Saturday, February 22, 2014


Entitlement. The fact of having a right to something.

Right. A moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something; that which is morally correct, just, or honorable.

Huh. Seems a bit circular to me.   

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I know that there are places in the world where people don't feel entitled to anything. They don't expect to be able to drink clean water or use a toilet. If they can't see, they don't expect eye glasses and if they get sick, they don't assume there are medicines that can save them. They don't feel entitled to write or speak or even think freely. They don't assume they will grow old or die peacefully. Unfortunately, they know better than all that. 

I also happen to have been born in a place where people do feel entitled to these types of things; where people feel entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I grew up thinking, albeit, subconsciously, that I was entitled to childhood and adulthood, to love and companionship, to children and to growing old. How lucky I am to live in a place where I expect these things; where I believe that it is morally correct and just that we receive them. How very, very lucky. 

Cancer, however, has a way of altering all expectations and assumptions. Fast. A diagnosis can hit us smack in the face (or the breast) with the reality that we all may be crazy fools who feel entitled to anything. Especially time. 

Kristin's recurrence has shaken me to the core for more reasons than I have it in me to explain tonight. Part of it involves entitlement. Entitlement to certain clinical outcomes, to medicine doing what it's supposed to do inside our bodies. Entitlement to days, months, years. Entitlement to milestones for our marriage, our children, and their children. Entitlement to time. 

What has happened to Kristin is not just. The chemo and the Herceptin should have worked. The cancer should not have spread. I have great hope for my friend's future and faith in the fighting spirit she has shown particularly this past week. But she shouldn't have to go through this. No one should. 

And that's why entitlement is such a tricky concept. Because I want to live in a world where every man, woman, and child feels the right to a long and healthy life. Yet I've felt the pain that comes with the realization that what was once expected is actually just a gift not yet received. I also know the freedom that is scattered (albeit it, very rarely) in that pain -- the oddly comfortable and even remarkable freedom in the realization that what was once expected is actually just a gift. 

Not yet received. 

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