The news knocks you down at first. There is no way to avoid it. But there is only one thing you can do.
You get back up and get ready to fight.
That was the only thing I could think of when those ominous words hit me hard.
"You have cancer."
Specifically, it is a form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I wondered how I was going to tell my wife, my family, and my friends. And I am sorry I did not tell all of you. If you saw me this spring in AZ, then you saw me at a time when the cancer had already invaded my body.
We think of fighting cancer as if it is something tangible we can fight physically, and while the image I posted is that of Jon Snow getting back up, on his own, determined to go down swinging, the truth is it really isn't that kind of fight. Like what eventually happened in that scene, Snow did not have to fight alone.
My next thought was that from a physical standpoint, cancer cannot truly win. It can only fight me to a tie because if I go down, it has no choice but to do down with me. The only way it could "win" was to take away the things that I loved -- my passion for life, friends, family...and, of course, the Cubs. If I did not lose that passion for life -- if I stayed strong, optimistic, and confident, then that would also bring hope and peace to the people in my life. I was not about to let them see this thing get me down. It could take my glorious beard and head of hair. It could sap some of my physical energy. But it would not take away my zest for life, my dignity, or my joy in making others laugh. It would not take away my curiosity for knowledge, art, or the way good music stirs my soul. I did not even let it take away my love for an occasional scotch.
"Geez, your strong", said one nurse.
One friend said, "Knowing you and your fortitude, it's the cancer I feel bad for. Kick the shit out of it"
And as I myself am fond if saying, "If you're going to try to beat me at something, you better bring your lunch. Win or lose, I am going to be here all day."
But I also knew I could not do it alone. The doctors and nurses I have are among the finest in the country. My friends and family were there to support me in any way they could whether it be financially or just helping me with the little things when the chemotherapy occasionally left me a bit too tired to do what I wanted to do. My excellent staff of writers have helped tremendously with the blog. And though I am not a religious man, those who said they would pray helped too. I know how much this means to many and it made me feel good that they would share their most deeply held beliefs with me.
At the same time, I am something of a private person and so I did not want to say anything right away. It's even hard for me right now. For me part of my survival meant retaining my identity. I didn't want to be the guy with cancer. I still wanted to be a husband, a friend, a brother, a son, a confidant, the guy who always had a story to tell. The guy you called up and said come over and have a drink while we watch the game. I wanted to keep working and so I continued to walk to the ballpark and attend games. And to all of you, I still wanted to be the best Cubs writer I could possibly be. I did not want to lose that. And so I said nothing. I just wanted to be John.
When all of you were so generous when Chad set up a collection, it meant a lot to me that you did it-- especially because you did not know. You did what you did because you appreciate what I do as a writer everyday, even if I have written a bit less than usual this summer. It meant you appreciated me for who I am and what I can add to this world. Thank you for that.
And it brings me great joy to tell you all that it has worked so far.
I had been scheduled for 6 chemotherapy sessions plus radiation treatment. I have progressed so quickly that the chemotherapy has been discontinued after 3 sessions. I am not yet in remission, but a big, full-blown white hot lymphoma has been reduced to a tiny smoldering ember. I will undergo three weeks of radiation and the hope is that will be enough to eradicate what little of this malignant invader remains.
It is still not over, but I have it on the ropes and I have no plans to stop swinging until this thing is down for the count. But until then, the best thing I can do is continue to be John. Just John.
And thank you for helping me do that these past few months by reading, commenting, and rooting on the Cubs with me. You will never know how much that has meant.
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