OPINION – It’s going to be a heck of a ride.
Next weekend, about 100 of us will tear across the desert terrain just outside of Mexicali on The Baja in a fundraising effort called Racing for Boobs.
The race will benefit the local cancer center in San Felipe on The Baja and help with services – testing and treatments – for the impoverished Baja community.
The race will be run with women drivers and co-drivers piloting buggies and trucks that regularly run the off-road races on The Baja; big, mean, gnarly vehicles that can maneuver over jumps and dips and through tight corners along an unforgiving course.
The 100 friends who will be along for the ride?
As part of the fundraising effort, the Parrots Cracker Racing Team will carry the names of those who have succumbed to cancer in any of its many forms, are undergoing treatment, or who have received treatment and are still among us.
My name is on that car.
You don’t have any idea how difficult it was to write that last sentence.
My name is on that car.
You see, 6 ½ years ago, I was diagnosed and successfully treated for prostate cancer.
At the time, only a handful of people – family and friends – knew.
I didn’t want people to treat me differently, I didn’t want any pity, or, really, to talk about it. I didn’t want anybody to tiptoe around me or feel uncomfortable, wondering what to say or do. I was focused on treatments and doing what I could to heal my body, mind and spirit. I didn’t want it to change the dynamics of my life. I still don’t.
Perhaps there was also some denial, a bit of the macho thing of being 6-feet tall and bulletproof, I’m not sure. I knew I had good doctors and, most of all, I knew I had the love, support and strength of an incredible woman, Cara, who later became my wife, to get me through.
She was, and remains, the center of my world, the core of my existence.
She was my cheerleader, my nurse, my counselor, my rock. She kept me positive, focused, lifted my spirits, became my reason for hanging in there.
A powerful, driven force in the community, she gave it all up when she went as far as to quit a job she excelled at when her boss refused to give her time off for my final procedures.
To put it bluntly, there is a chance I would not be around to write these words without her.
So, when last week she walked me out to where the race car was parked and showed me my name on the front, I knew it was time, time to unpack some of the baggage I have carried around for so long and, as she said, perhaps help somebody by encouraging them to have the necessary tests that can make the difference between life and death, or to offer some sort of hope and support.
God knows that, when going through something like this, you cling to all the hope you can muster and appreciate the support that carries you through those dark moments.
Our story is not that different from anybody else’s.
At the time, I wasn’t right. I could tell. I just didn’t know what was wrong.
A trip to the doctor, some tests, and a phone call and suddenly, I was in a world that was frightening.
Fear can be overwhelming, it can devour you. I know because I felt it. But, I had to learn to let go of it as best I could and have faith in my doctors, the treatments, my wife.
Beneath it all, we really are fragile creatures with weaknesses, frailty, fears that we may not share, but are there no matter how hard we try to disguise them.
This thing we call cancer preys upon those weaknesses, frailties, and, most of all, fears, which is why, I think, we need to do even more to not only do all we can to find a cure, but to also reach out with love and support to the many who are affected by this awful disease.
As I said, we have this fundraiser going on here on The Baja. We recently had some very good-hearted, purposeful friends participate in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in St. George.
These are special days, special times when we try to raise money and expand awareness.
But, cancer doesn’t take a vacation and there are 364 other days in the year that we could do something – anything – to help others and battle it.
One area that needs more attention is men’s health.
As men, we tend to have egos that do not acknowledge the fact that something could be wrong, that something just isn’t right.
We’re too tough, too brave, too strong, too egotistical to understand that we are all susceptible to disease invading our bodies.
The fact is, it can and it does. It doesn’t make you any lesser of a man or weak or any of that other stuff that fogs our brains. It simply means you are human, a simple fact we should never forget because we are nothing but empty shells when we deny our humanity.
I read a lot about the terrific advances being made in cancer research. It melts my heart when I learn that the number of survivors is increasing and I pray that someday soon we will wipe this disease from the face of the planet. It also makes me weep at the losses so many have suffered. My heart is with you, believe me.
It would be a lie to deny the impact this has all had on my life.
As we prepared for our life together, Cara and I had discussions about how we wished to live it.
In his brilliant song, “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding),” Bob Dylan advises that “He not busy being born is busy dying.”
So, I ask forgiveness and indulgence for this one-time look over my shoulder.
I much prefer looking down the road at all that lies in front of me because, well, I am sure it will be a heck of ride.
And, I plan to enjoy every moment of it.
I invite you to ride along with me.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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