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Like A Voice In the Wilderness Drinking

 

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I entered the place as if it was the old days, but I was intimately reminded that these days are not.

After a tough day at work, I attended a mandatory orientation for volunteers in the hospital that runs the cancer center I’ve been invited to speak at.

The training room was buzzing with youthful energy, but I was dead tired. The majority of the room was still in high school or starting college. Later, I discovered I was the sole volunteer at the cancer center, and somehow that felt right. Battle-tested veterans dare talk where angels dare not tread so I thought, and I was relieved that no young person across the room had been put through what is required to earn caregiver stripes.

A little melodramatic?

Perhaps.

Completely honest?

Yes.

On the way home, I called my wife and asked if she wanted me to pick up what was once her favorite dinner in town. It was expensive, and I knew she could not finish it, but I thought it would make a pleasant change for her.

Once I ordered our dinners from the cheerful hostess, I wandered through the bar area to seek out one of the fine scotches I knew resided there.  Typical of recent times, I ended up being the unlucky winner. I got the last seat, the stool not needed by any of the couples at the bar.

I ordered a twelve-year-old with a twist. The bartender delivered a healthy beverage, but without the twist.  I was too tired for conflict, so I dropped a twenty and told him it was all his; it was simpler than figuring out his tip.

Since I was the odd man out, I turned and looked over the dinner crowd. The place was jammed; it was still THE place to be seen in. The popular fashion choice of the evening was “expensive-casual.”  Women wore denim accessorized with four-inch heels and diamonds; men wore freshly pressed open collar dress shirts, Bermuda shorts, and $500 loafers; no socks of course. The look was so common it reminded me of a Catholic school uniform. The room was also saturated in a collective tan; an affluent bronze earned in places I could not even afford to pronounce. I do not have a tan, nor did I have an attractive partner at the bar to laugh too loudly at my brilliant banter.

I didn’t fit here, just like at the hospital. This is not unusual; I haven’t fit in anywhere for the last three years going on four.

Since our cancer experience started, I feel like the only guy on earth who knows the exact date and time of Doomsday, but no one will listen. Everywhere I go, I have this urge to stand up and shout. I want to warn everyone that what he or she currently values has no value when confronted with mortality, specifically cancer.

Diamonds and tans will not impress cancer, nor the greatest medical minds on earth do more than prolong the length of your life while the quality declines.  In my experience, “cancer” is a code word for “meaningless pain”, and it’s a suffering that cannot be justified by any religion or philosophy. I would tell them money is ultimately worthless since all of it in the world could not make my wife whole.

Again with the melodrama, you ask?

Maybe, but it is how I feel.

What would I tell them to value?

I would say to invest in people and relationships the same way they invest money. Create a wealth of genuine people around you who will not flee when the news is bad or when your appearance changes. Evaluate your relationships; dump the poor ones, invest heavily in the good ones. And do not consider anyone as unworthy to invest in until they prove it to you.

I promise you this is your only oasis once diagnosed with cancer, and cancer is powerless against it.

Pass it on.

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