Sometimes I think my life should be soap opera.
But it would probably be better if it was a reality show. I mean it’s easier and cheaper to produce. And I would get to play myself.
Let’s start with an early childhood memory.
Mom took me to a barber as she concluded that my hair was just too long. I was about seven, maybe just before seven. We walked to the barber and they put in the chair with an extra seat (I was a little small for my age) . I don’t remember too much about the haircut itself, but I do remember screaming. Not because the barbers clippers accidently clipped more than my hair, but because my hair was being cut and it was falling to the ground.
I also remembered that I didn’t want a haircut in the first place. For heaven sakes – it was my hair! And while I didn’t realize at the time, this episode in my life occurred in the early seventies and long hair among men was popular.
I also think that by that time I had begun to realize that my body was mine. And that someone was removing part of it without my permission. Now, at that age, I didn’t realize that some body parts were more important than others.
Later, as I got older I found out that other body parts were more important to me than long hair.
(A confession here – I find long hair actually looks good on some men. Too bad my hair could never look like that! Anyway back to the script.)
I have always tried to take care of my body. My muscles, my agility, my weight, and yes, even my hair. They are all important. Not all of them are critical, of course.
Now I have to mention this. At times I’ve been a food binge and I have been known to eat things like ice cream and hamburgers. But mostly I do have a healthy diet and I do work out.
I have fast metabolism. Some people think that is an advantage. But if one wants to put on muscle, then having a fast metabolism is not a good thing. But I’m stuck with it and I’ve always been on the skinny side.
In JHS I took up running. Nothing special – I was just faster than most of my classmates. And I ran in pants, partly due to not wanting anyone to see my skinny legs (that’s the Mr. Macho in me talking. I’m glad he’s mostly quiet now).
Somewhere in elementary school I figured out that I really didn’t like shoes. I had wear those things when I at school but they came off when I got home. And by time I was I thinking about running barefooted.
I am adult now. And I still don’t like to wear shoes. And I do all my running barefooted. And no one is going to stop me! =)
I have run marathons, half-marathons (including one I won sans shoes), 10 Milers, 10K’s, and numerous 5K’s.
Here is an image in my mind. A skinny Hispanic male running in shorts and no shoes, happily and blissfully.
Computers came easy to me. It was godsend in that I didn’t esp. like typewriters.
Typewriters were not (and still not) user friendly. The keys were hard to press, esp. on a manual typewriter. If you made a mistake, it was hard to undo. And if you wanted to change a paragraph after the manuscript was completed, you had to start over from the place you wanted to rewrite (or retype). And never mind about having the typewriter actually do some simple math like addition.
My first computer was a bulky, heavy, heat producing monster. And I could (and did!) warm my bare feet on the power supply while programming the bulky monster.
Somewhere along the line I wanted to see how far I could run in a given year. So I set up an Excel file to keep track of my running.
In 2014 I made my first attempt at running 500 miles (barefoot) in one calendar year. I came out a little short in running only 465.85 miles. The following year, 2015, I actually reached my goal, running 501.28 miles.
Now here is where things get very interesting and really speed up.
In May of that year (2015) I was riding my bicycle to home from the swap meet (yes, I was barefooted, wearing just a pair of shorts and a tee-shirt). I was passing a 7-11 and just beyond that was a brick wall on my right side and beyond that was the parking lot of a small park.
As I was passing the 7-11, I heard a loud, disturbing, metal-crunching sound, exactly the same as I heard when speeding car hit mine in 1992 (I have good memory). So I knew what happened. The big problem was the sound was behind me so I could not tell if I was in danger or what I should do.
I looked over my shoulder and sure enough there was large jeep speeding and turning at the intersection. Except that it was traveling only on its right-side tires, out of control and coming in my direction.
I sped up on my ten speed bike, hoping to reach the parking lot of the park just beyond the wall. There I would have more space to maneuver if necessary. I kept my eyes toward the ground to spot and avoid any potholes or other things that may increase the danger that was coming behind me.
Just as I was entering the parking lot I heard a terrific crash behind me. And what could be described as only as a shock wave, I saw a wave of air coming from behind and under me. It pushed small bits of leaves, bark, dirt, and debris in an expanding circle beneath my bicycle.
When I got my breath back I turned around and pedaled back to the edge of the parking lot. Undoubtedly, there would be cars coming into the parking and they might not see me as the biggest attraction was not me or my bike.
Instead, the jeep had wrapped itself around a street light and threw its occupant out of the driver’s seat. At first I didn’t know if I was looking at a corpse. But then I heard the slight sounds of movement and almost silent groans coming from the man laying next to the twisted jeep.
A woman who was walking from the other direction witnessed the entire accident, turned to me and exclaimed, “Your guardian angel was watching over you.”
I silently congratulated myself and my ability to speed away. My powerful and well-toned legs saved me.
Within a few minutes I was realized it was not my legs that saved me. No, it was simple, dumb luck. Had there not been a pole in the way, it was very likely the jeep would have killed or serious injured me. Would I have been able to walk (read “run”) after such an accident?
Knowing that I survived mostly by luck chilled me.
In December, I had a very minor stroke, or precisely, TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack, a condition that simulates a stroke with its symptoms but is a temporary blockage of a blood vessel in the brain that goes away within 24 hours, usually without any permanent damage). I was in the hospital for a couple of days. No permanent damage, nothing disabling. The doctors don’t know exactly what happened nor could they find anything wrong with me in amazing number of tests they performed on me. (If you are so interested, see: Pringles, “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop”, Dec. 4 2015, for more details.)
So I had a major health issue and a scare. And I still ran 500 miles.
I attempted to do little more in mileage in 2016. Maybe I could hit 600? A fantasy maybe, but it will remain a fantasy if I don’t try.
That year I started a little slow. But it still was possible to catch up and surpass last year’s total.
However, as October was arriving, I felt more tired than ever before. Even though I was running the same distance and terrain.
Had a blood test and except for a slight case of anemia, nothing bad was found.
Skipping ahead to January 2017, I could not run. Not because of me, but it kept raining. It was cold and wet in the morning and it was dangerous to be out, esp. if car driver got careless. I already went through that before!
And I didn’t run.
Around in April I felt something in my groin area. I thought it looked like a hernia so I walked to urgent care. They also concluded it was a hernia. And then went to my primary doctor who also thought the same.
I was sent to hernia specialist. Who confirmed I had a hernia.
But he also noticed something else was there. He said I should this thing checked out before he performed any surgery. He sent me to another specialist.
By the way, all this took over a month.
And I got sicker.
Finally, I was able to see the last specialist. They did a colonoscopy. When I awoke from the anesthesia I was told I had colon cancer. Worse, it was between a stage 2 and a stage 4. Stage 4 is terminal if you didn’t know.
While I knew it a good possibility that I had cancer during the last few months, my illusion that it could be something else was demolished. So much for wishful thinking.
I was rushed to the hospital and immediately had IV bottles put into both of my arms, and tests were administered, preparations were made, and I was scared. I had no change of clothing, and other things I wanted to do before. All those things had to wait.
The operation was done the following night. When I was starting to recover from the anesthesia, I knew there would be pain. The even had hooked me up to a morphine dispenser to help with the pain.
Remember Mr. Macho? He whispered in my ear, “Men don’t scream when they are in pain”. I realized that this would be a problem for me.
I screamed when the anesthesia wore off and the kept pumping the little button that released the morphine.
No, it was not a “macho” thing to do. But the screaming helped lessen the pain. Was it rational thing to do? Yes, it helped the pain.
It is almost impossible to write in the hospital. I had needles stuck in both arms. Besides there are never any pens, pencils or paper within reach (pun intended). So I had to memorize this little poem I thought up. And here it is below. First time in print!
After two weeks in the hospital (due to some complications) I was released.
The cancer was finally reevaluated as 2 point something. But there is damage.
I lost some weight, which I am finding very hard to put back on. Due to fast metabolism, no doubt. My weight before surgery, 130 pounds. My weight immediately after surgery, 115 pounds. Fifteen pounds! That’s more than 10% of my previous body weight. Damn fast metabolism! Now, I am at 120 pounds. And holding.
This cancer had taken my health away (although this seems temporary as I am recovering better than expected). It has taken away the pride I placed in body in being healthy. It took away an entire summer. And because of the extra sleep I need and chemotherapy I must undergo (every Thursday, which I have renamed “Chemo Day”), I am classified as disabled. Hopefully that stigma will be removed in January when the chemo will end.
I usually don’t take too many things personally. But this attack on my body is hard to accept, and harder to comprehend. And it is personal. I almost wished it was a parasite in my body. At least the nutrients would be helping a life form. But cancer has no use for the nutrients except to grow larger and cause its own, and its host’s, demise.
It has become (very) personal.
CANCER (Can A Nasty (or Nefarious) Cancer Eradicate Rob?)
Or if pluralized;
CANCERS (Can A Nasty Cancer Eliminate Rob’s Spirit?)
I never smoked a cigarette or a cigar. I don’t abuse drugs. I don’t drink. I exercise. I get a nasty cancer.
Yet, I have met people who seem to want to smoke or drink themselves into oblivion and others who don’t exercise, develop a couch potato personality and a develop a wide girth. Why don’t they get something? Anything to make life seem a bit more fair.
I hate you cancer! You have taken so much from me! If I could sent you to Hell I would. So you can cause grief and agony to people down there. You’ll find some people there who probably deserve you.
I started chemotherapy in August.
Every Thursday they usually squeeze about 10 people in a room, all with their own IV solutions. During one of those sessions, I got into a conversation with a slightly older man and a much younger man. Two topics stood out. One was about travel and what places we enjoyed. The young man didn’t say too much. The other topic was on what we could and could not eat. Yes, food is still a popular topic, even among those who can’t eat it all.
The young man had a much more restrictive diet than I had. He could not eat anything with gluten and had to prepare all his meals.
He also added he wished he could travel. But that was out of the question as he had chemo sessions and wasn’t sure about how to adhere to gluten free diet on the road.
I told him I had arthritis and it didn’t want him to get it when he got older. In fact, I jokingly told him to stop getting older so he would not get the arthritis.
He told me he already has the arthritis. I asked him exactly how old he was. He said he was 25 (!).
I have 27 years on this young man!
He may never experience a marathon, or any other extreme physical activity. He can’t swim with a shunt in his chest. He will probably miss out enjoying a healthy body in his 30’s and 40’s as I have. He can’t travel. He can’t eat cheese or wheat bread or ice cream. And certainly not ever a hamburger.
Why does this young man, who still has a lot of life to live, be stricken with a very cruel and malignant cancer?
This young man will be in chemo longer than I will be. And while we are both under the cloud of cancer returning, his is more likely to return and be rougher.
God, I’ve been very selfish.