Thursday, April 3, 2014

When I Go, You Won't Be The First To Know

Speculations on my impending doom are greatly exaggerated.

I may be to blame for that.

I know, I'm a pretty public person. I blog and tweet a lot about what goes on in my life. My wife will sometimes cringe when she reads one of my posts or when she talks to somebody—a close friend or a relative—to find that person knows a lot about what is going on with us, or me. And she rolls her eyes.

But trust me, I don't share every aspect of my life. There is a lot that goes on when I'm not on a screen, when I'm busy actually living my life, instead of reporting on it. Some things are private, and will stay that way.

When it comes to my health, if there's some earth-shattering news, if I get seriously sick or, worse, learn that a condition is terminal, I will eventually make it public. But first, I will share it, privately, with close friends and loved ones.

Recently, some of you have contacted me to see if I'm okay. You have told me that you are concerned for my well being. And I love you for that.

I'm fine, thanks.

Last week, on Twitter, I tweeted three words: "Fuck. You. Cancer." I then went quiet.

Many people sent me direct messages, asking if everything was okay with me. I was fine.

The reason for that tweet came after a sad discovery: a former colleague of mine had passed away. We worked closely together for a company that neither of us liked. We liked some of the people in the office, but didn't like many others, didn't like the management, didn't like the office politics. We often chatted about how we would like to find a better job and move on: eventually, both of us did exactly that.

But we still kept in touch.

She was the first person to follow me on Twitter. We were also connected through LinkedIn and followed each other's blogs. Though we now lived on opposite sides of the country, we had maintained a good friendship.

When I learned that she had become ill, I followed her experiences in fighting the illness through her blog. We chatted on Twitter, and I passed on as much positive energy that I could. But at a point, when her stomach cancer got worse, she said that she was going to quit social media for a while so that she could focus on the treatment and get better. Eventually, we lost touch.

Apparently, we lost touch for about two years. When I thought of her, I looked her up, but heard nothing through any of our channels of communication. Not a peep. I feared the worst, so I summoned up the courage and looked up the obituaries for her area.

I found her. She passed away shortly after we last chatted, in 2012. Her cancer got the better of her. She was gone at 33.

Fuck. You. Cancer.

A couple of weeks earlier, my family said goodbye to an uncle, who lost his battle with cancer.

It made my wife worry about my health, and we discussed the results of the last physical exam I had, where my doctor raised a minor concern over the state of my prostate exam. It was nothing serious, but he wanted me to have more tests done.

I forgot about those tests, until my wife brought them up after my uncle's funeral.

Yesterday, I returned to my doctor to order those tests. As he filled out the requisite forms, he asked, what about my cholesterol medication.

I've been off those meds for more than a year.

"Prostate cancer isn't going to kill you," he said. "Your heart attack will. I guarantee it. You're going to die at the same age as your father." My dad was 62 when he died.

When I arrived at work, I tweeted: "Started my day by listening to my doctor tell me how & when I'm going to die. How's your day so far?"

Of course, some of you contacted me. Some of you put those separate tweets together.

I love you guys.

If I find out I have an incurable illness, I won't tell people through Twitter. Or, at least, I won't make it known through social media until the people who are closest to me know.

You know who you are.

Because I do share a lot of my life through social media, especially through this blog, I will eventually make such news public. I have even written a farewell blog post, in the event that I go before I plan to hang up my blog. My wife has instructions on how to post it, so I'll be able to say goodbye after the fact.

Grim? Probably. A bad idea? I don't think so. I'm hoping that that day will be a long, long way off. And again, my close family and friends will already know. I think, as a writer, I would like to get my last words out. I will update that last post as time goes on, as, hopefully, my words show more wisdom.

But when I go, it won't be social media outlets that hear it first. You won't be the first to know.

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