The Battle of a lifetime

There is an Irish saying I want to share with you all that really applies in many different situations.

”There are only two things to worry about, either you are healthy or you are sick. If you are healthy, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you are sick there are only two things to worry about, either you will get well or you will die. If you get well, then there is nothing to worry about. But if you die there are only two things to worry about, either you will go to heaven or to hell. If you go to heaven, then there is nothing to worry about. And if you to go hell, you’ll be so darn busy shaking hands with your friends you won’t have time to worry!

Why I chose this saying, I’m not too sure, but it deals with two topics that should be extremely important to all of us. Though at this time lets concentrate on getting well, and friends.

A few days back I received a phone call from an old room mate of mine in Kyiv, Ukraine. Yes, I know my location on many social networks indicates that I’m still there, but in all honesty in today’s world it really doesn’t matter where I am physically located. It was almost your typical phone call, with a few exceptions. First, it isn’t regular to receive a phone call from a third of the way around the face of our planet unless it is important! Second, when the conversation starts with, “Hi Vasyl, sorry to be bothering you but I have some bad news!” At that moment everything in your world stops for a moment. My room mate was right she was being the bearer of bad news, but I wasn’t necessarily the worse possible news I could have gotten on a Wednesday afternoon.

She continued to inform me that a good friend of mine Ilko Kucheriv has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Well, “shit” I thought to myself, and then she said that he has a very positive outlook and attitude. Well there is at least a part that is positive about this bad news, Ilko’s attitude. While my room mate couldn’t tell me much she told me who she had heard from. I’m glad she called to tell me and I hope that my contribution over the next little while will help my friend in the battle for his life.

Ilko has been an activist in Ukraine since the days before Ukraine’s independence and is Director of the Democratic Initiatives Foundation. As long as I have known him he has always tried to be a little more progressive than other leaders in his community, and always tackles projects which are important in the further development of his country. Ilko and I go back quite a few years, about twelve, but working the way we did together it often seems that it was a lot longer than those twelve years. The events in Ukraine that I experienced visiting through the 1990s and then being on ground from the spring of 1999 until the autumn of last year was really the equivalent to a life time for many, and many of those experiences I lived through with Ilko. Damn, he and I even stated that the elections in Mukachevo in April of 2004 were the litmus test for democracy in Ukraine, and this was while we were at a conference in Bratislava in March of that year..

I a was a consultant for his organization for nearly that entire time I was in Ukraine. He and I traveled both inside and outside of Ukraine together and often we had working weekends at it his cottage and I got to know his family. So there is good reason I want to help him in any way I can.

While from one aspect this entry is a lot off topic for my blog, but on the other hand it’s not. Such struggles also make up the notes on the page of each of our lives… So by that token the entry is bang on. But first let me explain why I am writing this in my blog and why I feel that I have to do my part in letting all of Ilko’s friend’s know about, as he put it to me in an e-mail he dictated to his wife for me, “a change in my life’s priorities for the time being.” And I am now sharing with you all what I shared with Ilko and his wife because maybe then some of you who read this will better understand what is going on, and why I am dealing with this issue in my life, the potential terminal illness of a good friend, the way I am.

Back in 1990, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, I visited Ukraine on invitation of the Student Brotherhood organization of the the city of L’viv. A year earlier I had met Andriy Vynnychuk from that organization on his first visit to Canada. In short Andriy Vynnychuk and I became good friends, and after my visit to Ukraine, Andriy once again visited Canada with another great friend Orest Vasyltsiv. During their visit we met with many University Student Unions in Canada, after attending the SUSK Congress in Saskatoon in 2001.

When Ukraine became independent, Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskiy’s dream of re-opening the Kyiv Mohyla Academy became a reality, Andriy enrolled there instead of continuing in physics, which he had graduated from at the Ivan Franko Universty in L’viv. I can recall very well about when I heard about that decision of Andriy’s. This was from another good friend who was on a stop over on his way to Edmonton for his Masters, told me how Andriy had gotten into a Masters program in physics, but he had also been accepted into Mohyla. That friend is now Ukraine’s Ambassador to Finland. Andriy went on to enrol in the re-established educational institution with a rich history. There he met his wife, they were married and then when he was studying Prague illness struck. Sometime during Andriy’s last semester in Prague, Vyacheslav Bryukhovetsky was in Montreal and he told me that Andriy was extremely sick. A few months passed and a friend of mine from Montreal said they saw Andriy in L’viv when he was there and didn’t recognize him, in mid July when I arrived in Kyiv friends said to me, “Vasyliu, sit down. I was at Andriy’s funeral last week!” During that whole period when he was sick, friends he had around the world felt helpless, I was one of them and my appeal through different forums and listservs was one of anguish that we could do nothing to help him, the diagnosis came extremely late in the progress of his illness. Though Andriy is not forgotten my the school he so dearly wanted to graduate from, and now there is a grant for students in Andriy’s memory “for the activity in the organization of student self government”. That was 1996, Ukraine and the world is wired extremely differently now.

So having had this experience this, I could not at all just sit around and do nothing, and I am glad to see that there are other friends of his who are doing their part. When I awoke on Thursday morning I had an invitation to join the HELP ILKO page on Facebook, with an short while later I was notified that help_ilko was following me on Twitter. So social networking being what it is, I invited all my friends to that group, well at least all my friends who could read the Ukrainian. And then the letter writing campaign started, on Friday. So far the response has been good, but this is going to be a long and expensive battle, and I am going to help out as much as I can. This in fact his battle of a lifetime

The meds doctors are using on my friend are traditional chemo:

Even though you may read elsewhere that such a product should not be prescribed to men, from what I can understand the last of these products is being used to deal with the metastasis of the bone of his spine. But hey I’m no doctor… but just using a little logic.

None of these meds are cheap by any standards, and probably more expensive in Ukraine than elsewhere, because everyone from the Minister of Health to the doctors who have prescribed the meds want their cut.

I the days that follow I will probably be blogging here about the change in priorities in the life of a good friend. I hope that anyone who reads this can help out as much as their finances allow.

I on the other hand… will be doing my part in many different ways. I am sure some of you who read this will hear from me soon.