I’m not going to edit this, these words are meant to be just what they are…my thoughts at this very moment….a stream of consciousness writing about a friend.
Today I ask that we take a moment, not of silence but of celebration, to remember one of the most amazing ‘Survivors’ whom I have ever met: Mike Tufo. Mike and I quickly became friends on Planet Cancer shortly after we were both diagnosed with cancer last year and long before the “Voices of Survivors Foundation” was ever even thought about. Our similar sense of sarcastic/dry humor quickly became the glue for our friendship. When I first started talking about “Voices of Survivors”, Mike immediately stepped to the table and threw in his complete support. He was a dear friend who believed in me, which meant a lot at that point in both of our lives. I knew that his ‘voice’ would be one that I would have to capture on camera to share with the world because of who he Mike was and this year I finally was able to make that happen. I ventured down to Pennsylvania and had one of the greatest days of my life with him and his family. Mike and his wonderful wife, Dianne shared their home, their family and their favorite restaurant with me. That day, I was given an opportunity to see a real warrior, a true hero and gain a deep understanding what ‘Survivorship’ is all about. Before I ever turned the camera on, I sat there with him in his chair, that was draped by his blanket, and me on the floor talking all about what being a ‘Survivor’ meant to him. I could not just hear his words, but I could literally feel them as he spoke to me. I knew that the person who sat before me was filled with passion, not just for life but for ever thing that it offered. His family was everything to him and that showed through, not only that day but throughout our friendship. I honestly never had a conversation with him where he wasn’t talking to me and Dianne and the boys. They were literally everything to my friend.
One day this year Mike really surprised me when he sent me a CD with the “Voices of Survivors” demo song on there that he had written and recorded. He also included one of the most beautiful letters that I have ever received. The first time that I listened to it, I cried. I then went on to listen to it at least 20 more times that night. The words that he wrote really captured so much about what “Voices of Survivors” is all about and his support has always meant more to me than any word that I could ever put on paper would capture. He’s a hero to me as is Dianne.
They both are deeply a part of “Voices of Survivors”. Mike shared his ‘voice’ in the ‘Written Word’, on Video, in his song and even last week wrote an Article on the importance of being one’s own best advocate as he was in and out of the hospital. His commitment to sharing his ‘voice’ with the world and helping others in anyway that he could would be difficult if not impossible to rival. Dianne became the first person to ever share her ‘voice’ in the ‘Co-Survivor’ section as she talked about all that she had experienced during Mike’s fight. I knew that she was the only person that I could use to start that section because of all that I learned from her during our friendship. The two of them have become two of my best friends ever.
Last night Mike became an eternal ‘Survivor’ and what he has left us with is a very deep understanding of what being a true ‘Survivor’ is all about. Mike is still a ‘Survivor’ and will always be one because that was how he lived his life. He is not with us now in a physical form but will always be with us as he has touched each and every person who has watched his Video, read his ‘Written Word’ piece, read his ‘Article’ or listened to his song. Last night I cried many times as I thought of a day of not being able to talk to my friend because he has inspired me so much. Then I stopped because I could hear the ‘Big Man’ telling me to “Stop that crying, you have other things to think about. People are counting on you now get to work”. That’s just what he would tell me I’m sure if he saw me crying. He was just that way.
I remembered my last conversation that I had with him a couple of days ago whilst he was in the hospital and the words that he said. He kept talking to me about how much he loved “Voices of Survivors” and how he was sharing his Video, his song and his ‘Written Word’ pieces with the nurses on the Oncology floor and I could only think what a beautiful and giving soul he has. I also had to laugh because Mike is an awesome promoter of himself and “VoS”! I honestly loved Mike…or maybe I should properly say love Mike because he demonstrated what a true friend and ‘Survivor’ was to me in a way that I have never seen before.
A huge reason that “Voices of Survivors” exists is because when I first started to think about this, Mike was in my corner and believed in me and this idea. Let’s all take this moment to celebrate and remember Mike..a true ‘Survivor’. Oh and I’m sure that he also wants us to remember him as ‘Cuddles’. Mike..I know you laughed up there when you read that brother. I may not have captured everything the way that I wanted to, but I do want you to know this:
Mike…I’ll miss you bro! Love you man!!!
Your friend forever,