“You're back on your feet…”
Dateline: West Point Lake, GA
Red hair and freckles,
he weighs almost nothing.
From the side, his backpack is twice as thick as his frame.
And yet, this 20-year-old child, is the strongest person I have met in a long time.
His name is Mike Jacobs.
With red hair and freckles, green eyes and white smile, he looked into my old tired blue and red eyes and told me, “I’m pretty content, with my life.”
“…with my life…”
Five words that slammed around inside my head.
Red hair and freckles.
Green eyes and white smile.
And a rare form of cancer that may take his life.
“…knock the dust from your jeans…”
All around us, as I sit and talk to Mike, all around us anglers are talking about a rough day on the water, as Mike tells me about his even rougher days on land.
“I have Signet Ring Cell Adenocarcinoma Colon Cancer.”
This Signet Ring Cell stuff is very, very rare, only about 0.1% of all Adenocarcinoma is found to be of the Signet Ring Cell type. “I had a lot of pain in my abdomen (as Mike says that he rubs his stomach); they did surgery and found the cancer in my colon.”
“When was that.”
I don’t look up into the green eyes and freckles, I’m trying to stretch out writing “Last Thanksgiving” until I can compose myself.
“By the time they did surgery, it had spread to my stomach; they said I had stage 3 cancer.”
I don’t write that.
“They took out 2 feet of my colon.”
I just look up at him. To be honest I have no idea what to say, no questions to ask. I have just met the kid and I just want to hug him…
“You know, Mr. Barone, it was kind of mind blowing…”
“…kind of made me grow up quick.”
“…and your soul's on its knees…”
No offense to all of us who are approaching the age of dirt, but if you are about the same age as the speed limit on the interstate, and you tell me this kind of stuff, I feel bad for you, but we have had a life,
but when you are younger than my socks and you tell me this stuff, you pretty much knock the bejesus out of me.
Mike, born 1992, and I know you have clothes older than that as well, lives in Columbus, Ga., huge Atlanta Braves fan, works at Realtree, goes to Georgia Southern University leaning to studying Business, Mom is Wendy, teaches Math in Mike’s old high school, Dad is Tom, a Podiatrist. Music tastes run Country with Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton up front.
Mike has 3 brothers, 1 older, two younger, but don’t hold me to that, don’t hold me to much of the details of this interview.
I’m busted up, head-wise.
“I went through 6 months of chemo…5-6 hours of treatment every other week, on the weekends I take a pump home with me for 48 hours.”
I didn’t ask any questions, just listened, if you must know details, Google it.
“You know they…”
And Mike paused for just a beat, first time he’s ever done that, so I just lean forward. If he needs comforting, I will put down the journalist façade…and just become the dad I am…
“…they found three more spots, not sure if it is just scar tissue or cancer, they told me it’s a 50% chance it will come back, you know, the cancer.”
Enough of this, do what I did when I started writing this story, took these words: “Signet Ring Cell Adenocarcinoma Colon Cancer” into Google and read what it says.
When I did it last night, I read a bit but then I turned the computer off and went to bed.
“…rolling dice with your dreams…”
“This has been incredible, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Mike is a huge, huge bass fishing fan, “been fishing since I could basically walk.”
His father, Tom, fishes, but it was his grandfather who cemented the deal, “went out a lot with him, fly fishing for trout.”
But it is bass fishing that is his passion, “If I didn’t have fishing,bass fishing, I don’t know how I could deal with the cancer stuff. Fishing is everything to me, takes my mind off of it, and gives me a certain kind of peace.”
It’s hard for Mike to fish sometimes; chemo has affected his hands, “made them numb.”
“…helps me forget.”
“…it's gonna be alright…”
Now comes, the strength of Mike Jacobs.
“I’ve never really cried, except the time I had to call my father from an airport to tell him that I had some disappointing news; they found the three spots. If I wasn’t in an airport where people could see me, I would have cried.”
I don’t know how a 20-year-old child told me that without crying, for goodness sake I’m crying writing it.
For a moment after he said it, the bright green eyes went dim, but then, in a flash, came back the glow, “You know, you can’t live your life thinking about the bad things.”
“I don’t get mad anymore, not important…”
“Trying to be a better person…”
“Don’t take anything for granted…”
“Enjoy the simple things in life…”
“…in a matter of time…”
This next part here is for Mike, ya’ll can listen in though.
Dude, the last thing you said to me went pretty much something like this, “It was great talking to you because you understand this with you having cancer, you get it.”
Red hair and freckles,
I GET none of this.
You are a child, with cancer.
I’m an old fart, with cancer.
I have lived three times the amount of time you have been on earth. I have loved, I have married, I have had children, been everywhere you can fly or walk to, owned fast cars and slow whiskey, confessed too much, lied to the IRS.
You have never had that chance.
No, I don’t get it, get that the darkness comes not just for the old, but for the young. I would double up my cancer in a heartbeat if it meant I would never have to hear the story of another child in the dark.
But, Dude, there comes a bright spot, for you, for me, for all of us slapped up the head by mortality.
And this is it, we become, the KIND in MAN.
We become what the universe meant us to be.
We love life, every minute of it. We love each other, all shapes all kinds. We laugh, we cry, we hug, and we help.
We believe, in each and everyone’s own special way.
In other words, once through the darkness, we become the humanity, of humans.
We understand, as you know, as you told me, Love Wins.
Dude, life, be it long, be it short, is fueled by love. It is why we crawled out of the oceans, or landed from the stars.
And I know you are beginning to get this, I see it in your eyes, I see it in your actions as you are reaching out to comfort others with the fishing tournament you are about to run at Georgia Southern University that will help benefit the Cancer Society.
Red hair and freckles,
I wish you to be here with us for a long, long time.
Red hair and freckles,
we need you here,
for your smile,
for your strength.
Peace my friend, it’s not about the number of days,
it’s about the number of,
“…cause flying ain't nothing just falling with style.”
“Falling With Style”
Jason Boland & The Stragglers