Facts! You have them or you don’t. I am a fact gatherer. That is my job, but many days the facts that I need are hard to come by. Sometimes I have to use the totality of the circumstantial evidence in order to try to explain what has happened to get a case charged. Prosecutors like facts that are more indisputable, you know, what they call evidence.
Evidence such as photographs found on the bad guy’s cell phone, recorded interviews, DNA evidence, the results of medical tests. That type of evidence or facts is harder to dispute.
Prosecutors do not like hunches, gut feelings, or suspicions. I have to tell families that it is not what I think happened, but what I can prove happened. What theories or hypotheses I might have always go better with evidence.
Now, having a gut feeling or suspicion that something is not right will drive me to work harder to develop the facts. Sometimes it just takes time.
My medical team also likes to deal with facts. You know, such as the fact that no matter which doctor I am seeing they each want me to pee in a bottle at every visit.
Conversation goes something like this: “Mr. Brown would you please pee in this bottle.” “If you hold it still this time I will.” The bottle people!! The bottle!! Get you head out of the gutter.
Sorry attempt at humor, I know.
Anyway, not having the evidence or needed facts can be a problem for my medical team.
If you remember, last time I spoke about the theory developed by my urologist concerning the spread of my cancer. It sounded good, and made sense. Three of the four doctors working on my case at that time agreed it was possible. My oncologist does not agree.
Dr. O wants more facts. He needs evidence. He still wants me to have the second surgery and have the surgeon take out more ribs to hopefully find answers to what is showing up on the scans.
You know that surgery that I cancelled in April basically because I was pissed with the surgeon? Yes, that surgery. I agreed to meet with the surgeon to go over the post operation scans, and to listen to what he had to say.
When Christy and I met with the surgeon it was very different than past meetings. As soon as he walked in, he sat down and wheeled his stool over to me with pad and pen in hand. He sat next to me and explained what had been done in the past and what he wanted to do next. He spoke to me and not Christy.
He started drawing a chest cavity. He put in the ribs and talked about where the scans showed the areas that I had lesions that concerned everyone. He explained this would be a longer and more involved surgery.
We talked about Dr. U’s hypothesis concerning my disease. It made sense to him. He knew what he had seen inside my body during the first surgery, but he would also prefer to have more evidence. He said that Dr. O still wanted more evidence.
The conversation that day was at times gloomy. We all knew what Dr. U’s diagnosis meant if correct. I knew what treatments Dr. O was going to push. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. Cancer sucks.
He told me that he did not know if another surgery would provide the answers we were looking for. He told me that this was my choice to make. He did not need an answer now. He gave me his cell number and told me to text or call if and when I wanted to talk about the procedure. I told him that I would be in touch. We left.
On the way home it was a quiet drive most of the way. We were on the interstate and I was doing my customary 85 mph (I cannot drive 55). I looked over at Christy, and she at me. She started crying. I reached over and put my hand on her knee and told her that everything was going to be alright. She said to me, “I am having trouble imaging a life without you.” Wow. That hit hard.
She told me that she wanted me to do everything that I possibly could to stay alive. She let me know that I should not be so hard headed and might even do what the doctors ask of me from time to time. I thought I had been. Oh well. Different perspectives I guess.
Now I can deal with an angry Christy, and many times have. What I find hard to deal with is a scared and crying Christy. She had me where she wanted me. She had her say and calmed down. The car again got quiet.
As the drive continued my mind went back to the first time we met. It was near the end of April 1981 my junior year of college.
I was living off campus with my friend Ron Hall. It was a beautiful weekend day and finals would be starting soon. I knew that if I stayed at our apartment that I would not get anything done. So we played a game of ice ball to decide how we were going to tackle this conundrum of needing to study, but also wanting to do something outside.
While trying to figure this out we played ice ball in the living room until we ran out of ice. You know you empty all the ice trays and bags if you’ve got them and take turns pitching and hitting. We had a little bat and when we hit the ice we did not have to pick anything up. It just melted. If you got hit with the ice it did sting.
I do not know if I won or lost. It was hard to keep score during those games. All I know is when the ice was gone we still had not figured out how to avoid wasting the day. Playing ice ball is not wasting the day.
We ended up driving to campus to study at the library. That, I thought was going to be a big waste of my day. It was not.
If I had to be at the library I had a table where I normally liked to sit at which was hidden in the stacks of books. Friends knew of my table and would show up for a few words or sit down to also study. So many days it was like a party at the library, but with no one around to tell us to shut up.
That day in April was going to be different. You see, someone that I did not know was sitting at my table. She had not been invited, and even had books spread out. I was looking at her, and Ron asked if I wanted to go find somewhere else to sit. I said, “Hell no that is my table.” Also, she was cute.
I told Ron that we were going to sit there. I also told him that I would bet him a beer that before we left I would have her phone number. Ron took that bet. I now had a mission.
So we sat down and said hello. She moved some of her books to make room. Looking at her books I said to myself “Freshman.” At some point I started talking to her, and she played it rather coy. She acted like I was bothering her. Oh she was a stubborn one.
At some point the cute freshman girl asked me to watch her books while she went to get something to drink. I said sure.
She returned with two Cokes from the McDonald’s across from the library. I was and always will be a Pepsi guy, but hey I drank it.
I knew at that point that this girl wanted me. Why would she risk smuggling in a Coke for me if she did not want our encounter to continue? Drinks were not allowed in the library. If caught she could have been expelled from school (Maybe not, but it does make for a better story). She was taking a great risk to impress me. She could tell that I was worth it.
So while drinking the Coke I took that as study break time. We started talking more. At least I talked more. She was playing hard to get, you know. She looked more and more annoyed. Me? I have often seen women use this tactic.
Remember, I had a bud light riding on this encounter. I would not be deterred.
I told her of a party at Dr. Tom’s residence. He was a management professor who had become a friend and he was having an end of year party at his house. She gave me her phone number. Ron bought the beer.
So I later called and made arrangements to pick her up to go to Tom’s party. She lived in a dorm on campus. When I got there I called up to her room. At that time it was an all girls dorm. Men could not just walk around the place. It is so different now. Thirty seven years too late if you ask me.
Anyway she said that she would be right down. I waited and waited, but still no freshman girl. She was standing me up. Then she came through the front door. I was at the wrong dorm!
She tracked me down. I told you that she wanted me.
She lived over at the Laws, Lathrop, and Jones complex of dorms. They all looked alike to me, and I still do not remember which one she lived in. She found me.
We went to the party and had a good time. Had one more date that semester before she left town to return to her home in Carthage, MO for the summer. Her sister attended summer welcome that year and that freshman girl came with her to see me. She may have even brought a Coke. She wanted me.
My senior year started and now the little sophomore girl started to become a bigger part of my life. She wanted to be with me. I realized at some point that year that I wanted to be with her. The rest is history.
Camden, that is how I met your Nana, and it all started in April 1981, thirty seven wonderful years ago. Now I would imagine that the little freshman girl’s recollection of events might be a little different. Just remember, I have the facts.
What Christy was trying to tell me in that car ride from the doctor’s office was that she was not ready for our thirty seven year ride to end. So I better get with the medical program.
Later I decided to contact the doctor with some questions. I did not want to interfere with his work so I texted. He then called. We spoke a few more times and I then agreed to another surgery.
He wanted to do it ASAP. I said okay, but that I had a fishing trip planned and I would not let surgery interfere with that trip.
He wanted to know when I returned. I told him that I would be back in town on May 21st. He thought that May 22nd sounded like a good day for surgery. I was not terribly excited about the idea, but agreed. We got off the phone and a nurse called me later and told me to be at St. Francis at 6:00 A.M. on Tuesday the 22nd. It was a done deal once again. I was back on the surgery schedule. I then went fishing in Colorado.
When I got home on the 21st I made a short to-do list. One of the tasks on that list was to call mom. Maybe that one can wait. I know. I know. I should call mom, and I did. It was at the top of the list, but was the last thing checked off.
Sometimes, no let me restate that, I always hate talking about cancer with mom. I have tried to shield her from what has been happening the past few years. Whether that was right or wrong, it’s what I did.
Now she knows about this blog. I did not tell her about the blog until about a month or so ago. As a friend pointed out, I have been a bad son. I knew that someone would eventually bring the blog up in conversation with her. That is what happened. I did not tell her until I had to. How do you tell a parent that you are sick and might die? Walking that tight rope has been hard.
Recently she asked me if I felt that I would be able to beat this. I did not have to think about what was the best answer to give her. I did not hesitate or stall in giving my answer. I told her: Yes! YEs!! YES!!! I do think that I can beat this. I am going to beat this.
Whether that is true or not, I do not know, but that is the only answer you can give your mother. (Maybe she will not read this one.)
Life is so precious and in the history of the world we humans are here for so short a period of time with some people here shorter than others. Cancer patients hold no monopoly on dying before their time. It can happen to anyone.
Have I got you in a good mood yet?
In my job I have unfortunately been the witness to a few deaths. The deaths I have witnessed have normally been caused by acts of violence. They did not have to happen.
Years ago an entire neighborhood was out on a hot summer day, but instead of a neighborhood garage sale or barbeque they got into a big ass fight. I and a few other guys were sent to keep the peace. Right?
When I arrived I found this to be a very serious fight involving many people. Some had weapons.
I saw a man lying on his back on the ground. I walked over to him and discovered that he was having difficulty breathing. I let the dispatcher know that I need EMS and Fire with me, but they were not coming into this mess until I and the three other officers with me could get the fight under control and make it safe for them. I was on my own to try to help this man.
I knelt down beside him looking for injuries. I saw none. I saw no blood. He looked at me and wanted to know if he was going to be okay. I told him that he was. I really thought he was. His breathing was getting worse. He did not look well. I asked him what had happened, but he would not talk about what had happened. He just wanted to keep hearing from me that he was going to live.
He stopped talking all together and was gasping for air. I heard him exhale and a gurgling or rattling noise was coming out of his chest and into his throat and out his mouth. His body started shaking. Then everything stopped. His last breath had turned to air.
At the exact same time that I was witnessing this I saw a woman out of the corner of my eye who had walked up and was standing about fifteen feet from us. Her eyes were fixated on the man on the ground. It was like she was in a trance. Her arms were down to her side and I saw that in her left hand she held a large kitchen knife. The knife was resting against her thigh and was pointed down.
Seeing the woman with the knife, I had to get up and leave the man. I walked at an angle toward the woman so she could still see the man. My eyes were darting back and forth from her face to her left hand. I wanted to see if she was going to offer any kind of facial expression that might tell me her intentions. I did not want to get stabbed.
I grabbed her left wrist with my right hand. My left hand then grabbed her hand and my right hand slid down and took the knife.
She finally looked at me and asked if the man on the ground was going to be okay. I told her that I did not know. She told me that the man was her husband. That during this big fight he was attacked by some other men with a baseball bat. She had gone into their house to get the knife so he could protect himself. When she came back out, it was too late.
At this time Fire and EMS were with her husband. He was dead. He had been hit so hard with the ball bat that his aorta had been torn from his heart and he internally bled to death.
The gurgling noise that I heard was what is known as the death rattle. This was the first time I had ever witnessed a man die. It was the first time I had heard the death rattle. Unfortunately it would not be the last.
On that hot summer day all that man wanted from me was an assurance that he was going to live. I told him that he was. I hope that I gave him a little bit of hope before he realized that what I said was bullshit.
I hope that when I tell people that I am going to be okay, it gives them a feeling that I am doing well and confidence that they do not have to worry about me. I cannot help to feel that when I tell people that I am going to be okay, that I am once again dishing out bullshit.
Just like that man all I want is for someone on my medical team to tell me that I am going to live. That I am going to beat this. They have not. I do not expect to ever hear that. I guess they need more facts.
No one knows when their time will come, but death will take each of us at some time. When I play out the scenarios in my head I know that death will ultimately win. But not today! I will not let cancer win today. Each day before leaving the house I tell myself that today is my day, and I am going to make today the best day possible. Going forward, I will do what I think is best for me in order to live the best life that I can.
I hope this surgery will help answer some questions, because I am getting tired of them, and goddammit they hurt!
Before the surgery I wish that I had bet Christy a beer on how things were going to turn out. I have a good history when it comes to betting beers. I live with the evidence. That is a fact.
I will have a surgery update coming later.
Spoiler alert….I live.