THE CABBAGE AND THE BULLET…

Wow…it’s been a long time, lots of changes…as you can see from the above two shots, many extrinsic, but actually more emotionally, an iceberg of depression that plunged like a dagger deep into the pith of my soul.

The first picture I’m 172lbs, slightly pudgy (more so maybe), with the ridiculous iconic “Travis Bickle” haircut. This is a few days before I started treatment back in October, some four months ago. I didn’t know what hell awaited me behind those doors, but I was going to be ready for battle, just like the character in the blood-splattered finale of my favorite film.

The Second picture, I’m about 118lbs, was not allowed to shave…this was two weeks ago after being released from the hospital (after my third trip back inside) this time for acute GVHD (graft vs. host disease) a common side-effect for those with unrelated bone marrow transplants.  I had lost more weight and this was really the hardest thing for me…to go back into the hospital after being out for a month. I’m proud to say that now I’m on day +93 and am doing much better, but it has been a long road, many compare it to Heart Break Hill in the Boston Marathon and I definitely crawled up on all fours and then rolled down.

I’ve pondered these pictures for so long and contemplated how different they are from each other, I’m not the same person anymore that’s for sure…the mohawk and sunglasses look so buffoonish, I started to wonder about Paul Schrader’s motivation for writing this in the TAXI DRIVER script. Then I remember an interview with him talking about WWII soldiers who would adapt this haircut before they were going into a battle…a battle where the odds were not going to be in their favor, a “suicide mission”.  The custom actually went way back to the Native Americans and war raids.  My mind continued to click (as the steroids I’m currently on really don’t allot for much sleep and leave me feeling like a meth addict part of the time, organizing sock drawers, talking way too fast, and thinking about epic topics for hours on end).  This specific night it was an old family story about my Great Uncle Meb, a WWII POW in the Bataan Death March who probably looked much like I do now when he was finally released from Japanese captivity.

Here’s his courageous tale, one of enduring odds, a credo that no matter what is happening around you to keep moving forward, always MARCHING FORWARD…it was inspirational to me while I was in the hospital and although he hardly ever spoke of the war, last summer during a visit to his home town in Pennsylvania with my Grandmother and Great Uncle Leroy (the only two surviving members left of the original 10 sibling family), they recounted the one thing he told them about the BATAAN DEATH MARCH.

THE BATANN DEATH MARCH took place in 1942 in the Philippines after the three-month battle of Bataan when the Japanese overran the island.  The march involved the forcible transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino POWs captured from the Bataan Peninsula.  Since there was no space in the prison camps to accommodate this high number of prisoners, the Japanese marched the captured soldiers for nearly a week back and forth in the tropical heat with no food and or water.  Beheadings, cut throats, and casual shootings were the more common and merciful actions – compared to bayonet stabbings, rapes, disembowelments, and numerous rifle butt beatings.  Falling down on the trail was a death sentence and 1 in 4 did not make it, nearly 20,000 died in the 5-6 day trek.  The story my Uncle Meb told is what I’ve titled this blog…

He remembers an American soldier a few paces in front of him and a whistle.  The G.I. looked up into the jungle just off the marching trail and a Filipino bolted out and threw the soldier a cabbage…a kind free sole who had escaped capture and was trying to help the others.  A Japanese soldier saw this all take place.  He shot the Filipino in the Jungle who had thrown the nourishment, then shot the American who had caught the cabbage as well.  I’m sure my Great Uncle saw worse than this…but he kept his strength, he kept MARCHING FORWARD, he survived.

This story was one of the straws that I’ve grasped at through my whole 4-month hospital stay, through the bouts of chemo, the radiation, through the hardest times.  I realize it’s a gritty story, but sometimes it’s the grit that gets you through.  They tell me next week on day +100 I will technically be called a “survivor” too…

Thanks everyone for reading, for the love and support, the prayers, comments, cards, and well wishes!

I love you all!

Jonathan

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26 responses to “THE CABBAGE AND THE BULLET…

  1. Well Pilgrim you have mastered another great peace of writing. You are my Hero. It took that kind of strenth to get through it all. Love you Uncle Gregg

  2. Unbelieveable. I love you.

  3. Jon,
    What can we all say jon, you are a fighter in every sense of the word. I have known you since the 1st grade, you have all aways been MARCHING FORWARD. Now, the whole world knows it. keep it up buddy….can’t wait to see you.

    paddy

  4. Jonathan, you’re a true warrior. Your Mom stopped by today. You took great care of her while she was with you in CA. Be good to yourself. Keeping you in our thoughts and prayers and ready for your book. 🙂

  5. you have and will continue to do great things, things the rest of us will never be able to accomplish. all my love, come home soon.

  6. Jonathan, you are our hero!

  7. Hi Jon,
    I had dinner w/ your mom and the Hathaway’s on Saturday. It was great to see her and all of her CA pictures. We were beyond thrilled to hear you were able to move into your new apt that day!! Remember that you were deemed a survivor the day you were diagnosed. Your mom and Nick, as well, are considered survivors. Hitting day +100 is icing on the cake. Keep up your amazing battle.
    Livestrong, Nicole 🙂

  8. The Goubeaud's

    Hi Jonathan,
    What a remarklable guy you are – but we already knew that! You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers to keep your strenght to soon win your long fought battle. Your victory flag awaits you!! Love, John, Joyce, Sara, Amy & Jill

  9. Auntie Debbie

    Yahoo! You have made it to 100 days and are officially a survivor! What a journey you have traveled and you did it with courage and determination. I loved watching the slide show you and your mom created-wow. Love, Aunt Debbie

  10. Hey Jon,

    love the blog, thanks for sharing the pictures. Nothing says more about your journey then those two photographs. You certainly lost some meat off those bones but you never lost your spirit or your strength. I can’t even wonder at what your day-to-day has been like these last four months, and sometimes when I write to you on this blog I feel ashamed that all I can offer up are the same tired platitudes. Every time it hit that pesky “submit” button below I feel like I haven’t really said much of anything, and meanwhile I have been bubbling over with things to say. For me at least, your blog entries have always shown, through it all, an unwavering confidence that the world is truly a magical and extraordinary place. That has been the most inspiring for me, truly an amazing thing, and one that requires a special kind of bravery . . . to be marching alone in your own jungle but to still be able to hear the birds sing.

    Congrats on the 100 days Jon, I miss you

    Love, your cousin

    Jason

  11. Claudia Tocci

    Jon,
    You amaze me, your strength, courage and determination are unrivaled. I feel proud to know you. Enjoy your new home and keep writing. You are Jon Goss you are an inspiration to more people than you know!
    Love you,
    Claudia

  12. Congratulations on +100…. hope that you and Sarah enjoy a bigtime and much-deserved celebration. You’ve taught me so many lessons along your journey, I want you to know how much I appreciate your wisdom and courage.

    You write like the wind, Jonathan! You just placed that image of the cabbage and the bullet into my head forever!

    Love to you! Wendy

  13. Leslie (Freda) Duval

    I’m am anxiously awaiting ANY and ALL of your future work, Jon! You are an an incredible person with an incredible spirit and an incredible talent. May the wind forever be in your sails! So happy to hear you are +100!!!

  14. Jon,

    What a great story. I wish i could write like that. 100+ is super!

    Steve

  15. Hey! Evan here. Mom read me your note. Ok so here is what I think…I think you need to tell those nurses that you are wearin’ entirely TOO MUCH tape. I hate the tape. It hurts a 9 on the smiley face chart when they pull it off. Ughhh, it makes my butt tingle just seeing that much tape on you! Seriously, ya need to talk to someone about that, dude.
    So, ya got to go to the movies huh? Mom says not to get any fancy ideas from you (I’m on friggin house arrest two more weeks) but I think you should seriously send me some scripts. Or we could just play PS3 online while we wait for this ST-U-PID disease to go away.
    ggn, ttul
    Thanks for writin’ me-
    Evan the Warrior
    (as dictated to mom)
    http://www.carepages.com/carepages/evanthewarrior

  16. I love you Goose! Great news!! keep it up and I’ll see you soon.

    -Jk

  17. Hey Jon,
    Congrats on +100! You are doing great and thanks for sharing your writing with all us bloggers. Everyone I talk to says the same thing, “he is such a good writer” or “man, he can really spin some yarn!” <<- that one I use often. You really got a gift there and I especially love the new entry! Its very clear, even from just reading all the responses, that you are something special! I’d like to call you a bonefide “maverick”, but it’s way too John MaCain sounding. How bout just badass? I don’t know too many people made outa the same stuff you got in you. Everyday I go to class and I see people, young kids who have it sooo easy and yet they think they’ve got it so bad. I hear them complain and gripe over term papers or midterm exams or a fight with their boyfriend/girlfriend. Then it breaks my heart to think of you and the enormity of the challenges you face in that hospital. All their problems (including my own) seem to shrink – they feel so small and meaningless in comparison. Sometimes I just wanna say sharply, “Hey it’s a nice day outside, why don’t you go take a walk or something.” And what is remarkable about the whole thing is while everyone else is bitching and crying “why me”, you have the courage and the good grace to square up to your problems, even though they may be thousand times more scary and more substantial. If that’s not character, man I don’t know what is. I just wanna wish you all the best and again congratulations on the big 100! Keep up the good work Jon, I miss you.

    Love,
    Your cousin Brian

  18. Jonathan

    I love you so much YOU ARE UNCLE MEB IN MY LIFE and your strength will always be an inspiration to me

    Congrats on day 100, im sure that beer tasted as good as it looks i cant wait to kick back a few with you when i see you. you are my hero

    love,
    antonio

  19. Dearest Jonathan,

    Congratulations for your gritty battle! Travis Bickle was a pansy compared to you. I am so proud of you and I know Uncle Meb would be proud too! I think about you every day and pray that you will make a full recovery. Also, congratulations for making it to the 100th day! You are not only a ‘Survivor’ but an inspiration to us all. God bless you and Sarah and I hope to see you soon!

    Love,
    Uncle Bobby

  20. Ken & Marie Simms

    Admiration is such a weak word in this case. Jon, you are indeed a remarkable young man and it seems to me that you have a true purpose in life. I may not be sure what that purpose is or when it may manifest itself, but I think there is something special for which you are destined. Continue to look forward. You have made a choice to exert your will over your disease and you will succeed. – Ken Simms

    Jon,
    Congratulations! We all knew you would do it. We’ve witnessed your strength and determination. Now we will continue in our daily habit of prayers for you, only now with sincere thanksgiving and faith in your continued good health. You’ve hooked us all with your writing so we’re anticipating more of the same. Be well and prosper. Marie Simms : )

  21. Breaker Breaker, come in Goldenboy…

    Hey there Jon. I’ve been keeping tabs on you thru Cav and Amber and am glad to hear you are doing well. I have to admit, your writing is informative, entertaining and addictive. You’re a natural storyteller.
    I would also like to say that your courage is an inspiration to us all. You remind us that whether we are sick or just in a rut, we need to follow your lead and just keep MARCHING FORWARD.
    That’s great that you’re rounding day 100 – Congrats! I’m looking forward to a day in the near future that we can get together and just shoot the breeze.

    Always in my thoughts.
    Your pal,
    Pat (Shoeshine) Hopkins

  22. Jon,

    I can’t even begin to share with you how much I admire you and your sheer will.

    When I moved out here, you were my support, and no you are my hero for all that you can do, its amazing! What you can and will continue to do will amazing and astound me. I feel privileged to call you my friend.

    My love and prays always with you,

    BJ

  23. Keep it up buddy. Keep it up.

    – Brock

  24. Jon-
    Wow. What a story. I have been in and out of touch with you-but are always in my prayers and thoughts.

    I can’t help but think back to our reckless days of youth, and how we have changed. Back in Boston, I always looked up to you: your style, your attitude, your love for film… You were the older brother I never had. I have always credit you as the spark that started my film making inferno- and it remains true to this day.

    Jon, You have never been more of an inspiration to me then now… and can never be replaced. As your story continues, let’s turn the next page together my Brother!

    Congratulations are in order for the 100+!!! I can’t wait to see you again! Bless you and your family!

    CAVA
    Honor the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.

  25. Ryan's dad

    Ryan may not have told you, but I am on day T+77 of my stem cell transplant. I understand. After a tour in Viet Nam, a round of Hodgkins 17 years ago, and now this I have paid my dues. With these kinds of illnesses, we all pay our dues……russ

  26. Chrissy Consolino

    Jon,

    I am so very glad that we were able to reconnect after all this time and that most importantly you have been able to share such remarkable experiences and as usual, your enthralling stories. I have always been in awe of your incredible essence.

    I miss my pen pal 🙂

    warm wishes,
    miss chris

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