Change. Bums love it, traditionalists hate it, and all experience it. Sometimes, things change in an instant, like an accident; a car drove through a red light at a busy intersection. Other times change is gradual, like the shifting of the seasons, or like two rivers that have run their course together, but now must split and find their own ways to the ocean.
The past few weeks the notion of change has been on my mind. I am a person who I thought wanted change. I’ve longed and desired for changed. I’ve attempted for change. I constantly think to myself that I’d be happier if I worked somewhere else, if I lived somewhere else, if I dated someone else or did this or that differently. But as of recent, I’ve come to realize that maybe I’ve been wrong, maybe I’ve been looking at it all wrong. Maybe being settled and comfortable is where it’s at, because then you can take the time to breathe deeply and indulge in and enjoy your every day life, because before you know it, the reflection looking back at you will be that of someone with seven decades under their belt…if you even live that long.
I was one time told by an older woman with mystical beliefs to watch what words I say, because the universe listens. The context in which she said that to me is kind of funny because I remember I was complaining about menstrual cramps and said I was going to die from the pain, and that was her reply. It was silly, but I remember the moment crystal clear, because her words struck me. They crucified me. I knew then and there she was right, and I’ve tried to maintain that belief ever since. Watch what I say. Be careful what I wish. But sometimes I let my mind get the best of me, I let the negative light shine brighter than the positive, I have a lot of trouble visualizing the big picture.
I was supposed to be in Colorado this week. Well, actually, technically I’m probably “supposed” to be wherever it is I am right now, which is NOT in Colorado. I’m in Jersey. The place I can’t seem to get enough of. Back in mid-March I booked a flight to Denver, reserved a rental car and planned to enjoy a five day leisure stay in the state, visiting several different friends, exploring, and coming up with a plan to relocate.
But plans changed. Situations changed. Priorities changed.
I’d say this change was one of those instant changes, because I received news one March afternoon, less than two weeks after I booked my trip, that I really never expected to hear. Testicular cancer. In my little brother. Nineteen years old.
Scientifically speaking, the change was gradual. I know tumors don’t grow overnight, they develop with time. Your cells develop them because they think maybe you and a tumor would like to hang out, maybe throw a little party down there in your testicle where it’s so hot and tropical, except you don’t know its there and all that partying that tumor’s doing is actually polluting your host location. Tumors; what an ultimate silent party foul.
However, part of the change was instant. A single diagnosis transforms multiple lives. The day he was diagnosed will forever remain in my memory. It was March 22, 2010, one day before my 26th birthday. It was the day the United States Senate passed President Obama’s healthcare bill and it was ironically the day I had a pre-scheduled appointment to use my own health insurance plan that I pay for out-of-pocket to have a PAP smear to check for cancer of the lady organs. Call me a liberal, a democrat, a socialist, or hell, a HUMANITARIAN, but I think it’s pretty fucking coincidental all those “healthcare” things happened on the same day for me. I went three years without health insurance. I might not know much about taxes or government spending, but I’ve been around enough blocks to know that everyday people like me and my brother and you and your brother and that guy and his sister need mother fucking healthcare. But I won’t get into that right now, and thankfully, my brother has insurance.
He was home on his spring break from his freshmen year at an out-of-state university when severe pain down below sent him to the emergency room late one Sunday night. A quick examination instructed him to see a specialist the following day. Less than 24 hours after going to the hospital, my little brother was told the one word I can only assume he didn’t want to hear. After all, nobody likes the C word. Right here, by the C word I mean Cancer, though I realize it can also mean Change. Cancer and Change seem to go hand in hand. In fact, I bet Change would have liked to been at the party down there in the ball sack, but nobody ever invites Change to the party. Change is just hired for the clean-up.
Me, I lost some change to priceline.com when I canceled my trip to Colorado, but I’d put all that change (plus some) in a CoinStar machine if I could trade it for the change my brother is experiencing. Change. One week he was a college student, living in the dorm, eating in the cafeteria, studying for exams, partying with friends…the next he was a cancer patient. He was able to have the first step of treatment done during his spring break, and he planned to go back to school after a week’s rest, but unfortunately test results from the first procedure had other plans for my little brother.
Change. One week you remember those rubber yellow Lance Armstrong “live strong” bracelets as fashionable and maybe even slightly encouraging in the everyday life, the next week those bracelets are handed to you by a doctor in the cancer center that just worked on your family member, and it has suddenly become your lifeline. Your hospital bracelet. Your way to show the world that you wish you could help fight this fight.
On Monday, April 19, 2010, the same day I was supposed to fly out to Colorado, my brother underwent a second procedure to treat the strain of testicular cancer they call “embryonic carcinoma.” It was a pretty major surgery at a very well-known and reputable cancer hospital in New York City. He is still in the hospital, with an IV of morphine to ease the severe pain caused from the incision down his abdomen (that is stapled together). They had to remove lymph nodes from behind his stomach. We are still waiting for further test results. His toned and athletic torso will forever have a pretty gnarly scar, but that’s just looking at the outside. It’s what’s inside that counts.
Change. My brother had to take a medical withdrawal from school this semester. My dad’s hair is greyer than ever before. My mother has discovered a new relationship with Xanax.
And me? I keep replaying this one Disco Biscuit’s song called “Home Again” because I really like the lyric, “Never had a home like this, and the prophet said be careful what you wish…”
My life is not that bad. My job is not that bad. My situation is not that bad. I am lucky. I am fortunate. I am grateful.
I know that in the end, my brother will be OK. He will recuperate, he will survive and he will prevail.
Change. When the kid you taught the alphabet to and used to beat the shit out of suddenly becomes your hero.