Destination Life: My Cancer Road Trip
I interrupt my beautiful life of hiking and traveling to broadcast this news: I have cancer.
I wish I could tell you about the latest hiking trail I found.
I wish I could tell you about the latest country I explored.
I’ll get back to that, I promise.
But first, I need to tell you about a trail to hell I walked, to a country called Cancer, and I almost didn’t come back.
But I did.
Here’s my story.
I’m not going to lie—cancer is hell. At least it starts that way. But it doesn’t have to end that way.
To many people, the word “cancer” equals “death,” but that is changing daily, even for someone unlucky enough to get a diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer, as yours truly did.
Here’s another hard fact: cancer is like a lottery; some will win, some will lose. You can play your best numbers and still come up short. You can buy many tickets and the guy who only bought one will take the whole jackpot.
Cancer doesn’t care how much money you have or how big of a celebrity you are, or how young or pretty or good-looking you are. If it wants you, it will get you. Some will be spared, even with a devastating prognosis.
You’ve probably already figured out that I don’t sugarcoat things. You’d be right about that. If you want someone to say that cancer is great and you have nothing to worry about, better read someone else’s story. Which is not to say that I’m going to keep slamming you over the head with negativity. There’s a difference between honesty and negativity. I’m here to be honest, through the good, the bad, and the ugly. And before you even have to ask, I’m going to tell you that yes, there have been some good things about having cancer. I’ve heard other survivors say so, and I didn’t know what they could possibly be talking about. Now, I know.
Cancer makes you aware of all the nonsense in the world. So many times in my journey I’ve said to friends or family, or sometimes individuals I don’t even know, “If that’s your biggest problem, you’re doing pretty good,” when they’ve shared a complaint. Which is not to minimize someone else’s feelings. (This, you’ll find out, is one of my big no-nos.) It’s simply to illustrate that we lose sleep, lose relationships, and lose our minds over events that pale in comparison to what someone else might be dealing with. Like cancer.
I had a great life before cancer. I’m having a great life as a cancer survivor. In between? Ehh, that was the hard part! The first part of this book is my personal story.
In part two, I’ll give you some pointers as to how you can better your chances of winning the “cancer lottery.” Although we don’t have total control over our chances of bringing the giant down, there are many things we can do to improve the likelihood that we will survive and thrive and kick cancer to the curb. I’m not a medical professional, and won’t claim to be one anywhere in these pages, but I do have the lantern glow of experience, not to mention survival, on my side.
What about that word “survivor?” Listen, if you live a single day with this shit, you are one! Every day that you’re better than the beast, you’re a survivor! And there really is nothing quite like it. Be proud, because not everyone can wear this badge of honor and courage.
Before cancer, I ran around the country and the world for thirty-five years, visiting more than forty countries, fifty states, national parks in too many countries to count, pounding thousands of miles of hiking trails and pavement. But in all those years, I don’t think I learned as much as I did dealing with cancer for a year, and all the running around and pavement pounding I had to do to save my own life. I never wanted to know any of this. But I know it now, and I feel I must share it.
Here’s the reason why.
It’s pretty hard to win the World Series. Or the Super Bowl. Or the Stanley Cup. But there’s no bigger fight than the fight for your life. You need all the help you can get. If I can help just one person in their fight, I’ve done my job. If I can help more than one, even better.
Here’s how I won.