“Gee, Denny, your columns have not been much fun lately. You usually brighten our day. Lately, you have been crabby.”
Cancer can do that to you.
Mine is bladder cancer. Doctors attack bladder cancer by going up into the bladder – but there is no external incision! How ever do they do that?
Guys who are reading this now have their knees touching each other and have pained expressions on their faces. Based on my experience, that reaction is appropriate. So, enough of that subtopic.
But overall, I am getting along nicely. The professionals at UPMC in Pittsburgh and here in DuBois and Brookville have been wonderful. Friends and family have been supportive, upbeat and on occasion, delightfully irreverent.
I am up and around, albeit a bit gingerly.
As for the reality that cancer might kill me, well, sure. So can lots of things. I have lots of things: A previous heart attack, emphysema, two balloon-like aneurysms in blood vessels near my heart, spinal arthritis, lung calcification – and that doesn’t even get into the half-dozen or more broken bones.
I should have died at age 10 from a ruptured appendix. Since then, I have had any number of “should have been dead” instances, ranging from terror-inducing incidents on highways to stupid and/or reckless stunts on my part.
It is something of a race as to what will get me first. I’m rooting for the aneurysms, because if one pops, I should be dead before I hit the floor. That could ruin the day of anyone near me. Feel free to yell at me about it.
Am I crabby because of this disease? Gosh, I hope not. For decades, I have been an outward curmudgeon, growling at everything from self-centered politicians to doltish drivers. I don’t really notice whether the grumpiness has increased, but I hope not. Inwardly, I like to see the bright side of life and write about it when appropriate.
These days, my idle thoughts are probably more serious than usual. Since idle thoughts provide the material for most of these columns, I’ll see what I can do to recapture a lighter tone.
After all, comic material is as plentiful as the falling leaves. The chickens still cluck and lay their eggs. The dogs are just as goofy. The cats are just as stuck-up. The kittens are just as mischievous. And that does not even get into children, grandchildren and politicians.
Autumn is my favorite season of the year, with bright sunny days and cool, sleep-well nights. The doctors say that I should not do the heavy physical stuff that goes along with deer hunting. But I had decided earlier this year to quit that nearly lifelong pursuit, both because my shooting ability has declined with age and because chronic wasting disease in deer is a worry.
I still set out a trail camera, and track the comings and goings of deer and other critters around our fields and nearby woodlands. Killing them was always a joyless task, though eating them is yummy, whether saying so is politically correct or not.
All around me, I see people whose battles with cancer are so much more desperate than my own has been to date. I also see the worn-down expressions on the faces of family and friends who provide their care, too often knowing that what they do is palliative but not curative.
I am not there yet. So how can I complain?
One thing I can do is to write that word, “cancer,” as a topic to be dealt with openly. For whatever reasons, some people can’t bring themselves to talk about having cancer. It is a disease, no more, no less. It is not a stigma.
There is more to life than cancer.
When my life ends, as it inevitably will, I don’t think of it as being that cancer, or any ailment or injury, “wins.” That combative mindset might be helpful to others, but to me, life is a journey, not a fight.
I don’t plan to write much more about cancer and me specifically, but even the stuff we go through provides material for these chitchats. I might write about the labyrinth that is UPMC Presby-Montefiore-Kaufman in Pittsburgh. One example: a ramp leads from the Montefiore building to the Kaufman building. You enter it on Montefiore’s seventh floor. You exit into Kaufman’s fifth floor, but unless you are super-attentive, you still think you are on Floor Seven. I dare you to find the cafeteria on the first try.
Humor abounds in waiting room conversations and in the quest for big-city parking spaces. Some of it is the merry type. Some is the gallows type.
One friend claimed doctors told him that after his surgery, he could have a vigorous sex life.
“Now all my friends want the same operation!” he exclaimed.
I like that attitude.
❑ ❑ ❑
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org