Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The "C" Word

I just spoke to an old friend of mine. He is the same age as me (37 going fast on 38) and was diagnosed with lung cancer just before Thanksgiving,

After the initial biopsy came up malignant, they assumed the cancer was small and localized. A lobectomay would do. Once they got in, however, they discovered more metastasis than they'd imagined, and removed his entire left lung. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes between his lungs, and they dutifully removed those as well.

At this point, they're hoping it hasn't matasticised any further than that, but he's probably going to have to undergo chemo and/or radiation therapy anyway.

This friend, let's call him Bob, was my roommate my freshman year in college, that intense year when everyone around you is close in a way only being released from the nest for the first time can engender. I feel guilty about a lot of things I've done, and the way I treated Bob is high up on that OCD induced list. Yes, this was all nearly 20 years ago, but I still feel like less of a human being for the way I treated him: dismissively, patronizingly, manipulatively - hell, I even made out with the girl he'd been after for years in our shared bedroom one night (although though, if it's any consolation, she immediately become a card carrying lesbian after that).

Not that I was merely some cruel interloper: I did introduce him to recreational drug use, which makes the fact that he never smoked a day in his life all the more ironic. I did introduce him to self confidence, something that at the time I had in an unwarranted abundance. And I was his friend in the best way I could be at the time, which admittedly wasn't very good given my various problems at the time which were indeed manifold.

I'll admit that it was strange (although less strange than I'd imagined) to speak to him after probably ten years tonight. I called mostly out of a sense of wanting to do the right thing. But I must admit that I also called feeling my own mortality quite acutely, like a sore on the inside of your mouth you just can resist tweezing with your tongue. I've been a smoker for 20 years, the last 15 heavily, and I've had my close calls as well. In fact, I've nearly died in accidents three times and was in the hospital with an acute kidney stone attack for two weeks once. When you add the two suicides of good friends and the birth of my son to this, you'd have think I'd have wised up about how I treat my body and my soul. I like to think that being as selfish as I am I'm driven to treat those I know - at least lately - very well indeed, being generous to a fault on occasion. And I like to think that this might buy me some time my mistreatment of my body an mind might otherwise not.

But I events like this make me realize that, no, in fact biology doesn't give a genetically modified rat's ass about how I "feel" I'm doing and that the old karmic wheel grinds slow but exceedingly fine. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions, but even before this I've been thinking of some. I'm coming fast up to 40, and I don't want to be the kind of man I don't want to be at that age. One more straw or one more strange attractor, only the leafless days of winter will show.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your friend. He's got a long difficult journey ahead of him. I hope he pulls through.

Chemo- and radiotherapy can really take a toll long after the cancer is gone. A couple of years sometimes.

I don't know if he lives nearby and his family situation but simple things like having him over for dinner can help ease the load. There are special cookbooks for people receiving radiation and chemo- which suggest which foods are the least likely to induce nasuea.

My very best of luck to him.

And as for you Digiprime, you better start taking better care of your body. As Arnold Schwarzenegger says to anybody who says that they are too old to take up bodybuilding, "You are too old not to."


9:09 AM  

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