There’s planning for the inevitable, and then there’s accepting the inevitable. These are two very different things — and which one is harder depends largely on your own point of view.
In this instance, getting the latter out of the way helped Daniel Palumbo and his wife, Joyce Eveleth, accomplish the former before bone cancer took both options off the table.
Palumbo was diagnosed at the tender age of 22 and the seven years that elapsed between that moment and a hospital bed at the National Institutes of Health were besieged by relapses and surgeries that left him dependent on a set of crutches to walk.
He also met Eveleth, a friend of a friend who became his wife during a ceremony held at NIH in March.
“We were both so happy we were able to get married in the hospital,” Eveleth said.
We were both so happy we were able to get married in the hospital.
Palumbo had relapsed during treatment, while in the middle of organizing the first graduate workshop on disability studies at Penn State.
It was a discipline that Palumbo had only recently started to broach with his doctoral dissertation, a meditation on pain, disability and how they fit — neatly or not — inside the confines of the first-person narrative.
The obvious connective tissue aside, Eveleth thinks it was a natural fit, a meaty subject with plenty of knotty questions for a philosopher to chew on for however many pages is takes to get a doctorate nowadays.
“He was starting to incorporate his own experiences with pain and suffering and also disability,” Eveleth said.
According to Janet Lyon, faculty-in-charge with Penn State’s disability studies minor, questions are kind of the course du jour when it comes to this course of study. Scholars mull over everything from who gets to say what “normal” is to the variety of embodiments that make up the human race.
Suddenly you realize that the world is a much bigger place than I thought it was.
“Suddenly you realize that the world is a much bigger place than I thought it was,” Lyon said.
Last spring, Lyon took over the final planning for Palumbo’s workshop while he and Eveleth were in the hospital. As it became clear that this time there would be no recovery, the man and his wife started to think about the future.
“He knew what was going to happen and that’s when we were able to talk about the lecture,” Eveleth said.
She’s referring to the newly minted Daniel Palumbo Memorial Disability Studies Lecture, which with Lyon’s help will bring a different scholar working in the field to Penn State each spring.
Palumbo died early April 2, but his name isn’t going anywhere. A GoFundMe campaign Eveleth launched in his honor has already raised $7,660 toward the lecture fund.
“This is not onerous work. This is bringing someone’s legacy forward,” Lyon said.
Those interested in contributing to the Daniel Palumbo Memorial Disability Studies Lecture fund can address checks to Penn State with the note “disability studies” in the memo line. Checks can be mailed to: College of the Liberal Arts, 13 Sparks Building, University Park, PA 16802.