A couple of thoughts, as I prepare for tomorrow and the orchiectomy of my pal, Lefty, and hopefully the cancer that goes with it. One of the things that has really helped is to realize who I am, and that, in many ways I was meant for this moment. I have been into exploring two aspects of my character of late, my faith and my heritage.
“Remember who you are.” Mufasa, The Lion King
I was reading John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart and he stated several things that really resonated with me. I’ve realized that God creates us for “battle”, he imbues our hearts with a thirst to face an enemy and test our mettle. There is something in me, I believe, created by God that makes me crave adventure, battle, challenge, and with that is a realization that I want to see if I have what it demands of me. Do I have what it takes?
I am assured I shall:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:28-31
Second, I have been looking back on some notes I took when I was reading How the Irish Saved Civilization (interesting sidenote: I was talking with friend about this and she was telling me about how the Poles saved civilization by turning back the Turks), and some of the ideas that occurred to me. My people rarely went looking for a fight (hard to believe, I know) but somehow fights seemed to find the Irish (I’m reminded of Tom Cruise in Far and Away when he says, “I’ve no wish to fight you…” as his introduction to begin pummeling the crap out of someone). That having been said, I loved this description of the Irish Warriors, as they met the most powerful and fearsome army on Earth, the Roman Legion:
The Irish, like all the Celts, stripped before battle and rushed their enemy naked, carrying sword and shield but wearing only sandals and TORC-–a twisted golden neck ornament…the Romans, in their first encounters with these exposed, insane warriors, were shocked and frightened. Not only were the men naked, they were howling and, it seemed, possessed by demons, so outrageous were their strength and verve. Urged on by the infernal skirl of pipers, they presented to the unaccustomed and throbbing Roman sensorium a multimedia event featuring all the terrors of hell itself.
"Through these fields of destruction/Baptism of fire/I've watched all your suffering/As the battles raged higher/And though they did hurt me so bad/In the fear and alarm/You did not desert me/My brothers in arms." Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms
Another thing that has helped me is to realize how many men have gone before me. Thirty years ago, Testicular Cancer was almost a death sentence. Today, survival rates have flip-flopped with death rates, and more than 95% survive when the disease has not spread to other organs. I don’t kid myself; this disease has claimed a huge amount of men, but I am so grateful for them. I gain strength from those who faced the challenge and won, and for those who lost but did so with dignity, fighting to the last.
I received stories of Testicular Cancer survival from Dave Hickey who was one of the first to respond with caring, sensitivity and THIS, and from Mike (Go Sox…PLEASE…), patrain, Ignatz’s friend Eric Nichols
and obviously, Lance Armstrong, the most visible TC survivor, who could have ridden his bike out of this whole thing, but didn’t.
Moreover, I got so much support from people who are CURRENTLY in the throes battling cancer (breast, throat, lymph, prostate, and every other thing you can imagine, as well as a couple you might not) who offered (and continue to offer) prayers, phone calls, personal messages, e-mails, and a host of support that, quite frankly, humbles me as much as it gives me strength. Bev, Alan, Dawn, David and his mom, and so many others…they’re just ordinary people who drew a bad card and made the most of the hand they were dealt. Thank you for your honesty, your support and your strength.
“Dances with Wolves. I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?” Wind in His Hair, Dances with Wolves
Likewise, I have had incredible support from my church, particularly the men of my Men’s Group. It’s one thing to preach the Gospel, another to live it, and I am thankful for my brothers and sister who apply it, for each of you. At work, I have had the thoughts and prayers of dozens, and people have supported me in so many ways. I have also had friends from far and wide call and ask what they can do to help, and it is amazing how much help they offer, and give. Last, my neighbors have been amazing already. I am blessed to have an old-fashioned neighborhood, the kind where all the parents know all the kids, where we REALLY look out for each other and lift one another up from pain.
Last, online communities ostensibly designed to help us get better at healthy living (ironic I know…), cycling, and triathlon. JP Fitness, Roadbike Review, FittobeMen (viewer discretion advised), and Beginner Triathlete—in those moments when I needed a quick lift, you were all there—thank you.
I don’t need to mention all of you by name, you know who you are (and that’s a good thing, because I’ll inevitably end up forgetting someone), and I love you all. Know also how much your concern and thoughtfulness has lifted me up.
William Wallace: I AM William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my country men, here, in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?
Soldier: Against that? No, we'll run, and we'll live.
William Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM! William Wallace, Braveheart
And so, I stand at the crest of my hill, looking down on the cancer that has had the gall to step into my domain. I hold it in contempt, and I shall offer you no quarter, as I know none shall be given…nor expected. In the tradition of my ancestors, I’ll strip down for this battle; in the tradition of God's people, I’ll pray for strength, for courage and for dignity, that honor may be given to Him who lifts me up, despite my wounds.
I look down on the field and see the bodies of those who have been there before me, in victory and defeat. I look to my left and to my right, and see the army assembled on my behalf, and my might grows, as you shrink before it. As a warrior, I will lift up my cry, raise my barbaric YAWP!
And, then I will not walk, I will run, unflinching into your gaping jaws and I will carve you out of my kingdom, out of my body, and I will send you back to the hell from which you came.