Stage 2 is always better than Stage 3, and I’m not talking about live concerts. Cancer, baby. Is there any scarier word? Any word that scares the bejesus out of me more than that? My brother’s walk on the wild side has just begun, yet he has already picked up a substantial new vocabulary: bladder cancer, rare type, squamous cell, aggressive, nonbilharzial, suspicious, holistic, second opinion, M. D. Anderson Center, work the process, one day at a time.
Some among us have fought the monster and won. Kudos, Kathleen. And to your partner-in-health, Denny.
I Google, refine my searches, drill deep. The medical journal jargon grows more arcane by the inch. This is stupid. I only have partial information, and besides, the cheap comfort of data doesn’t add up to a hill of beans, or was that a bucket of warm spit? Whatever. By mid-afternoon, I feel like my brain has been chopped up into little pieces and fed to sharks, like my heart was thrown whole and beating into a trash compactor.
Around 4 o’clock, I turn to Buck. “Yesterday, we said we were going to treadmill at 10:30 this morning,” I said.
“Yeah. But you were too wrought up at 10:30 this morning to do it.”
“That’s true. But I can do it now. Let’s go get on the damned things.”
I pull my hair back into a pony tail, stick ear plugs in my ears, and start walking. Not the time for literary podcasts. I need music. Loud. Full of life. I put the iPod on “shuffle” and every time it starts up with something soft and sweet, I stab it with a finger to force it to the next song. I listen to the Gypsy Kings, Van Morrison, Nina Simone (ever heard her sing Blues for Mama?), and then — then I hear Patty Griffin, wailing out her song, No Bad News. Turned me right around. Reminded me of what I know, but forgot in the emotional melee. Here it is:
My brother has cancer. He is either going to survive, thrive, or die. And you know what? I don’t have cancer. I am going to survive, thrive and die. We all know this. Once we’re born, it’s too late. We’re in it for the ride. The point is to make it a good one, not just a long one, to figure out how to love each other and then, by God, do it.
Excerpt from Patty Griffin's lyrics to No Bad News Don't bring me bad news, no bad news I don't need none of your bad news today. . . I'm gonna find me a man, love him so well, love him so strong, love him so slow We're gonna go way beyond the walls of this fortress And we won't be afraid, we won't be afraid, and though the darkness may come our way We won't be afraid to be alive anymore And we'll grow kindness in our hearts for all the strangers among us Till there are no strangers anymore Don't bring me bad news, no bad news I don't need none of your bad news today You can't have my fear, I've got nothing to lose, can't have my fear I'm not getting out of here alive anyway And I don't need none of these things, I don't need none of these things I've been handed And the bird of peace is flying over, she's flying over and Coming in for a landing