It’s A Short List

It is a rare thing for me to admit that I hate anything.  Hate is such a strong emotion with such a powerfully negative connotation that I do my best to not even let it enter the lexicon of who I am.  But I do have a short (and I stress short) list of things that I hate.

At or near the top:  Cancer.

When you are young, you have the feeling that you and your friends are invincible.  I know that my friends and I had that way about us; it’s not that we thought we could do not wrong or we could be completely reckless in our behavior, we just had the youthful ignorance that there some things that we would have a chance to experience later in life, when we were more mature and capable of handling things.

That all changed, for me at least, in October 2001.  I checked my email one Sunday, after a weekend of having a good time with friends and FSU football.  In my inbox was an email that a friend (and former girlfriend) from high school had sent to a bunch of people en mass.  In it, she disclosed to us that had cancer.  Esophageal cancer to be exact.  It was a tad more difficult back then to research it, but I found enough information to not like what I was reading.  I called my friend that night, and, respecting her request, refrained from making the conversation into a pity party for her.  She was determined to face her cancer head on, and she was going to win, and she was only going to talk to people about it who shared her positive outlook.  I was that guy.

Throughout the fall and winter, and into the spring, I kept in close touch with her.  We hung out when I was in our hometown, and during those months, I saw and knew that she was getting better.  In April or so, we got another email telling us that she was on the road to recovery; less than a month later, her mom let us know that the prognosis was not good.  I had known her family for a long time by this point, and, as May went on, her mom let everyone know that the family would no longer be accepting phone calls from her friends, but for some reason, she continued to talk to me every night.  During those weeks, she knew that I was going to be in a wedding toward the end of the month, and she knew that I was considering bowing out in order to spend time at their house; she was not about to let me do that, so we made a deal.  For the entire week leading up to the wedding, I was to call at a designated time each evening for updates, and I did just that.  The Sunday after the wedding, I drove the 2.5 hours from where I was to visit my friend.  I spent several hours at her house that following Monday, holding my friend’s hand and watching her struggle to breathe, knowing that it would be the last time I would see her alive.  She passed away the following day.

In the years since, cancer would sometimes come up among people I know, and each time it would, I could feel myself being consumed with hate.  I was overwhelmed with hate for cancer in early 2012 when I lost an aunt to it.

I had only found out that my aunt was sick not more than a week or two prior to her passing, and that was by design (it was a secret that only she, my uncle, and my cousin knew up to that point).  I knew when my phone rang randomly one Saturday morning in February, and I looked down and saw that it was my mom, that my aunt had passed away.  I wish I could say that going to her funeral was some sort of therapeutic thing for our family, and maybe it was for some, but it was not for me; I hated cancer even more.

Over the past few months, we learned that another friend of ours is battling cancer.  We saw him last week, and his spirits were high and he said the outlook was good.  If, he said, he makes it to the two-year mark cancer free, he will be as in the clear as you can get when it comes to that disease.

For the last month or so, Amber has been sharing with me that someone from her work has been battling cancer, too.  Last week, she found out that the prognosis was not as good as he had been letting on.  And that sucks.  From what I understand, he has a child who just started kindergarten this week.  I hate cancer.

I wish I knew more about cancer, and I wish that it is something that can be completely eradicated.  Until then, it remains one of the few things that I hate.