Close as I can remember, that's the comment I received from a friend and reader awhile back. It took me a minute to figure it out, but finally, I realized what he was talking about.
I have hesitated to talk about it over the past weeks and months, thinking that some folks might think I was looking for sympathy. Or that I was spending way too much time talking about myself and the pickle I find myself in. In my own defense, I guess all I can do is repeat something I said in a column late last year, not too long after I had been diagnosed:
And while I don't by any stretch of the imagination intend to let this whole cancer thing dominate my every waking hour or every column I write, heck, if I somehow suddenly discovered the ability to, say, tap dance or sing Italian arias, I'd talk about that wouldn't I?
Well, I still can't dance a lick, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't "O mio babbino caro" that I was warbling in the shower this morning.
But the whole cancer thing has surely given me something to talk about.
And if I have come off as whiny or self-involved or afraid, even, I truly regret it. If, on the other hand, if I have managed to remove some of the scary secrets that surround this disease, I'm glad.
Because here's the thing. Cancer doesn't rate the awful hold it has on so many lives. It doesn't deserve to dominate my life, or yours either. But what does it do? How does this disease make those of us who battle it feel? And what about those who help and support and love us?
Well, I can't speak for everyone. And I can only mourn those brave, determined souls who are lost every year. But I do know how it seems to me.
(I'll try to keep it brief.)
I'm human. So I can't help being afraid sometimes. Usually, for me, it's during those times when when it hurts and it keeps on hurting. I'm not afraid of dying. And I'm not afraid of pain, either. But what I do fear is dying in such a way that I fail to enjoy and appreciate all the wonderful things that make life worth living.
Of course, I get angry sometimes, too. This disease, along with all the treatment side effects encountered along the way, is really annoying. Losing the ability to do things I always could do, like eating record amounts of fried chicken, riding a bike or going out for a long pass, or even just mowing the lawn without taking sixteen zillion breaks along the way really irritates the heck out of me. Really.
Believe it or not, it's boring, too. I really don't want to take a nap every afternoon. Or watch the grandkids from the porch instead of showing them my super-duper curve ball.
Plus, it's kind of embarrassing sometimes. I know there are a certain number of folks who see me, my bald head and my skinny bod and say to themselves, "Oh, that's too bad." Just this morning, when I was picking up my grandsons from swimming lessons, a little kid looked at me and said, "Are you all right?"
It may be hard to believe, but that's not quite the image I hoped to project.
Now, here's the good news.
I'm amused by the whole thing more often than you'd think. If you don't think cancer could possibly be funny, then you've never experienced some of the unique happenings that can come along with this disease. I could go on and on and on, but let me just ask this. Have you ever had your way-too-big pants fall down around your ankles just as you stepped onto the front porch on the way to church?
I didn't think so.
You'd laugh, too.
And I'm hopeful, too. Highly hopeful, in fact. You would be, too, once you realized just how many prayers and good wishes come your way when you battle this dumb disease. It is absolutely, positively, flat-out amazing. So why wouldn't I have hope?
One more thing.
The best thing about this whole mess is that it has given me pause. It has made me step back and realize how absolutely perfect and appealing life can be. I love my family and my friends, and I know without a doubt that they love me, too.
Tell you what, boys and girls, it doesn't get much better than that.
And that's no mystery at all.