This I Believe

Jim - Pittsford, New York
Entered on August 29, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death, illness

This I believe.

While sitting on my deck on a glorious summer evening, sipping a Martini, I received a call from my surgeon who told me my stage 2 cancer was now, stage 4. He initially told me I had two years to live, and we would postpone surgery until I had another round of chemo.

When he told me I immediately flashed back to high school when my first real girlfriend dumped me. I had the same feeling of loss, helplessness, and that empty feeling you get when you know there is no where to turn.

That was over two months ago. I only have one round of chemo left, and then the CT scan that will decide my fate. Whenever I go into the hospital either for chemo or a shot of Neulasta, they asked me if I am in pain. I always say no, there is no point in telling them of the constant nausea, bloody noses, electric tingling in my hands and feet; I want to tell them my heart is broken. Because on that perfect summer evening when I got the call, I realized for the first time, how much I love family, friends and life. I am only 50 and have enjoyed great health, and fitness most of my life. That my life can be taken away by a quiet killer, I can accept. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think to how good it feels to sleep and how warm and comfortable I feel, and then I remember I have cancer, and that hollow feeling creeps back in.

The doctors have backed away from the 2 year thing telling me the drugs I am taking now are so new they do not have clinical data to support an accurate long term diagnosis. They also point out that I am very early in the stage 4 continuum, and young and strong. They just don’t know, go figure.

This is not the first time I have faced death, when I was a Marine Corps pilot I had pilots and friends killed during an invasion—but it was different. Death was not inevitable; it just lurked in the background, someone else’s problem.

I do not think my heart will ever be “unbroken,” even if I am cured. I know this because I now understand how fragile, our lives and our hearts are. Although my broken heart will never heal, I now know I need to be careful of other people’s hearts.