It’s a sunny, mild, spring day here in St-Lazare, and I’ve just returned from my daily walk. I do a lot of writing in my head while I’m walking; it’s where I can let my ideas flow freely, allowing me to shuffle phrases, concepts, and emotions around until they make sense to me. I’ve been meaning to write this 1st Chapter now for a few weeks, but haven’t had the right moment or spark to inspire me. However, today, I ran into my neighbour John, whom I’ve known for several years now but have not seen since last summer and we ended up having a nice chat. He always asks me how I’m doing as he is aware of my health challenges. I brought him up to speed, mentioning to him that I was preparing, mentally and physically, to go in for Posterior Cervical Laminectomy & Fusion surgery this coming Friday. It’s a serious operation, and I am quite apprehensive about it, but recently have found myself feeling confident that it will go well. But it’s what John said to me just as he was leaving that set the wheels in motion for me to start writing this chapter. He said, “You look good! You look so intrepid like you are ready to climb Mount Everest.” I had my walking sticks with me, and was dressed for the part; I looked like I could have been trekking up the side of a mountain! I thanked him for the compliment and replied, “Well, I guess I am climbing it, in my mind!” The words “You look good” are in direct contradiction with how I feel and with what’s really going on beneath the skin. The invisibility of my diseases and syndromes is precisely why I created this website. Despite my outward appearance, I’m actually quite sick. Full Story here.
I got to know John quite by accident actually. In early childhood, he and my best friend Paul were friends in grade school. I did not attend the same grade school as they did; I met Paul while cruising around on my bike in my new neighborhood when we moved to Deux-Montagnes in 1979. I had just turned 9 years old, and Paul was riding the streets on his super cool “motocross” bicycle, handing out fake citations to various kids as he pretended to be “Ponch” (Erik Estrada) from the TV show CHiPs! As a mullato boy, the child of a French Canadian father and a Trinidadian mother, he really did look a lot like Ponch!
Paul was living in the home situated diagonally across from our back yard, and so, due to proximity and shared interests, that’s how our lifelong friendship began. Paul now lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and, as we discovered about 10 years ago, John has been living down the road from me! Just one of those serendipitous coincidences I suppose.
In the fall of 2018, upon an open invitation from my sister Monique, and with my health still very much on the ropes, I travelled to Hoboken N.J. to meet with various doctors and alternative medicine therapists that she recommended I see. We were hoping that I would maybe find answers and get some relief from what had become a daily living nightmare. (I’ll dedicate an upcoming chapter to my Hoboken trip.)
A few days before my departure, my wife Sherrie and I happened to catch a movie called “Here Comes The Boom” starring Kevin James, Henry Winkler, and Selma Hayek. It’s a story about a high school biology teacher who looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities (specifically the Music Program run by Mr. Streb, played by Henry Winkler) from being axed at his cash-strapped school. There were two scenes in particular that really left a mark on me and motivated me not to give up on myself.
In an effort to capture the attention of his students, Mr. Voss, the biology teacher played by Kevin James, stands up on one of the desks and starts goofing around by wobbling his legs and gesturing frantically as he discusses the concept of “cell regeneration”. Below is the dialogue:
MR VOSS: “All that decays, can be restored. When all the cells start working together, then this is the beginning of the restorative process. And even if the entire system is close to death, what happens? If all the cells work together, what will happen?”
STUDENT: “The entire system is healed.”
MR VOSS: “Exactly!”
Those words made me believe that I could be helped and that I wasn’t necessarily a lost cause. They gave me hope!
But it was this scene, featuring the song “Holly Holy” by Neil Diamond that really left an impression on me. Below is the dialogue:
MR STREB: “MUSIC! You’re going to be inspired, by MUSIC!” That’s why all the gladiators entered the Colosseum with all that thundering MUSIC! And you’re going to follow in the footsteps of all those great warriors, every one of them had a distinctive musical theme that put fear in the hearts of their opponents which rendered them defeated, even before the match began.” But before Mr. Voss could pick his own song, Mr. Streb chooses “Holly Holy” as the song to represent him as he enters the arena to participate in an ultimate fighter competition! Upon hearing the first few words of the song, Mr. Voss says, “What the hell is this?” Mr. Streb answers, “Holly Holy - Neil Diamond, went platinum 1969”. And he adds, “It got me through a very difficult time…Blue Eyed Gospel, extremely intricate genre”. Mr. Voss seems mortified at the choice of song, but heads out into the crowd with conviction, ready to fight!
On October 29th, the night we watched the movie, I downloaded the song to my iPhone. And, since then, I have listened to it EVERY SINGLE DAY without fail. It became my mantra in a sense - laying down the foundation for my Hoboken health pilgrimage and reminding me each day to keep the faith. As of this writing, I’ve listened to the song 146 days in a row! I’ve not missed one day.
These movie moments awakened something inside of me and reminded me that I needed to keep up the “good fight” and not let myself go down with the ship. It also reignited my passion to pursue my idea for creating an outlet; a place where I could express myself, and share my story with others, hence, BeingInvisible.ca. The idea that had been shelved for two years due to declining health was suddenly at the forefront of my mind. And just like that, Holly Holy, a song that I’d only heard a few times before in my life suddenly took on a whole new meaning and galvanized me into action with the lyrics, “Where I am, what I am, what I believe in”.
So here I am, at a crossroads in my life as I try to figure out where I am, what I am, and what I believe in, I find myself leaving the old Patrick behind and watching the new Patrick emerge - Patrick 2.0. I’m living out the title to the U2 album, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind”.
Below is a fantastic, soulful, live interpretation of Holly Holy!
- Patrick Franc
a.k.a.: Your Friendly Neighbourhood Bionic Man