Editor’s Note: Hayride contributor and all-around conservative hero Jeff Blanco has been diagnosed with cancer. A GiveSendGo fundraiser has been established to aid him with medical and living expenses as he takes on a fight for his life. Please give whatever you can.
Round 1… surgery… ding. ding. ding.
Arriving at the hospital at 6 am wasn’t so bad knowing that I was going to be back sleeping in just a couple of hours. No sunlight to wake me up, nobody to wake me from my rest, just sleep. Still, I groggily filled out the paperwork and before enough time passed to look at the clock I was in my birthday suit adorned with a gown. My spirits were up and I was joking about the surgery. When the surgeon walked in, I quipped about her badassery.
“That I am.” she said.
There was no other answer she could give, that was the only answer I wanted to hear.
I’ve decided to embrace this challenge. I am a warrior, this is one more fight, and as a dutiful warrior, I embrace this battle. Of course, my back is also up against the wall. It is, after all, cancer. Still, that does not mean that I am not without other options. I could cry, feel sorry for myself, go through the motions, but none of those things changes my fate, or even improves my chances.
The next 9-10 hours I laid on the operating table, surrounded by people as if it were Thanksgiving and I was the turkey being carved up. Just warm meat on the table. The first surgeon removed the cancer from my face, the second surgeon took skin from my leg and put it on my face. While the surgery was long, I was up before I knew it. The second I woke up, I knew… Round 1: to Cancer.
For the next several hours I slept in intervals of minutes, woken up by thirst, yet unable to drink. Woken up by discomfort, yet too tired to move. Even if I wanted to move, I was so plugged into machinery that I was now part of the ICU Matrix, at least for a few more hours.
Slowly I improved. Had this been a boxing match, the victory would have been in hand as I lay there down for the count. But this is a war, and I don’t have to win every battle. I just need to be the one standing in the end.
When the nurse came in to wheel chair me to my room, I stood up a few extra seconds, full of defiance. “Jeff you Cancer, I still stand!”. It was important to me, in that moment of weakness, perhaps my weakest moment that I will have this entire time and have the will to fight. I know now that I can take cancer’s best shot and still stand with resistance. Though it was invaluable, I’m sure I was out within seconds of sitting back down in the wheelchair.
I remained in high spirits over the next few days. I began to joke about my loss, the biggest loss being an eye. “I can now spell Mississippi and Alabama each with one I.”, “I tried to watch a movie, but I only got to see half of it.”, and I even asked my surgeon if I should be offended that they removed my eye and then put me in ICU.”. I’m so glad Will Smith wasn’t in the hospital with me, he likes to slap weaker people for making bad jokes.
It’s not what I asked for, but I embrace my battle because I am a warrior.
Still, I could not help but to wonder what this was going to be like had it been a more immediate circumstance. Would I have been able to embrace this had it occurred from an accident, that one minute I am fine and the next I’m waking up with my entire life changed? Would I be pushing myself to get up out of bed and walking on my own, or would I be clutching to the bed rail as a fetus holding back my tears?
I was fortunate that I still stood tall as I took heavy hits before in my life and could now reflect on those moments. I was fortunate that I was given a short window of time to accept my soon to be permanent circumstances. I was fortunate to know my losses before they happened. Perspective is everything, isn’t it?
I would be remiss if I didn’t close this out saying it just one more time, this time with a silent J, and the meaning kept clean but a more intense version meant… “Jeff you Cancer, I still stand”.