Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Casual Relationship

Nicole, besides helping provide a great week, gave me an insight that no one else had noticed. From the first moment I found out about this growth, I’d been making jokes. Literally the moment the doctor showed it to me on the MRI in the hospital, he said and here is where the tumor is. Without missing a beat, I looked at him and said ‘Well, rub some dirt in it.’ This clearly very intelligent Asian man looked at me (this was the first conversation we’d ever had), didn’t know how to react and said and if you look here and continued. It wasn’t until he checked me out, despite lots of cracks, that he actually smiled at me and congratulated me on being the first patient to ever run.

Long before this my approach to life has to make fun of it and loved it when others did. They had told me that where the tumor was that the biggest possible risks were losing language, coordination and/or short memory entirely or at some level. When my wife heard, there was some possibility that I could lose all ability to talk she asked why we didn’t sign up for the surgery immediately. There were also some minor risks to some functions like sexuality (members of both genders should be excited!) and facial recognition (with some faces that would be a serious blessing). As I explained these things to people I’d make those type of jokes or ones similar, always breaking the ice and awkwardness as I gave people some information. The cracks never seemed to stop in either direction with friends commenting that this proved that muscles atrophied if you didn’t use them. Another friend, visiting from out of town, saw my biopsy scar and said that I looked good except for that one side of my face…the front.

Always smiling, always making jokes I’d explain what I understood at the time trying to have humor in the middle and as the punctuation point at the end of the conversation. Friends and acquaintances all kept commenting that I was handling this with ‘aplomb’, with a ‘great attitude,’ that I was so ‘positive.’ In more earnest remarks, I would comment and say things like “Look, if I’m dead in 10 days or 4 decades I’m okay either way” or “I’ve done more in the last 10 years than most people do in a lifetime” a remark that I let arrogantly grow into “For crying out loud, I’ve done more in the last 2 years than most people do in a lifetime.” Nicole had spent most waking moments with me for the better part of a week and she made a very astute observation: ‘Everyone says that you’re so positive but you’re not. I haven’t heard you once say this is something you’re going to beat or even give a fight to. Your comments about this aren’t positive, they are casual and everyone simply takes the fact that you’re not scared as positive.’

She was absolutely right but it was a thought hadn’t occurred to me. Unlike most times in my life, I had simply just said the past has been good without looking towards the future. Unlike typical, I had not taken to researching possibilities, statistic methods. I had simply sat to wait for the biopsy and make cracks along the way. I didn’t have work because I had not been cleared, I was going to have to give up sports that I loved but it wasn’t even registering because I was waiting for my biopsy. It was an eye opening moment and that’s when my mind slowly started to shift from this being just a happenstance to something that I needed to be more actively involved with. My relationship with cancer went from being casual to being…complicated.

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