The Door to Abundance

By Matt Katz

“You get a lot of wisdom in the pressure cooker.”

This from a young father named Ryan Green, whose child was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of one.

It’s the ultimate parental nightmare, a possibility against which I’ve built an impenetrable force field: I don’t even think about it; my kids will outlive me, and that’s that.

Yet Green, a video-game developer, channeled the unthinkable horror of that prognosis into a game. Unlike most video games, “That Dragon, Cancer” was designed not as an escape but as a way to invite others into his real-life experience. And in the end, it became a way to preserve, and to celebrate, the memory of his son’s life.

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, more than 1.65 million people in the U.S. will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2015. It’s a group of diseases that’s touched nearly everyone I know. One that recently imposed itself on my own extended family, and that will thoroughly dominate our lives in the coming months.

To be sure, cancer is not rare. What is rare, however, is a constructive approach to dealing with it. Ventura’s Michelle Grinsel (p. 48) decided to document her struggle in a locally made film called One Way: A Journey To This Moment, which focuses on making the most of life—savoring its beauty and abundance, appreciating everyday miracles like a child’s laughter or the caress of an ocean breeze.

While she’d joyfully return to the “carefree existence” of her life before cancer, Michelle very astutely points out that she would not do so without her “newfound sensibility.” In essence, Stage 4 breast cancer has imparted an almost unattainable wisdom, an enlightened awareness of the present moment.

But between those ocean breezes and youthful peals of laughter await countless struggles. Fact is, cancer is a game changer. It is a heavy weight, a disruption, a 24/7 nuisance. And to go through it alone is anything but easy.

Ojai’s Susan Kapadia was diagnosed in 2009 and struggled for two years before discovering the Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara. Suddenly, she had access to a vast resource library, as well as support groups and other services. But as she put it, “When you are feeling sick and tired, the last thing you want to do is drive 35 miles.”

So, instead of burying her head in the sand, Susan founded the Ojai Valley’s only community-based cancer-support nonprofit: OjaiCARES. On page 19, we chat with her and Assistant Director Renee Mandala about the organization, and find out what sort of impact it’s had on the local community.

But this wasn’t intended to be a cancer-themed note. In fact, I was more intent on writing about the Gold Coast Veterans Foundation (p. 19), a Camarillo-based nonprofit that offers programs and services for local veterans and their families.

Then the phone rang.

A tectonic shift jolted my family—the shock of mortality. Priorities changed. Travel plans were cancelled. And the words of Michelle Grinsel rang truer than they had just a day before.

Indeed, there is priceless wisdom in her realization that the door to abundance is always open. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or hollowed out by grief to gain entry, she reminds us. There is no key. With a sense of gratitude, you can walk right through.


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