Having mentioned how a knee replacement from last December has affected my life so positively more than once, getting a couple videos from my best friend in college- Ivan Marquez– about surviving prostate cancer for ten years is a valid point to assess time and circumstances and how it affects those we love.
More than anything, my desire is to encourage communication, because that always make a difference with major illnesses. Not everyone reading this will care, but beyond understanding the medical marvel side requiring ninety pills a day and a whole lot more, there’s a very real feeling of Joy that bursts forth when you learn something that’s heroic or unexpectedly Good.
The fact I reached out another time Friday to share something I was proud of with him and got something so decisive back, that rarely happens without a small, extra effort.
I’ll shorthand things by noting my Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer and was dead in two years, and he died five years ago. How could you not think the worst was coming for your best friend?
After Dad told us (four brothers) about diagnosis, we were more than a little surprised when doctors did anything surgical. They don’t usually think that chemo and radiation improve quality of life in eighty year-olds, but in trying to implant a few radioactive pellets to kill the suspected cells, Dad was taken off Coumadin, had a stroke that night, and lost his desire to eat almost anything beyond power shakes.
That Christmas he was a bag of bones. While he survived another Christmas and died in late January from congestive heart failure—a family weakness, my Uncle Don died two days earlier in the same Tampa hospital from it—he wasn’t close to the friendly, active guy he’d always been.
My brothers all agreed that we wish he’d discussed it with us vs. just told us the prognosis. It was his being relatively healthy, and a desire not to leave Mom alone, that drove his decision to try the pellets vs. rigors of chemo-radiation. The next thing we knew, the stroke was a fact. I drove to Tampa the day after I learned Uncle Don died, I would have gladly driven down many months before that to beg Dad to reconsider the course he eventually took, but we’d all assumed there’d be another chance at that.
I’m certain I went into denial when Ivan first called about his prostate cancer, because it was a well known and vicious killer. When he called briefly last year about his survival, I asked why he hadn’t told me, when of course, he had.
While I periodically sent him notes or articles I was proud of and he responded with, “Good going, keep it on the blacktop (vs. driving into a ditch),” I always assumed he was keeping the ugly negatives from me, although he’d never really been a guy who wrote much. I called every once in a while– most recently when I vacationed in upstate NY for a week– but didn’t get responses, which reinforced that notion.
It didn’t occur that he was frequently busy with hospital (Mayo Clinic) things, just that he wasn’t responding, so it must be bad- and hopefully I’d get some notice about a funeral.
Ivan created a fine men’s volleyball program at Concordia College, then dropped the coaching when he became the Commissioner of EVIA (Eastern Volleyball Inter-Collegiate Association) because his ‘men beat boys’ recruiting style was built on getting ‘older’ stud players who flunked out on scholarships elsewhere a second chance back on campus. Although legal, he didn’t want any potential negatives to come back at the school.
I’m certain I went into denial when Ivan first called about his prostate cancer, because it was a known and terrible killer.
The video he sent—which was done by students in the Communications Dept. at Concordia, where he’s been the Athletic Director since 1995—gave me 1000% more insight to his situation, and also showed he still talked and treated others as he always had. He speaks of Concordia athletics in terms of ‘playing with the toy,’ meaning figuring out how to do something better or desirable for the program.
The point about communication is that you often HAVE to keep pushing people to share, because many don’t want to be pitied or thought of as weak. They can’t talk about the regimen without admitting it mostly sucks, which he admits in the video. Many equate not talking about it with sparing you the boring details of ugliness, and maybe that was a righteous reason for me in past, but I’m getting on the phone shortly so I can communicate how important it is to know more about my best friend’s life.
One Really Good Story: I get to take a portion of credit for Ivan’s career, because after I repeatedly beat his brains out in basketball back in the early ’80s– surviving the heat stroke waiting to happen that 90-plus degree Tampa afternoons always is– he said, “Nope, I can’t go back to Puerto Rico and play in some league if I can’t stop THIS guy’s jump shot.”
FYI- If you’ve watched college or beach volleyball, he was the thinker who determined that volleyball missed the TV spotlight championships usually draw because only service scoring (vs. every point) meant some five-set matches went forever with side-outs. He brought his alternatives to several coaching friends with clout (BYU, UCLA) and today its 25 points wins, and the 5th set is like sudden death, only to 15.
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