Cancer is Just a Word and the Bus is Coming

Cancer is just a word, but the Bus is coming.

I want to leave that statement lingering for a bit, if for no other reason than it screams, “Explain this!”

I have no idea how many people have heard, read, and talked to me about my cancer. Here’s the summary: I was diagnosed in January 2020 with colorectal cancer. It was discovered fairly early, and the prognosis was pretty good. I started chemotherapy that February using intravenous doses every 2 weeks. After 8 treatments, I moved on to radiation – a hell I want no other person to ever have to endure. These treatments managed to shrink my tumor, but nothing more.

In October, I had surgery to remove a portion of my colon, my rectum and my anus. Yep, I now resemble a Ken doll when I wear ass-less chaps (which I don’t actually do). The surgery revealed that the cancer had progressed further than originally thought, but the doctors believed they had removed it all.

I spent the fall and early winter recovering, returning to a more regularly life while learning to live with a colostomy. Then, in January of this year, my doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to my lungs and was engaging lymph nodes in my abdomen.

In short, I have stage 4 metastasized cancer.

Enter the Bus. I have always believe that we are all perhaps moments from the end of our life. The proverbial “bus” could hit us any time, even those of us who don’t live in cities where crossing busy streets indeed heightens the risk of getting hit by an actual bus. There are so many things that could end a life that worrying about them and contrastly thinking we will all see our 90th birthday are equally unreasonable. I believe we should dream about the future, and plan to be in this world for a good long while. At the same time we should realize that what we do today should both impact people positively and satisfy our own desires to experience the world around us.

This Still Amazes Me

In otherwise, dream of the things you want to do, enjoy the life right in front of you, and try like hell to be good to other people. If you have the skill, knowledge, or talent to impact other’s lives, do it. If you have the opportunity to witness something amazing, don’t hesitate. And don’t underestimate what can amaze.

My friend and fellow summer camp volunteer, the Rev. Erick Olsen recently shared a great sentiment. Someone once told him “cancer is just a word.” That is absolutely true. Hearing that you have cancer is scary; it really can change your life. Hearing that your efforts to fight cancer have largely failed is disappointing to say the least. But cancer is just a word.

“We are all on the path to death,” said Erick. Yes. That is exactly what I have believed for as long as I can remember. The bus is coming. Just because I can see it heading my way doesn’t change the outcome. It just means I’m more aware of the path between me and the bus.

I have no idea how long I have left in this world, no more foreknowledge of my mortality than anyone reading this. I do know that the chances of me seeing my 90th birthday are extraordinarily small. There are treatments that could prolong my life, potentially, though the science behind those treatments is not convincing, nor is it guaranteed to have any effect at all. That path is filled with doctors, chemicals, procedures, and a level of suffering that I have already endured once. I’m not choosing to take that path.

No. I love my life. I love my wife Debby who has always let me be who and what I am, only trying to correct my flaws by showing me how to be better and letting me learn on my own. I love my talented, brilliant, creative children Duncan and Dani. I have incredible friends who I love, and with whom I would share a part of every day I have left if I could.

Of course, there are things I want to do and see. Some I will get to; others I will not. How is that different than anyone else?

And I don’t fear death. The regrets I have only relate to things I have done, the things that hurt others, not the things I will never do. I believe in a continuation of self, a shift to another phase of being. I believe that I will know what my family does in the future, that I will see my children grow, try things, fail, learn and succeed. And because I believe in the continuation of self, I believe there are others whom I will be with again.

If I’m wrong, if death is the absolute end of all self, then I guess I won’t be conscious of that anyway. Fearing death is just as unreasonable to me as believing I am the exception to the laws of nature.

Cancer may kill me sometime in the near future. Or not. All it has done for certain is teach me to look more closely at the path, so that I walk a little slower and enjoy what’s here, and ask the people I love to walk with me more often.

[To those compelled to respond: I welcome your thoughts, your prayers, and even some shared time together. But I do not welcome suggestions for treatment. If you know me, you know that I obsess over everything. I have read what treatments are available; I do not need anymore doctors. Come share my life with me; don’t share how you think I should live it.]

About dspage87

My friends joke that I have done everything for a year. Far from it, but I do have a huge list of hobbies (and former jobs). I coach, fence, teach and write. I dabble in photography. I play a variety of instruments and even try to write some original music from time to time. I have even tried my hand at welding, but I won’t show the results. The cardinal rule of writing is to “write what you know.” One would think that all the hobbies and jobs I’ve had has prepared me well for writing. Well, the rule for blogging is a bit more liberal and it suits me better: Write what you think you know.
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7 Responses to Cancer is Just a Word and the Bus is Coming

  1. Jon Hand says:

    I love you, Drew.

    Your perspective and attitude continue to inspire those lucky enough to have learned from you and with you.

    I love you, Drew.

  2. Megan Phillips (Michalski) says:

    Very powerful words, Drew. I am so sorry you and your family are dealing with this. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.

    If there is anything you or Debby need, please feel free to add me to the list of people you can reach out to.

  3. Jay Curtiss says:

    I was going to leave a post, and it appears that I already have. I had no idea that you were sick. I am sorry for the struggle and the pain. I completely understand your decision and I respect it. Let me know if I can help in any way. Love, the other Jon Hand

  4. Stacey Hartley says:

    You amaze me and show me what strength of character look like. All my best to your family during what is most likely a trying time.

  5. Debbie Brown says:

    Hi Drew… I am so sad to hear this news… I know for sure miracles happen, I’ve had many in my lifetime and I’m hoping for one for you. I also believe that we watch over our families, and that we’ll be with our loved ones that have gone before us. Sincerely,
    Debbie Brown

  6. Davida says:

    Oh Drew, I am so sad to read this. I’ve so appreciated you, your fullness of life and love, and your professional contributions. I share your perspective. What matters now is living as fully as you can and dying as well as you can. Life should always be full of tender moments (but isn’t ), so be tender and receive our tender love and our tears of affection, which are flowing generously here now.

  7. Patricia S Proctor says:

    Dear Drew, Here’s a person from your past, Trish Proctor (Tricia Proctor on FB). I was saddened to hear what you have been going through since last year. You are so creative in so many ways music, writing, coaching etc. I so enjoyed our time team teaching our “hair Balls” of MMS. I taught gifted elementary part time when we moved. I used many of our, mostly your, strategies teaching interdisciplinary units in several curricula areas across several grades. Students especially enjoyed poetry writing.
    I won’t give advice, but say I honor you choices that must be yours alone. Please offer my my best to Debby and Duncan and Dani who must be teenagers now?? I will be praying for peace for you. Sunday at altar call powers after our service, (Methodist) now since no Congregational United Church of Christ around here, my wonderful pastor and I held hands while we prayed for peace for you. I added your name to be prayed over daily. Trish

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