When I was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking and worrying about my own death. I knew that upon diagnosis, I had a 5% chance of living for another 5 years. When I became one of the 20% of pancreatic cancer patients who were even eligible for surgery and I had the Whipple procedure, I spent an inordinate amount of time (though less than before) again worrying if I would be one of the 4 in 5 people who have the surgery, but have a recurrence in the first 24 months.
Whenever I would have conversations about how I was doing and I would talk about the statistics (because, yes, I’m part of the nerd herd), people would inevitably point out that none of us know when we’ll die (reminding me that any day, anyone could step outside and get hit by a bus). Great! Now I have to worry about dying from cancer AND getting hit by some motor vehicle.
In recent weeks, I have been “struck” by 3 such buses. Over the next several posts, I will describe each of the different stories (yes, I’m spreading it out over time because people still tell me I’m not blogging enough — there’s nothing wrong with milking a productive blog idea).
The first “bus” hit during the 4th of July weekend. While my family and I were at the reunion, I found out that a good friend of the family had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and had had surgery. While I probably met him before then, I first recall meeting David when I was a new Cub Scout leader (my boys joined the same pack that David’s son was in). Being an Eagle Scout, David seemed to know everything about being a scout leader; now that may have been out of proportion to reality, as I knew NOTHING about being a scout leader, so a damp sponge new more about it than I did.
David was one of the first people to really get me excited about Dutch oven cooking. When his son “crossed over” to Boy Scouts, I took up the mantle (or should that be ladle) of being the pack Dutch Oven expert. David and I continued our friendship over the years as we seemed to meet up at various scouting events and working together at various training events. Every time I would see him, David always had a smile on his face and a cheerful word to share (even when we were trying to put together a Dutch Oven cooking demonstration in the pouring rain).
When I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 2 years ago, David and his wife were always willing to help provide support (food, transportation, etc.) when we needed it. I want to say that I am glad that MaryBeth and I have the opportunity to return the favor, but that sounds too close to saying “I’m glad David has brain cancer.” Let me just say that I am glad that I am healthy enough that I can provide as much support to David and his family as they provided mine.
As I mentioned, David has had surgery to remove the tumor and is currently undergoing rehab. MaryBeth and I visited with him one evening last week and he recognized us and we had a pleasant (if not labored) discussion. David told us he gets tired at night and that by 7p his brain is just not firing on all cylinders (okay, he didn’t use that metaphor, but that’s the gist of what he said). He had some speech production difficulty, but I am uncertain whether that was from being tired because of rehab, damage done during the surgery, a combination of the two, or some other reason.
As far as I know, there were no warning signs that David had a brain tumor. As with my diagnosis, out of nowhere David’s life and the lives of his family have been changed forever. I do not know what his prognosis is: he may be able to fully recover from the surgery. It may be that they will have to adjust to a “new normal” (a phrase bandied about at the Advocacy Days event — cancer patients want their lives to be “normal” again and what some need to do is accept that what is or is not normal has changed for them as a result of their cancer). He may not survive.
David was stepped off of the curb and most certainly was hit by a metaphorical bus. F-ing buses!
For those of you interested in how I am doing — I’m (still) not dead yet! I am under some stress at the moment (that’s a bus for a different day), but physically, I am generally okay (just the normal aches and pains of an out of warranty 44 year old).