I have always considered myself a child of the 70’s. Even though I was born in 1962, and my first 7 years on this planet were actually in the decade of free love and hippies and anti-war demonstrations, I grew up in the 70’s. My last few years of elementary school, junior high, and my high school years were almost all during what was called at the time, the “me” decade. For better or worse, the decade of disco, Charlie’s Angels, and Watergate were the formative years of my childhood.
Being a young sports fan during that decade could be challenging, because back then sports were not a 24 hour, 7 days a week kind of thing. When sports came on TV, and I mean any sport, my brothers and I would watch it. I think that is why events such as the Olympics, or horse racing or boxing were so big back then. When something came on, you watched it. It was a big deal. And one of the things that I watched growing up were the fights of a boxer named Roberto Duran.
ABC had a show called ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and that show broadcasted competitions in just about every sport known to man. Everything from barrel jumping on ice skates to demolition derbies to gymnastics to ski jumping, you name it, they showed it. And when they broadcast boxing matches, a lot of times they showed the fights of Duran. He was a Panamanian lightweight who simply destroyed everyone he fought. His nickname…Stonehands. He was undefeated, and untouchable.
Which is why, on November 25, 1980, it was so shocking and absolutely inexplicable that in Duran’s second fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, before the end of the eighth round, Roberto Duran, the undefeated fighter from Panama, a man I saw destroy every opponent he ever faced, turned away from Leonard and told the referee,”No mas.” No more. He was done. Leonard became the champion because Duran simply gave up.
Duran gave an explanation at the time that he had lost a bunch of weight for the fight and had eaten a lot of food after his weigh in, which gave him stomach cramps, which nobody believed, not even his trainer. Most people feel that Duran was increasingly frustrated by Leonard’s style of fighting, and after eight rounds of trying to chase him down, and because he knew he was losing, he quit rather than be humiliated by a ruling against him by the judges. Duran would have to fight for years to gain back his reputation, which I don’t think he ever did, and the words, “No mas” became synonymous with giving up. In that split second, all the work that he had done up to that point, all the championships, all the victories, all the adulation from the Panamanian people came crashing down.
I think as people we are always looking for inspiration. We want to hear the stories of people that became great through adversity and hard work. It’s fun to read stories about people that had difficult roads to success, but somehow fought through it and became who they are today, like famous actors, sports stars, or politicians. “Rocky” was popular for a reason…we love that stuff.
It’s the same in the world of cancer. Fight it, don’t let it win, do whatever it takes, livestrong, be brave. Never, ever give up! I have Stuart Scott’s book next to me as I write this and it’s called,”Every Day I Fight.” On his arms is written,”Making a difference” and “Kicking cancer’s ass.” Inspirational, right? You bet it is!
But…is there ever a time when, while going through the fight, and getting sick from the treatments, and having your life changed from surgery or drugs or watching yourself waste away, that you can say “No mas?” Is it ok not to fight? Is it ok to live your life the way you want to live it, and if that means 5 years of doing what you want instead of 20 years of misery, is that giving up?
Last week, I spent the better part of two days in the hospital. I had a dizzy spell at work, and after feeling a little better, bent down to pick something off the floor and almost passed out. After an unsuccessful CAT scan, I had to get an MRI, during which I freaked out and had to have it done while totally sedated, which kept me in the hospital an extra day. Good times!
While I was laying in my little hospital bed trying to sleep inbetween visits by people trying to take my vitals, I started thinking about my current situation. The drug that I am on, Xtandi, can cause falls, and I have fallen twice and had the episode with vertigo that put me in the hospital. I have also lost my muscles due to the drug, and climbing stairs has become really hard. Doing the things I love, running and biking, are impossible. I am usually depressed, easy to anger, overweight and generally struggling with the quality of my life. I hate my job, and my relationship with my wife has changed because of my complete disinterest in physical affection. But hey, at least it’s keeping me alive, right?
But that’s tricky, too. My PSA has risen a time or two since I was first diagnosed 7 years ago, but I’ve had 3 bone scans and 3 CAT scans looking for cancer, and they have all come up clear. So what am I fighting? That I MIGHT get cancer? That it MIGHT metastasize? I had my prostate removed with the tumor, so where is the cancer now? 38 radiation treatments and 2 and a half years of hormone treatments, where is it?? I’m as frustrated as Duran was fighting Leonard. It feels like I am fighting a ghost.
So, laying in that hospital bed, I made a decision. No mas. No more. I’ve decided to take the rest of the year off from treatments and appointments and tests and anything else that has anything to do with the medical profession. I cancelled my appointment on June 1 to get my latest PSA reading. I cancelled my annual physical. I will make appointments again in January of 2018, but until then, I am on a treatment vacation, and really, a going to any kind of doctor, vacation. No shots. No pills. Nothing.
I want to take the next seven months and learn how to run again, how to bike again, how to make love to my wife again. I want to live my life again.
If I love how I feel, this might turn into a permanent vacation. And you might ask, are you worried that you could get really sick? Are you giving up? I plan on eating better and exercising and getting in better shape. Will that make a difference with the cancer? I have no idea. I was in great shape when I was first diagnosed, so probably not. I’m not giving up. But right now, today, I am saying, no mas.
Not real inspirational I know, but hey, this is real life, not Hollywood.
Thanks for reading.