When I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was given two books that were intended to “cheer me up”, or give me a more positive outlook on life after getting some of the worst news ever. I think there are a group of people out there in the world who always think they need to make you feel better, even when you don’t want to feel better. I’m more of a “just leave me alone and let me wallow in my misery” type of person, so a lot of times I feel that if a person is down and depressed that they should just be left alone. Sometimes, however, that is far from the case. Sometimes, a person might say they want to be left alone, but they really need some human contact, or advice, or anything that will help them get through another day. It was during this time, when I was down and depressed and scared and freaking out waiting 6 weeks for a surgery that was going to change my life forever, that I was given two books to help me cope with the angst and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis. And boy, did they ever help.
The first book, “Sh*t my Dad Says” is a book written by Justin Halpern about his dad and his philosophical musings about life in general. It is profane, crude, sarcastic and very funny. And if you know me at all, you know this is right in my wheelhouse. It’s not very often when I’m reading something that is laugh out loud funny, but this book just cracked me up. Here are a couple of tamer examples:
“You worry too much. Eat some bacon. What? No…I don’t know if it will make you feel better. I made too much bacon!”
“The worst thing you can be is a liar…Ok, fine, yes, the worst thing you can be is a Nazi, but then number two is a liar. Nazi one, liar two.”
And so on. Like I said, my kind of humor. It did the job of totally getting my mind off what I was going through, which is exactly why it was given to me.
The second book I read during this period could not have been more different than the first. It’s title, ” The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. It’s a book based on the last lecture given by a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who had been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. He was given 6 months to live, which he exceeded by 5 months, and was given an opportunity to speak at the university as a last chance to impart his wisdom. And he nailed it. Here is the link of The Last Lecture on YouTube.
What got to me the most when reading this book was Dr. Pausch’s gratefulness and the love he had for his life. He knew the obvious, that he was going to die soon, but was more caught up in how great a life he had, and how much he loved the stuff that had happened to him over the years, and how much he loved the people that he had relationships with, his family, and his students. The book taught me to not be so bitter about the disease that had just entered my life, but to look at it as an opportunity to realize what really mattered. Not my job, or the little mundane things in life that we all think are way more important than they actually are, but the realization that the people, the relationships, and the experiences that shaped me were way more important to me than things like the weather, schedule completions at work, or the little bickering that seems to rule our lives at times. In the midst of a horrible time in my life, “The Last Lecture” gave me something I was badly in need of…hope.
I have a friend that also gives me this kind of hope. Mark Bradford is someone I met on Facebook through a prostate cancer support page. He writes a blog entitled “God’s 2 By 4” which over the last couple of years has chronicled his battle with prostate cancer, and how it has effected his life in many ways. That is way too simple of a description. Mark has written about everything in his life during this time, from how the disease has effected his outlook on life, the ups and downs of treatments that worked for awhile, and then ultimately didn’t, to the people he had met, like friends on Facebook or his care team and the wonderful and amazing Melanie.
But the thing that sets the blog apart, and ultimately the book he is writing, “Bearing Witness” is the overall feeling of positivity, that even though he is dying and won’t be with us much longer, that everything is gonna be alright. His unshakable faith in God is an inspiration to me, and he has that blessed assurance that his next life will be even more amazing than his last. It is a truly inspirational look at the last years of a life lived well.
I started blogging about a year ago to try to put down into words what I was gong through with the hormone treatments for my cancer. Unlike Mark, I have more of a, uh, somewhat negative and sarcastic way of looking at life. But I try to be funny, because sometimes bad things happen to good people just so good people can get a decent punchline. But here’s the thing. As negative and sarcastic and sometimes screaming at God that I can be, Mark Bradford has been there all the way with me. He laughs with me, encourages me, and he was my inspiration to start the blog in the first place. Even though he is a lot of things I’m not, like being upbeat and a rock solid Christ follower, he gets what I am writing, which helps me and makes me want to write more.
Mark is in the last stages of his journey with prostate cancer. Hospice has been called in, and he continues to write with amazing courage and dignity. I urge you to check out his blog. I will be buying his book.
When Mark passes from this earth, I will be devastated and sad. Not because of his death, which I see as a transition to a better place where he will be pain free and happy, waiting for his friends and family to arrive. No, I will be sad and I will cry a lot of tears because I will miss my friend, I will miss his writings, I will miss his encouraging comments and I will miss his love of life.
My friend is dying, and it’s gonna be alright. But Mark, I’m really gonna miss you.
Thanks for reading.