Monday, November 28, 2016
Someone asked me what it was like to be diagnosed as terminal and told that only months separated me from The Thin, Dark Veil. So this is what was on my mind and I want to share it with you. Maybe it helps someone else facing the same thing. Maybe.
Let me tell you what being diagnosed with terminal cancer taught me. it's deceptively simple.
There is not an asset or physical object in the universe that is more valuable than time. You cannot purchase it. You cannot steal it. You cannot manufacture it.
When you can see the finish line rushing to meet you...There's nothing you can do to stop it. That boring conversation with my baby brother that seemed to go on forever?
Let me have those moments again and let me really hear him instead of contriving a way to get away. His death strikes the very center of my being and at times, I anguish over the things that should have been. Let me put my hand upon his shoulder and meet his gaze. Let him know that I am listening. Let me laugh with him at his terrible jokes. Let me put my arm around him and pull him close when he tells me that he just lost his job. Let me weep with him. Tears are powerful if they join and flow with others. Together they form resolve. This is what I considered to be important, seconds after being told I had 8 months to live.
My failings came in a rush. Things that I had an opportunity to do but chose not to...things I did do that hurt others terribly, deeply....things that I cannot believe The Universe could forgive, or would. It was those things that battered my psyche almost to the point of screaming out in agony. So many things...
So. Many. Things.
Just one more hour to finish my childhood scrapbook I was working on to give my daughters. Just 15 more minutes to help my wife find her glasses. Just 10 more minutes to give my friend a ride after I made the excuse that I was "too busy". Just 9 more seconds to backtrack and duck my head back into the kitchen and say "I love you too honey", as I made my way to work.
I wish I had lowered my fat backside down and sat on the floor to spend more time with my best friend.
I want time to be with him on his level. To let him know how much I love him. He was painfully bonded to me and even me going on a trip to the store sent him into anxiety and then depression. Diane said he would go to his bed and pout. But then, he's at the door to greet me, his hearing is tuned to the sound of my car door closing. For the next 45 seconds he is a puppy again. He crouches with his hind end up in the air, as if ready to pounce. He loses his little mind as I come through the door. I kneel to hold his head and massage his ears. And I kiss his cold, wet nose. I needed to hold him and love him more. He was an old sick guy like me and he had a bad heart. He wasn't with me near as long as I needed him to be. It was my duty to do these things and I wish I had done it more. When you can see the end taking dead aim at you, it becomes clear that you get none of this back.
Not one hour...
Not one minute...
Through my despair I was reminded that it's never too late to search for and regain hope. Being diagnosed as "terminal" by one doctor prompted a 70/30 survival prognosis by another. The brutal treatment regimen I chose saved me but made me horribly ill for months. It forced me to question my choice for this particular treatment and I thought of quitting. It reduced me to a pile of skin and bone...a lump of nausea, fear and disconsolation within my sweat-stained bed sheets. It took me just over 19 months to struggle up the sidewalk and turn the key in the Reglue shop door.
But through it all, here I am.
Here I am, telling you what is important. Not to me precisely, but to you...to a generation of kids who will go through the most important years of school without a computer. Or a Mom. Or a place (s)he can lay their heads without fear of dying by a stray bullet of a drive-by shooting. Here I am, telling you that the life which promised a coughing, gasping, bulging-eyed choking end, was revived by hope. By people who care enough to look past your bank account. By those who told me that hope would keep me alive, if I allowed it do do so.
Make no mistake here. Not many people with late stage cancer survive this level of treatment. And if they do opt for it, most often they quit 30% through the regimen. It can and often does cause cancer in the same parts of your body a scant few years later. It comes back, enraged that you chose to stand up to it then. Doubling its efforts to wipe you from the living face of the earth. But it kills the cancer for Now.
So it's Now, in which I live. It's Now that I share this with you.
Take stock of all around you allow yourself to see things through my eyes, or the clear, bright eyes of any cancer survivor. Then and only then may you think about the unknown time ahead of you. Use it wisely and to the love and understanding of others. Because you'll never get that opportunity again.
blather and mumbling provided by Ken Starks at 4:56 PM