"So here I am
doing everything I can
holding on to what I am
pretending I'm a superman…"
Dateline: B.A.S.S. All-Star Event, Stage Right
I barely heard my cell phone ring.
Almost didn't take the call, was about to hit the red "End" button, but instead, hit green, "Answer."
I was leaning on the stage, above me Dave Mercer, the Emcee, was talking with B.A.S.S. tournament director Trip Weldon.
Behind the stage, Ott Defoe and Mike Iaconelli were standing with their bagged fish in holding tanks, both good friends of mine. Gave man-hugs and good luck wishes to them both just seconds before they walked up the steps.
I could still smell Becky Iaconelli's perfume from her hug behind stage. I could still smell Mike's and Becky's infant son, Vegas Iaconelli, baby's breath from the kiss I planted on his cheek.
I almost didn't answer my cell phone.
I was standing, leaning against the stage, looking out into the crowd, with my Costas on so I could watch the people without them seeing my eyes. I could see smiling faces, little kids looking up at the stage, older folks fanning themselves with boat and tackle brochures.
I scanned row after after row … saw my friend photographer James Overstreet sitting in the photog pit with a damp towel around his neck, when he saw me looking his way, he smiled and nodded, the smile and nod between two guys who have been here before … here being anywhere where photos needed to be taken, words needed to be written.
I kept scanning the crowd, some of the people were looking at me, most were not. I kept looking though, hidden in plain view, kept looking for the one face I have looked at and loved for 38 or so years … looking for my wife, Barb.
When I found her, she was looking at me. And we both smiled at each other. As it should be.
And at that moment, with friends all around me, with the crowd all around me, with my wife smiling at me, I heard my cell phone ring.
Almost didn't answer it.
But when I saw the area code "860" on it, my home area code, I hit the green button and said, "Hello."
And with that simple act, my life changed for ever.
"Hello Don … this is Dr. Rodgers."
"Don … I got your test results back, I'm looking at them right now, and we need to do some follow up right away."
"Uh-huh … I'm at a B.A.S.S. event in Montgomery, Ala."
"When you coming home?"
"Ah don't know … why?"
"You need to come home soon … I want you to see this other doctor, a friend of mine who is very good with … "
"Uh-huh … yeah … why? … "
"Don your test showed … you may have … cancer."
My doc kept talking, explaining things I imagine, talking test results … I think I heard the word "procedure," I know I heard the words "survival rates," but to be honest, mostly I heard nothing, my brain just shut down all by itself.
I was just standing there, waiting for my two friends to be weighed in.
I was just standing there freshly hugged and baby smooched.
And my doctor was calling me and using the "C" word.
Was using the "C" word over and over.
And as he talked my brain shut down, and my body just took over, db on auto pilot, because as he just kept saying the "C" word over and over, my body turned all by itself, to face my wife who was looking at me smiling.
And water filled up the Costas stuck on my face.
" … I'm trying to keep
The ground on my feet
It seems the world's
Falling down around me … "
I may have cancer.
I may not.
In the tests trying to figure out why I suddenly developed high blood pressure there was a test within a test. A PSA test.
Don't know what a PSA is, didn't know I had any, but I'm only supposed to have a level of 4 of the things floating around inside of me.
I have 10.5 of those PSA's inside me. "Not good Don, we really need to get you checked out with a urologist … "
At some point, while my Doc was talking, I started walking through the crowd … he kept talking, I said "Uh-Huh" one last time, then hit the red "End" call button on him.
Doc may have been talking, may have been not, my guess is though when he calls patients and starts explaining, starts saying the "C" word … he gets used to the "End" call button being hit.
Finally I found Barb, and in the midst of the All-Star crowd, with tons of people around us … it was only us … as it should be … as Dave Mercer announced the weight of Ott DeFoe's fish, and all the strangers around us smiled and clapped, and as Ott stood center stage holding a Bass … I told my wife of 37 years that my Doc just called … and that I may have cancer.
And we stayed for the rest of the weigh-in, but I don't know who did what, who weighed in with what, and we stayed until the end, standing right next to each other, right close, holding hands, not saying anything.
As the crowd around us smiled.
As my friends on stage smiled.
As I signed a few autographs with the two letters d & b … while wondering about the three letters floating around inside of me.
" … the nights are all long
I'm singing this song
To try and make the answers
More than maybe … "
I left the next day. Which is why I didn't write much about the All-Star event.
I apologize for that.
I was scared.
We were driving home as my friend Ott was winning.
1,150 miles back to Connecticut.
With Barb in the passenger seat, the 4Runner filled with our clothes … filled with our 38 years of memories.
I let my friend Ott down. At the beginning of the event I did a story with him called, The Chase, or the Catch
I told him that if he won the event, we would do a follow-up story.
He won the event.
I was driving through Tennessee.
I let B.A.S.S. and my close friend, Jerry McKinnis down.
I couldn't even tell Jerry face to face about the phone call, or why I left … I sent him an email … he responded with the emotion I knew was coming.
So I left.
I let you down.
I'm supposed to be with you there. I'm supposed to take you to places you can't get to because you are busy with your life, your work … so you send me to tell you about it.
I'm you there without the travel costs.
But I left … and you were gypped.
I let my family down.
No offense, but probably the most important letdown, and for doing that I'm doing my penance by writing this.
Frankly, I would just love to throw the laptop out the window, and stay under the covers for a year or so, possibly several years.
But that's sort of what got me in this mess to begin with … being stupid … thinking that I'm Superman.
Like maybe you do.
You don't know this about me, but when I'm at an event what I mainly do is watch … watch YOU!
I love all the you's out there, I love watching all of you, because in you, I see me. In me, I see you. To me, you are not a crowd at all, but a mirror.
A mirror of our times.
A mirror of our past. Our future.
For everyone of you who show up to an event … I have a guy, or a gal just like you living back on my block. I get the I'm a Yankee cracks all the time, and from watching all the crowds that I have watched, I know that isn't true at all.
Yes, I was born where you weren't, unless you were born in Buffalo in 1952.
But it ends there.
I don't care what color some media guy with crayons colors in your state, I know from being in your state and looking at you, staring at you, that we are the same.
No matter our differences.
I see my wife Barb in your eyes.
I see my children, Ashley and Jimmy, in your children.
I love my family as you love your family, no imaginary line separates us on that.
I see you stand and mouth the words when we play the national anthem, just like I do, just like everyone behind the stage does. I love my country just like you love your country, the country we all own together even while living in different parts of it.
We are a crowd of one.
You and I.
Which is why I write this, and I write this for the following very simple words: Don't do as I did.
To the crowd of males, I say this … Man Up.
Go to your doctor, get regular check ups, it WILL save your life.
So you know if I don't feel sick … and not just sick … feel like dying sick, there is no way I'm going to go to a doctor … NO WAY … so I haven't been to one in 10 YEARS.
I'm an old fat dude, been getting old and fat for the better part of the Twenty First Century … and yet I haven't had a physical of any kind since we clicked over into the 2-triple-zero years.
Big fat stupid dummy.
Because of that, I may have prostate cancer.
I may not.
Having it, or not having it, believe it or not, is almost beyond the point.
Hearing the "C" word from your doctor … that now, that right there, is one of, if not THE, life wake-up call.
It is the db you are human, stupid and human, call.
Not superman at all call.
Don't know if I have it, don't know if I don't … the "C" word … but from time to time I will give you updates … promise no more running from being human … I have to go in for a biopsy on September 29 … will let you know how that goes … good or not so good.
But I won't run because I now know of the gift you have given me.
A crowd of one.
So that when you see me out there at an event, you see yourself.
And for yourself.
And for your family … your wife … your children.
You go to your doctor and get regular check ups … even though you may think you don't need them.
I HAD AND HAVE NO SYMPTOMS OF A MESSED UP PROSTATE OR FAMILY HISTORY OF PROSTATE ISSUES.
But the PSA test came knocking.
Get tested yearly, more so if you suspect something or have a family history.
The test won't kill you, not having it might.
Do it …
… for the crowd of one.
" … and I'm so confused
About what to do
Sometimes I want
To throw it all away."