This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.
Around the mark: my 2nd anniversary
[This was posted to some lists on 11/26/01]
I finally finished wading through the 800+ emails that awaited my return
from a 5-day holiday hiatus.
Friday, I celebrated the 2nd anniversary of my diagnosis. Given my
condition and what they found, it is nice to continue to beat the odds and
start my 3rd year.
I look back at where I was (mentally) in the first 10 months, until I came
to grips with my situation and stopped living with the belief that I was
going to die. It wasn't easy and it taught me that I could have turned it
around earlier and had more months enjoying my life, rather than what I was
doing. Yes, it takes time to get used to the idea but 10 months, I now see,
was way too long. What saddens me is that there are some who never move out
from the fear, dread, remorse and apathy.
If I have any single task, it is to try to help men and their companions
come to realize that the longer one dwells in the dread of the disease
rather than use the opportunity to one's advantage to gain a new
perspective and joy of life, the more of their life they are wasting right
We may not have the ability to change the course of the disease, to make it
abate. But - as difficult as it sounds - we do have the control over how we
view it, approach it and how we live with it. To put it into the words of
one adage, we may not be able to change the direction of the wind, but we
can change the trim of our sails.
I still don't know how to express it better, how to help people to get on
the other side of that dread, other than saying I think it comes down to
finding what is really, really important and to do it. Maybe that is why I
like the sailing metaphor, because one has to USE the wind.
Did you know that one cannot sail directly into the wind? But the closer
you come to it, the closer that angle, the faster you go? Downwind offers
good speed but that requires just as much skill, and a spinnaker (those
huge billowing sails).
None of us asked to be on this voyage or in this race out in this strange
turbulent sea, but here we are and those of us who have finally learned how
to take some control and turn it into a pleasure rather than a horror, who
can stand at the helm or a winch with wind, sun and spray in our face and
delight in our situations, we need to remember what it was like at first.
It was as if we had been transported instantly from solid, dry land to the
wet deck of a boat in a rolling, pitching sea and suddenly someone is
telling you to tighten that jib sheet.
Sheet? Jib? What is this? What are you talking about? Where am I?
Sometimes it is all one can do to just hold on and fight the sea sickness.
Yes, it does take awhile, if only to get your stomach back and learn where
you are, let alone what to do. It is not easy but it can be done.
Some never will adjust and they are the ones who sadden me as they miss so
If you haven't guessed it, I love sailing, especially racing. Back in the
early 90s, I lived in San Diego CA. I raced at each chance and had a weekly
publication covering local racing. My greatest thrill was when I was
allowed to take the helm of an America's Cup boat (Bill Koch's America3
which won the Cup in 1992) during a test run outside San Diego, a month
before the race. These boats are the Formula One's, the thoroughbreds of
sailing but, truthfully, the voyage I am on now means more. It may not
carry the same thrill but it is a lot more important and I wouldn't want it
any other way, thanks to so many people on and off these lists and - most
of all - my Caren.
Here's to the next leg, my friends.
See you at the marker.
And let's not forget to help these new people who are learning the ropes.