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Lions Roar : May 2014
it BeGins with a phone call from the doctor, and it is, as I’ve often and unwillingly imagined: “I’ve got bad news.” There is a silent, airless implosion. I force myself to breathe, pull myself together, and ask whatever I can manage. The call ends and I feel like the world is pulling away, and I am being left behind. I put down the phone and make some notes about the disease, the treatments, the calls I’ll need to make, then I burst into tears. Outside the window, there’s a bright sunset and dark pine- covered mountains. There’s a cool evening breeze. How to tell my wife, my son, my family, my friends? I imagine how they are leading their lives assuming everything is going on as before. It’s inconceivable that so much love, so much intensity, can just end. But a door has just closed. Everything in the world will vanish, and I will vanish. Though it may not be immediate, it’s now real. An innocuous little bump on my forehead has been diagnosed as nodular melanoma, and mortality is no longer abstract. It’s strange that I feel so well. There is, suddenly, an almost painful intensity to everything. I think of how Trungpa Rinpoche used the phrase “genuine mind of sadness” to point to an essential part of our lives. Sorrow and the love of being alive are inextricable. The next days are taken up with trying to understand this form of cancer—its development, treatments, prognosis. My wife, Debbie, and I, always close, grow closer as we face a newly photoByfstop/wildcardiMaGes,u.K. tenuous future. I tell my son and my good friends. Without being overly pessimistic or optimistic, I try to put them at ease. I try to continue with my normal activities, which now seem frail and contrived. More tests are scheduled and visits to surgeons and oncologists set up. I think back to years ago when an acquaintance, Carlo, was dying of liver cancer. He wanted to go out with some guys, but not ones he’d been so very close to. It’s for You Sometimes after a phone call, nothing is ever the same. But if you let it, says DouglaS penick, the bad news can come to feel a little like falling in love.