Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy (Belated) Birthday To Me

Self-indulgent? OK, ya got me. 

But hey, it's my birthday (it was March 25th) and I'll celebrate any way I want to. Partly because I'm an adult––most of the time––and because birthdays have such a greater meaning now more than ever. And I can thank cancer––that doesn't sound right––for that. cancer tried to take my birthdays away like the neighborhood bully takes away your lunch money. Every day you dread running into that bastard who is going to make you hand over anything you have that he doesn't have––and you pray you don't see him on the weekends, 'cause you just got your allowance and you want buy another pack of baseball cards or the next issue of Spidey.

It's somewhat morbid, but I've always thought of my tombstone around my birthday. Born March 25, 1958. Died? Because when you see a tombstone with the dates of life, you start figuring out how old that person was when they died. If it's someone who lived past 70, you figured they had a long life to live it to the fullest. When you see someone who passed away before 50, they died too young. I'm in the middle of that. And cancer has put me there.

I was talking to my friend Matt, who has been cancer free for over 15 years. Yeah, friggin' awesome. We were talking about the "what if" present that cancer gives you––what if it comes back? He said after he was told he didn't have to go to the cancer center and he could just see his GP Doctor, the "what if?" went away. He still thinks about it every now and then, but not every day, several times a day. I'm still in the stage of "what if?", thinking about it every day, sometimes 4-5 times a day. Work helps me take my mind off of it, but work also contributes to it. Work is a lot of stress. And stress brings down your immune system. And cancer strikes like a knife to the kidneys when your immune system is weak.

Leading up to my birthday, Teresa always asks me what I want for my birthday. My answer used to be, "peace and quiet for just one day." (Still waiting for that present.) This time when I was asked, I thought to myself, "I want a day without thinking about cancer." But you can't buy that at Target, Home Depot or Best Buy. So I settled for the next best thing––spending time with my family at dinner. And it was the best present I received on my birthday, full belly and all.

Yes, Happy Birthday to me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Own March Madness

I love this time of year. 

NCAA March Madness. Spring. (I never thought I would know the difference between the seasons growing up in Los Angeles. We had seasons in LA––fire season, mudslide season, smoggy season, earthquake season––they were just different.)

Baseball. I can smell baseball in the air. Grilling out. Man, get me something to char a little bit, cook it over too much propane and bask in the smell of bug spray. And then you gotta take a shower because you're smelling like a funky ass mix of bbq sauce, some kind of meat, bug spray and pure sweat. Now add a wet smell and you can't take a shower fast enough. (Sorry for the smell.)

The shower is a funny place if you think about it. There you are, standing naked, with a million things that could potentially happen while you're in the shower. (Hey, let's keep this clean in case my kids are reading.) You plan your day. You sing a song you shouldn't be singing––not because it's a bad song but it's probably better sung by the one who sung it or sang it––and it makes you happy. You might even stand there and think you don't look that bad, after all. The shower is where a lot of great ideas are born. At least some of my best ones happen in the shower. It's also the place I first thought about cancer. cancer for me, that is.

It was March 2007 and I was working my ass off, working every day, 7 days a week because we were in production mode. And I was in a new job. And that is what I do to get the job done and done well. But I was tired. More tired than usual, I thought. I just need a vacation. Or just two days off in a row. Or is it something else? As a former competitive athlete, I've been through enough bumps and bruises, breaks and sprains and other weird injuries to know my body pretty well. And I knew something was really wrong. And I felt that way in the shower. Why do I feel like I have cancer? That's what I asked myself. Nah, that's crazy talk. Too many elbows to the head from playing under the boards. Why do I feel like I have cancer? This wasn't going to wash away.

That's too weird for anyone to believe, including myself. But it was too strong to ignore. I was always good at listening to my body. When something wasn't right, I knew I knew. But this wasn't a strain or break or tear or concussion. This was something waaaaaaaay bigger. I didn't want the voice in my head to drive me crazy. Thank God I listened, because they caught my head & neck cancer in the early stages. So March Madness takes on whole new meaning for me now.

I love this time of year.