Wednesday, May 1

Killing Me Softly: Cancer

Richard R. Becker, self portrait
I have said it in a dozen different ways before, but I have never said it more plainly. The quantity of time we have is not as important as the quality. Write it down somewhere and tape it to your computer.

We always want for more of it. We rarely use it wisely. And most of us sell it for far too cheap.

For the last few months, I haven't been writing in this space as much. It was a decision I made back in February before I knew it in my head even if I already knew it in my heart. The incidental finding on a CT scan wasn't just a spot on my kidney. It was a mass. It was malignant. And I'm grateful, not regretful.

The remedy is straightforward. I start pre-op tomorrow and the surgery is on Friday. It won't be fun, but I'll find some fun in it anyway. The survival rate for radical nephrectomy is especially good. In terms of cancer, they say, it's the absolute best one to get. It's almost like hitting a jackpot. What does that mean?

There won't be any chemotherapy or radiation. The whole of it rides on one operation, and then a lifelong commitment to a different (but not debilitating) lifestyle with semi-regular followups, blood work, and scans to make sure there isn't any more of it lurking around somewhere. So seize the day.

The past 90 days have been fun. Thanks for sticking around. 

I really give a lot of credit to people like Leslie Lehrman and her daughter Jennifer Windrum. They saw cancer as a catalyst for something bigger. It takes real courage to do something like that. And I've met a lot of people who see it as a calling of sorts. We need more people like them. Cancer needs a cure.

I took a different path, more along the lines of Hazel Grace Lancaster in The Fault In Our Stars after her transformation. I lived a little more, only alluding to or mentioning surgery as necessary. It was the only way I could work, live, and play without it overtaking my life. I even pushed the surgery out enough so my family could keep our vacation, my students could keep their instructor, and clients and service commitments might have a few more hours of time. My wife hated the idea, but it's who I am.

I quit smoking (before the prognosis, ironically), worked out more, finished some home improvement projects, baked some desserts, made new friends, reached out to old ones, discovered some inspired talents, worked with amazing people across several dozen companies and nonprofits, pressed forward with plans to start a new agency with three other partners, promoted other people's causes and efforts, funded some ideas via Kickstarter, supported education by donating to schools, re-discovered some latent artistic talent, made a sketch at The Getty, stood by as my son received another star for his black belt, saw my daughter baptized because she wanted to be, and wrote fiction for the first time in years. As the log ride caption read on Instagram: This is life, baby.

Sure, there were a few disappointments too. My doctors wouldn't clear me for the Spartan Race so close to surgery. One promising prospect green lighted and then retracted a proposal because someone sold them snake oil, wasting several days of precious time. And occasionally, despite my best intent, the gravity of the circumstances sometimes made me too impatient for those closest to me. I'm sorry.

The next 90 days will be even better. Expect to see changes sometime soon. 

If those last 90 days had taught me anything, it was how working on the wrong accounts truly dragged me down last year. I wasn't always happy with some of the work, even if I was good at it nonetheless.

I had learned the lesson before, but obviously needed to learn it again. There won't be a next time. Beginning with my recovery, expect to see some changes in this space. Time is just to too short to be stuck in one niche for too long.

I really wish I could tell you some specifics, but none of the paragraphs felt right so I took them all  down. Let's save it all for a post-surgery conversation. And if we never have the chance to have one? Then the best way to think about everything is to reflect on a comment I wrote for a friend of mine.

When bad things happen, there is very little you can do except find solace in the storm. And in finding it, hold those close to you a little tighter, even if it is just for a little while. The importance of such things are not measured in minutes but by magnitude. Good night and good luck. It has been my pleasure.
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