One baby boomer’s fight against cancer

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Baby boomers aren’t unique in our coping skills, but as the oldest generation that isn’t already suffering massively from both mental and physical ills, perhaps we’re the generation that knows the most about coping. Retired history teacher Bob Kaz of Erie, Pennsylvania, has learned the hard way. But he has written his advice to BoomerCafé that might some day be useful to the rest of us.

I have written a few stories for BoomerCafe, but have been absent the last few years. To be truthful, I had a visit from the “Grim Reaper” but I didn’t make the cut. What happened was, two years ago I was snatched by that mean old devil called cancer. Why did he chase me down? I never smoked. I never drank booze, and I worked out daily. I found out that cancer doesn’t care who it gets. It’s the one thing on this earth that doesn’t have an ounce of prejudice.

So here’s what happened to me ….

Your life is sailing along without a care in the world. Life is great but then, like a lightning bolt, you wake up from a coma with two months missing from your life. You are in a strange place with people whispering around you, and you see your family standing around your bed even though you know they live in different parts of the country and they must be there for a reason and that reason is you.

Bob (in the center) surrounded by his family.

Bob (in the center) surrounded by his family.

I look around and see their caring eyes watching my every move. I try to talk and move, but I have tubes running in and out of my body. What the hell happened to me? This must be a dream! Where did February and March go? I next see a team of shadows walk towards me. I cannot see their faces, but I can feel their concern for this guy laying in front of them. They are doctors. They tell me, “Bob you have cancer!” These are the most horrible and frightening words a person can hear and the gauges and sensors connected to me register panic. I fight those words saying, “I can’t have cancer, because I did all the right things.”

I want to wake up from this nightmare so bad. I know I will wake up in a deep sweat and tell my wife I had the most horrible dream ever and all will be well. It doesn’t happen. Every night I pray that when I wake I will be well. In my dreams I walk, I run, I am well, but morning brings me back to reality. I am a really sick guy.

One day I realize that my depression is worse than my cancer. It is killing me. I have a world-class medical team and I have a world class family and friends who will not let me be beaten by this evil called cancer. One day I am watching television and a promo for St. Jude’s Children’s Cancer hospital airs in front of me. I am ashamed of myself. I, who have led a great life, am sitting and feeling sorry for myself while these kids fight like hell to get another day on this earth. Kids who can’t run and play and laugh as I have gotten to do. I vow to fight.

I decided my battle plan against cancer would be two fold. Prayer would be number one and secondly, I would try to act my normal self. My normal self: a person who sees humor in everything.

I tell people that my wife really stuck by me and was there every day for me. I tell the story that as I lied there in a semi-coma every day, like clockwork she came in at noon and asked my doctors the same question: “Is he dead yet?” Only kidding. I then told people that the staff caught her shutting down the machines connected to me because the bills were getting too high. Only kidding. I then told people that if I should die before her, she should get married again except next time marry for money and not looks. Only kidding.

Right now I am doing pretty well physically and am almost back to normal. I have learned from this experience. You have to fight back. Never give up. Humor helps and makes those around you feel better. And never forget that no matter how bad things seem to be going for you, there is always someone else doing worse.

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