We all know we’re going to die but as long as it’s an abstraction, something out there in the distant future, we can manage it. This is how it should be. That first weekend I wasn’t, what you call, brave. Fear ran over me and through me. I retreated to my bedroom. Catatonic. Just to make things worse I found out that I had a pulmonary embolism and blood clots in both legs so I needed blood thinners right away. I was convinced I wouldn’t make it through the weekend. Thank God for Dee who calmed me down. All I could think about were my kids who all moved away. Niamh in NYC, Sarah in SF, Angela in SLO , and Conor in Chile. It was Sunday morning. How would I tell them? I did know what type of cancer I had, some are nastier than others so I decided not to disclose to anyone until I knew more. Then I got hungry. I put on some coffee and had breakfast. This has been my walk with cancer, low moments followed by Is there anything good to eat? Who does UCLA play this weekend? Any EPL Matches on? The weekend passed and I was able to slow down my crazy thinking. Surrender is a word we hate to use, but many years ago surrendering led me to sobriety so I knew it had its purpose. The point is after that weekend I said to myself, “okay I have lung cancer,” even though I never smoked cigarettes ( I have smoked cigars the last few years for full discloser sake). I don’t know how I got it, or why. Does it matter? If you get a flat tire are you going to search endlessly for the nail or glass that was the reason for the flat, or change the tire?
I have adenocarcinoma which is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This type strikes non-smokers primarily. It is slow growing and has been with me a while I think, so much so, that it has moved to my spine, hips, femurs and left clavicle. My radiology oncologist told me that some people can’t walk with the amount of disease in my back which made me feel good for some reason. I’ve had bone scans, a brain MRI and a PET scan. I’m happy to report that I don’t have any cancer in my organs or brain. I’m not going to report on my “stage”. I resisted and fought the notion that I could be classified in this way. I refused to be defined as a number (1 to 4). I refused to accept talk of longevity and mortality in terms of what stage I am. What’s healing about that? The only question is what is the next right action?
Each passing day led to more acceptance and peace of mind. Most of my fear over death has vanished and has been replaced by “seeing” the world as it is (and it’s good!). I hang out on my deck looking at the light stream through the trees. It sounds quite geriatric but this is what I do. I used to surf frequently and hike in Los Padres but I’ve had to give that up for now, and in an odd way, I get just as much out of staring at those trees and listening to the Red Tail Hawks than from anything adventurous. (I must be geriatric.)
Breaking the news to the girls sorted itself out. They hacked into Dee’s email when they suspected something was up. They called us on a four way call and confronted Dee and I. The tables had been turned and I felt like the kid. I talked about procrastination. I talked about my logic. My girl’s love and compassion lifted me. Then Dee flew to Santiago Chile to tell Conor so he would not find out while being alone.