Celebrating Arijit—The Poop Strong FUNd
Thanksgiving was Arijit’s favorite holiday. It celebrated two of his favorite things: eating food and being grateful. To him, it was a day to reflect on how fortunate you were and to appreciate all the good things in life. Even last Thanksgiving, when the tumors had robbed him of his ability to eat, he was still thankful: thankful that he had the energy to cook, thankful that he could spend the day with people he loved, thankful he was alive and—more importantly—living.
Depending on the year, his birthday would come a week or two after Thanksgiving, though he was never particularly keen on celebrating it. Last year we spent his birthday in the hospital, where he was recovering from surgery to have his gastrostomy tube placed. At midnight, when one of his nurses came in with his morphine, he asked her to take a picture of us to mark the occasion. It was the first time over the course of our entire relationship that he wanted to celebrate his birthday. Despite being in a recliner in a cramped hospital room, it was exactly where I wanted to be.
I always knew I wanted to do something now, during this time of hope and generosity, to honor Arijit and his memory. And, in harnessing the power and love of the family, friends, and strangers who followed him, to bring some goodness and joy out of our shared grief, and to celebrate the season of thanks and giving by helping those in need, just as Arijit always strove to do.
Arijit and I frequently discussed how most of the focus on cancer (and other chronic or terminal illnesses) is on the physical—on treatment, on medications, on things you can quantify with blood tests or whatever—but that psychological and emotional needs aren’t talked about as much as they should be within the medical community. Quality of life was something we were concerned with, not only in terms of the cost–benefit for treatment, but in more basic terms like being able to do the things we enjoy—living a good life, whatever that meant at the time. Even with the insurance issues, Arijit and I knew that the only limitations we’d have regarding the things we wanted to do were related to his condition. If we wanted to go out to eat, or to a concert or a museum, or rent movies or play games—whatever it was—we knew we could. If we wanted to travel, we were constrained only by Arijit’s ability to tolerate the ride. Perhaps money should have been a concern, but it was more important to us that we enjoyed our life together, because that was the only way we’d make it through everything else. We were also blessed with a community of people who wanted to help, which frequently manifested itself as little care packages of music or movies or games or books or gift cards or cash (always with the instruction to “do something fun”). We were never at a loss for things that made us happy, and we always knew how lucky we were that our stubborn little quest to keep our lives as normal as possible was generally successful.
Everyone knows that illness, whether acute or chronic, terminal or not, is financially draining. Even with “good” insurance, there are plenty of out-of-pocket expenses that quickly add up, not to mention the added stressors of reduced income and benefits from the inability to work. When you’re struggling to make ends meet, a night out or a new book or a trip to a favorite spot—those small things that bring us joy and keep us sane that so many of us are fortunate enough to take for granted—seem like worlds away. Those breaks from reality that Arijit and I so cherished shouldn’t be a privilege; no one should have to choose between treatment/food/bills/etc. and the little uplifting luxuries in life.
Enter the Poop Strong FUNd.
Arijit knew that there was a world of difference between being alive and living, and every decision we made was geared towards ensuring the latter. The point of the FUNd is to help patients, caregivers, and their families afford some of those little things that make life worth living. The money could go towards gift certificates to favorite restaurants, or materials for hobbies, or massages or family outings or anything else that patients have had to forgo to simply survive. More than anything, the FUNd would serve as a way to provide some normalcy in an otherwise abnormal life—to remind people that life, despite all the stress and pain, is fun and a gift to be enjoyed. The FUNd will be incorporated into the University of Arizona Cancer Center’s Patient Assistance Fund, administered by the same people who helped Arijit when he hit his lifetime insurance cap. The UACC Patient Assistance Fund already helps patients with these sorts of little extras, but the FUNd will allow it to expand the range of services offered and reach even more patients.
In addition, all donations received through Christmas day (up to at least $20,000, though this could go higher once I look at the Poop Strong accounting) will be matched with a donation to Hospice of the Valley’s Helping Hands fund, which provides nonmedical necessities, such as clothing, blankets, or air conditioning; travel (for patients who are able, or for out-of-town family members to come to Phoenix); craft supplies, games, and other entertainments; and whatever else enriches lives to patients with terminal illnesses and dementia. Illness can be very isolating on its own, but for the largely homebound hospice patients and their caregivers, it’s even more important to have some way to engage with the world around you. Arijit was mostly confined to his bed during his final weeks, but even so, he was able to listen to music, scour the Internet, and play Trivial Pursuit with me—in short, continue to find intellectual stimulation, and thus meaning, in his life. The Helping Hands fund helps provide that same sense of meaning and enjoyment to hospice patients, filling whatever time they have left with happiness and fulfillment.
The holiday season is often seen as a time of hope, generosity, and concern for those less fortunate than us, but Arijit made those traits the core components of his everyday life. He was, and always will be, the kindest, most compassionate, most selfless and giving man I have ever met. When Arijit died, he left some big shoes to fill (and I mean that both figuratively and literally—he did wear size 13s, after all). He was a good man, in the deepest, most profound, and most beautiful sense of the word. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Arijit, and continuing his legacy, by making a tax-deductible donation to the Poop Strong FUNd (instructions are below).
When Arijit finally entered hospice, one of his professors wrote the following: “I realize your dreams are changing now, but please let [us] know if there is anything we can do to make any remaining dreams come true.” With your help, the Poop Strong FUNd can bring to life the dreams of Arijit’s fellow patients, whatever those may be.
How to Donate
- Go to https://www.uahealth.com/ways-to-give/donations
- Select “Cancer Center Patient Assistance Fund” as the Program Destination
- Note that the donation is for the Poop Strong FUNd in the Other/Special Instructions box
You can also mail a check (made payable to the UA Cancer Center Patient Assistance Fund) to the following address (make sure to indicate that the donation is for the Poop Strong FUNd in the memo line):
Patient Assistance Fund
c/o Kristin Uribe
University of Arizona Cancer Center — North Campus
3838 N. Campbell Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85719