This made me cry today (and I shared with a few other people and made them cry). Not that I want everyone to cry, but I want everyone to meet this super awesome guy. I say this, and I have actually never met him in person. That is how awesome he is, he makes waves that he doesn’t even (maybe?) truly know about.
Dov is a cancer-lebrity (yes, I just made that one up) here in Utah. He is known for his friendly smile and his whimsical antics (he brought death to the infusion room and gave patients getting chemo foam swords to attack him).
He has brought smiles (and candy) to many and posted this on Facebook today (if you don’t like swear words, it includes them):
Not at this moment…well, okay…at this moment, but not in the everyone freak out and get out your funeral clothes kinda way.
But I am dying. The biology of my cancer is moving inexorably towards my death. The tumors are continuing to grow, in secret, in the dark recesses of my abdomen, my liver, my shoulder, my heart, revealed periodically as bright blooms of light in a PET scan.
If you were to take a time-lapse video over the last 6 years, you would see tumors flower here and there throughout my organs: lymph nodes, rectum, liver, aorta, pancreas, shoulder. You would see tumors retreat and reappear in the ebb and flow of one chemotherapy after another. You would see scars travel across my abdomen, from one side to the other, from groin to ribcage. You would see organs disappear: my rectum, 7%, then 10%, then 50% of my liver, my gall bladder. You would see my intestine pulled out of my side and then covered by a bag to let internal surgeries heal. You would see my legs when they first inflated like balloons as my kidneys failed post-op, and then again a few weeks ago, as they swelled tight against my jeans, against my socks and shoes, as the skin stretched, cracked and forced me once again to grapple with the reality of my steadily approaching death…
We who are actively dying find ways of ignoring this.
We tell ourselves that we are different from the other patients.
That because of our attitude,
Because of how much we love our family, our friends,
Because of how much we have left to do in life,
Because of how good we’ve been,
Because this is just NOT what our life was meant to be.
That somehow death will miss us,
and that the miracle story we have all heard,
of the terminal patient that was miraculously cured,
is our story, in progress.
And so, somehow, when we realize how our bodies have betrayed us, again and again, when we find ourselves faced by the relentless biology of the disease, we are surprised, and we find ourselves in mourning, again, with our loved ones.
Over the last few weeks, since I found out that the tumors in my abdomen are starting to choke off blood vessels and lymph nodes, since I spoke with a doctor whose care and concern showed starkly on his face as he reached for some explanation less serious than the one we were facing, who explained with tears in his eyes that if things did not go well, my life might be measured in weeks.
I have stayed awake nights on end, I have cried, I have screamed, I have beat my fists bloody against concrete.
I have watched my body swell and recede, indisputable, undeniable proof of the truth growing inside.
I have sat with my children, explaining misshapen legs, tumors and death.
I have cried with them as they held each other, a 9 year old comforting his 6 year old sister.
I have laid next to my son as he held me close before falling asleep, his tear stained eyes finally finding rest as his small hands gripped me tight.
I have been given fresh-picked dandelions from my daughter for when I “D…”
I have fought like mad with my wife over inconsequential things as fear, stress, depression and the realization of how little we control weighed us both down.
And I have seen her heart break as she promised, again, to support me when I choose to stop treatment…as she said, “…it feels so damn selfish to want you here more than anything…but I see your pain…I see your pain.”
I have seen friends and family, stubborn as I am, refuse to let me cocoon myself in depression – they have called, they have written, again and again and again. They have stopped by, they have taken me to dinner and they have come over with beer, pizza, and laughter.
I have been shocked by my younger brother tattooing the “fuck cancer” from my shirt on his chest, and my youngest brother, who came across half the world to surprise me in chemo.
I have read words of kindness and caring, sent to me from long-time friends, from acquaintances, from people I have known all my life to those I have never met in person.
I have heard the sound of a neighbor’s kindness, a lawn mowed in early spring.
I have been surprised and humbled by friends who have organized a run to raise money for my family, to help with bills.
I have been overwhelmed as my mother and mother-in-law have organized a fundraiser to send my family on a last trip together – to my old stomping grounds in Italy and Israel.
I have been the recipient of care beyond measure.
I have sat with a friend who has been cancers companion for 30 years, as we spoke about planning our funerals, and shared laughter as we each wished that the other could attend ours.
And I have seen courage, from others on the same path: from those whose bodies are giving up and giving out. I have seen steel in their eyes, in the eyes of their wives, their husbands, their parents.
In the face of this, what do I do? What can I do?
I remember that my luck is just that, luck, and that the debt of kindness is only paid forward.
I remember words that have never left me, spoken by another patient as her strong hands, and the hands of 20 others prepared our garden for the coming year:
“This is what we do for one-another, Dov, you will see.”
And so I will do my part, and it will be costumes and candy. And I will watch my face in the mirror as the chemo rash spreads, as the skin breaks and bleeds. And as I have done before, as I will do again and again, when the tears have dried up and I am finished screaming, I will press on, I will move forward, and every fucking chance I get, (even as my hooded companion with the scythe draws close)…I will laugh.
(Sorry about the long post, it’s the only way I knew how to talk about the last few weeks…and again, thank you to all of you. You mean more than you know.)
I share this with you because this is someone I truly look up to, someone who has brought me many tears of laughter at his antics and tears of sadness today. I just can’t sit still, so I had to share.
If you live in Salt Lake City, there is a marathon in his honor in June (I will be there), there is also a donation page. He also has a website where he sells his f*** cancer shirt he wore to chemo (and Frick Cancer – Mormons Hate Cancer Too – yes that is really a shirt for sell 🙂 told you he is funny – thus the name of this post) www.buyitbeforeidie.com.
Dov, you are awesome..