November 16th, 2009 wasn’t such a good day for me.
I started it off reading a few pages of Andre Agassi’s autobiography, Open. The guy was whining about hating tennis—complaining that he had always hated tennis. “What a waste,” I thought. Forget about the tennis player for a moment and think about the man, spending many years of his life doing something he supposedly hated.
Throwing the book onto the hospital bed that I’d spent the previous night on, I thought about how great I felt, physically. But I also knew that later that day I was going to be sliced and pried open so a surgeon could take a rotating saw to my ribs and spine.
Two week’s previous, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. I wasn’t very happy about that.
The surgery went well, and I had three ribs removed (accurately, 8cm pieces of 3 ribs) They also cut as closely as they dared to my spine, and after the surgery they said, “We did what we had to.” That was reassuring.
Progress towards my first few post surgery steps came a couple of weeks later.
Then I put myself on an exercise program to regain mobility. Wearing a spinal support vest for the first six weeks, I tolerated the frustration and discomfort, thanks to support from my parents (who flew to Singapore to help me) and of course, my wife was amazing.
Emotional roller coasters followed. I had a routine MRI scan done two months later, and my surgeon said that I had a larger tumour in a similar spot, and that surgery would likely cause neurological damage. Lovely. After another scan, he suggested that he might be wrong—that it might just be post-operative scar tissue. So—I went for a second opinion (after hugging the guy) and the oncologist I saw couldn’t confirm that it wasn’t cancer. Bummer.
But then I had another scan, 6 weeks later, and this crazy phantom tumour was still the same size, indicating that if it was an aggressive bugger, it decided to take a tea break. My surgeon saw this as a sign that it was scar tissue. Sweet.
Back to a third opinion….an American oncologist in Singapore wasn’t so sure. I saw him about two months ago, and next week, he’s arranging another MRI so he can see if it has grown in the past two months.
Why don’t they just do a biopsy? They’ve suggested that it’s invasive (given the location) and that biopsies can spread cancers such as this one. Every doctor has agreed with that. Shitty.
So I wait for another week—and have another scan. If it hasn’t grown, my odds are better. It might not be cancer.
What’s this all about, and how does it relate to Andre Agassi?
Well….I’m not the athlete that Agassi is. But I’ve enjoyed being physically active my whole life. Last year (although there are many runners my age faster than me) I won the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge, beating some decent runners who were nearly half my age.
This year, I entered the race again, but this time I wasn’t first, I was forty third. And that felt better than winning it did last year.
At this point, I haven’t been given a clear bill of health. But I’d like to win that race again next year. And I’d like to make far more important plans with my wife beyond that.
I can think about my ordeal two different ways:
1. Some people don’t like to make ambitious plans when they risk falling flat on their face. So they don’t make them.
2. Other people ask, “What the hell? Why not make ambitious plans?”
If it’s true that Andre Agassi spent the majority of his life doing something he hates, that’s a sad waste. Life is short—live it well and enjoy it.
The only thing I don’t like about sharing this story is when people say how sorry they are. Forget, “Sorry”
I prefer people to say, “Yeah! Kick ass—and kick it as hard as you can!”
We’re all terminal. We all have to kick ass. So don’t get wrapped up doing something you hate—or wrapped up fearing something that you might not be able to accomplish. You, me…everyone.
We’re terminal. So live life dancing, kicking, laughing, sharing and kicking.
Don’t forget the kicking!