If you have cancer, do you still have to follow the rules?



My dad said that after you turn 8o years of age, you don’t have to follow the rules anymore. I never figured out which ones, because he didn’t break any that I could tell.

A long time ago I was following an old Cadillac whose driver didn’t notice that the light ahead had turned red, and he barreled into the compact car ahead of him. The Cadillac bounced back from the crash, and then moved forward hitting the compact again, and then again. I stopped my car, put on the emergency flashers, then headed over to the Cadillac. I helped the elderly and severely inebriated driver put his transmission into park, and then went to help the woman in the compact get out of the car and off the roadway so she didn’t get hit again by someone else.

The man slowly got out of the Cadillac and then staggered around in the traffic lanes essentially oblivious to what he had done. He just kept saying “I just found out I have cancer,” over and over. He said it in a way that sounded like it excused what he had done.

I had no sympathy for him. The police showed up, I explained what I had seen, and they took over.

Clearly, drunk driving is not an appropriate response to a cancer diagnosis. Yet I have found myself, having been cut off in traffic or tailgated, or otherwise having been subject to inconsiderate conduct, mouthing words such as ‘oh come on man, give me a break, I’m going in for cancer surgery next week.’ It isn’t a Dead Man Walking situation where you get to eat anything you want the day before you are executed, but I have found myself experiencing a little sense of entitlement, like maybe that I should be able to go through the express lane at the grocery store even though I have 17 items.

So, self-pity can come easily. But you go down that path and you end up feeling worse, and like the drunk in the Cadillac, you get no sympathy.

I’ve found some things that do work.

First, I try to always keep a smile on my face when I’m around other people, and laugh easily. Last night we met a couple at dinner and when they had to leave, he looked right at me and said “Ken, every time I see you, you are always smiling – I like that!” I thought to myself, ‘if you only knew.’ But he felt better being around a happy person, and I did too. Some times I have found that even if I am not happy, if I pretend to be I will often become happy.

Second, someone recently said if you find yourself in a major crisis that could consume you, find someone who is worse off and try to help them. Focusing on other people will help you forget about yourself. I am remiss in not yet having found the venue for this, but I’ve still got about 36 hours before my cancer surgery so there is still hope.

Third, just because you have cancer doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. After all, you might die because the guy behind you in a Cadillac just got diagnosed with cancer, got drunk, and barreled into you without touching the brake. So take heart and enjoy the time you have, be it days, weeks, months or years. You never know. So get out and have some fun.

So there you have it in a nutshell: Ken’s rules to live by:

First, drunk driving – bad.

Second, making other people feel better – good.

Third, enjoy yourself while you can.

And even if you have cancer, you still have to follow these rules.

5 thoughts on “If you have cancer, do you still have to follow the rules?

  1. Love you Ken. It seems like writing is a good outlet for your thoughts and wonders. I’m cheering for you so much, little brother! ❤️❤️❤️

    Sent from my iPad



  2. You are about the best damn writer I know. Isn’t it just like you to be the deliverer of rules to live by at a time when you would be forgiven for wearing less of a smile. I know that smile, Ken. I see it now (and it shows up in your writing), and God it makes me feel good! God bless man. Please write again as soon as you are able.


  3. Your story about the couple you met at dinner last night, about being around a happy person, rang a chord. As you know, my dad learned he had brain cancer when he was 32 years old. My mom’s mother – Oma Wall – lived in the Old Folks Home down the street from us next to our church. Oma had been suffering with cancer for years. She was now in her final days. Shortly after learning of his own diagnosis, Dad visited Oma in the Home. As she lay in her bed smiling up at him, Dad wondered how she was able to smile. “If I didn’t,” she asked, “would you come to visit me?” Oma, like you, knew that people naturally gravitate to those who make them feel better. Positives attract. Negatives drive away.

    Easy to say; tough to do. Even tougher to live by. As you are now experiencing.

    I wish you great strength.




  4. Ken
    Another beautifully written post. I enjoyed it immensely, while at the same time feeling your angst over tomorrow’s surgery. Noella and I are thinking of your every moment of every day and praying that this is merely a small bump in the road. Meanwhile we are driving very carefully with our eye out for Cadillacs with drunk drivers.



  5. It sounds sensible and responsible. But don’t be too sensible and responsible. Do something daring. Something you thought was foolish and do it anyway. And smile while you’re doing it. 


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