Thursday, March 29, 2007
There comes a time in the life of every person where they come face to face with their own fragile humanity. Nobody enjoys dealing with the fact that, despite the best efforts of modern science and medicine, our society will always require the services of a grave digger.
Most of us receive difficult medical diagnoses in the company of close friends, family, and doctors who (we hope at least) have our best interests at heart. Treatment plans and similar arrangements are discussed far from the glare of the public spotlight – a fact for which most of us are very grateful.
Such is not the case for public figures such as Elizabeth Edwards (wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards) and W’s Head Spear Catcher, Press Secretary Tony Snow. Both of them have had to deal with the return of cancer – a crucible through which both of them had already passed once before.
My regular readers will already know I don’t hold John Edwards in very high esteem. That said, when the public persona is lifted, he is what I am – a husband and father. Elizabeth is his wife of over three decades – the mother of his children. That side of him I understand and I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel something for a man who – somewhere deep inside himself – knows his time with his sweetheart will be shorter than either of them would like. John, may her days be such that there is time for more joy than sorrow.
My heart goes out to Tony Snow in much the same manner. He is a devoted husband and father – titles he cherishes far more than any title or honor he will ever receive. I’m sure in the back of his mind he knew recurrence was a possibility – just not one he ever wanted to deal with. Tony knows what its like to be sick. His attitude is truly one to be emulated.
Receiving a difficult medical diagnosis is a lot like getting “clotheslined” on a football field. You’re running down the field, intent on finding the ball carrier and separating him from his shoulder pads when suddenly you are blindsided by an opposing blocker. Your momentum stops, you see the tops of your shoes in front of you and suddenly you’re on your back on the grass looking up at the bright lights and wondering why you can’t breath so well. (That’s what people tell me anyway. I, of course, never ever got clotheslined. That’s my story and I’m sticking too it.)
Being blindsided by a serious medical problem is a little harder than that. Medical blindsiding usually involves waking up on a very uncomfortable ICU bed to find yourself hooked up to an IV, blood pressure cuff, heart monitor, and one of the medical professions most heinous torture devices ever invented, the foley.
If you don’t know what a foley is, trust me, you really, really, really don’t want to know.
It is in these moments you really have to ask yourself the question posed by the theme song to John Wayne’s 1970 movie Chisum – “Can You Still Keep Movin’ On?” On the playing field, as in life, you really have but two choices to consider. One is to lie there on the field and feel sorry for yourself. In so doing you run the risk of being trampled by a bunch of sweaty guys with spandex pants and bad attitudes. The other choice is to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and stagger back to the huddle to prepare for the next play. The next play comes at you whether you’re ready for it or not.
Both Elizabeth Edwards and Tony Snow have elected to pick themselves up and continue with their lives despite dealing with difficult medical diagnoses. For that effort they are to be commended. Their private battles will be party waged on a very public stage. As someone who has received my own difficult diagnosis – which I won’t go into here – I take strength from their example of courage.
Life, dear reader, is not fair. Any one who tells you different, to quote the Dread Pirate Wesley, is selling something. Life rolls along and my experience has taught me that rolling with it is much better than kicking against it.
Here endeth the lesson.