I wake up to the taste of blood in my mouth... again. After lung surgery, waking up is usually the worst part of the day. You've gone 5-6 hours without painkillers, the warm glow brought to you by the good folks at Pfizer has been replaced by the harsh brightness of the sun streaking through your curtains and the dull ache in your ribs. To no avail you constantly adjust trying to find a comfortable position. And even though the sun is 93 million miles away, it somehow manages to finagle its way into my eyes at the most inopportune of times. After lung surgery, you hack up blood for a week or so. It sounds cool and dramatic, but mostly it's just gross. Whenever you find yourself with a mouth full of blood, you're faced with a tough decision. Do I spit out the bloody, mucousy mess that's marinating in my saliva right now, or do I go into full denial mode, swallow it, and pretend it's not there -- pretend this coppery cocktail of cancer collateral wasn't in my mouth?
But the truth is, if you have a mouthful of blood, you're usually in a fight of some sort, and you usually have bigger problems to deal with. So what do I do? I spit it out. I like to remind myself of the harsh reality that I find myself in. I like to find myself face-to-face with the situation I'm in. I spit it out for the same reason I keep my expired license from when I was bald and on chemo. No matter how good I look (and I look terrific, ladies), no matter how good I feel, and no matter how much fun I have, I'm still going through some shit. The reason you don't hear of many other people who have had cancer seven times is because they all die before they get to seven times. Now, I won't claim that I have fought any harder or that my mentality somehow helped me survive longer; but everyday that I wake up and spit blood is one more than many, many people I know who have fought courageously until their dying breath. To not appreciate the wonderful opportunity that every day is, is disrespectful to each and every person who was taken too soon.
There's a scene in the show Breaking Bad where the main character is reminiscing about his cancer. He says "When I was first diagnosed I said to myself, "Why me?" And then when I got good news, I said the same thing." People often tell me that everything happens for a reason. That's bullshit, I've seen far too many bubbly eight-year-old kids, too many loving mothers, and too many immature teenagers all die to think that there is some justification for this. Cells don't start uncontrollably reproducing so that your local news can put on a heartwarming segment about someone with cancer every week and half.
After sports we'll meet a tremendous young man who won't let cancer hold him back from his dream.
At 10 we'll hear the remarkable story of one young woman's battle with leukemia...
I'm a firm believer that things happen, and then you give them a reason. So every time I spit blood it reminds me to give today a reason, every time I learn of another friend passing it reminds me to give today a reason. Because I am here, and that simple fact becomes less and less likely after every lung surgery and every relapse I have.
Embrace the suck. Give today a reason while you still can.
Check out Woody's website at woodyroseland.com.