I'm damned near close to living on borrowed time. We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of when my original tumour was discovered. Statistics for mesothelioma indicate that if I should make it the full year, I won't be around a whole lot longer. Statistics be damned! Let's just live it out and see what happens.
Here's what happened about three months into the cancer journey, last spring.
Knowing I had an abdominal tumour, I went for a CT scan and a follow-up appointment with an oncologist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. We learned that the mesothelioma had spread and set up new encampment in my lungs and lymph nodes. It was a major setback for us.
For three months I had shown fortitude living with my life-threatening cancer in the abdomen, did I have it for a deadly disease now spreading in my lungs (that explained the cough) and in my lymph nodes? It was a dismal diagnosis.
And it was one week away from Holy Week. Lent was winding down, a Lent lived more vividly this year than ever before. I had spent the last six weeks prayerfully joining my life and death to Christ's. I was focused, very deliberately asking for Jesus to accompany me and I would do my best to emulate him in the pain, suffering, loneliness, and betrayal he endured, in the faith, confidence and almost super-human strength with which he lived.
In an absolute daze, I stood up to shake the hand of my oncologist and her student nurse, who were clearly anxious to be done with me. Claire hugged me, tears in her eyes. Everything was in slow-motion, crystal clear and yet weirdly surreal.
And I heard the words come out of my mouth in a conversation that I didn't realize I'd been silently having with God until that very moment.
"OK. I'll do it." Where'd that come from? It didn't matter, it was true; I would do it. I will live with this nasty development with the same faith and hope that I had been showing so far. (Later I asked Claire if she heard me speak; I know I distinctly heard me say it. She hadn't. It was truly a holy and private moment between me and God. It was the moment I regained my direction after a slight misstep.)
OK, I'll do it, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on Holy Thursday, when he asked if God might consider lifting the death sentence he was about to receive, knowing He wouldn't. Thy will be done, I had been repeating endlessly for the last three months. But things just got different. Things were surreal at the very same time as being very real indeed.
OK. I'll do it, as chemo was proposed as a way to control, not cure, they disease. OK. I'll do it, as my morning routine, or a walk around the block with the dog, becomes impossible without being connected to an oxygen tank. OK. I'll do it, as I admit that my wife and kids have extra responsibilities that used to be all mine. OK. I'll do it, as I have to decline most guests and visitors because my health is so tenuous.
OK. I'll do it, but you're going to be there, too. Right?