Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pancreatic Cancer Diary

Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 1
This video's opening text shows the date July 4, 2015

Speaking slowly in a low, hoarse voice: "My name is Dario Darias. I was just diagnosed with, uh... Pancreatic and Liver Cancer... pretty much everywhere by now.... stage four!"

I don't know this guy, but somehow, through this video, I feel so much for him. I should mention, by the way, that I came across these videos quite by accident. I'm interested in people using YouTube to record and report on what's happening in their lives. This item turned up and in a number of ways puts me in touch with thoughts and feelings that have taken me by surprise.

The visual aspect of these videos adds authenticity, the 'ton of bricks' kind, true, but it's in this man's voice, the wavering, overcome by sadness, overwhelmed by the hopelessness of it all quality that moves me so much. THIS is the gravity of CANCER.

Early on he gives a bit of his story, the clean way he's lived his life, the medical check-ups that gave no clue about the disaster coming. He describes his current symptoms - and they are serious - and on and on. He describes the recent warning signs that led to the doctor visit that ultimately resulted in a shocking, 'out-of-nowhere', devastating diagnosis of terminal cancer... And we are hooked into this poor man's life just 2 minutes into the first of the videos.

This gets intimate. We don't know who's behind the camera that he's talking to, but this guy speaks directly to it sharing his experience in granular detail about how he knew something was wrong with his body and the way he had to communicate his observations in order to alarm his doctors sufficiently to order the tests that put a name to his disease. He's talking from his hospital bed to the camera and the person behind it as if it's a family member or a close personal friend and so, we too, relate to him as a member of our close circle.

Thoughts of regret about not seeing a doctor sooner... ruminations about dying... about how much time remains... what to do with time left...  about how well life's been lived... anger at medicine's inability to offer any help...  it's all there. That, and some good advice for the rest of us to avoid his fate... maybe... hopefully!

Where did this series of videos come from? What's the back story? It would be easy to say "Who knows? It's just another one of those riveting videos one comes across by accident on YouTube", but by looking just a bit deeper, by going to the "Home" area of the poster's channel  (Cesar Darias) and then by going to its "About" page, I easily found the following 2 pieces of information. Together they help flesh out the remarkable story that the videos tell:

"My cousin, Dario Darias, was a husband, father, brother, U.S. Navy Corpsman (assigned to Marine Corps), U.S. Army Medic, Coast Guard Auxiliary member, volunteer firefighter, a Mason and he loved to ride his 2009 Yamaha XV1.

On July 3, 2015 he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. The next day he asked me to record this video diary. I thought this was going to be a long-term project focusing on a 49-year-old man fighting a disease. I was wrong."


"*Caesar has more than 20 years of experience working as a television and print journalist.

He works as a freelance general assignment reporter for He also teaches video production..."   

There are another 9 videos that lead up to the one below*

What we witness in these videos, the progress of this good man's dying, took place during a span of roughly 3 weeks. The last video in which we see him opens with the date July 21st. The publishing date of all is July 23rd.  After that, there was a 12th installment, the video of Dario's memorial service (not shown in this post) which was published on August 3rd, which may well have been shot a day or two previous to its publishing. We see nothing more of Dario after the video below, though.  I think he gave us a remarkable gift during those sessions when he was able to share his experience.

Thank you, Dario!

 Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 11
This video's opening text
shows the date July 21, 2015

This video poignantly opens with a dense collection of IV drugs dangling over Dario's head, presumably dripping life prolonging substances into him. This video is so much shorter than the first, just 8 minutes long and as he begins to speak to us we understand that his strength is very depleted. He struggles to share with us some of what little life he has left. He gives us a bit of description about his condition, not that it takes much explanation. We can see full well the state he's in. His speech is quite labored and he declares after just a minute or so "This is the final stretch!" Out of what I guess, he perceives to be the best way to help his subject achieve his goal for this video, about half way through, the camera operator shift gears to become an interviewer and (staying off camera and out of our view) asks Dario "If anyone's watching this, and they're going through what you're going through, or they just found out... do you have something to say to them? or a message about the way you handled it? or what they could expect? And yes, he does have some good things to say, and among his short statements it seems to me he emphasizes "... take it easy, it's coming - .... make the best of it... it's just gonna happen!.. don't be crying or feeling sorry for yourself or depressed, it's just gonna happen... take it easy on the way out!" And then he rallies for a moment, marshalling his strength, looking and talking strongly into the camera to share his good sense of humor with us for just a moment. I think that's a very good way to be remembered.

The video ends with a shot of an IV monitor next to Dario's bed that shows he's receiving a dose of  Dilaudid, an opioid pain medicine. And then the screen turns black bearing white text that says "Dario Darias died the next day." 

Honestly, I feel a little creepy writing this - like I've intruded into the private family business of a family I don't know at all and who hasn't invited me - and that I've done this at the most offensively intrusive moment possible. But truthfully, they have invited us all to bear witness to what a dying man wanted to share with us. That's why it's posted on YouTube!

PS - I am the 332nd subscriber to the channel Cesar Darias
PPS - FYI - Signs and Symptoms of Pancreatic Cancer - Mayo Clinic:

*The Interim Episodes of this Series:

 - Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 2 No opening date shown  (23 minutes and 2 seconds)
- Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 3 Opening  shows the date July 5, 2015 (25 minutes and 2 seconds)
Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 4 Opening shows the date July 6, 2015 (16 minutes and 36 seconds)

- Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 5 Opening shows the date July 7, 2015 (6 minutes and 40 seconds)
Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 6 Opening shows the date July 8, 2015 (14 minutes and 37 seconds)
- Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 7 Opening  shows the date July 8, 2015 (12 minutes and 3 seconds)
Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 8 Opening shows the date July 13, 2015 (4 minutes and 14 seconds)
- Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 9 Opening shows the date July 16, 2015 (4 minutes and 14 seconds)
Pancreatic Cancer Diary, Part 10 No opening date shown (10 minutes and 11 seconds)


1 comment:

  1. I have just finished reading Paul Kalanthi's When Breathe Becomes Air. Obviously each of these very different but connected by terminal diagnosis, men used a form of literacy- here video and in Paul's case a book that would be edited after his death--to construct literally a short goodbye. Yet of course the ironic gift here is that each knew his days were much shorter than statistically they should have been. Each ironically "reached" beyond that terrifying deadline to make a line of communication and celebration which can and should inform all our lives. One can not judge the video quality or message here other than a purposeful video rally against an endgame of death match point. This is an important "memorable" and apt memorial day post . To life, love, laughter and literacy-to capture and to cheer it on!!