On my Twitter account I like to describe myself as "a little guy, having a little fun, with a lot of good friends." It's mostly true, but not every day. Not today. Not right now. I have cancer. I'm still a little guy with a lot of friends, but I'm pretty sure what's coming up next is not going to be much fun. I have cancer.
More specifically, I have Mesothelioma, the extremely rare Peritoneal Mesothelioma (I don't like to run with the crowd). It's not my fault; there is nothing differently I could have done to avoid it. It's like a random bullet has hit me.
Mesothelioma is caused by exposure to asbestos which in my lifetime was believed to be the wonder mineral, except by those who have known differently since WWII but chose to take risks with the lives of a couple of generations of Canadians. Who knows how I ended up with it?
I have a disease. I do not have a cause. There will be no t-shirts, buckets of ice, maudlin Facebook postings, ribbons, wristbands or marathons run in my name. I am not battling or fighting anything, and I'm not feeling particularly courageous. Josh Haddon, a comedian with a blog "The Funny Thing About Cancer" announced his cancer by saying he didn't want sappy Facebook comments and posts, but that he would accept sympathy sex. I concur with the sentiment although I must respectfully (and gratefully) decline any offers of sympathy sex that may come in.
This is my disease. I own it. It's part of me, but let's be clear: it doesn't own me and it does not define me, and it's not how I wish to be remembered and it's for damned sure not the only thing I want to talk about. It is 100% fatal and is, in this form or in the form of other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos, the number one workplace killer in Canada. Read this article and listen to John Nolan's story. There is no safe use of asbestos.
The words I learned when I trained in Hospice to work in palliative care are "he is living with a life-threatening illness."
I am not dying. I am living.
I am living with a life-threatening illness. And now, so are you. If you are a friend, a co-worker, family, parishioner, someone who likes me or loves me or thinks I'm an asshole, it's all the same. You are living with my life-threatening illness, as much or as little as you'd like to be.
As Bruce Willis said in Die Hard..."welcome to the party, pal."