I have been asked a time or two about how long it takes me to put together one of my essays. Most of the time it does not take very long, because often I have worked on the idea inside my head for quite some time before putting it on paper. It flows quickly.
Sometimes I am working through an idea and I just write. Throwing mud and seeing what sticks, so to speak.
I also do a lot of writing that you do not see, and probably will never see. I write about what I am thinking and it often just stays in a file on my computer. When I am gone my kids will have them to read. If Erin later wishes to put them on the blog that will be fine. They will be hers to do with what she wishes. This was going to be one of those pieces.
The idea for this essay came to me while preparing for the Zero Prostate Cancer Awareness 5k Run that my doctor’s medical group sponsors each year. The race is run in Wichita on Father’s Day weekend. I think the first time we participated was 2017. In 2018 I wrote some things down, but never finished. I was not sure I was ready to share. The essay stayed in the file to be kept for when I am gone.
I have come back to this essay a few times this year. The last time was in June. Looking over it and adding and subtracting. Each time that I wrote I could not get the piece completed to my satisfaction. I put it away.
Just a few weeks ago my girls and I ran the Zero 5k Prostate Cancer Awareness Run in Kansas City, Kansas. That again got me thinking about this essay. It was time to finish. I decided to take it out of the file.
This piece is a combination of several thoughts that I have edited and turned into one. It has taken awhile. Here we go.
Today is Sunday, June 2, 2019, and it is National Cancer Survivors Day. I sometimes feel at odds with the mainstream thinking on the different verbiage used to describe a person with cancer and their “cancer journey.”
My thoughts are that often the words and metaphoric phrases used by non cancer people do not describe me or provide a very good explanation of what I am going through. Often these words or phrases try to minimize what people with cancer are dealing with.
“You got this!”
Well, no. Actually I do not. You can move along now.
I think I understand why these words and phrases have become so popular. They are easy. These are fallback words that people rely on when they do not know what to say. They want to turn a negative into a positive and cheer up their family member or friend. I really do appreciate the effort, but I feel they are often misguided. I think there is a better way.
I will in the future write an essay on talking to someone you care about with cancer. But that is not what this essay is about today. Well maybe it is just a little.
Before moving on to the main topic I will share with you one thing I think is very safe to say to a cancer patient. I would love to hear it myself actually.
“Kevin, your ass sure looks good in those jeans!!”
I have not heard that yet so you could be the first one to tell me. You could lie. I am okay with that. It would cheer me up, and of course make me laugh.
All kidding aside I would now like to talk about just one word that is used often in the cancer world. That word is: Survivor.
Each year that I go to the doctor’s office to pick up everyone’s race packets and gear I am asked if I am a survivor. Survivors are given different shirts so they can be picked out from the crowd. I am not real comfortable with that, but what the hell.
The first year I was picking up the packets that survivor question surprised me. I thought for a moment and I then told the lady that no, I was not a survivor, but that I hoped to be a survivor one day.
She then asked me some other questions and handed me a survivor’s shirt. She told me I was a survivor. She explained that everyone with cancer no matter where they were in their “journey” was considered a cancer survivor. I took the shirt.
I have thought about that conversation a few times. Hence the reason I have started and stopped working on this essay several times.
I realize that many people identify with being a survivor. I am not writing this in an attempt to change their self image. If that works for them, that is great. I will support whatever helps people get through the mental challenge of dealing with cancer. Many people have been cured. They are survivors. I am so, so, happy for them.
I do not feel like a survivor. I do not consider myself a survivor. If someone else wants to call me a survivor, I will not correct them. If I am asked privately I will let them know my thoughts.
To me, something happens and when it is over you have survived. If it does not end you have not yet survived.
I have survived many situations in my life. Sometimes when it is over I wonder how the hell I survived. But I did.
One November night many years ago a business was being robbed just two blocks from where I was. When I arrived and I approached the business l learned that the robber had just fled and the manager of the business, who had just had a gun held to his head during the robbery, pointed in the direction the robber ran. I had an idea where he might be going. I had arrived so quickly that I thought I had a good chance of finding him.
I pulled down a street that ran in front of an apartment complex. I thought that might be where he was going. Sure enough he emerged from a dark field into the light. He wanted to get to the parking lot where his partner and getaway car waited. What he did not know, and which I later learned, was that when his partner saw me he drove off leaving the bad guy on his own.
I hopped out of my car to confront the bad guy. I forgot to put my car in park. So my car continued to roll down the street. So excuse me bad guy for a second while I hop back into my car and put it in park. Okay that is taken care of and now I can deal with you.
In the bad guy’s mind I was blocking his getaway. He had to go through me.
I was telling the bad guy what I wanted him to do, but he just ignored me. He was walking straight toward me. When he got close enough I reached out and grabbed him. The fight was then on.
Now this man was taller and heavier than me. But that is not unusual. Hell many people are born taller than I am.
When I grabbed him he punched me in my right eye. Thankfully that was before I wore glasses. You do see a big bright light when you get punched in the eye.
The fight I imagine did not last that long. To me it was a long time. We punched and kicked each other. I was having a hard time keeping control of him. What the hell am I saying? I never had control of him. I was just trying to stop him the best I could.
During this fight I knew that one of us was going to get hurt.
I do not know where it came from, but I heard a voice inside my head and this voice spoke to me.
“Kevin! You are going to get shot, but you will not die! Do not give up! Do not let this man get away!”
The fight continued. Then I heard the voice a second time.
“Kevin! You are going to get shot, but you will not die! Do not give up! Do not let this man get away!”
The bad guy started to pull away. I could no longer hold on. Then came the shots.
I do not know what was going through Christy’s mind when the supervisor showed up at our front door. He was there to take her to where I had been taken. He was/is a very good friend of mine. We are neighbors. He lives across the street. I think that made it easier for Christy to be with someone she knew. Thankfully we had family in town visiting who could stay with the kids.
I do not know what Mitch told her. I do not know what they talked about. After all these years we have never talked about that. Maybe one day we will.
In my line of work you live with the knowledge that bad things can happen at any time. It is not something that you constantly talk about with your spouse. We both knew the danger.
When Christy walked into the room she saw that I was okay. We hugged and kissed.
I survived that night. The bad guy died. I am not proud of that. I wish that it never happened. I wish that I could have controlled that situation better.
That confrontation had a beginning and an end. I survived.
I have had three cancer surgeries. I survived.
I have been through radiation. I survived.
I have had poisons injected into my body. I survived.
I have taken pills daily that make me sick. I survived.
But until I am told that my advanced/incurable/terminal cancer is cured then and only then will I consider myself to be a cancer survivor.
Until that happens I am just a man. A man who happens to have cancer, and like most men I am trying to get through each and every day the best I can.
Many mornings as I am putting on my suit or sport coat and tie that voice at times can be heard once again inside my head. This is what he says:
“Kevin you have cancer. But Brutus is not going to take you today. Do not give up.”
With that thought in my mind I straighten my tie and I smile at the man in the mirror. Winston tells me that I am looking sharp and then out the door I go ready to enjoy the day and live my life. Then I ask myself if Christy is happy. Because if she is not happy well you know how that goes.
Winston also told me that my ass looked good in my jeans so I guess you will not be the first to tell me after all. Thanks Winston.
Recently I was again tested to see what Brutus was doing. If you remember last time I was tested that my doctor, U3, was concerned because Brutus was growing so fast.
I got the results on October 15th. They were not good. Brutus continues to grow at a high velocity. I was concerned what the doctor might say when I saw him the next day. I suspected he was going to tell me that it was time to go back on treatments. Damn!
I saw U3 on October 16th. We had a very informative visit. I informed him on what was going to happen.
I am not going to go into the details today on what happened during our visit. I will soon write an essay about what has been going on and what the next steps are.
The doctor did tell me that it was his advice that I go back on treatments. NOW!
I told the doctor NO. I told him that for now I was not going back on the poisons. I gave him my reasons and he told me that he understood.
I did not lose that November night and I do not plan on losing to Brutus. As I have said before…how you live your life is how you beat cancer.
In a few days I will be on my way to Kentucky to see my Tigers pound the wildcats in a football game. I hope the Tigers left the team they took to Nashville in Nashville or else I am going to be pissed.
Win or lose it really is not the game itself that is taking me to Lexington. It is the chance to spend time with friends. I want to enjoy my life while I am still feeling good. My doctor gets that.
When I picked up our race packets before the October 6th 5k race in Kansas City I noticed that the forms they had there for me to fill out had a better description on how I see myself. The box I checked had patient/survivor. I think that is more accurate. I feel that there are many people that feel like I feel. They gave me a shirt to indicate that I was a patient/survivor.
After crossing the finish line at that race I was greeted by a woman who congratulated me on running the race. She then congratulated me on being a cancer survivor. It was the shirt. I said thank you.
As I continue down the road with Brutus I do not believe that calling me a cancer survivor is correct. But like I told the lady at my doctor’s office I hope to one day be one. What will be, will be.
No matter what happens I will just have to continue winning each day.
I have been running basically the same course in my neighborhood for 28 years. I run in the grass because running on hard surfaces causes my Achilles tendinitis to flare up. I know where all the holes are. Occasionally I find a new one.
I run through a church lawn and one day I saw they had a sign in my path. I figured it probably said: Kevin, keep off the grass. It did not.
It said: Don’t Give Up.
Now when I run through the church lawn I reach down and I will touch that sign. I then say to the voice inside my head:
“I Will Not Give Up.”