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The Hindsight of Cancer

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When I was a lad, this time of year seemed a bit boring to me. While the long and lazy days of summer elicit memories for many of us akin to a Country Time Lemonade commercial, I remember loathing them. And it's not that I missed school... my report card would tell you otherwise. It just seemed like there was always something I should have been doing besides lazing around doing nada.

And as I grew up, things didn't really change much. For instance, my brother Gavin and his family love going to the beach for vacation. They are able to enjoy the slower pleasures in life... to read a book by the pool... to listen to the sounds of children splashing in the ocean. I would love to be able to say the same, but I just can't. A favorite trip for Steph and I: New York. We beat the living crap out of ourselves so egregiously that by the end of the trip, we need a vacation from the vacation.

Maybe it's my A.D.D., but I can't just sit, or vegetate, or nap. This past weekend, I spent almost every free moment cooking. Since this past Thursday, I have literally spent over eight solid hours doing nothing but cooking for family and friends. And it has been pure joy. I love being busy, and I'm at my happiest when I'm running around like a headless chicken. However, I am very well aware of the downside of my existence: I'm not into hindsight. And it's a problem.

I am absolutely one of those people that needs to have answers. The who's, what's, where's, and especially the why's are very important to me. The problem is that most Americans (and yes, we're the worst on earth) don't necessarily have time for the answers.

For instance, when is the last time that a news gathering organization got a massive story correct on the first try? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

A huge part of the problem is that we crave the answers immediately. I don't know if it's a defense mechanism or something else, but many of us turn to answers, regardless of accuracy, as a way to make sense of any tragedy. The problem is that we don't actually grieve for the tragedy, and then wait for an acceptable explanation... or at least one that makes some semblance of sense. And by feeding this modus operandi, the answers are almost always wrong.

In fact, I will be the first to admit that I am one of the most sorely lacking in patience persons you have ever heard of, although my children have made me much better in that deficiency. Just how bad have I been? Let me put it to you this way: once, I was at a fast food restaurant drive-thru. I don't want to say which one, but I had been waiting in line for over ten minutes after I paid for my Whopper Jr. Apparently, it was one minute past my limit, because I inexplicably left the drive-thru lane, AFTER I HAD ALREADY PAID FOR IT, not wanting to wait in the conga line of special orders ahead of me.

What numbskull with two thumbs does something so asinine? Answer: this guy!

Which is why it is a miracle from the Holy Redeemer that I was able to figure out that I wanted to do something with my battle with cancer. It is normally months, and often years, before someone has the clarity to figure out how to turn such a negative into a potential positive for mankind.

There are a great many people who have turned their own experience with cancer, whether as a patient or as a caregiver, into something that really makes a difference in the lives of others... people like Matthew Zachary with Stupid Cancer or Cara Paymaster with Hope for Young Adults With Cancer. The problem is that for every person who takes up the mantle, there are literally hundreds who say, "Good riddance to bad rubbish."

And to be honest, that sucks. I know that this is going to be a wildly unpopular, and some may say an unfair call to action on my part, but as survivors, we owe it to everyone behind us to be beacons for everyone ahead of us.

I was talking with Stephanie this weekend when I said, "I have talked to more people this year about cancer than in any time in my life." Her response was like a bolt of lightning: "You're not afraid of it, and people know that."

I am honored to be able to say that people reach out to me when they or someone they know battles cancer. But I want to be able to take it further. If someone calls me and says that they are going through ball cancer, I'm your guy. But if someone emails me saying they have breast cancer, I'd love to be able to say, "I'm here for you... and so is my friend Betty who battled it six years ago. Has total insight, and is a freaking riot to boot!"

As a survivor, I owe it to humanity to share everything I can to take any shred of power away from cancer. And yes, it's taken me a little while to find my voice, to find my vulnerability and to squash it, and to be free and able and willing and happy to talk about my own path, and how many of my own missteps can and should be avoided. But I found that voice. And I haven't shut-up since.

And as far as when is a good time to do it... it is entirely up to the survivor. A month... a year... 10 years... it doesn't matter, as long as you don't forget the hindsight of cancer.

Because there is one... and it's imperative that it survives, too.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to hit up the same undisclosed location where I bailed on my Whopper Jr. twelve years ago. Think they'll give me my money back?

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