2004 was a hell of a year. The President was re-elected primarily because John Kerry was just too boring. We (American soldiers) found Saddam Hussein hiding in a rabbit hole. The rabbits were really pissed. Same sex marriages became legal in Massachusetts, which resulted in several former KKK members losing their minds. Evidence that Mars at one time had large bodies of water covering its surface was discovered when rovers took pictures of several office water coolers left abandoned and scattered across the landscape. There were, however, no signs of intelligent life. Mel Gibson produced the subtitled “Passion of Christ.” Apparently, Mr. Gibson wants a window seat when he’s called home. Janet Jackson exposed her breast during the half-time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII. For those of you who are Roman Numerically challenged, that’s 38. Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault, which evidently had nothing to do with his jump shot. Al Sharpton Jr. ran for president or Last Comic Standing, it was at times unclear. And I…oh yeah, I got cancer.
You know, cancer isn’t all that damned funny. I wouldn’t have believed it. It demands that you get serious. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible for me. Oh well, first time for everything. You’ll have to be tolerant with me. It’s my first Cancer.
I started to have back pain (a lot of back pain) in January of 2004. I was due to start a new job so I went to a chiropractor to see if he could help. Chiropractors are really the reincarnation of Old World executioners. They have that little table that has pressure sensitive sections that suddenly give way from underneath you and causes (the doctor claims) your spine to realign. As a patient, you get to play the role of tackling dummy and the doctor gets to pretend he’s Dick Butkus. For this we pay them. However, I decided that there was something inherently wrong with the idea of going to a doctor and feeling worse when I left than I did when I arrived. So I went to a physiotherapy group to get a few of those deep tissue massages and work out the pain in my lower back. Oddly, with the same result. I would hobble out and take an extra few minutes to get into the car and sit there wondering why I felt worse, not better. I’m a slow learner. Six sessions (a little over two weeks) and I came to the conclusion that something else was causing me to have pain. I decided to go to my general practitioner…. again. Nice guy, but he’s really a licensed drug pusher. His first name is Fred. Normally no one named “Fred” could be considered a drug pusher and have a connection to a Colombian drug cartel. Fred doesn’t either. He’s tied into the big drug manufacturing companies. Same difference. Actually, I think he’s a “Stepford” doctor. I keep looking for the lubrication ports but I haven’t seen them yet. The giveaway is the Birkenstock sandals. Definitely not right! No self-respecting drug pusher wears sandals.
Fred ordered an MRI. At this point I should educate you and tell you what M-R-I stands for. Does anyone really care? I didn’t think so. The MRI report said that the problem in my back was “highly suggestive of metastatic activity.” Fred never actually said the word “Cancer” but I knew and my wife (who accompanies me to doctor’s visits because I need a memory) knew. It was cancer. Tumors in my back. Dead giveaway.
Its odd. None of us ever think we’ll hear those words being said to us. You’re not talking to me. Not to ME! You have the right file there, don’t you Doc? I can’t have Cancer, I just got a new job. There could be a mistake, right? No? They’re always right? Damned MRI’s! What kind of cancer do I have, Doc? You don’t know? More tests.
I really didn’t know how to feel about it at first. Sometimes, I was scared. Steffie would give me a hug and there are tears and sometimes even she would cry. I don’t blame anything or anyone. I do admit to being morbidly jealous. Sometimes I think, “Look at that guy, fat, drinking and smoking. He doesn’t have cancer. What’s up with that?” For now, I have my wife and my kids. My wife is and continues to be the rock of my life. I thank God for her. My children are doing everything they can for me and must also be scared, but to their credit, they don’t show it. Tough kids. I’m very proud of them. So I’m ok. No not frigging fantastic. Just ok.
I have heard that many cancer patients say that after you get over the shock of, “Oh my God! I’ve got Cancer!” you settle down and go about trying to get well and the disease isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I’ve got some news for those folks. Wrong answer!
How do you fight back? What the hell do you do? Some bug or abnormality in your blood is busy trying to break every bone in your back. I might mention, that really sucks. But hey, I’m still alive. I’m not going to let it get me down. I just don’t want anyone to have any illusions about Cancer. It scares hell out of me. So I’m trying to put all of the suckful things about Cancer into one big suckful bag and just shelve it until later. I’ll either have it in remission or I’ll be in a quite a bit of trouble.
It seemed appropriate that in the middle of all of the craziness that was happening in my life about the time I was diagnosed, our dog, an eight year old Carolina Dog (look it up, you’ll be surprised) had puppies. Her first ever litter. There were seven, but three were still born. That leaves four healthy, yowling little guinea pig rejects searching for the milk spigot and hollering like hell because they can’t find it with their eyes closed. Well, duh! They were cute as hell. We found them good homes. I couldn’t have dealt with a puppy then. One of us would have had to die and I already had a head start. One of the puppies, a gray and white, yowled and wined and barked and was generally as noisy as hell. She was always the last one to a spigot and she complained loudly. She reminded me of my first wife. We got rid of her first.
I may not have completely come to grips with this Cancer deal yet. I can’t believe anyone really does. I am not ready to meet my Maker. I’m not so sure I like Him these days. I pray every day. I ask for His blessing. Sometimes I know I get it. But if there is supposed to be some purpose for this, I don’t get it. Of course, throughout my life, I’ve never gotten it. I really need God to be more direct with His messages. Naturally, if this current dilemma is a message, I’m not reading it loud and clear. I do get the threat, but I don’t get the meaning. It would be a real bitch if there just wasn’t one. That would probably just piss me off. I mean, what’s Cancer good for if you survive it and you don’t like save the friggin’ free world or even help one person with Cancer or something noble. It can’t be that you just pick up the pieces of your life and move on. Hell, I didn’t need Cancer for that. I was trying to do that after nearly a year of unemployment. I got pieces. I got issues. I need answers, not dead air.
I didn’t dwell on the “Why Me?” question too much. There doesn’t seem to be much of a future in it. It’s like the origin of the universe. There always seems to be another damned question. Okay, there was a really big explosion. Who set it off? Why would they do such a thing? Were they mad? Weird science gone wrong? Questions! Thousands of questions. They never stop. They can kill you. One after the other. No answers, just an endless stream of questions. No wonder Einstein’s hair looked like that!
I’ve realized that it’s best to stay away from the subject. There are no answers, so why compound my misery? Hopefully, I’ve dealt with the “Why Me?” issue pretty successfully. After all, why me? There is no why. Very neat and tidy. No loose ends. But of course that’s really not the end of it. After all, when the “Why Me?” question is finally exhausted you’re left with…. Randomness. “Who’s turn is it to get cancer?” Mine apparently. Hey wait, are you sure it’s my turn? Why is it my turn? I didn’t take a number. I was just working. I don’t have time for this. Can’t it be someone else’s turn? Randomness. You’re just there. The cancer is just there. You get it. Shit! How can this be? Is God random? Oh man. Is that possible? What would that mean? Oh hell, more questions.
So the good news is that I’m not dead! But you know, I still can’t shake the idea that there should be some purpose to the trauma and drama that cancer injects into your life. Why put yourself and your family through this for no reason. This cancer stuff has left me thinking. If this is some sort of message or God’s will that I find a new way to ‘be’; I’m trying really hard to figure out what the message or life style or goal or whatever is supposed to be. I am only me. I can change, but change into what? I won’t suddenly become an evangelist or preacher (despite some of the things I write) but, if I am to refocus my life, what or how should I refocus and refocus on what? I don’t have a clue as to how I am supposed to emerge from this ordeal. Should I be changed. I can tell you that I will be. If only physically, but that has tempered my thinking already. I will never again be the man I once was. That ain’t easy. In fact, I still haven’t gotten over it. Hell, I may even be shorter now. Shit!
I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that I’ll just have to wait and see. I won’t know if there was a purpose for this illness. Maybe there won’t be a purpose. Maybe it’s all just dumb luck. Maybe God wants me to just do my best and stay connected. I have. I hope that will be enough.