Taking a break from discussing the minutiae that is my life for some perspective.

Admittedly, I had not heard of this kid before this morning when I woke up at four am to desperately rifle through the medicine cabinet looking for Tylenol. While waiting for it to kick in, I did something I seldom do: turned on CNN. And I caught a tribute to Miles Levin on Anderson Cooper's show.

He's apparently been blogging about his illness for some time here. After hearing the CNN piece this morning, I went on a Google Feast all over the Internet, reading everything I could about the extraordinary young man who wrote this:

“I’d like to share with you a life discovery I’ve had. I’ve always wondered to what extent attitude can be chosen, or how much of it is beyond conscious control, making it more a function of neurotransmitters, genetic predispositions, and the quality of our surrounding circumstances. It’s really a question of nature versus nurture. To those who say we are the captains of our mentality, I say look at people who are depressed. Do you think they choose to be depressed? Depression sucks. They would do a lot not be depressed; almost certainly more than the people who claim that attitude can be self-determined are actively doing to be happy. Most happy people, as far as I can tell, don’t work very hard at being happy. It just sort of works out that way by virtue of their constitution. For the most part, I include myself in that category.

Anyway, there was a recent period a couple weeks ago where I was really struggling with the fact that all my friends and my girlfriend get to go off to college in the fall with the future in their laps while I get left behind to stay at home doing chemotherapy treatment, if I’m even alive to do that. All those friends who were once my community, who kept me plugged into some sort of normal life, will be far away and very busy. I will fade and I will be bored. That was and still is hard. I know I should feel grateful just to still be alive in the fall, but somehow that didn’t help. Is it so much to ask that I too could have college to look forward to instead of either more treatment or death?

This got to me in a way that many things in me life should probably be getting to me but I’ve refused let them, and that’s been the magic of this story. I don’t think I did very many updates during this time because I didn’t feel I had anything to write that was worthy to read anymore, or of 12,000 people’s time. Whatever I had—wisdom or poise or centeredness or whatever–I felt I’d lost. Whereas previously, Miles had been on top of his cancer, now my cancer was on top of me.

This went on for about two weeks before one day I finally decided that it was enough; I needed some time to deal with that disappointment, but it’s enough now and further moping would be a waste of very precious time. I decided that today was the beginning of a change in my attitude, a change in me. I said it aloud. And what I want to tell you in this update is that it worked. I’m back, I suppose. I’m feel back on top of the cancer, and will be to the end. I’ve reverted in many ways to what I used to be—the accepting optimist–but incorporated into that is something new. Precisely what is new has not entirely crystallized yet, but I think the change can be likened to that of someone who has survived a year with one of those abhorrently difficult and unforgiving math teachers. It teaches you to suck it up and get the job done, even in the face of incredible injustice.

I conclude from this successful transformation in outlook that, to a large extent, a person can make the conscious decision to change their attitude–much more so than I previously thought. It’s not effortless; it definitely takes a certain enduring conviction. And in all fairness, by genetic predisposition, some will find simply deciding to be happy easier and some will find it harder, depending on their neurochemical makeup.

But I want to tell you that it’s possible.”

I'm struck by the fact that we lose incredible people in the blink of an eye and often never even realize what a loss it is. I'm glad that this didn't go completely unnoticed in my life today.

Sympathies to his family and those who loved him.