

Beautifully said.


I have now had about three weeks to come to grips with the fact that I have melanoma, a malignant form of cancer.

The first step after received the call from the dermatologist was a mild form of denial, as in “this is not real, this is not happening to me”. That lasted only a few hours.

The next step, after educating myself about the seriousness of malignant melanoma, was high anxiety, where my breathing became difficult, my heart would pound, and I would get lightheaded and disoriented. That lasted about two days, on and off, and was not at all helped by the cold I managed to catch at the same time (which may explain some of the fuzzy headedness).

My thoughts during those initial days wandered the spectrum of trying to figure out what I all needed to do to settle my affairs if mortality was truly upon me, to convincing myself that the subsequent biopsy would naturally show that I was fine because I had caught the melanoma so early in its growth.

It helped that I spent the five days after my diagnosis at a culinary resort, learning to improve my culinary skill with my wife and children. Being in a kitchen is something I find incredibly therapeutic.

The next hard part was when I dropped my family off at the airport to fly home to Bonaire and headed back to New Hampshire by myself, in advance of a couple of doctor’s appointments.

Less then a week later I found myself in the hospital watching a radio isotope course through the lymphatic network in my thigh into my right groin lymph nodes, and later that day entered surgery to remove a couple of chunks of skin and the targeted lymph nodes (more on that procedure in a day or two).

My wife Linda came back up the day after my surgery, and has been with me since, proving to me that one of the best ways to cope with the stress of bad news is to have the support of loved ones nearby.

As we approached the seventh day after surgery we knew that we would soon be getting the biopsy shortly, and we had been careful not to simply assume they would come back clean, and at the same time left the possibility on the table that the fight wasn’t nearly over yet.

When word came back that the lymph node had cancer in it, it was still a shock, however. That was three days ago, on Thursday afternoon. Since then, we have been on an emotional rollercoaster, subject to sudden outbursts of what we have been called “the weepies”.

But interestingly, the weepies have not been as a result of the fear of mortality, but instead as a response to the incredible words and acts of support from friends and family as we have spread word of the diagnosis. The number of tissues we have literally blown through is stupendous. And, to our own amusement, we have occasionally found ourselves laughing as well as crying at the same time, as one of us has set off the other, with absolutely no self-control possible.

The Real Point Here…

And this rather long introduction brings me to the actual “meat” of this post, namely the yin/yang of adversity and opportunity.

My elder brother, who lives in Berlin, Germany, sent me a very touching e-mail (and brought on the weepies), with a very poignant point, namely that when situations like the one I am going through occur, it makes you reevaluate what is important in life, and what it not, and that that changes your view of the world.

I have always been a believer in the idea that when life throws you a challenge, it also provides opportunities for positive change. What those opportunities are may not always be inherently obvious at first, but time and exploration will reveal them.

It may be tough to imagine what the opportunities are from learning you have a dangerous form of cancer, but I have already come up with several for my particular situation:

– As a result of my choice to not suffer my illness in silence and solitude, and instead sharing my woes with my friends and family, I have learned how many people have cancer survival stories of their own (or of close family members), but which they have not shared with others. Thus, my being open about my condition might help spread awareness that cancer is not something that needs to be kept hidden, which in turn will let future cancer patients feel less scared about their own odds.

– In the last few days I have learned how amazing our friends really are, something that may be easily overlooked as we all too often take our friends for granted and become complacent about our friendships. The tears I have been crying as a result of the weepies when reading messages from our friends, and the calls I have received have been tears of wonder and joy at the genuine love and care our friends have shared, and as such, those tears have been enormously cleansing and stabilizing. While not an actual opportunity, per se, having such a wonderful network of friends is a truly positive thing, one that can only help with healing and balance. Hopefully other friends who at some point end up with unpleasant diagnoses will see this as well, and realize they can count on the support of their friends too.

– I have also wanted to find a good writing project for some time now, but have lacked motivation and inspiration. Being diagnosed with cancer now gives me the time and motivation to write, and share my experiences and observations, with the hope that my writings will get other people to understand that cancer can affect anyone – either as a cancer patient or friend or family of such patients. And, more importantly, that it is not the end of the world when you are diagnosed with cancer (and can even be the start of something new and exciting – or at least interesting).

– While my photographic pursuits (I am presently in a Masters of Fine Arts program in Photography) have been focused on culinary and nature photography, this new adversity and the things I have been learning about are inspiring me to design image series that are centered around making cancer a more approachable and real subject. After all, it is said that knowledge is power, right? More on this as I develop my ideas and concepts.

I think the above examples are just the tip of the iceberg of opportunity brought on by the adversity of learning I have cancer. I have no doubt that I will find even more opportunities from my current situation that will help me turn cancer into just another (survivable) challenge in life that helps me grow and expand my horizons and potential.


All My Blogs   August 23rd, 2010

Some of you have asked me how many blogs I currently operate and if I’m finally done adding new blogs.

To answer the last question first – I think I’m done with new blogs for the time being. This latest one, Jake’s Take, is kind of a catch all to cover things which don’t fit in my other blogs. I expect it to be the most esoteric over time.

For the first question, here’s a list of the other public blogs I maintain:

  • Bits Are Cheap – my new photo blog, with a photo a day from my extensive archives
  • The Richter Scale Blog – this is where I cover new technology
  • The Richter Scale Articles – this is where I repost articles I have written for various publications, but it is very incomplete as I have written many hundreds of articles over the years, but only about 90 appear on that blog/site at present
  • A Foodie Moment – this is my blog about my passionate obsession with food and exploring food science and culinary arts
  • The Traveling Richters – my blog about the world travels of the Richter family including our trip earlier this year to Antarctica, and hopefully soon stories from our travels to Hong Kong and Macau
  • I Learned Something New – a somewhat neglected site to share odd things I’ve learned as I come across them, with a focus on short notes
  • Richter Art Gallery – I decided to make our art gallery site into a blog to make it easier to update, so this is where you’ll see news about our art efforts
  • Jake’s Take – this blog, of course

If you find it tough to track that many blogs, I also post a message to Twitter (@jakerichter) whenever I post a new blog entry to any of the above blogs.

Other non-blog sites that I maintain can be found in the Blogroll at right, and there are quite a number of those too.


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