I Should Have Stayed Home

Blogs-contributors, Dan Waeger — By on April 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I’d like to think that time has been suspended the last four weeks. It’s pretty easy to do but eventually, the routine of life catches up to you. The past few days I finally decided to do my spring cleaning and other normal chores. I need to rejoin the real world. This kick in the rear was sorely needed- you do not want to know what was growing in my refrigerator.

So today I went to the grocery store. I’ve been putting it off because Dan & I really liked going to the store together. We’re those people who have to go up and down every aisle, even though we bought the same thing every time. Anyways, as I approached the checkout, I gasped out loud and my eyes welled up with tears. There, on the cover of a tabloid, was Patrick Swayze. He looked all too familiar to me- like an end-stage cancer patient. Given the state of the world today, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the media would exploit his disease to sell magazines. I like a good gossip magazine, but these pictures were downright cruel and crossed the line. But they are the face of cancer.

Although I have mixed feelings about him, I was overwhelmingly sad to see him exploited. The end of someone’s life is such a private & humbling experience, and he has lost the right to choose how he shares it with people. I feel so privileged that Dan chose to spend his weeks, and ultimately, his last moments with me. He put a great deal of trust in me by allowing me see him as vulnerable as he was and as sick as he was. Seeing the pictures of Patrick Swayze just brought all of those images back. And so there I was, with tears streaming down my face, totally irritated that I can’t even go to the grocery store without being smacked in the face with cancer.

As I drove home, I was reminded AGAIN how cruel cancer is. Like Dan, you can have the best attitude, the best doctors, the best support system, a healthy lifestyle… it makes no difference. Sometimes you get shafted and get cancer anyways. Those that are fortunate to survive go through hell to get there. Chemo is pumped into your body for hours on end, hopefully destroying the cancer cells but also the healthy ones. Radiation literally burns you. Surgeries leave scars. But hopefully, the cancer tornado spits you out with no evidence of disease, but the evidence remains nonetheless.

And for those who don’t survive, they end up praying that the cancer takes them quickly to minimize their suffering. It’s not like the movies. A video montage with some meaningful soft rock song doesn’t flash before your eyes. With Dan, I was terrified that it would be the cancer in his lungs that would take him (literally hardening his lungs until he couldn’t breathe) or that it would get into his bones causing relentless pain. I suppose we’re “lucky” that it was the liver that failed out of all the potential outcomes. Lucky- ain’t that a kick in the shins. I don’t feel so lucky now. Cancer ravaged his body, as it doing to Mr. Swayze. This disease doesn’t discriminate. Death is no joke.

So sorry for the doom and gloom on this post. I generally try to be positive but sometimes the truth isn’t pretty. In the movies or on TV, you can spot the cancer patient as the one with the scarf on her head or the one will slightly pale skin and an IV. These depictions often downplay the reality. If you want the reality, you can now find it at your supermarket checkout. So regardless of whether Mr. Swayze’s lifestyle choices contributed to his disease, I can’t help but be moved by his situation. Because even though he has all the advantages of celebrity, he is going through what millions of other people do when they succumb to cancer. It’s painful and heartbreaking. It’s lonely and terrifying. And it should be a private matter.

I should have used Peapod and stayed home to watch the Masters.

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