“I have been cut, burnt and poisoned” said a friend of mine who has been recently diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He has gone through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. He is merely 40 years old. He has lived a very good life, successful in his career and married with two little daughters who are my daughter’s age. I can relate to him on so many levels because of many similar traits in our personalities and among our families.
We used to go out a lot before he was taken by this ailment. We have shared some good laughs and enjoyed some great times. I remember going out once for a snorkeling trip. There were at least fifty or so people floating around us. So here we were snorkeling up and down the river, we would come back up to our canoe and move to different spot. It started to rain and we continued to do what we were doing. After a while I come up and notice there is no one in the river any more. My friend realized it too. I asked him where did everybody go. He said possibly because it is raining and, after a pause he said ……lightening too. We suddenly realized that we are sitting in an aluminum canoe. Moment of panic struck us at the same time. It was an open invitation for a lightening bolt to strike us. We both paddled for our lives and reached the shore on record Olympic time. Once we were safe we laughed at our stupidity for a very long time….. We still do.
We would also meet on the weekends where my 6 year old daughter would go for karate class. His daughter was just too good despite being the same age as my daughter. I was afraid she may break someone’s arm or leg. One day he told me how he taught her daughter to throw a perfect punch, I envied him because even I don’t know how to throw one. I thought well maybe I can teach my daughter not to throw a perfect tantrum.
Sometimes I wish we can have that time back. I wish he can get better like this has never happened before. I asked him how come he is so brave, I would tap out so fast. He replied I am as brave as any father would be. I am doing this for my daughters.
After he received his first cycle of surgery, radiation and chemo he waited for a month before the CT chest and abdomen were repeated. He was very optimistic, doing everything right and embracing any therapy available for this disease. He was even getting imported Japanese herbal tea which can help with cancers. Then came the results of the CT scan which showed that there was no remission, in fact there was progression of disease with lymph node involvement.
I remember the day when I found out. I had a tough time sleeping that night. But he did not flinch and started the process again with chemo. I asked him how it feels. He said “It is like you prepare for your tests and work really hard, you sit at the day of test and do really well. But when the result come out you find out that you got a F. That’s how it feels like”. I was speechless.
His courage, dedication and strength is inspirational. We met few days ago and during our conversation he told me casually that he sold one of his cars just in case if he is not around things would be simpler for his wife. To come in terms of one’s mortality is not an easy thing to do. His wife who is a physician too puts up an act so convincing that it is hard to figure out what is going on behind this veil of bravado.
I read a book The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, a computer professor who stood in front of 400 people at
Carnegie Mellon University in and frankly talked about his fight with pancreatic cancer with few months to live. Later in the lecture he did some push ups followed by a lecture about how to achieve childhood dreams. He writes in his book “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”. Pittsburgh
I think my friends have played it well. Sometimes I feel guilty that in the game of life the dice coughed out the wrong numbers. Sometimes I have trouble looking straight in his eyes thinking he may discover that I fear for him. But there is never a time when I don’t envy his strength. I wish I could have been a better friend.
Anyway my friend I just want you to know we are here for you always and I hope we are stupid again to snorkel during thunder and lightening soon.
Blog you later.
About the picture: I took this picture at our house but my daughter provided me with the ketchup.
PS: This is a follow up.