It is Saturday, at 2:30 in the afternoon. After a brief flight, our plane has reached its apex.
Now it is time to dive out of it.
Then, before I realize it is happening, the plexiglass door over the hatch is slid entirely open, and Chris and his partner are duckwalking to the very edge of the floor. They tip out, into the blue, quickly disappearing from sight.
Drew is sitting next to me. I look him in the eyes, but I don’t think it registers. He will be the next to jump.
I find that, unexpectedly, I am completely calm.
On Monday, June 29, I met Britt outside of our office, and we took off for New Jersey to meet with Drew.
I had read up on the BlameDrewsCancer phenomenon, but I couldn’t say I completely understood the point of it. All I knew was that Britt was in charge of this mysterious Blame-a-Thon event, and that I had volunteered to take notes for her so she could stay focused on her dialog with Drew.
Otherwise, I was in the dark. Blame Drew’s Cancer was just a meme to me. I had never even sent an @-reply to Drew.
We converged on Applebees for our meeting. Me being me, I had never been inside of one before, and wasn’t entirely sure what sort of food they sold. I advertised the fact to Drew, a stocky, tattooed, slightly-imposing man in a baseball jersey.
Great, I thought. Way to endear yourself to the intimidating guy with cancer by advertising your never-ending weirdness.
Britt: I brought charts!
Drew: I brought cancer!
This, I learned quickly, was par for the course with Drew – and a running theme of BlameDrewsCancer. Drew was sick of cancer being an unspoken “c-word.” He talked about his cancer loudly and without reservation, and welcomed questions.
Drew was fresh from chemotherapy, and Britt quizzed him on the details over salad. Yes, he had a permanent port in his body for the chemo, so the drugs wouldn’t burn his skin. No, it wasn’t too uncomfortable, but he wasn’t allowed to get any more tattoos while he was in treatment.
As we got into the thick of the meeting I took furious notes on the scope of the event. It would be huge. 24 hours of party, half of it at Philly’s venerable North Star Bar. We would need to coordinate live video streaming of the entire event. The band Stroke 9 was reportedly working on a Blame Drew’s Cancer theme song. Drew was now an official partner of LiveStrong, in a story set to break later that week on outlets like AOL and CNN – until then the news was embargoed.
In Drew’s words, we should “Think big.” When Mikey jokingly fired back, “Big like Tom Hanks,” Drew responded, “Sure, if you think you can get in touch with him.”
It was at that moment that I began to understand what Drew – and, by extension, BlameDrewsCancer – was actually about. It was about a no-holds-barred rebranding of cancer as something you could talk about, get support for, and live through. Really live.
Drew was only intimidating in that he had ideas with no boundaries, and he was looking for people to help realize them. By the time we headed back to our cars, I knew that I wanted to be one of those people; I had to be involved with Blame-a-Thon in a capacity more meaningful than just taking notes.
I did not suspect that “involved” would involve jumping out of a plane.