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Chasing The American Dream

August 16, 2007


During the past three years, I’ve certainly done my fair share of bitching and moaning about life. I personally believe I haven’t had an easy go of it. Life’s been a struggle for me. An unsolved riddle perhaps. This blog has given me an outlet to free my burdened mind of such struggles. It started out as therapy for me, and I sorely needed it. Nowadays, I bitch about the most inconsequential things. Traffic tickets, express lines, bad service, what-have-you. Sometimes, it takes an event in another person’s life to put your own into perspective.

I’m sure most everyone would agree that as we get older, one of the hardest things we have to come to grips with is the loss of a loved one. Grandparents, parents, and even pets. I’ve had to deal with each of those on multiple occasions. Although extremely difficult to accept when it happens, logically, it makes sense that older people and pets are susceptible to a myriad of life-threatening illnesses that eventually they are unable to overcome. Like I said, it doesn’t make it any easier or make you feel any better when you initially hear about such an illness or the death itself. “He or she lived a good life,” you often hear. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve never lost anyone unexpectedly to an act of god, terrorism, or a natural disaster. These days a lot can be said for that. And I’ve never had to deal with the shock of learning that a close friend has either died or gotten very sick long before they should have. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

I met my friend Dave in college at the University of Florida. He’s the smartest person I’ve ever met. We eventually roomed together after graduation. Although my memory is blurred, I think we lived in that apartment for at least four years. We eventually moved on with our lives. We both got married and both had a child shortly before I left town in 1996. As unbelievable as this sounds, we hadn’t spoken to each other since. A mutual friend of ours has kept each of us informed on the other’s life for the past 11 years. It was this mutual friend who informed me recently that my good friend was very sick. He has multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the plasma cells of the bone marrow. He’s only 48. The news of reading that email literally sent shockwaves through my system.

The treatments are horrific. Chemo, steroids, stem cell transplants, meds upon meds. The side effects wicked. He even suffered a heart attack. Can you imagine trying to deal with all that? And how about the fact that he’s married and has three kids? Again, I can’t imagine all that burden. I decided to meet him in our old college town of Gainesville, Florida. The hospitals and doctors there are some of the best in the country. I must admit that my expectations were low. I mean, what kind of shape, mentally or physically, can any individual be in after going through and dealing with this on a daily basis?

I met Dave at his hotel around 2 o’clock just after he finished another round of hospital treatments, tests, etc. He looked remarkably well; I was really surprised. He lay on his bed, and I pulled up a chair and we talked and caught up on the last 11 years. He told me how he found out about the illness. I watched him closely and listened intently. His mind was as sharp as ever. He quoted me percentages, recalling specific numbers and intricate details. But what really floored me was his frame of mind and attitude. Again. Remarkable. How does one react to basically a death sentence where your doctor says you have on average 5-6 years to live? And how the odds were about 3 or 4 among 100,000 that you contract this disease? I sensed no ‘why me’ at all. He was so positive about the whole situation. You know what he said to me? “It could be worse.” He told me about the older people and the kids who he saw who had to deal with the same thing and how much harder it was for them. He told me about the positives. Being able to spend time with his kids and family, going on field trips, doing things he wants to do. Heck, he still is thinking about going back to work!

After hearing all that, my issues seemed to pale in comparison. Divorce, depression, dating woes. Heck, that was nothing. Still, he sympathized and even questioned whether he could have made it through all that. He even said to me I was his hero for even trying the whole restaurant business thing. I’m his hero? Huh, I think it’s the other way around.

We reminisced about the fun times we had as roommates. How simple life was as single guys without worries. Sports, TV, movies, trivia, good restaurants, playing basketball. And with that came a lot of good laughs. It felt good. All of it. We talked for seven hours. It went by so fast. I was and am so proud of him. I’ll no doubt visit him again and do whatever, if anything, I can do to make his life happier. Although I don’t even think he needs it. And that folks is indeed, truly remarkable.

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  • I'm glad your visit went well. Remarkable person - Dave.

    By Anonymous demure southern gal, at 12:30 AM, August 17, 2007  

  • I really appreciate what you're saying here and in (almost) every post over the past few days randomly clicking around your blog. I've been sort of wallowing in the "how the hell am I 39 and still single despite the fact I'm awesome" woes. And when I get like that, stories like this remind me how full and trouble-free my life is. I just finished "Straight up and Dirty" - I loved the book and seriously related to it. As I continue to follow her story, I realize how incredibly insignificant my "problems" are. And what your friend Dave and his family are dealing with is heart wrenching. Sometimes I think my life is so tough and unfair...it's not.

    You rock by the way and you have excellent taste in music. Have a wonderful weekend.

    By Anonymous Joni, at 11:16 AM, August 17, 2007  

  • Joni, thanks for the kind words. Stephanie's book was great and I too related much to her mental state.

    By Blogger Plantation, at 9:00 PM, August 17, 2007  

  • Inspiring story, inspiring friend.

    Maybe you should keep a pic of him somewhere where you can see it often and remind you not to sweat the small stuff.

    By Blogger catsteevens, at 11:36 PM, August 17, 2007  

  • This is strange, but I came across your blog by accident, read it and loved and would like to talk more - I live so close too..email me at concierg@bellsouth.net....Kim

    By Blogger Ragtopgirl, at 4:33 PM, August 18, 2007  

  • Aw, that sounds like a total lifetrip. How great that you were able to connect with him. I'm sure it meant the world to him.

    By Blogger California Girl, at 5:47 PM, August 20, 2007  

  • Just stopped by to "catch up". Sorry to hear about your dog and your friend.

    By Blogger Eatapeach, at 1:23 PM, August 21, 2007  

  • Hi Tobey,
    Thank you for the blog entry about your visit with Dave. He enjoyed your visit immensely. He has faced cancer with tremendous courage and dignity. He's definitely MY hero. Everyday I give thanks for another day to be his wife and to walk this journey with him, difficult as it is.
    Keep in touch,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:53 PM, August 25, 2007  

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