The story of the arrogant !&$& diagnosed with cancer
Twenty one years ago Dr. Morley Barsky told me I had cancer. Today he is dead and I am not. Yes, I made it. I hate to disclose this major spoiler so early, but if you didn’t figure out I made it by seeing my name on the cover, you are probably not bright enough to read the rest of the book anyway. If you are disappointed, close it up and move on.
You’re still here. I guess you want to know. I certainly understand. The story is absolutely fascinating . . . to me. I have to admit, it is mildly interesting to members of my family. You can tell me how you feel when you are done. You see, Barsky’s words put me and everyone I loved on a roller coaster ride that wouldn’t stop for years.
There was a time Barsky’s death would have made me happy. It doesn’t anymore. When he looked me in the eye and told me I had cancer I hated him. Like a baby bird imprinting the first living thing it sees, my hate saw Barsky. I can rationalize and say his obvious perspective of me as a semi diseased meat capsule for medical insurance payment drove the hate, but it was really just a lack of any other target in the room.
It was not a jump right to a Kubler Ross second stage. The Kubler Ross progression of 5 stages of grief ends in acceptance and I never accepted anything in my life I was just angry with him. I did not know what else to feel. Anger filled the void of not knowing how to feel. Sure, I saw Brian’s Song and Love Story and they knew exactly how they were supposed to feel when they were first diagnosed with cancer. The patient was supposed to be strong, resolute and heroic. Everyone around them was supposed to be sad and cry a lot. But like Diana in every performance of A Chorus Line, I felt nothing. Do not be confused, or make assumptions. I do not mean numb. I mean nothing.
I didn’t know I should really hate the disease.
I drove to the appointment with the top down on my silver Alfa Romeo Spider and Joe Jackson blasting on the radio. It was the last week of December, but in San Diego, the sky was clear and blue and the sun shone brightly. I was singing along with the music thinking about what I was going to do after the appointment. My first semester of Law School had just ended and I had absolutely nothing to worry about and no obligations. The appointment was a nothing visit. At twenty-two I was holding on to the tail end of youthful immortality and I was only going because my overly concerned Jewish mother was making me. Anyone who has tried to avoid Jewish mother guilt – or catholic, Italian, Chinese or any mother’s best shot – knows to pursue a learned helpless model rather than fight. She told me to go, so I went.
I went into the waiting room, checked in with nurse and she told me to take a seat. Sure, why should the doctor be ready just because I had an appointment? I sat down and thought about Sari. She was all I could think about.
I will always remember the day she first walked into my life. Two years earlier, sitting at a Monday night dinner in my fraternity, the most beautiful girl I ever saw walked in the door. She came to the house to pass out invitations to a party thrown by her boyfriend’s fraternity. The sailors theme required her to wear a very tight, very short nautically themed outfit, to which I had no objection.