The story is all you probably imagine. Part sports memoir, part cancer survivor tale. It is the story of an unconsidered life brought up short by the disease that can't but get your attention. It is a great read about a man who grows into himself in a thousand ways. I'll have a lot more to say about it as I draw nearer to the end.
For now though, there is a phrase he used that caught my eye. He said that the day he started chemo, he knew his life as a cancer patient had begun. "Cancer Patient." Those just aren't words I've used to think of myself. Nor have I thought of myself as a cancer "victim." Not a chance.
Cancer tries to sneak up on you with a little fatigue, a little swelling, maybe a strange not quite right feeling, but the day you catch it, cancer loses the upper hand. The day we exposed it for what it was, I became a cancer survivor. It would not take me unawares. I would not be a helpless victim. I became a cancer survivor that day in the recovery room after my surgery.
But more than that. Once I survived the sneak attack, I had a choice. Would I be merely a survivor, or would I be a victor? I decided that I would not let this think kill me, that instead, I would kill it. I became a cancer hunter. Mrs P and I read all we could. We watched YouTube videos. We read articles. We learned cancer's character and habits. And we assembled our team.
You don't hunt big game on your own, and cancer is the biggest. We gathered the doctors and the nurses, the nutritionists and scientists, the head shrinker and the heart warmers. We put our team together with one thought in mind. Find this cancer and kill it before it can kill me. And that's just what we're doing.
I have become its assassin. My friend prays for me while she weeds her garden. That's a good thing because it is a big garden and it has been a rainy season. That's a lot of prayers. She imagines as she hoes the weeds and leaves them to whither in the sun that she is pulling the cancer out of me. She is a hunter, too. Every time Mrs P pushes the plunger that fills me with food or picks out the pills that keep me strong enough to fight, she is pushing the cancer out of me. Even the nausea that sends me retching to the bathroom in the afternoons is part of the battle, part of getting the poison out. Every spasm is another victory for me, another defeat for this thing that will not be my master.
So don't call me cancer's patient and don't call me cancer's victim. I am neither. I'm winning the fight every day. This thing that has tried to take my life and body and family will not win us, it will not become me.
I will not will the Tour de France. But I will win this battle. I will defeat this cancer. What are my odds?