I never thought I would write a cancer column about myself, but why not?
Here I am with metastatic thyroid cancer, confused and scared shitless with what looks like a cloudy and unpleasant future before me. I do know, though, that I must stay in the now. So here’s how in the now.
How could this happen to the champion of men and the working girl’s friend? I have faith in the Christian God I was raised with, but fate’s fickle finger seems intent upon permanently installing “the old cedar chopper” in Self Pity City, there to flounce and wallow in my own mental shit bath until something better or maybe even worse comes to pass. Who dares to say there ain’t a devil?
Up to this point, I survived enough to kindle a false sense on immortality. I guess that’s it. I got through bladder cancer, third degree burns to both legs, an exploded appendix, a ruptured hernia, a recent chain saw leg gash that is still healing, and an ongoing mental condition that Sharon, my retired school teacher wife, defines as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder). When I was growing up in the Junction,Texas public schools they simply called it a case of the dumbass-who-won’t-pay-attention syndrome. People like this run chainsaws while wearing shorts and tennis shoes.
So now this cancer diagnoses has rendered Billy Badass a scrotumless pretender. Twisted steel and panther piss is no designation for mewling pissants. And 10-foot tall and bullet proof is a designation not reserved for trembling cancer scared Lilliputians. Getting honest with myself about it all is almost as scary as the cancer.
It’s like I told Wayne Harper, my musician friend hero with nine lives who has survived damn near every kind of physical indignity one human could absorb. He has survived bone-breaking falls, prostate cancer, brain cancer, throat cancer, heart attacks and God only knows what else. He is also a compassionate caring person who is there for me 24/7.
“Wayne,” I said, “I feel like wearing a T-shirt that says I AM A PUSSY.”
He answered this with something positive.
Harper is a versatile musician and showman, a guitar picker with few peers who plays trumpet as well, and a former owner of the popular Martini Club where he was always the main event.
At this writing, more than 600 kindly and well meaning souls have sent words of encouragement via Facebook.
I want each and every single one of these friends and supporters to know how grateful I am for the expressions of love and support.
Within this tsunami of prayer, love, and encouragement there is a pervading battle cry which was at first confusing:
Kick cancer’s ass!!!
How, I asked myself, could anyone kick cancer’s ass?
I have heard from Christians, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and one woman who wants to introduce me to a shaman. Loving well wishers have advocated for vegan and vegetarian diets, almond milk, gluten free goodies, sour honey, cannabis oil, and farm-raised buffalo meat. But no one had adequately explained how to kick cancer’s ass until my friend Wayne Harper weighed in on the subject.
“Kick Cancer’s Ass was the theme we used at Broadway 5050 when I got my my first all clear result from my doctor. I guess it’s become the universal battle cry for anyone afflicted with the C word.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt more genuine concern and support from my following than I have as a result of this last year long battle. I had prostate cancer in 2003 but due to the lack of social media it kind of stayed within the confines of the Martini Club. Hector Saldana did a nice write up in the Express News. I was treated with Brachytherapy, 96 radio active pellets were distributed throughout my prostate creating a sensation not unlike having one of those west Texas cactus plants shoved up my butt.
“ Even having beat the C beast once already still didn’t give me much confidence that I could beat it again, especially when the tumor was encroaching on my vocal cords. I didn’t mind being sterile but I sure as hell didn’t want to be a mute.
“The thing that bothers me most about Cancer is that it has claimed the lives of all 4 of my old band members that I came to Texas with in 1973. To add insult to injury it continued on by taking my long time drummer Gene Dale, our dear friend Olly Otten, songbird Roxanne Krezdorn and about a dozen others not related to the music biz. Say it loud and proud… ‘Kick Cancer’s Ass’ I truly believe there are recessed endorphin’s wandering around in our anatomy that are triggered by the collective energy and support from our friends and family, or maybe it’s just being too damned ornery to die, but regardless we have to keep the torch of hope and faith alive and kickin’ Cancer right in the part that goes over the fence last.”
One may readily see why I gravitate to Wayne. He has even been treated by one of the four doctors who will be working on my case, Dr. Benjamin Webb, the ear, nose, and throat surgeon who is my main medic. Working closely with Webb will be endocrinologist Daniel Katselnik. The oncologist I have been referred to is Dr. Amanda Bucheit with the Start Center for Cancer Care. My primary care physician is Dr. Robert Noland of Bulverde WellMed.
I guess my prognosis isn’t all that hot. My thyroid cancer has moved to my sternum, but I have a bit of hope because Ct and MRI scans indicate the cancer has not spread elsewhere through my body. While probably incurable, one doctor says my cancer is treatable. I’ll take that.
So scared shitless or no, I don’t intend to roll over and pee on myself in this time of adversity. As always, I plan to keep cutting and splitting wood, eating right, working on weights at the Boene YMCA, and doing just about everything else I have been doing as long as I am able. If hospitalization and surgery is in the offing, I will deal with it. And I hope I can accept my lot in life without driving my wife batshit crazy.
I am a believer, but I have never believed that faith is the opposite of fear. They go hand-in-hand. Faith gives us the courage to face the fear. I have never asked for much, but if you have an extra prayer or two on hand I will welcome them.
The acronym for FEAR is Fuck Everything And Run.The opposite is Face Everything And Recover.
It’s a tough order, but I will try my best.