fuck you, cancer

I gave a speech for a public speaking class in undergrad about how it was cool to wear red ribbons and talk about supporting money for an incurable but preventable disease, while another disease killed more people and was much less preventable.  I spoke of a Homecoming Queen from my hometown and delivered an argument for funneling more resources toward a disease that takes people unpredictably and in numbers far greater than the other disease that was completely preventable but more hip to get behind.  I got an A- and was told I sounded a little “too much like Rush Limbaugh” and should consider lawschool.  Noted.  For the next two years as I’d run into classmates from that course in other classes or football games or out at bars, they’d ask about that “girl I gave the speech about who had cancer,” and I’d have to tell them she was gone.

My last year of lawschool, a friend named Karen graduated near the top of our class, got hired by the biggest firm in town, and then learned she had cancer while studying for the bar exam.  She passed the test, went through chemo, and invited me to several charitable events requiring black tie attire, because she knew I owned a tux and liked to throw back a few beers and dance for 3-4 hours straight, even if we were the only ones doing so in a room full of law partners and charitable people with grey hair and wrinkles and were unaccustomed to a white guy who liked to shag with a black girl.  But she died a few months after everything was supposed to be in remission.  Right before she was suddenly gone (after the illness had gone into remission), The Complete Lawyer interviewed her.  The last question and answer were:

q: What Do You Want To Make Sure You Accomplish Before You Die?
a:  I want to enjoy every day. Make the most of it. Whatever time I have.

At the beginning of 2009, another friend from lawschool named Celeste told several of us who’d gathered for a New Year’s happy hour that her chemo was going well and that her solo venture was succeeding.  I announced my own plans to go solo and looked forward to having her as a source of advice and encouragement as I pursued my own dreams of self-employment and advocacy for the un-advocated.  But she died 6 months later.  I sat by myself at the funeral and “kept it together” throughout, until we were supposed to walk down to the front and shake her husband’s hand and say something comforting,  but I couldn’t do it, because what does one say to the guy who’s just lost his wife?  Instead I stood in the back and cried a bunch while a few of my old classmates tried to tell me it’d be okay.  She was supposed to turn 40 the next day.

A month later, I was walking back from lunch provided by a woman trying to sell me on using her company for structured settlements when my cellphone rang, and I learned that the partner for whom I worked my first several years of practicing had just died–about 2 years after she’d walked into my office, closed the door, and told me, “I just thought you should know I have cancer.  But don’t worry, I’m not going to die on you or anything–I’ll just leave work early on Fridays for treatment, and when I come back, I might vomit some, but I’ll otherwise expect everything to run as it normally would.”  Her name was Leigh.  She was the second person I told after I eloped, and the person from whom I learned more about practicing law than anyone with a “professor” preceding his or her name.  She believed in me even before I did.  And I never told her how much that meant to me.

A few days ago, my father called to tell me he has cancer.  And like Leigh and Celeste and Karen and Anna, he’s upbeat about what’s sure to be a quick surgery and maybe some radiation, and all will be fine.  But what if it isn’t?

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  1. …and here I am, swept at the knees.

    I hate the sense of throwing words at a problem when someone’s heart and senses are seized in fear and worry and ‘what if’s.

    Please know that I am a praying woman, and as such I will use my lips and my heart to push my will for your dad’s return to complete health up into the heavens.

    • @jett, Thanks…he says it’ll be fine and it’s no big deal, etc. But that’s how he rolls…nearly getting shot down in Vietnam makes everything else “no big deal.”

  2. Fuck.

    That’s an awful, awful series of losses, and an unhappy piece of news about your father. All fingers here crossed that he’s an exception to your experience who – ten years from now – will be mirroring your post title and giving cancer the finger.

  3. Lovely and sobering post.

    Thinking of you and hoping for “all will be fine”,
    .-= Ann’s Rants´s last blog ..McSweeney’s =-.

  4. fuckity fuck fuck. cancer does suck. i too know a few too many people who have succumbed to that nastiness. a few were women in their early 30s to breast cancer. it touches everyone, it seems. (gives the universe the finger)

    i am sorry for yor news. let this be a mere lego sized hurdle on his long road in life. i will so be sending positive vibes his way, your way, vibes of strength and humor and comfort.
    .-= leel´s last blog ..ring a ding ding ding. its a new year post. =-.

  5. Son of a bitch, man. I am so, so freaking sorry.

    I am thinking right now about both this guy I once saw take off his glasses and blink really hard because he was trying to pretend he wasn’t tearing up standing outside a blogging conference, and this other guy I once saw try really hard to dance without spilling his booze.

    And I want to hug both of them. Hard.
    .-= Miss Britt´s last blog ..Perfection. Which is funny, because I have no ending. =-.

  6. That is a lot of loss from cancer in your life. I know that you are not much of a praying man, but I will pray for healing, for your entire family.
    .-= WeaselMomma´s last blog ..The Crazy Bunch =-.

  7. You need to take that anger, loyalty, wisdom, and experience and put it toward pushing for better cancer research and more cancer funding. Spread this blog around, share it. Hell, print it out send it to the politicians once a day for a year, each one asking for more funding for research.

    I fully believe there is if not a total cure, then better methods than what we have now for extending lives effected by cancer.

    Very moving post, and I’m giving both universal fingers right along with you. (I bet your dad is too, most Vietnam vets do..lol)

    • @nipsy, Thanks so much…I actually did give a fair amount of time and money when Karen got involved with Lance Armstrong’s organization several years ago, but then she died, and I lost my enthusiasm. I suppose I should go find it again…it’s probably under the sofa cushion with all the kids’ toys.

  8. Pretty Bride

    This is one of those posts that reminds me why I love you so much, and what a good man you are.

  9. Well shit. I don’t know what to say. Except you’re right, fuck cancer. It took my daddy 2 and a half weeks ago. I hope your father beats it. I can’t offer anything more than friendship but I hope you know I’m here and I understand.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Happy Birthday ….. =-.

    • @kim, That must’ve made for an awful Christmas…was sorry to read that on Twitter. I hope 2010 finds new ways to cope and get excited about life, despite your rough 2009, as long as that excitement does not come from Auburn football around Thanksgiving.

  10. Wow, this hits close to home for 3 reasons:
    1. I knew Anna well and carry a piece of her memory with me everyday.
    2. My mom (who you’ve known for 25 years now) is battling breast cancer.
    3. I’ve known your father for those same 25 years. Sorry to hear of his struggle. My dad and I were talking about him just the other day and wondering if he does much hunting anymore.
    I swore last year to try to love people more, but I fear that I’ve failed in some ways. I guess the best we can do is to keep trying. For starters….I love you you filthy Muskrat….even if you used to be a Norseman and wear a loincloth a little too frequently. Thanks for this post.
    .-= The Figurhead´s last blog ..Giddy Up: Lonestar 70.3 =-.

    • @figurehead, He actually postponed surgery to wait for deer season to conclude. Not sure how I feel about that. And, buddy, you don’t have to tell me of the love…it’s felt and reciprocated up in here all the time.

  11. I’m so sorry about your Dad. It seems like cancer hits everyone too close to home. My Aunt (my Dad’s sister) has been traveling 3 hours here to Vanderbilt every 2 weeks for colon cancer treatment. It does really suck. I will be praying for your Dad.

  12. F you, cancer indeed. God knows, the Muskrat family has my love and my prayers. That’s all I have to say about that.

  13. Cancer can bite me. I’m keeping you and your dad in my thoughts.

  14. Fuck, dude. Just… Fuck.

    I’m sorry.

  15. That sucks. I am so sorry to hear about your father. I know the feeling of hearing about your loved one being sick with cancer. Fortunately, my dad is a survivor x15 years and my mother x13 years.

    I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  16. this (and the comment from pretty bride) was so heart-felt.

    although only words… i’m so, so sorry.

    sending love and positive thoughts on a seriously large scale.


  17. One.day.at.a.time.

    What did Karen say? She wanted to live life to the fullest…as long as she had.

    Be there for your dad. Every moment you can. Make the most of it and don’t think of the what ifs. Because the what ifs suck. Because if I was there, with you, with my dad having cancer, I’d think “What if?” too and I wouldn’t be able to think of anything else….like “What do you need right now, Dad?”

    • @Lisa, Thanks. I just got an iphone recently and was going through all the emails that appeared on it, and I was surprised to find some very old ones that automatically ended up in folders on my phone. One of those was from a classmate with the link to that interview with Karen, and my reading it was the impetus for writing this post.
      I’ll try, despite the 3 hour drive…at least with email and the phone.

  18. Crap. I am so sorry.

    As the child of a parent with a serious illness, I have a sense of your worry. There is so much that you don’t know and can’t know about what’s going to happen. It’s maddening. All I can tell you is to encourage your dad to be as assertive as he can with his medical and insurance providers, for your entire family to pull together, and to ask for help when you need it.

    Sending big hugs and high hopes.

    • @Nancy, Thanks for the advice, and I’ve been pulling for your dad the last several months as his health improves and worsens. I hope our experience is better, but one never knows. He’s insured with Tricare (retired Air Force officer)…I hope all goes well.

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  20. Debbie in Memphis

    I’m so sorry. I’ll be sending warm wishes, healing thoughts, and many prayers for your dad and your family. As others have said, I hope that 10, 20, 30 years from now your dad will be telling cancer to fuck off!

  21. Fuck cancer indeed. It took my mom almost 2 years ago, a good friend a little over 3 years ago, and countless other people. My mom was optimistic too. Both my parents were. And it was frustrating as hell. But they were still in parent mode – keep up a good front and don’t let the kids know what’s going on underneath the front.

    The only thing to do is hope – and be there – and enjoy the moments while you have them. I hope and pray that your moments last for many many more years.

  22. Cancer is a bitch. I’m so sorry for the losses you’ve experienced at it’s hand. And I will be hoping/praying like mad that your father kicks cancer’s ass.
    .-= thepsychobabble´s last blog ..Letters from my Desk =-.

  23. OK. I’m going to be the Debbie Downer here and say this: cancer is a long way from being “cured” and even if your oncologist gives you a good prognosis, you’re still more likely to eventually die from a recurrence of cancer than anything else. What cancer treatments give us in today’s world is time – an extra six months, year, two years. Cancer sucks donkey balls and I wish to God a cure could be found soon, but until then we need to remember that with cancer treatment, we don’t have a cure, but the ability to hug and love them more days than not.

    I’m so sorry, hon. I, too, have watched too many people I love succumb to this shit. Hug your father tight and hope for the best.

    • @Debbie Downer, Yeah, that’s exactly what happened to Leigh. Diagnosed. Treated. Cured! And then, 2 years later, into a coma on a Friday and dead the following Monday. It blows.
      Thanks, though…no apologies necessary.

  24. -Like your Dad, I’m a Vietnam vet too but, as far as I know, still healthy. I’ve witnessed many people go through the emotional and physical pain of cancer and then pass on anyway after a lot of hassle for everyone concerned. Then we all hear about their “courageous battle with cancer”. Was it really a valiant war or more of a front for their loved ones (and maybe even themselves) as well?

    Let’s campaign to eliminate this plague instead of having to go through this sad dance again and again.

    I sometimes wonder what I’ll do if the day comes when a doctor tells me that I’ve got the Big C. Today I’m thinking that I’ll just ask for pain management and take what comes without all the wondering, worrying, and hoping. But we don’t know what we’ll actually do unless it actually comes to pass, do we?

    However, I’m putting positive energy “out there” to make your Dad one of the exceptions because that too does happen!

    You’re a terrific kid, Muskrat. I’m glad to know you even if I don’t know the sound of your voice or even your name.

    • @semky, Wow…thanks, and I agree. I’ve told my wife and friends that if this ever happens to me (and likely it will–genetics and stuff), and I don’t make it, please don’t refer to my dying as “losing a battle.” I don’t want to be a loser in life or death. Fuck that shit.

  25. Next time I see you, I’ll give you a hug, even if you keep sticking your boner in my leg.
    .-= Avitable´s last blog ..Picture 314 =-.

  26. I will have you and your family in my prayers!

  27. Hope he does well, Father M.

  28. I wish I had some comforting words to make it all better for you. Unfortunately I suck at things like this.

    Just know your family will be in my thoughts. I hope your Dad’s story has a much happier ending. I know you haven’t had much experience with those stories, but they do happen.

  29. Fuck, dood. I’m so sorry you’ve had so much experience with it. Just… Well… Expletives.
    .-= Zoeyjane´s last blog ..On division =-.

  30. I’ve been out of the loop for a while but I just wanted to swing by and tell you that we’ll keep your father in our prayers. Good luck and stay positive.

  31. Cancer sucks. I’ve been there with a parent, too and I’m not ashamed to say it’s scary. You won’t always feel this blown away, the news will settle a bit and there’s some comfort when there’s a plan of action.

    I can only speak for me, but like Lisa said, I really had to learn one day at a time (SO not like me) and not go down the “what if” road.

    Prayers for your dad, you and your family, and I hope he kicks this thing to the curb.
    .-= Busy Mom´s last blog ..A Very Surgical New Year =-.

  32. Shit. I’m sorry. I’m a worrier, too, but someone a long time ago gave me some hippy dippy speech about turning that worry inside out and creating hope from it. Turns out that sort of works.

    So that’s what I’m doing for you and your family – hoping for things to be bright and kicking that cancer’s ass.
    .-= mingaling´s last blog ..Birth Story =-.

  33. Cancer took my aunt, an attorney, then another aunt two weeks later, then my step father (3 days before my wedding no less.) Its fucking clown shoes. I wish I had something better to say. Of course a person’s attitude has something to do with survival and so does their health going into it and the type of cancer and their stress level throughout the process and so many other things. But you know all that. I think it best if I tell you my thoughts are with you and your family and otherwise shut up.
    .-= Swedish Skier´s last blog ..Friday Quotes! Best of 2009 Part I =-.

    • @swedish skier, Damnation. It’s hard to imagine a day when cancer is an exhibit at the Museum of American History like polio is, but maybe it’ll come. Hopefully, before I get it.

  34. As I sit here alongside my husband’s chair in the chemo infusion center, wearing sunglasses under the guise of preventing a migraine when right now they’re hiding my tears, I can honestly say, I feel ya and it fucking sucks.

    • @califmom, I thought of you when I typed this, of course. I can’t imagine watching a spouse go through this, get better, and then have to do it again. I hope hope hope that he drives it off once again.

  35. Oh, man. I’m so sorry. A woman I knew from high school lost her 4 year old daughter to cancer yesterday. Four freaking years old. One month older than my daughter. I cried like a baby and let my daughter watch six hours of television, eat candy for breakfast, dinner and lunch, and let her go to bed at 11p.m. All I could think of, and I hope this doesn’t sound as shitty as it feels, was “There I go, but for the grace of God.” I hate cancer.

    I truly, truly hope that your father comes through this alright. I suppose in situations like this the best thing we can do is believe that the best is going to happen? If you like, I’ll believe it for you. And for me.

    • @faiqa, You’re right…a bunch of us who were in highschool with Anna and then saw her die certainly had what shaky we faith we had at that age further shaken. I do believe all will be well…I don’t really have a choice, do I?

  36. I’m with Ann that this is a lovely post. Every once in a while, you do write one. 🙂

    On the serious side, though, Muskrat, I could tell you I’ve had x, y and z family members who have had cancer, but at a time like this, all I can say is my prayers and thoughts are with you and your family.
    .-= unfinishedrambler´s last blog ..Wherein I Tell You What’s In The Ultra-Scary Side Of The Basement At Your Local Library =-.

  37. jenniferro10

    Just found out my aunt, the woman who has stood in for my parents after they died, just found out she has cancer. This, after years of taking care of other people who were too jerky to take care of themselves- addicted family members, people who make crappy decisions over and over, etc. Like your dad and your friends, she’s all, “Yeah, who needs a uterus at my age, anyway. I’ll have the surgery and it will be a while before I can scrub the bathtub, so I’m going to do all that stuff the day before I go in.” What?!?
    I am pissed off!

  38. Do. Not. Like.

    Heart, prayers, happy thoughts with you and yours.

  39. So sorry to hear this. Sending positive vibes to you and the family. Sending a big F U to cancer on your behalf.
    .-= Broderick´s last blog ..In-N-Out Burger – California =-.

  40. Shit. So sorry to hear that. And yes, fucking cancer.
    .-= Carolyn Online´s last blog ..An open letter to Sanjay Gupta. =-.

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  42. Goddammit, muskrat. I know you wrote this a while ago, but shit. What a great post about something horrible. Now I need to read every post from January until now to make sure your dad is ok.

    Then I have to go and call my own dad. Just ’cause.

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  44. Though I just discovered this post now, I couldn’t help but notice that you posted it exactly a year to the day before my mother’s funeral. Another victim of f’ing cancer who definitely didn’t deserve it.
    Eloquent post, Michael.

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