July 1, 2012

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With one glance, it was clear that something was wrong. I should not be peeing blood. Then again, I’d had jujitsu class the night before. I had worked hard with my 6' 5" and 280-pound training partner, Big Dave. Possibly this was just the aftermath.

My doctor sent me for a CT scan and I went home to wait on the results. I was alone when he called. Sitting in my home office in January of last year. The news wasn’t good. It looked like I had a large tumor on my left kidney. More tests would be required. Those tests would find another issue. Tumors on my thyroid.

During the first couple weeks, when the testing was underway, I kept the issue to myself. I didn’t know specifically what was wrong or what my prognosis was. I spent my time scrambling to organize myself for the worst case scenario. I visited my financial planner to ensure matters were in order. I furiously worked to clean out my desk, closets and garage. I dug tunnels through the blizzard’s snow banks to allow for drainage in the Spring. I created a document with all my account and password information. I was preparing for those I might be leaving behind.

I then prepared myself of the prospect of dying. Was my life going to be over soon? Grasping the reality of own mortality, I even wondered who would be at my funeral. Family and friends for sure. My acquaintances from 20 years of soccer coaching. My jujitsu training partners. My workmates from the past 30 years. Even a few friends from as far back as elementary school. There would be plenty of folks to help console my family. This was reassuring.

I asked myself whether I’d lived a full and decent life? I thought so and could rest easy in that regard. I’d been adventurous and most often kind-hearted. I could feel comfortable that I’d lived a worthy life.

I found that one thing troubled me most. This was the prospect of what I would miss in the years ahead. I was already fearing this and even found myself napping on the floor beside my daughter’s desk as she did her homework.

A couple days before I spoke with my family about my illness, my wife, daughter, sister and mother went off for a shopping day. They enjoyed these treks down to Clinton to wander through the outlets in each other’s company. While they were away, I spent more time frantically organizing. As they were returning that evening, they called and asked that I meet them for dinner at a local restaurant.

When I arrived, I found the four of them sitting at a table by a fireplace. They were in great spirits. They laughed and smiled at each other’s stories. Surrounded by her mentors, my daughter looked radiant that evening. The conversation soon turned to beginning high school in the Fall and learning to drive soon thereafter.

My daughter said, “Dad, you’re going to have to teach me to drive. Mom has NO patience.”

Across the table, I smiled and nodded as my heart ached and I fought back tears. Would I be there for her? To teach her to drive and so much more?

Last February, I had my left kidney removed. Earlier this year, I had my thyroid removed. For awhile, I was worse for wear, but I’ve rallied over the past few months. I’m back at jujitsu class and cheering on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer game. My daughter and I recently went parasailing and jet-skied in the Gulf of Mexico and we ran a five-mile race together on Thanksgiving.

We’ve shared similar experiences in the past but, these days, I cherish and savor it all just a bit more.

The other evening, I was wheeling the garbage bin up the driveway while gazing up at the star-filled sky. As I reached the garage, my daughter arrived home from soccer practice.

As she jumped out of the car, greeted me with a smile and said:

‘Hi, Daddy.’

I’m glad that I didn’t miss that.

These days I’m not afraid of dying. I’m only afraid of not savoring every moment that I’m graced with.

Former blogger, current CrossFit gym owner. Former paratrooper, marathoner, youth sports coach and jujitsu black belt. Hoping to retire soon to write full-time.

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