PTSD Survivors Speak: Ali’s Alliance

Everyone deals with grief differently. Dave Cowan has taken his grief and put it into honoring his wife and giving to the cancer community. Here is an inspiring interview with Dave. Right now he’s riding a Harley across the country to deal with his grief and raise awareness for cancer resources.

1. In the wake of losing someone you loved, you are creating a meaningful way to give back to the cancer community. What gave you the idea for Ali’s Alliance?PTSD, Survivors Speak, Ali's Alliance

After the Susan Komen “Run for the Cure” I found myself emotionally drained and almost completely without purpose.  The afternoon and evening following the Komen event I found myself in something of a stupor, but emerged from that with a definite need to do something pro-active for the community of survivors and caregivers.  Early proposals to do a funding raising event for Cancer Research  landed with a resounding “THUD” when suggested to close friends and advisors.  The idea for Ali’s Alliance and the Cancer Resource List came from consideration of the reality of the battle that Alison and I fought and the things I learned along the way.

2. What do you hope to accomplish with this cross-country ride?

The ride works for me on so many levels. First of all it takes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to discover what’s left of David or to rebuild a new me.  Before Alison I was something of a nomad who made a living doing what was interesting or fun or engaging.  I loved to excel at things.  After my divorce from my first wife in 1980 I was pretty self contained and went and did pretty much as I pleased and although I was involved in a couple long term relationships never really expected to get married again.  When Alison and I married that all changed over a period of time.  I became someone else, someone I now call “Alison and David” only Alison and David does not exist anymore.  So on one level I am trying to find whatever is left of the essential me and to put a functioning person back together.    On the practical front I am trying to raise awareness for / of Ali’s Alliance.  During the early part of the trip that went fairly well because I have a lot of connections through the Southeast.  Now it is getting more difficult.  I am really hoping that a TV station will pickup on it as a human interest piece and get us some nationwide coverage.  We did really well in WPB with the local press and there are a couple of articles in the works.  Derek is playing up on that  and he and his wife are calling TV stations around the country to see if we can lure someone out or get lucky on a slow news day.  I’ve heard that we may have a something lined up in California.  In the meantime I talk to anybody that will listen to me trying to stir up pockets of awareness and I have stopped at TV stations and tried get somebody interested.  People love what were doing, but I need the mainstream media if I am going to realize the goal of being a household work in 2-3 years.   Last I want to survive the ride.  I have not done anything like this 30 years. There is a challenge to it.

3. How does/has building Ali’s Alliance helped you in your grieving process?

I feel like we, Alison and David the couple, were unfairly deprived of the life we wanted and expected. Additionally,  Alison was only 44 when she was diagnosed.  Generally most women her age could expect to live to be 75 or 80 years if not more.  I am trying to make sure she is remembered for at least what would have be her natural lifetime. In short, I am trying to memorialize my wife.  Additionally, I learned a lot about the community of Cancer survivors and caregivers and what they go through. On some level I feel like, if my efforts can save one other person’s spouse then my loss won’t be so bad.  The other viewpoint is that I realize that I can not have the one thing I want more than anything, but if I can save somebody else from being where I am then this effort will have been worth it.

This trip is not the first time, but I have experienced episodes of extreme discomfort and anxiety in the last year or so if I physically move away from Jupiter and So Florida. I get almost sick and panicky, not a normal state of affairs for me.  I keep having to tell myself that my life is not some pile of stuff in a house in Jupiter and that my life is not the collection of memories attached to that same place in Jupiter.  My life is where I am at.  This last saying has become something of a mantra for me as I ride. It would be amusing if I were not in it, but the mornings are the worst. I keep riding forward all the while fighting with a part of myself that just wants to call it quits and go back to Jupiter, preferably with the bike on a truck and me in a bus.  By afternoon I am mostly fine and enjoying the ride.  The process is exhausting.

www.alisalliance.org For general info about what we are doing.

http://alisalliance.org/wordpress/index.php/get-listed/ This is the “Join the List” link

http://www.facebook.com/AlisAlliance

The ideas contained in this post solely represent the perspective of the author. To contribute to ‘Survivors Speak’ contact Michele.

 
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