"Roll away your stone I will roll away mine … "
Dateline: The shower floor.
No matter how hard I scrubbed, I couldn't get me, off of me.
No matter how hot the water.
No matter how much soap.
No matter how much baby shampoo.
I couldn't wash me, off of me.
So as the water went from hot, to warm, to cold, I just sat down in the shower.
And stared at the drain.
Stared at the soap as it went around and around, and then finally down.
And asked the universe to please not let that be me. Please keep me out of the swirl.
Then I picked up the soap, and started scrubbing again. Scrubbed until my fingers got all prunny. Couldn't stop the scrubbing.
I sat in the shower and tried to wash the cancer off me.
And tears mixed with soap.
And anger mixed with soap.
And profanity mixed with the soap.
And I sat there until the water got cold.
And I stared at the drain.
And I stared at the swirling water.
Watched it go down the drain.
And knew, I could not wash me, off of me.
Knew I had to be me, for them.
For the words left to write.
For the stories left to tell.
For the people left to meet.
So I turned the water off.
Stepped out of the shower and dried me, dried my tears.
Went downstairs, hugged Barb and gave her a kiss on her cheek, told her I loved her, gave her a tiny little squeeze.
Picked up the dog, Riley, who licked my face, and as he sat on my lap, a text message came into my phone, and this is what it said:
"Well should have been a few days now how'd the tests go?"
And it was from my friend, Elite Angler, Kelly Jordon.
The man who just a few months back sat next to me and told me he had skin cancer.
And now, it was my turn. To tell my friend …
… that I have cancer.
But that it will be OK.
And that I'm OK, and will beat this.
Because I couldn't wash me, off of me.
Because the love around me, won't wash off.
" … together we can see what we will find … "
Should I have seen this coming when I did the Kevin Oldham story at the Bassmaster Classic. Maybe. Looking back maybe he knew something, sensed something and that instead of talking about you, he was actually talking about me.
Over and over while we talked he would gently hold my arm and tell me, "You need to have regular checkups." And I thought he meant YOU, not me.
I thought he was telling me "You," so I would write that YOU need to get a checkup, but I wonder now, if the YOU he spoke of, was me.
I believe the answer to that question, is YES.
I know that to be true because the last time I saw Kevin was at the New Orleans Airport as he was heading back to Chicago where he passed away a few weeks later.
In the crowded airport, Kevin stood up, wobbled a little and then came over to me and gave me a huge hug and whispered exactly this into my ear, "I love you, man."
Then the last thing he ever said to me was this: "Embrace, life man, embrace life."
And it was those words, felt that hug, heard the whisper in my ear, that helped me up off the shower floor.
And it is those words, the gentle hug, the slight whisper in my ear that will be with me throughout all of this.
But make no mistake, when I write YOU, I mean YOU, not me, not anyone else.
YOU need to get regular checkups.
Maybe if I had, none of this would have happened.
And this is what happened next.
Message number two.
From Kelly Jordon.
It was at the B.A.S.S. Elite tournament on Toledo Bend when KJ came up to me and told me that he had skin cancer. Told me that, "You need to be checked for this kind of stuff."
YOU again, not me.
Dozens and dozens of people sent me emails after the story came out, all telling me that KJ's story finally got them to go see their doctor, to get checked out.
Dozens and dozens, but not me.
YOU meant you the reader, not me the writer. Frankly, I have written many stories about YOU sitting in a chair and listening as YOUR doctor explains the cancer inside of YOU.
Today though, I'm in the chair.
And he's not talking about YOU.
He's talking about …
And this is what he's saying.
"We found cancer in your prostate. A small area of cancer in the left side apex."
I didn't hear much after that.
You … and I mean YOU … wouldn't either if your doctor calls and tells you not that you might have the "C" word … but … but they found it.
In you, not the next guy.
Not that working stiff who just left the examining room with his head bowed to the floor.
Not the dude in the four color brochure they hand you.
They found it in you, which in this case, was me.
Today, Barb and I went and met with my urologist, yep, I now have one of them … a urologist … a semi-young guy with a laptop and white coat … appreciate the lap top … dude's name is Dr. Bosco of Hartford Urology and he comes in the room and for the first time since I played baseball in high school … reads me my boxscore on the Prostate Team.
For you stat guys … here's my numbers … HIPPA be damned, because if we are going to fight this disease of mankind … MANkind … we need to share, not hide.
We need to talk together … not hide.
We need to cry together … not hide.
And if the feds have a problem with me sharing "Private Patient" information … come get me.
I have Stage 1 prostate cancer.
My Gleason scale number is 6 with a 3+3.
My PSA Level is 9.9
My Prostate size is 32 grams, which Dr. Bosco said was pretty normal.
Of the 10 biopsy points of my prostate that he stuck the way too long biopsy needles in … 9 were clear, no signs of cancer … one that apex thing, "Showed a small area of cancer."
"Don, you have a less aggressive form of prostate cancer," and later on during our 45-minute talk, "you a 70-90 percent 10-year cure rate."
" … don't leave me alone at this time … "
In the office today, with Barb at my side, we discussed a whole lot of options from basically doing nothing, "waiting and watching," which to me sounded more like this, "waiting and uh-oh,” to implanting radioactive Isotop-125 in my prostate -- "It will kill the any cancer near the seed implants but for 3 months we don't recommend letting small children sit on your lap," of which Barb said that maybe when I get up to pee at night for three months I'll have my own glow-in-the-dark nitelight with me -- to surgically removing the whole thing.
We are mulling over the choices and will talk with some other experts in the field.
This is what I want you to know, and I mean you, not me, because I know this … I have cancer … I am a cancer patient … those will be the little boxes I now have to check off on the medical forms.
But those checked boxes don't define me … don't define anyone who has to fill them in.
I'm still db.
Do not look at me as someone who is dying, I'm not, not anymore than you are dying … we are all dying, some just sooner than others.
But right now, today, we are living.
And that is the gift we all have.
I didn't tell Dr. Bosco this … but it didn't matter what he told me … getting cancer may save my life. Will give me life. Will make me love the life around me, and those in it.
And that means YOU too.
Dudes, if you pay attention to anything I ever write, PLEASE pay attention to this next sentence ….I HAVE CANCER AND I DON'T HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS … none … I went in to the doctors office because my ANKLES were swollen … a month and several tests later I'm sitting in front of a man in a lab coat going over options with me that affect my survival as me.
No one saw that coming because I saw no one about my health.
I screwed up, plain and simple, don't you.
I will survive this, I'm much more worried about falling to sleep while I drive from tournament to tournament then dying from prostate cancer.
But know this, take this as a promise.
Not my commitment to cover what I believe to be one of the last great sports in America … I said I would be at the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship in November … AND I WILL.
What better place to be than amongst a field of dreamers, working stiffs going for their dream … if you love life you've got to love that.
Not to the athletes of this sport. They bust their hump to compete at this level … if you love life you've got to love that.
Not to the owners of B.A.S.S. or the industry that supports and makes this sport possible.
Not to Tackle The Storm Foundation and the children of the next storm.
Not to the fans.
But most importantly.
Not to my family … to me the meaning of life.
Not to the words I write … to me the meaning of life.
And especially to the spirit of Kevin Oldham.
Kevin … I know that you have reached out to me once again.
Who whispered through the shower steam, "Embrace life man, embrace life."
And who once again became an Angel & Hero.
But this time.
Just for me.
" … for I am afraid of what I will discover inside."
Roll Away Your Stone
Mumford & Sons
For more information, go to http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/ProstateCancer/index