by Chris Brewer
David Menasche’s life was right on track: he’d majored in journalism at Eugene Lang College and the New School for Social Research. He later earned his teacher certification from Florida International University and taught at the renowned Coral Reef Senior High School for fifteen years. In 2012, he was awarded Teacher of the Year by his region. But in 2006 he was also diagnosed with brain cancer. And so when a later recurrence stopped him from teaching, he embarked on a journey across America in hopes of seeing firsthand how his kids were faring in life. Had he made a difference? Traveling more than eight thousand miles and visiting hundreds of his students, David’s fearless journey was documented in his book as he explores the things we all want and need out of life—family and forces us to stop to consider our own Priority List.
It’s been said the three scariest words in the English language are, “You have cancer.” What do you recall when you heard this?
My immediate reaction to the diagnosis was confusion, anger, and rage, but I quickly settled down and came to terms with the reality of my situation. I have always been one to face my fate squarely. I have always believed that you cannot control the cards you are dealt, just the way you play them.
I have had three brain surgeries, nearly 3 years of chemotherapy, and six weeks of radiation. I am currently undergoing physical and occupational therapy in hopes of being able to relearn how to walk and function more normally. I am currently crippled and mostly blind.
One of our hallmarks is, “Knowledge is Power.” Do you feel you are an informed patient, and what have been your primary information sources?
I do feel informed. I pester my doctors with questions. But admittedly, there are things I simply do not want to know.
In your CNN interview you said, “…my students had grown up to be kind and caring people,” and that there was a direct correlation not only to the lessons, but in the relationships you’d formed. How have these, and other relationships, played their part in your cancer journey?
Especially since becoming disabled, I have come to realize that I am dependent upon others in ways I never have been before. This has been very difficult and humbling to accept, but ultimately may have made me a tougher, if not better, person.
You’ve said you’re not afraid of dying. Was there an “ah ha” moment or experience that got you to this place, or was it more cumulative? Have you in effect made peace with your cancer?
It took me very little time to come to terms with the fact that my time is extremely limitedI have always found wisdom in Mark Twain’s insight, “I was dead for billions of years before I was born, and it did not hinder me in least. ”
Do you feel that leaving a legacy is a responsibility we should consider and act on, or is it more an after effect of a life lived? Was this a consideration in writing your book?
I have always believed in living a life of honor. It is my hope, that I have done this and that that will be my legacy. It is my wish for everyone.
As an author, what are your main hopes that the readers of “The Priority List” will take away from this book?
I am hoping to let my readers know that no matter what their disability, diagnosis, or difficulty is, that there is still a way of living a life of purpose, adventure, fulfillment, , happiness, and love.