I took a turn
February 27, 2013
Inspite of the many post that I have written it took me a while to write this one. For one, I would not know where to start and I am not sure if I want to rekindle the awful feeling, a month ago, about my mortality.
It took an email, previously sent to me, from a friend-colleague (Carmela) for me have the courage to write about the episode. As they would say it in Downton Abbey, “I took a turn.” Subtle and ambivalent, of course, for the English to mean ‘I have a headache or one is really sick.’
In my case, my oncologist had told me a month (January 24) ago that my prognosis is not good. I am starting to build fluids in my stomach, also known as ascetis, which is a sign that my cancer is progressing. The news stunned me. I have received many bad news about my cancer in the past five years, like relapses or malignant tumors, but none shocked me more than the news of an immediate threat to my life. I thought about my family and the unfinished things I will leave behind. I cried and went through the spiral of questions about the cause and options. With my wife holding my hands, we absorb the sobering news. Since then, we have moved on and decided I continue my treatment for a chance to extend my life. That’s all I have to say about this.
I don’t want to revisit that feeling again. What I wanted to revisit is the email I received from Carmela when I told her of my set back. She relates her conversation with her friend about me.
…she [Carmela's friend] helps me cope with things and over the past few months has given me advice that I find to be really helpful. I spoke about you. She was very saddened of course. Who wouldn’t be. I told her how I had reacted terribly on Thursday [January 24] but that by the weekend I found myself more at peace with my daily struggles.
Why is that “she asked”…. “I don’t know…I just did”. She then said, that is Bo’s gift to you. He has helped you find perspective in things. I then told her how I would have no idea where to start, what to do etc…. and she said “but he does”. She explained how there is a certain peace that comes with knowing that you are taking care of things how you want them taken care of. Of being able to say good bye. Of being able to tie up loose ends.
“Don’t get me wrong Carmela” she said “there is nothing easy about this but your friend may have the peace of knowing that he has taken care of his family, his affairs, his friends and that he has lived his life much more heightened to it’s beauty. Not everyone can say that. You experienced this briefly this weekend when you found peace and perhaps did not worry about the laundry or some sie your daughter’s messy room”.
I sat back and thought of all that you have accomplished over the past few years. You have trained and run several marathons. You have continued to travel and visit strange new worlds. Your relationship with your wife has flourished. You have been an incredible father, grandfather, and most of all friend. People can live to be 100 and never experience that. Or die suddenly and leave a ton of loose ends. Perhaps an argument with my mom or daughter.
I am not ready to say good-bye nor will I ever be. I am ready though to thank you for the gift you have given me. The gift of your friendship, and the gift of knowing that there is more to life than a clean room or no laundry. That sometimes it’s ok to find underwear on the floor and not flip out. The next time I find an empty water bottle I will think of how refreshing it is to drink water…not “what the heck is this empty bottle doing here….” and I will think of you.”
P.S. To my family in Manila, please do not mention my prognosis to my mother: she does not know yet and is busy making preparation to come to the US.