Jeff Barnard fist came onto my radar screen a few years ago when I ran a Google search for the keyword 'Wormtown'. My husband is the person who originally coined the city's nickname so we frequently scan the net to see who is using it and in what context. Jeff has a blog called Wormtown Taxi. As you might surmise, Jeff is a taxi driver in Worcester. He is interested in the city itself, its people and its politics. His blog posts were of general interest - some great city scape photos, random tales of taxi cab riders, and commentary on City Hall happenings. Some of his most notable blog posts were in response to a city ordinance requiring people to shovel their sidewalks lest they be fined. Jeff shared many pictures of the un-shoveled walks of city councilors that winter, and gained hundreds of fans, followers and friends.
Earlier this year, Jeff was diagnosed with cancer. An openly engaging member of the local community, he shared the diagnosis on his blog and has been chronicling his misadventures with chemo, pain meds and the challenges now found in completing mundane household chores. He has continued writing about the city he loves, the politicians who run it, and the people he enjoys spending time with - whether they be family, close friends or the local bloggers who are rallying to support Jeff during his illness. Recently the podcast team behind 508 visited Jeff in his home to do an hour long episode of their local news podcast with Jeff. You can watch the video podcast on the Pie and Coffee blog
This week Jeff reached two milestones - he had a stair lift installed in his home and he received handicapped placards for his car. He also talks about the significant difference Social Security is playing, now that he is officially handicapped. Just reading it makes me choke and its hard to believe he's not choked up when he's writing it. It amazes me how gracefully some people can handle health crises. I can't imagine, if it were me, a day without massive sobbing and feeling sorry for myself. Jeff amazes me with his positive mental attitude when he writes - "It really does make a big difference, too, because we've had a long dry spell here for the last four or five months, financially. People have helped, and I've really appreciated the generosity, to be sure. But I think we've finally made it to the other side of this money rift, and I thank everyone who helped out to get us through it. Things are looking up."
The man knows how to keep things in perspective, focusing on day to day needs, being thankful for whatever help he gets, and counting his blessings. Many of us without cancer have a difficult time doing that. You can read Jeff's 'Things are looking up' blog post here.
Another important thing about what Jeff is doing - he is a patient using social media to write about his illness (reflection can be therapeutic) and share his experience (outreach) and find support for himself and his friends and family. Social media is powerful. Jeff is shut in his house most days but he can contribute to the community and connect with people with the Internet. He has a sense of purpose. He has something that is his, that he has control over, and that he finds satisfaction in doing. I think that is amazing.