How appropriate is it to tell a cancer patient something negative (that he likely doesn’t want to hear) – yet needs to know, and which might ultimately quash his fighting spirit and adversely affect his day – and night? Moreover, would withholding certain discouraging observations intermittently along the cancer-treatment way, in order for said patient to feel good and positive about himself – and better prepare him for any and all news/results which might upset his precariously imperfect life and moreover, likely chip away at his emotional wherewithal as well – cause more harm than 100-percent honesty all the time? If this sounds as if I’m splitting philosophical hairs, the tool I would need to do so in any possibly effective way has yet to be invented, literally or figuratively. Yet this is the life I live as a terminal cancer patient, alive and reasonably well, reliant on my wife, primarily, for a kind of support one rarely anticipates providing and for which either one is hardly prepared.
If this quandary were a line, it wouldn’t exactly be a line of demarcation, more like a line of decapitation (figuratively speaking of course). These are lines that are clearly not defined. You couldn’t find them on a map even if you were a cartographer with 20 years’ experience making maps. These are lines that are blurry at best and if seen at all, likely seen from a satellite snooping high in the sky that neither the government says exists, or the reason for its existence, exists. This is a line, to invoke a well-known Ken Beatrice-ism (Ken hosted a sports talk radio program called “Sports Call” for over 20 years in the Washington, D.C. area) on which you wouldn’t want to live (meaning the difference between talent and circumstances was impossible to quantify).
But this is the line of my life on which I try to live, balance, navigate, manipulate and delude myself as the various cancer-driven emotions and circumstances arise. It makes the 3.9-inch width of a balance beam seem more like 39 inches. However, there are striking similarities between this apparatus and life as a cancer patient: the falls can sometimes be devastating, physically, but more often, it is the emotional toll which disrupts the most. When I lose my balance and fall, it’s as if I actually can’t get up.
Most days I can manage this sort of co-dependency. Other days, I can’t. Living in the past at the same time as you’re trying to live in the present and plan for the future and trying as well to take both positives and negatives in the identical stride are challenges I really didn’t anticipate having to overcome at such a relatively early age: 54 and a half.
Nevertheless, life goes on, for which I’m extremely grateful. Some days/circumstances are definitely worse than others, but at least I’m still in the game. For how long, though? (See, I can’t even finish a column without stumbling over myself.)