Welcome to the “real world.”
This may be the most important column I ever write. In a lot of ways, I hope it is.
The luxury of being in my position is that I have a platform, once a week, to talk about whatever I want to talk about. Historically, I have tried to keep my commentaries vague, largely without emotion and blanketed to a large audience.
This week, I can”t do that.
I have to talk to my friends, their families, and anyone who loves someone who thinks they might be bulletproof.
The only thing I can hope is that someone, anyone in our readership, any member of “Generation-X” can benefit from the wisdom of this experience.
To a certain degree, when we”re in our “30-somethings,” we still associate with our twenties, when we are young, dumb and invincible. Despite our marriages, our degrees, our home-ownership or our child-bearing, we operate under the comfortable delusion that such maladies as high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer affect our parents, not “us.”
Welcome to the real world.
We are adults — and as much as we enjoy the spoils of adulthood, we also have to face the trials that come along with those spoils.
Inside of the last two weeks, I have found out that one of my good friends, age 41, had a heart attack, and landed in ICU for 12 days after a near-fatal cardiac event. I also found out that another, age 37, has cancer, and will undergo surgery this week to remove the tumor and determine if the cancer has spread and, if so, how far.
These two men are not pals of my parents who found themselves inside my circle of friends. They are people that have taken me to some of the best concerts I”ve ever seen and who have sacked out on my sofa while we coach each other through what we believed to be our lives” tragedies. They are not the people I call to talk sense to my dad when he can”t see he”s pushing himself too hard. They”re the people my parents would call to talk sense to me. My peers, my contemporaries — my friends.
Knowing that maladies such as heart disease and cancer have infiltrated my circle of friends terrifies me. A part of me does not want to admit that my friends and I are grown, that we are full-fledged adults who are living right in the target zone of the onset of heart disease and cancers of the cervix, testicles and breasts. And there”s another part of me that knows I can”t deny it anymore.
And I don”t want to see anyone that I care about deny it, either.
The simple fact of the matter is this: we, in our “thirty-somethings,” are adults now. We are no longer more attached to the “invincible 20s.” We need to acknowledge that things can go wrong, and we need to think about how quickly feeling “not quite right” can turn into feeling nothing.
In the blink of an eye, “run down and nauseated, like I have the flu,” can turn into invasive surgery to remove pieces of your anatomy. Overnight, “I”ve been tired and out of breath,” can turn into someone pounding on your chest in a desperate attempt to get your heart pumping.
We”re NOT too young. We”re NOT immune. And all too often, we”re not able to realize we”re susceptible because we think we ARE too young and we ARE immune.
About a year ago, the daughter of one of my dear friends was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She beat it with one hand tied behind her back. I thought about her mortality for about half a minute, and then decided in my head she was young and strong and she”d be fine. She was 17.
She is young. She is strong. And yes, she”s fine.
But I also realize now – all of a sudden – that she”s lucky.
Thinking about her and about the two friends fighting back disease this week, I realize that I”m lucky, too. But it also occurs to me that I”m not lucky, I”m blind.
I”ve never had my cholesterol checked. I”ve never discussed an occasional pain in my front right side with my doctor. I”ve never even considered having a mammogram. I”ve never…
I”ve never watched my friends wrestle with the notion that they have a fatal disease and I”ve never stopped to think that, unless I start watching more carefully, I could be next.
So next time I go to the doctor, I”m going to ask about that pain. I”m going to have that bloodwork done. And I”m going to pay a little bit closer attention to my body when it tells me something is wrong.
I hope you do, too.
By LPR Staff