[cancer] Dead man walking, wearing a corpse

Saturday I was out and about with my offspring. She wanted some Dad time, and since I’m leaving town tomorrow for a month of grueling last ditch experimental genetically-driven immunotherapy, I said yes.

I drove for about two hours in the course of our outing. Around town, not nothing overwhelming. We popped by my Mom’s house briefly, we got lunch at a Burgerville drive-through, we talked about life and graffiti and urban infrastructure.

When we got home, I hurt. I hurt for the rest of the day. I hurt overnight, sleeping ten hours as my body tried to catch up. I hurt the next day, canceling light duty social plans to concentrate on healing. I still hurt this morning, on Monday.

But then I hurt all the time these days. My old liver surgery scars are stretched by the incessant coughing. Every two or three days I cough myself into wrenching nausea. My new surgery scars ache and sting. That band of pain below my right pectoral nags. I don’t breathe very well any more. Everything wears me out.

The idiot lights are winking on one by one on the dashboard of my body. I am failing. I am a dead man walking, wearing a corpse that hasn’t yet caught up with the not-so-exaggerated reports of its demise.

I will not give up. I never do. I reserve the right to lay down my arms near the very end, when all the battles all over, but the war is long since lost. For now, though, I go to NIH, I seek a treatment that will be at best brutal. It may extend my life, it may diminish my days. But this is my path.

And I am so tired. So very tired. Not hopeless, exactly, though as I read over these words they echo of hopelessness. But hope is something I abandoned long ago when I passed through cancer’s gates of horn and ivory. These words are the breath of someone who has already lived too long, worn out both his welcome and his pity, and continues because there is no other course but forward into the shadows.

I love whom I love, and I am loved by more people than I will ever know. Love keeps me going through the pain and loss. This is not a desert, just a tired landscape overwritten by years of struggle and the footprints of a thousand people who helped carry me.

Thank you.

16 thoughts on “[cancer] Dead man walking, wearing a corpse

  1. Stevie says:

    I wish that there were something I could do or say that would help; we have never met, though perhaps in some other universes we did get to see the British Museum. But I do think of you and wonder how you are, whether it’s a relatively good day or a relatively bad day, and I shall carry on doing so, whether you write your posts here or not. Fortunately for me, and many others, you have written some great stories, and they endure…

  2. Paula Helm Murray says:

    Honey, you are loved. Hugs across the e-ways.

  3. Tee says:

    I’ve never met you, Jay. I’ve never had to opportunity to give those virtual hugs and smooches I always send to you. I hope one day soon I can. Hope is a funny thing. It can cripple us. It can blind us, yet some of us still believe in it because it is human nature to continually try. So here’s my hope: I hope you know that you are loved. I hope you know that thoughts are given on your behalf by thousands every day. I hope you know that the legacy you live every day has nothing to do with illness or cancer or looking death in the face. It’s in the honest, real way you live your life. It’s in the joy and laughter you bring to others. It’s in those beautiful, beautiful worlds you have fashioned and put onto the page. It’s in the time you spend with your child, with your companion, with your friends. I hope you know that and I hope you feel every thought, see every smile you inspire and feel every heart that is filled with impossible, brilliant love for you. That will never, ever fade away.

  4. Stacia says:

    All the hugs and love and luck in the world to you, Jay. xx

  5. Ruthie says:


  6. Marianne says:

    I’m here. Reading your words but thinking about your amazing spirit and presence. From the first time I watched you reading your work at a midnight horror reading and was captivated by both the tale and by your way of telling it. This story you are telling now is no less gripping. We will all join you in one way or other at some point in time. I hope I can with a modicum of the intelligence, wit, patience, humor and honest emotion that you
    have shown. Love, M

  7. Ashlee says:

    We don’t know each other, Jay, just two writers drifting around the same reality for a short time. I’ve just been a silent reader of your blog for many moons. But, I want you to know that I love you, we all love you, and even as it gets this hard you are still a point of brightness in this world. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Jay says:

      Thank you.

  8. Rani says:

    Not much I can say, Jay. So I’m glad I know you and thank you for everything so far. Thinking of you.

  9. Catherine N. says:

    Jay, I have never met you, but your words have touched me deeply. Thank you for this blog, this writing, this testament. I wish I could give you something in return, other than my thanks for your words.

  10. Steven Brey says:

    Jay, I am Lynda Ward’s husband … I have no words of either wisdom or comfort, alas. But I appreciate your presence in Lynda’s life. She speaks of you often. You are in your heart and consequently in mine as well. I am glad you were able to share some “Dad time” with your daughter, even if you later paid the price. Looking back on my own life with my Dad, I think it is the “nothing overwhelming” times that I remember and cherish the most. Anyway, peace be with you…

    1. Steven Brey says:

      Oops, that should read, you are in HER heart… (-:

    2. Jay says:

      Happy to be of help, Steven. And thank you.

  11. Ben Fenwick says:

    There is a destiny which makes us brothers; none goes his way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes back into our own.”

    ― Edwin Markham

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