"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."- Dylan Thomas
I'm struggling. Actually profoundly struggling, to find a positive note today. It's almost paralyzing. Positive CJ Thoughts (PCT's) are mired in the sorrow and despair my heart is feeling. In the last eight hours, phrase after phrase has floated across my restless mind like the ripples created from a stone breaking the surface of water. In this case, the ripples were created from every tear that's fallen in the small hours of this morning, before the alarm sounded at 4am.
I'm just going to say this right now, CANCER SUCKS!
I've lost more people in my life to it than I can count, even if I take off my shoes. (I know, lame attempt at humor there.) Family, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends. My blog a few weeks ago talked about perseverance, what I watched my MaMaw go through with her treatment. What I watched her endure to stay with us a little longer. It affected me deeply.
I have a friend who wrote a book about her own experience as she went through the treatments, telling her doctor she had to live one day longer than her son. He has a form of Asperger's and will need her care for his entire life. He was about eight when she was diagnosed. She's in remission.
One of my best friends in high school is going through her third round of chemo fighting breast cancer. She's endured the sickness and the stares over and over as she kicks cancers ass.
My pastor stood at the alter at the front of my church and tearfully told us last year, she had found a lump in her breast and would be undergoing treatment. Thankfully, she too is in remission.
A friend that I affectionately call, 'Frankenpearls', endured painful surgery and radiation for skin cancer on her face. She proudly rang the bell at the end of her treatments on my birthday.
Another friend, no… more than a friend, our close friend who also officiated our wedding and has been one of our staunches supporters, just had brain tumor treatment only to find out less than six months later, she's now facing breast cancer…again.
The tears last night were caused by the news that our closest friends, a couple that we've traveled with, laughed with, cried with, watched baseball games, won trivia contests with, 'ruled the world with', are facing an inevitable fact, he... is dying. Experimental trials are just that, experimental. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. Sometimes, they hold things at bay and sometimes, they just stop working and…as trials go, you get the idea. These friends have engaged with us for years in what we call our 'three hour beer and burrito vacations'. A small quirky restaurant in a sleepy little tourist town, has the best, non-traditional burritos you'll ever eat and they serve great local and regional microbrews on tap. My burrito "The Gravity Check", is like a grilled chicken salad with bacon, wrapped in a monstrous tortilla. I get the same thing every time because there are just some dishes worth eating on every visit. I see no need to think outside the box when I know how delicious it will be.
As my wife and I pulled up, there was a bit of a pause between the two of us. When this impromptu dinner date had been suggested, it gave me question. Thursday night, our friend are usually driving to Sloane Kettering in NY, in preparation for his chemo treatment on Friday. He gets his chemo and they drive all day after to get back home so he can be in familiar and comfortable surroundings for the hell afterwards. They SHOULD have been on their way to NY…but they WERE having burritos with us. We got out of the vehicle and my wife says, 'be prepared for bad news'. We hadn't talked about it on the way over, we'd chatted about our day, the prescriptions I'd picked up on the way home, a friend from our old town I'd run into, her moving around the basement 'stuff', the antics of our fur babies……normal everyday conversation. What we didn't talk about was that niggling feeling in our guts that tonight was about much more than good food, beer and company.
Once again, my brain is struggling to find the positive thoughts I try to relay to you each week…..I'm struggling, circling and drowning. The phrases running through my mind as I 'wasn't' sleeping last night-were, a life well lived and 'do not go gently' from Dylan Thomas' poem. The problem with that poem is it talks about 'old age'. All of the people, (other than my MaMaw, who was in her sixties) are NOT old. They are all in what should be the prime or slightly post prime of their lives. Some are exactly my age. Cancer does not discriminate when it comes to age or what you have left to do or sometimes, just as importantly, what you've wanted to do but kept thinking you'd get around to it because we are too busy. Sometimes that statement is beyond true, there is no time because you're out of it.
Which brings me to the title of this week's blog, 2.7 seconds. When our friend found out about his cancer, he was in his mid-forties and working for the state government as the communications director….for the governor himself. His schedule was almost non stop from the day 'his guy' switched on the lights. He dealt with numerous emergencies and disasters, PR nightmares and day to day communications with the press. Think of him as a much better/cooler/nicer Shaun Spicer, only our friend wasn't working for someone I'm pretty sure should be trading in his designer suits for a white jacket with really long sleeves and buckles in the back. Our friend got on helicopters and directed operations all while carrying around what he deemed his 'man purse' while it pumped toxic substances into his body. When the governor's term was up, he and his wife headed for Bradenton FL and the Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training. They've traveled across the pond to watch the British Open, gone to other sporting events and have plans to go to the Big Ten Tournament in Madison Square Garden. Yes, they have a bucket list. From the day he was diagnosed, my wife and I couldn't hear Tim McGraw's song, "Live Like You Were Dying," without thinking about Chris. Yes, I can say his name. He's done countless interviews and has been the poster child for Colon Cancer Screening, statewide and beyond. He's young, married to a beautiful, funny and accomplished woman, who's driven him to never give up, all while traveling across the world to hang out in places like Ireland and Great Britain, and back here on US soil to Florida, AZ and a host of other places they on their bucket list. The list isn't finished.
The song asks the question 'what would you do if you knew', then goes on to list the things the individual DID while he LIVED like he was dying. He did so because he was going to die. The xrays, tests and the doctors said so. "2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu."
Nothing is off the table if our friends want to do it. They also to sit at home, take long hikes with their beloved dog, Bettis, binge watch House of Cards, and call friends to come and have a three hour vacation over beer and burritos.
Grieving is for the living; the dead can only participate by laughing at us while they float by on a cloud…if that is your belief. Or on the other hand, poke you with a hot coal from somewhere else (if they are as ornery as some I know). Even though my friends are going through this horrible disease, they are still alive. I'm grieving even the thought of losing one of them.
Trying to wrap my head around seeing them only in pictures and hearing their voice only in videos, is soul crushing. If they call and say, "Hey, we've got this thing," we will drop whatever is going on and make whatever it is they need happen. If it was as simple as a bone marrow, or organ donation I was a match for, I'd be in an operating room so fast, the ink wouldn't have time to dry on the paperwork.
Knowing, that eventually, we all will join them, makes me take a good look at the things I AM doing and asking the question 'am I living every day to it's fullest?' Most of us don't. We whine about the economy, the price of gas, the dropping stock market, the neighbor that doesn't clean up his dog poop and we waste precious time we could be living and loving. (Notice I didn't say politics because THAT has cause.)
I've often said one of my life moto's is Carpe Diem-seize the day.
In any language, it still means that life is too precious to waste. Our time on this earth is not infinite. Make the time to live and love, read and write books, and take time to tell the people in our life, what they mean to you. Don't leave it unsaid because even if you are in good health today, tomorrow you could hear those words for yourself or someone you love…"You have cancer". I didn't have a chance to meet some of the amazing authors that are no longer with us who passed on from this wretched disease. I've often thought how cool it would have been to meet Sandra Moran or Jeanne Córdova.
I don't have the answers. I cried myself to sleep last night…for about the hour I managed to get, cried myself to work, straightened up to go talk about smoke alarms to forty eight kids, then decided, I'd had enough. So now, I'm headed home….and yes, I expect to cry during the trip and after I'm fully ensconced in my chair in front of the fire place. It does make me appreciate the fact that we didn't wait to build our home, that we can enjoy it for much longer than originally planned.
This summer, I will watch my niece and nephews ride around and around the big porch and be so very very grateful to be doing all I can to enjoy how precious life is. Erma Bombeck said…"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'."
I think it's time to finish my work in progress and try to pour out whatever talent I have, so if I ever hear those words, I can say 'I raged against the night' and certainly did not go gently.