First, let me apologize in advance for a very long post. I can be a little verbose at times. I'm trying to wrap my mind around some stuff and it is weighing pretty heavily on my mind. I am hoping to get some advice/words of wisdom from some guys that have had to deal with exactly what I'm dealing with – or something similar. Since part of my plans include a bicycle tour, I figure this is a pretty good place to post.
It has been a while since I posted in the bike forums. I had been commuting forty miles per day, but I got my car fixed and got lazy. I haven't ridden my bike a half a dozen times in the last couple of months.
I went to the doctor's office a couple of weeks ago. She scheduled me for a colonoscopy (Thursday next week) because of symptoms I have. I'm worried that I might have colon cancer. My mom passed at 54 because of cancer, my uncle at 45. I am 48.
You can see why I am nervous. I am hoping and planning for the best, because the worst is unthinkable – at least for now.
I have been reflecting the last couple of weeks. I guess that's pretty common for a man in my position. I have some regrets. I suppose we all do. There are things I wish I had done, and some things I wish I hadn't. Through it all I tried to be a good husband, father and friend. I failed at times, but it wasn't because of maliciousness. I have done better than some and worse than some others. I guess that makes me an average Joe – which is OK by me.
However, I do have one really big regret.
I have always been an adventurous sort. There were times when it caused me big trouble. As a boy I loved to camp and explore. I read books about high adventure (“Captains Courageous” by Rudyard Kipling & The Barsoom Series by Edgar Rice Burroughs stand out in my memory). I longed to see what was over the next hill, what was beyond the horizon. I wanted to see other parts of the world, meet people from other cultures, experience sights and sounds atop mountains on the other side of the planet.
I did some of that in the service, but not nearly enough.
Sadly, the time came for me to put away childish things and assume a mantle of responsibility – which has weighed heavy at times. I never became a captain of industry or a man whose decisions affected the lives of more than a few people (my immediate family), but at times even that so-common a responsibility seemed a harsh master.
Since my mid-twenties I have led a conventional life. I did my best to fulfill my responsibilities to my children, my ex-wife and my now-wife, and to my employers. I've worked hard and not really achieved much aside from keeping me and mine fed, clothed and housed. My kids are off in college or married and working. I just recently finished paying my child support. The house my wife and I live in is paid for. I am relatively free.
I still love the idea of adventure. I still read books about brave men accomplishing mighty deeds in the face of astonishing adversity. If you have read about Ernest Shackleton you know what I'm talking about. The common thread among those that I find interesting is the fact that they stick to their beliefs, regardless of what they face. Jeff Lebowski (main character in the film “The Big Lebowski”) and Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey's character in “American Beauty”) are just as heroic to me as Ernest Shackleton because they refused to live any way other than the way they felt they were meant to live – convention be damned.
That is certainly not the way I have lived my life.
So, now I am at a crossroads. If I have what I fear then I will have to seek treatment. Luckily, provided it is caught early enough, colon cancer is one of the more “treatable” kinds. If I do have it I face two possibilities. One is that I get put underground at far too young an age. The other is that I recover, maybe missing a few bits.
The possibility I hope for is that I do not have it and the symptoms I am experiencing are related to some other, easily treated malady.
Either way, if it turns out that I have a few more years left in me, I am on the verge of saying “f___ it” and living my life exactly as I want to. Convention was not my brother, so maybe living unconventionally might be the tonic for the longings I have felt for most of my life.
If I am clear of cancer, or if I can be treated and have an expectation of a few more years, I want to do a bike tour. I want to ride from East Texas (Houston area) to Taos, NM and see the area where some people are developing these things called “Earthships”. From there I'd like to see the Grand Canyon, then ride through Arizona to California, north through Oregon to Washington state. I want to see the Northern Cascades. I'd like to see Puget Sound. Heck, I might even keep going until I get to Haida Gwaii.
This is the sort of thing that will take a few months. I've got most of the gear I would need, and am researching that which I don't have.
I would like to hear from anyone else here who has felt similar feelings, or has faced similar circumstance and done what I aim to do.
If nothing else it will keep me entertained and hopeful until the doctor rams a camera up my butt and tells me if my immediate future is going to be problematic.
If you've read this far, thanks for listening. If you have something to share, jump in. If you are young and have not had an adventure, I advise you to pursue one before it is too late to do so.