Carol was visiting her good friend, Kelly. I called her from the parking lot outside the doctor’s office. If my brain was functioning properly, I’d have known to wait until we were both home and told her in person. But right now, I was only an outside observer, watching myself do these things.
“Hi honey!” I said, “I’m out and I’m about to come home.”
“What did he say?” she asked impatiently.
“Oh, well he thinks it’s most likely cancer,” I casually responded. “Hello? You still there?”
“I- yes, I’m just… crying.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it, it’s totally treatable. Just a little cancer.”
“Are you… okay?”
“Yeah, everything’s gonna be fine. See you when I get home.”
The breakdown always comes later.
Whatever happened when I got home, I’m sure it included her holding onto me like she’d never let go.
This is what I’d deal with while going to back to school and living in a new house. The big “C”. I couldn’t continue with MMA training. My spleen was in danger of rupturing and it’s just dumb luck that it hadn’t already happened in training. I sold my power rack and weights. That part of my life was done. I was now a man without a dream.
I spent a lot of time thinking that this was when I was supposed to die, that I had a future but it all ended and I am now just in some alternate timeline where I survived but the author doesn’t know what to do with me now. I would later come back to these thoughts after the incident. I told Carol to imagine how it would be if I had died in 2010 when I was supposed to. She would be looking back at me with fondness and love instead of pushing me away and cheating.
“That would be terrible!” she cried.
“But you’d move on and people would care for you. Now, you’ve destroyed our marriage and we’re both miserable and everyone hates you. If I just died when I was supposed to, you wouldn’t be in this spot. I’m not meant to be here right now and that’s why it’s all going to shit.”
I still feel this way a lot of the time. When I was younger, I dreamed of being a musician who would change the world. That dream ended when my bad experiences with the band breakup left me uninspired to write. Next, what kept me going was the martial arts training but now that ended due to my health issues. I was left with nothing, so it felt like I was existing when I wasn’t supposed to anymore. Nowadays, my dreams don’t go beyond showing my songs to friends and family. It’s a joke compared to my grand dreams in my youth, so I still often feel like a man without a place in the world, going through the motions of living but feeling like an imposter among the living.
So, there I was, trying to concentrate on school, becoming more and more convinced that my death was fast approaching. I went through a number of biopsies. For some of them I brought my dad with me and for some I brought Carol.
Carol was having trouble handling it all and would tend to have emotional outbursts when I was at my most vulnerable. As I lay in bed after a particularly painful lung biopsy, I gasped, “They just said… to rest… and for you to… watch me and… make sure I’m… okay.”
“What do you mean? What am I watching for?!”
”Just… to make sure… I don’t have any… problems.”
She stormed out of the room and I could hear her yelling at her mother, “Nobody tells me anything!”, “What am I supposed to do?”, and “Nobody ever cares about how I’m doing!”
There’s never a great time for a meltdown but there’s nothing I can do to help her when I’m in bed, suffering with sharp pains with each breath I take. These outbursts would get worse later on.
Tests, scans, biopsies, it seemed like they were going to poke and prod me to death before I’d get any definitive answers. I broke down once in a room at the cancer clinic to which the female doctor replied, “You young men think you’re invincible, and when you learn it’s not true, you can’t handle it.”
One Monday afternoon, I got myself to school after being injected with God knows what and scanned for two hours. I sat at my computer for a few minutes before excusing myself to go home. “Looks like somebody partied too hard on the weekend,” a student said.
I wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on, and the people who knew, I refused to talk to. People would then contact my wife who would provide the basic details and tell them, “You can send him a message if you want, but he probably won’t respond.”
A cousin of mine caught up with me and grilled me about not talking to people.
“I don’t need to think about this all the time. I’m living it and I don’t need to relive it by telling my friends and family all about it,” I told her. It was quite a difference from the open person that I am now.
All through the tests, only one doctor commented that it could be something other than cancer. To him, it looked like an autoimmune disease that was treatable. I would soon find out. Finally, after months of testing, the oncologist called me in to discuss the results.
With what the other doctor mentioned, I had a good feeling about it.