Last Saturday at the hospital, my nurse unhooked me from the hydration fluids hanging next to my bed. I was free to take a shower. It felt so good. I turned off the water and began to dry myself. I was disappointed to discover the UW had given me a dirty towel. In fact, someone’s hair covered both sides. It took a few seconds for the lightning to strike: the hair belonged to me, and it was coming out in handfuls.
Since my diagnosis last December, the cancer has always felt like it was in the future. Sometimes, I even wondered if it were really happening to me at all. Only six weeks earlier, my wife and I vacationed in Utah. We hiked daily through the incredible valleys of Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks. Upon returning home I assisted my son with building projects. What could be wrong?
I went through months of drug treatment. The side effects annoyed me but I continued with work and leisure activities. The cancer seemed a distant destination. Even after arriving in Seattle, the adventure of resettlement took precedence over the weeks of assessment and re-staging of the disease. We shared the delights of this beautiful city.
Of course, the last two weeks have humbled me. Pain, fatigue, and persistent indifference dog my days. Yet, it was not until those gobs of hair covered my towel that I accepted the cancer. The future arrived and with it my passive denial departed. Sad to say, but for me, vanity is the first sacrifice. I have cancer. You can’t see it or touch it. But there is something in my blood that will kill me unless I aggressively fight back.
Now, a week later, my health rebounds after a mixed week. Yesterday, Marilyn and I went out for lunch at a nearby sandwich and coffee shop. We strolled through a business area near Lake Union. I took off my hat to get some sun on my stark white head. Outside of the confines of our apartment house or SCCA, I am a something of a scarecrow. Still, I laugh at myself. Most of all though, I appreciate Marilyn for her tolerance of the trials.