Twelve days ago, I was told I have lung cancer.
That’s a hell of a way to start a new post, let alone one that’s been sitting around in my head for even longer than the official word from my doctors but it’s easier to come to the point of this post rather than go for all the flowery prose (although I’m sure some will creep in here somewhere later on). I’m having test after test done, being poked and prodded; biopsied and anesthetized. I don’t know how much blood they’ve taken from me in the past month alone. I’ve been to specialists, been to hospitals, been everywhere except where I really want to be which is on a beach in the Keys somewhere with a couple of college buddies raising hell for old time’s sake. I’m certainly not about to write “one last go” at it, because quite frankly…I’m not dying, I’M LIVING.
I absolutely, positively refuse to die…not yet, not now and certainly not at almost age 51 as my birthday is this coming Wednesday. I want nothing more than to see my kids graduate from college, and walk at least one of them down the aisle. And if I am supremely lucky, hold my grandchild in my arms. I figure that’s about 15 years; 10 years plus interest. The least the Universe could do is pay me back for the past ten years of misery: one incredible thing after another, starting with 9/11 and then a battle with the bottle followed up closely by tremendous back problems that put me on daily painkillers. Then my marriage takes a bit of a nosedive, and now this. It’s honestly been just like Commander Ivonova said in “Babylon 5”, “…thoroughly paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate”. I have to think that there is something very wrong with this picture; that everything I did in my past lifetimes is coming back to haunt me in this one. Either that, or I was a REALLY nasty bastard in the life just preceding this one. You couldn’t write an “All My Children” script like this if you wanted to (especially now that it’s been cancelled. I’m still in awe over that decision). So the bottom line is this, you are probably wondering: how long did they tell you? How long?
Well, how long do YOU have to live? Do YOU know? Well, neither do I; it’s just as much as it was 3 months ago with me. One day at a time and one moment at a time as much as humanly possible and not knowing when the end is coming. Well, the end in this life, anyway. There’s probably other journeys I have yet to take as I have been a less than perfect soul this life and that is for sure, but now it’s tempered with one thing most people don’t have when you are not diagnosed with something like this: PERSPECTIVE. After the initial shock wore off (well, the first wave which lasted a few hours…then more days, and then finally some realization of the facts) I realized that almost immediately the way I look at things changed. I began to take everything in. I began to look at the moments between the moments…because they are there if you look. They are just hidden enough that when you get that idea or realize something, that is when you have found a moment between a moment. But now I see them all. They are all hanging in front of me like equations drawn on a sheet of glass. You begin to realize that “x” is no longer as important as it once was, and “y” now is definitely a better way of doing things. You begin to realize that all the crap we allow ourselves to get excited and high strung about (and for me, this was in fact my very existence) is NOTHING. It means NOTHING unless it alters for worse your life or the lives of those around you. It means that STOP sign that you have cursed for 20 years because you never make a left turn easily suddenly is a place to reflect a while as traffic goes by. It means that you may become a little quieter to folks than you normally are…and that’s OK, because you really have to think about not only what has just happened to you with the illness but what you are going to do with this sudden shift in perspective.
It’s like you’ve been shifted into a Parallel Universe…everything looks the same, but things are slightly altered. Almost imperceptible at first, but then they become things that suddenly take on new meaning. What was once a mundane task now becomes a moment to commune under the stars as you throw away the trash like you never have before. People look differently at you too. You can tell in their eyes; it’s almost as if they absolutely positively fear you because you have suddenly become death incarnate to them. They know that sooner or later there’s going to be a funeral and service and wake, and tears. And that’s OK, because your friends and family have to grieve with you through this, but it’s not grieving on my part because like I said before…it’s not yet my time. I have work left to do here, and I honestly don’t have an idea of what that is…just the same as I didn’t three months ago. Then again, I have a much better perspective now, so perhaps I might be given that insight into what I need to do before I slip into the Long Night; with any luck a good 15 years down the road. My concern is for my family. I’ve pretty much accepted death as a doorway to somewhere else. Perhaps that’s just comfort to me and there really IS nothing after this life (please, I hope you hard core Atheists are wrong, LOL) but I highly doubt it. For I have seen things in my lifetime that made me understand that there is more to the world and the universe that we see and that which we do not see. I KNOW death is a means of going to join with the rest of the Universe for a while and rest. Your soul gets some time to examine your lifetimes and decide its next course of action. The only time this is taken from you is when you have achieved Oneness with the Universe; you will have become part of the Creator/Creation/Sentient Being which is the very Universe we live in and are a part of. How do I know? Just my forming an opinion over half a century of seeing myself compared to the rest of my fellow-man and reading about the ancients and what they believed. I’ve read up on a lot of Theology and Existentialism. I’ve taken a bit from here and a bit from there to form an opinion.
That is why I am a Deist. I believe in a higher power, but I highly doubt it listens to me and me alone (if at all). Let’s be real: an omnipotent being capable of creation and destruction listening to one sentient in a billion billion billion times 10 to the billionth power of other sentients in the entire Universe. Sorry, no direct channel here with the Universe…except when the Universe needs an answer, and it sometimes uses us to get that answer for it. You see, the Universe asks itself the same questions we do, but on a much grander scale; and while we have resources and philosophies to fall back on, so does the Universe. It relies on us for the answers as much as we rely on it. Perhaps my situation is one where the Universe needs a sense of my perspective by giving me a glimpse into some things that I haven’t had before. But ultimately, there is something at work out there…something that is not evil, nor good, nor anything in between. It just is…and it it is all and it is in everything and it is you and it is me. And the sooner we realize that we are all connected ultimately to each other and to the Universe as a whole, perhaps the Universe itself can move on to bigger and better things. It’s all relative; it’s all infinite. And like I said, those equations in front of me? They can be pretty handy sometimes.
In a few days it will be the first day of spring; in fact, I’m having the pleasure of having a biopsy on my lymph nodes to make sure it hasn’t spread there yet (one time I really hope nothing grows in spring). But I picked that day for a reason: because it is a day of renewal. It is about celebrating the end of a winter and the darkness of things and into the warm sunshine and brilliance and fullness of life revitalizing itself. That is why I picked that day because as I said earlier, I’m not dying. I am living. And hope does indeed spring eternal at least for me. I have to hope. I have to believe. I have to stay positive and never forget that life is reborn and renewed on that day. And that will be the start of the Springtime of my years, not the winter of my discontent. I still have two Seasons of Life ahead of me…and in the cosmic scheme of things, I’m figuring that’s about 15 years.
At the very least.
And so it begins…
“We are born capable of greatness. It’s when we allow ourselves to become discouraged, to see ourselves as failures, when we fail to recognize our inherent nobility, that we grow small, and diminish, and ultimately sacrifice our dreams on the altar of more realistic expectations of ourselves.
When that happens, we forget who we are, what we are here for, and what we want to achieve, knowledge that is always within us…until we choose not to remember it any longer because the memory pains us, and because it is easier to settle for less than our dreams demand of us.
Children sing and dance spontaneously, tell stories without fear, reveal their thoughts without inhibition, and reach for what logic tells us should be unattainable. That is who and what we are in our most elemental form. We do, we explore, we ask questions; we pursue our heart’s desires, we dream of achieving greatness. But as time passes, we learn fear, we learn to second-guess ourselves, and we learn to suspect our abilities and our desires. We are told that some people tell stories, some people dance, and some people sing, but these things are not for everyone. When we try to express our innermost thoughts, we are told to be quiet, that no one wants to hear what it is we have to say, and that even if they did want to hear it, what we say has no innate value. When we lose the spark of spontaneity that was born inside us, which is our greatest gift, we progressively eliminate the possibility of finding joy and purpose, and inch by inch, our dreams slip away from us.
If we are to be who we are, and what we are; if we are to accomplish great things, then we must learn the heart’s most essential rule: NEVER SURRENDER DREAMS.”
-J. Michael Straczinski