It’s possible that I’m dying. Well, so are we all, from the day we’re born. But it’s “highly probable”, in my urologist’s words, that the through-the-roof values of my PSA test indicate cancer. The first thing I whispered, into my mandatory dollar mask (lest I catch a bad cold), was, “Sh*t.” Then, after a half-hour round of drilling biopsies, I remarked that I’d thought I might have a few more years than sixty-six, but… “I’ve had a good life.” And I meant it. I said it with a smile.
Of course, the doc rushed to assure me that the diagnosis was incomplete (by all means, let’s avoid the obvious inference until you have a number in every box) and that many treatment options would be available. He was doing his job. I know that. I knew that at the moment. I nodded, to put him at ease. Then I thought a little more and said, “Well, I’ve had a good life… and if there’s more, then that’s good, too.”
I’m sure he didn’t understand my reaction. It kind of surprised me, too. Which of us knows how he’ll respond when he turns the corner and walks into a killer’s gun barrel? My position wasn’t one of instant surrender to death, though it probably came across that way; it was a full embrace of death as the eventual outcome (for us all, always) before a stiff competition to see how long my adversary needs to get me to the mat. He wins in the end. But he doesn’t know how much effort I’ll require to be driven down.
I’m not going to waste words praising or abusing the health care system. Its minions didn’t “fail” me. I could have been screened sooner, much sooner. Yes, part of the reason I ignored the yearly checkup was my gathering from other men that a regimen of prescription drugs would have greeted me—a gateway to chronic headache and insomnia (with more drugs prescribed, no doubt, to alleviate those miseries). I preferred to fortify myself with vitamin supplements and antioxidants, particularly after the medical community dismissed (with a hint of sneer) the problems I had two decades ago when working around first-generation personal computers. It may well be, as I now realize, that I overdosed on one or two homeopathics, poisoning myself on too much Elixir of Life. The men who peddled those all had M.D. after their names, too, so… so a cynic might say that I mistrusted the wolves and put my faith in large gray dogs.
That’s a hard saying, maybe: but do you know that thousands of lives are lost yearly because prescriptions piled upon prescriptions turn into a volatile brew whose action in individual cases nobody can anticipate? Our society is having this debate right now in the context of vaccination. I’m not sure anybody wins—or, at least, I’m not sure the patient consistently wins. As the French used to say, “The same people keep getting themselves killed.”
I won’t even waste my ammo charging that Dr. Fauci and Co. delayed my diagnosis by two months with their pandemic masquerade. They did… but I don’t imagine that those months could have made much difference. (This has been a problem of long standing with me: if my prostate is eaten up with cancer cells, they’ve taken a hell of a lot of time to make just a little headway.)
No, what dismays me most at this moment, instead, is the fact—and it’s an unavoidable fact—that so many of my fellow Americans have locked their doors and crawled under their beds as Death’s slim shadow passed far up the street, like a spring cloud chased across the sun’s face. The Man Himself is camped out on my porch now—and I don’t really care, because I so love this life that God has given me, despite my very clumsy handling of it. How would I have lived any of it from under my bed?
It’s been a good life, a life that I have come to love deeply. Now I’m going to meet the stranger on the porch and find out just how long he needs to drag me down the steps.