“My name is Jay.” The tan man smiled. I could picture what he probably looked like years ago as a surfer…before cancer got to him.
“What are you in for?” I asked. Sometimes this question doesn’t go over well—it’s how I test people. Luckily, Jay proved to be one of the good ones.
“Stage four bladder cancer. You?”
“Stage four melanoma.” This show-and-tell session made the waiting room actually fun!
“You look pretty good for having cancer,” he said.
“So do you! What can we say,” I grinned, “we’re awesome!”
He chuckled then started talking about his tumors, referring to them as “these guys,” and I instantly knew I liked Jay. “Look at this rash and all these scabs I keep getting! It’s crazy what we go through to keep on livin’. And the whole time ‘these guys’ just keep eating away at my body. I’ve been fighting this dang thing for 8 years—“
“Seriously?! I can’t imagine 8 years. I’ve been dealing with mine for a year, and I’m already tired!”
“You’re so strong though,” he said. “I can see it! And you’re positive. You have exactly what you need to get through this!” Then he told me about all of the drugs and trials he’s been on. “It’s amazing I’m still here. They told me I was gonna die when they first diagnosed me. So don’t lose hope, kid.”
“What are you fighting so hard for? What’s your reason?” I asked.
“I want to see my granddaughter grow up.”
I nodded. “I want to see my kids grow up too.” We stayed quiet for a moment. “You know…” I sighed, “I had the strangest dream that I bargained with death. I always wanted five more years, and then—just five more years. Until it had been decades and my body was sick beyond repair.”
“Ain’t that the truth. Your dream was right; w always want more.”
A nurse came around the corner and said it was almost time to go back.
“Wait,” Jay said, “I need to tell you something important!”
“Okay?” I responded.
“I thought I beat this thing.” His eyes pleaded with me as the words left his mouth. “I had three good years when I knew I should travel and do all the things I’d always wanted. But I put it off, and now the cancer is back. I worry I’m getting really close to the end.”
I wanted to hug him, tell him he could still take those trips. But his elbows were far too bony, and his legs looked frail beyond comprehension. Maybe after 8 years of fighting…his fight is almost over.
“I’m just saying if you ever feel up to it, do those things! Take those trips! Don’t let anyone hold you back. Don’t have those regrets…like I do. When you feel good, just live.”
After that I went back to an hour-long MRI, and the whole time I thought about the spunky man I’d met in the waiting room. I sure hope I’ll see him again.