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Today, my friend Tim, a shooter-artiste for CNN, joined me. He was in D.C. on assignment and made time to pick me up at the airport and share the day. As a direct consequence of my condition, Tim and I have taken to having lunch together in Atlanta every Friday. Today was a Wednesday, but we've decided to count it as a Friday lunch. The lunches have been wonderful. We talk about everything. As I write this, the glow of our latest lunch is still upon me.
But it isn't an isolated glow. Acts of kindness have become plentiful. My brothers, who normally hold me in low esteem, have visited all the way from Canada. My neighbors have been wonderful. Friends take me fishing, to hockey games, to golf.
There is a plot afoot to make sure that what time I have left will be happy. Who am I to resist the conspirators?
One of the first things Linda and I decided to do was to cram as much of the travel we'd been planning into as short a time as possible. We have quite the itinerary: London, Paris, a rendezvous with friends in Jamaica, a rendezvous with friends in Venice Beach, in British Columbia, and finally -- in July -- with family in Maine. It seems wisest to partake of these travels sooner rather than later. Wouldn't you?
My employers have caused me to regret all the rotten things I've ever said or thought about them. I've missed a lot of work. I will miss a lot more. But my bosses and co-workers have only conveyed compassion. Being able to continue supporting my family has helped make the whole thing bearable. Many aren't so lucky.
I haven't joined a cancer support group. I know: People with cancer who join support groups tend to do better than those who don't. But forgive me. While fairly riveted by my own cancer, I am profoundly uninterested in that of others. This, of course, begs the question of why you should be interested in mine. I console myself with the hope that my insight makes my trial particularly interesting.
Everyone knows someone who has had cancer, or they've had it themselves. People's tendency upon hearing that I have cancer is to share their stories, often in excruciating detail. I recently was golfing at Candler Park, about to tee off on the second hole, when this guy came running up the first fairway, cart in tow, waving excitedly at me. They had told him in the clubhouse that I had cancer. Well, by golly, he'd had cancer too! His brother had died from cancer. And he charged up to me to tell me all about it -- which he did enthusiastically and with a fine eye for small detail for the next eight holes The course is only nine holes; otherwise, I fear, he would have continued.
He was quite undeterred by my first feeble efforts to change the subject. He even managed to continue after I rudely told him that I had no interest in anyone's cancer but my own and that it was, in fact, to escape thinking about even my own that I had come to play golf. I'm sure he meant well, but I came to dislike him anyway and my mood was not improved by the fact that he had a substantially better round than I did. It's hard to hit a golf ball while someone's telling you which parts of their bodies have been removed and more difficult still to putt. I have since overcome my initial dislike of this actually very nice man -- although not enough to golf again with him.
Cancer forces its victims to introspection. Spiritually, I find myself, at peace. I have never wondered, "Why me?" I know the answer. I smoked for nearly 30 years. Smoked and smoked and smoked like the fool I am. But I'm a pretty happy fool these days. I can't think of much that I didn't do that I wanted to do.
Mind you, my ambitions were modest. Basically to be free and to leave things a little better than I found them. OK. OK. So I also wanted to be prime minister of a small island nation, but two out of three ain't bad. I claim credit for leaving things better by virtue of fathering Ian. I claim credit for being free because I am.
If my time is up, I won't feel cheated. Though I don't plan to "go quietly into that good night," I'm not terrified at the coming of the dark. I have been blessed to have rediscovered -- or more accurately begun practicing again -- my faith. Luckily, that happened before I learned of my cancer, because I share my father's disdain for what he called "foxhole religion."
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