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Friday, September 26, 2008

A year ago

Almost exactly 12 months ago, a nightmare began.

It brought out the worst in me and the best. I learned all about fear. Imminent fear of death, of losing my family, of my ill mother's fate. I discovered an anger within I never knew. I worried about my family's finances, about my family, where they'd go, what they'd do if I were not here. But I also learned that I had an inner resolve. I was not going to be overcome by all of these negatives. I would survive.

A year ago, I'd already been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, I'd undergone a PET scan that confirmed the diagnosis through an earlier endoscopy and biopsy of a tumor. I'd been counseled by a few wonderful doctors. My insurance company had expedited approvals -- and my angry shouts -- for the upcoming treatments.

Well, I'm still here. Not quite sure if I've won the great battle. Not sure yet if I truly am a cancer survivor. But I feel as if I am.

I am here a year later. Since the diagnosis, I've undergone radiation -- enough to light a small town, I'm sure, under the direction of radio-oncologist Dr. David Diamond. A great guy with whom I agree on almost everything but politics. I've undergone weeks of chemotherapy, administered by Dr. Lee Zehngebot, perhaps my favorite doctor of all time. Surgery by Dr. Joe Boyer was extensive, but seemingly successful.

Months of recovery and tests and more tests and treatments passed and I returned to work, weak and tired but alive. I'm bouncing back and feel pretty good. I've gone back on the sailboat three times since the surgery and can hold my own on the water, even if setting up the mast and breaking her down again is quite tiring. I'm gaining weight, something I haven't really done for more than a year, and feel like I'm pretty physically able.

Emotionally, scars remain. But you learn from your scars and I've learned a lot. I am no longer easily scared. I've faced death and feel like I've won, though this is yet to be determined. I also am no longer afraid of my anger, my rage. I respect the anger, and have learned how to rein it in. I've lost my mother, a friend and lifelong part of my life, and learned to live with this deep loss.

I still ache, but pills help there. I will forever need pills to help me digest food and control stomach acid. Physically, if you forget the cancer I am in better shape than I have for years.

Like Dr. Boyer once told me, I'll never be able to pitch for the Yankees. But that's OK.

I always played catcher.

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