I'm a lurker on BMT--Talk. BMT stands for Bone Marrow Transplant, a treatment undertaken by those with various forms of cancer and hematological diseases such as leukemia. As the card-carrying members of the list often say, it's quite a special club they've inadvertently joined.
When you undergo a bone marrow transplant, your body is first totally nuked with chemo or radiation. In the most difficult to tolerate type of transplant, bone marrow from a compatible donor (often a relative) is then transplanted. When it is successful, the new blood marrow then produces healthy blood cells. It is in many ways an extreme and unpredictable course of treatment.
It is often the cause of death.
Those going through the transplant may spend months afterwards in a hospital fighting off one infection or treatment complication after another. While many patients bring their laptops with them into the hospital, they are often too weak to send e-mail.
So we hear from their mothers and fathers, and wives and husbands, and sons and daughters, and friends and lovers . . .
The caretakers speak of small victories or send desperate messages asking for any ideas on ways to alleviate the suffering or improve the chances of survival. Many times--way too many times--they e-mail to let us know death is approaching, and then, finally, that death has arrived on the Web.
And while I lurk, I have the luxury of hitting the delete key when I cannot face another possible Death on the Web. Tonight, though, I have read about a young girl whose parents have written that only a miracle will make a difference. Even a sometime lurker like me recognizes the pattern.
Now I will read every message and wait.
The deaths occur often, and they come quickly. While receiving an e-mail message from an anguished mother saying her daughter is now dead (written with a grace beyond my comprehension) is emotionally wrenching, sometimes a person announces their own approaching death.
Death on the Web then becomes unbearable.
Bob Czako was a remarkable man whom I never met, or talked to, or even e-mailed. He painted abstract paintings, doted on his nieces and nephews and his Italian greyhound, and wrote funny and graphic e-mail stories about his daily experiences after a bone marrow transplant. A discussion of the risks of infections from public bathrooms centered on the theme "Can Women Really Hover?" In a classic story that has become a BMT-Talk legend, Bob described to us the rotating men's room on top of the Space Needle.
Bob knew he was very sick and was most likely near death. He sent messages to the list, saying goodbye.
He only had time for a few messages.
What do you do when you share Death on the Web? Most of the people on BMT-Talk have never met each other in person. Like any other community, though, they want to remember their dead, and hope for some further meaning to the deaths they have experienced.
They put up memorials to their dead on the Web. Bob Czako's photo and stories are there.
His farewell messages to the list are there too.
Although I never knew Bob, I feel certain he would rather you read about his Life on the Web rather than his Death on the Web.
Go to "Strange Looks in the Space Needle Men's Room" or learn about another use for an Evian bottle, at "Bob Czako's Classics."
Life is really what Death on the Web is all about.