You can't prepare yourself for what your body will look like as you fight through cancer. There's really nothing to compare it to. It's not like having the flu, where you may really suffer for a week or two. With the flu, you know you'll feel better soon. cancer doesn't play that way. All is fare in love and war. And cancer.
It may be an odd way to look at it, but I gave cancer a personality. Created it like I would create a role in a TV spot, or give it a "brand personality", to use a phrase I've often used in my line of work. So I thought if I could pattern cancer after a character, who would that be? Sam Kineson. The funniest comic I have ever seen. Love Pryor. Love Carlin and his stuff. Chris Rock rocks. But Sam was the absolute funniest for me. I heard him as the voice of cancer. "Oh, so you think I'm going away. Think I'm going to just let you come and get me. Think I'm going to throw my legs up in the air and say take me big boy, I'm yours. WELL GUESS AGAIN, FUCKHEAD! I'M GONNA KICK YOUR ASS! I'LL TEACH YA TO FUCK WITH ME!!
Sounds about right, huh? By being able to visualize it, I was able to give cancer a face, an identity, a personality I could feel. You can't fight what you can't see. I was now ready to fight. No, I was ready to win. That's what it was. Winning.
The changes to my body as I went through chemo and radiation were drastic, to say the least. I lost 30 pounds. Lost lots of hair––though people would ask me why I didn't lose any hair––and grew a silver streak down the middle of my hair. Those were the changes people could see. What they didn't see was the 13 inches of plastic tube in my stomach. The pain in my jaw. The taste leave my taste buds. The yards and yards of tape I used on my body––and the rash it would bring with it. They didn't see the strength being zapped from my body, like a constant dose of Kryptonite. At least most people didn't. My Wife, Teresa saw it. She saw it in my walk. She heard it in the way I talked. She saw it in my eyes.
The mirror became motivation for me. I would look at the blisters on my face from the chemo and would stare into the mirror and concentrate on getting rid of them for good. I would check to see how wide I could open my mouth, knowing that the wider I could open it the more food I could put in it––if I could taste the food. I used the mirror to see what I looked like to my family. Knowing that the slightest failing would be reflected in the pain in their eyes. I knew that look. I had seen that look. And I tried my ass off to not let those I love, see my pain.
cancer was changing my face. cancer was taking away what I had come to know what Greg looked like. This was not a natural change. This was not expected. This was not inevitable.
I had to face change. Ready or not.