When I was in high school I ran track as a sport. Track (except for the relays) is an individualized sport. Yes, your personal scores contribute to your team’s score, but when you are competing in your event, it’s you against everyone else.
That’s why it’s so shocking when you are in a race and stumble and fall, for other runners to sacrifice their personal races in order to help you. It is the epitome of sacrificial caring. You finishing the race would not even be possible if others didn’t come alongside to help.
Every week when I write a blog post, do you understand what I am doing? I’m not publicizing my cancer. I’m not trying to put on the appearance of strength so that you will be impressed with me. I’m not overcompensating for my fears. I’m not even appealing to your pity.
Instead, I’m asking for help. You see, I have fallen down. I can’t finish my race unless you come alongside of me and help me get to the finish line.
And every week, this is what you do.
You obfuscate by declaring me to be an inspiration, a hero, a blessing, and an encouragement. You say these silly things as you pick me up, cover me with prayer, surround me with sacrificial support, and carry me towards the finish line.
How very funny this image is to me in my mind.
- It’s like a nurse telling a patient over and over again that he has made her well.
- It’s like a teacher thanking a student for what he has learned by having her in his class.
- It’s like a runner gladly giving up his race so he can help someone else cross the finish line ahead of him.
My race status is always tenuous these days. This week we learned that my testosterone level hit 649 (up from 4) – an all time high for me, unless you count high school (yes, I have felt like a new man!).
This is like inviting my cancer for a ride in a sports car at 100mph. It’s exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Prostate cancer loves testosterone.
Now we are in the process of erecting a thick brick wall (low testosterone) so we can run the speeding sports car into it. In about 10 days we will know if this craziness is going to work. In the meantime, my PSA continues to rise (it doubled again last month) causing great consternation.
In addition, my latest blood work revealed a “persistent anemia” that put me back into the hospital this week for another double blood transfusion. This may become a monthly ritual as my cancer destroys the red blood cells in my bone marrow. Blah!
In the midst of this medical schizophrenia, so many people have reached out to carry me and seem genuinely glad to do so. I am dazed and bewildered by this sacrificial kindness.
I received this recently from a woman I went to high school with (I was secretly in love with her, but apparently I was 40 years too late in revealing this):
“I’m so glad you’re feeling good! (Like the James Brown song!). That testosterone tub should not be let out of your sight, young man. Loved your last blog, of course. And the picture of Betsy with that sweet smile…oh my! I pray this keeps working and you feel better and better. You may be the poster child for setting your house on fire and it rising from the ashes renewed. Carrying the torch for this crazy cancer cure, if you will.”
When I read stuff like this, I am deeply strengthened. It’s like someone reaches down and picks me up and says, “Don’t lose hope. We are going to finish this race together. However this turns out, you are going to get across that finish line. I promise you.”
“Meghan Vogel, a junior at West Liberty-Salem High School, was nearing the finish line of the 3,400-meter race, about to finish in last place. As she approached the finish line, a runner from Arlington High School named Arden McMath collapsed in front of her.
Most people would finish the race. After all, Vogel was only a few feet from the finish line. She could avoid the label of finishing dead last in a race. Plus, aiding any other runners while on the track is subject to disqualification from the race.
But Vogel did what she knew was right. She stopped running, helped McMath up and carried her across the finish line, making sure that McMath crossed the line first.
Vogel displayed true sportsmanship, showing that running isn’t always about coming in first place. “Helping her across the finish line was a lot more satisfying than winning the state championship,” Vogel told the Springfield News-Sun.
McMath’s coach, Paul Hunter, told the newspaper that this is a rare act in high school sports. “What a selfless act,” Hunter told the Springfield News-Sun. “She could have just gone around Arden. But she chose to help. I’ve never seen that at a state meet. That’s real sportsmanship.”
Vogel finished in 15th place, with a time of 12:30:24. She made sure to hold McMath in front of her, who finished in 14th place with a time of 12:29:90.They crossed the finish line to a standing ovation.”
“She made sure that McMath crossed the line first.”
Okay, I have testosterone in my body again, but this still makes me cry.
Each of you have taught me that it isn’t winning the race that matters most, but seeing to it that those who stumble and fall cross the finish line also.
Some of you are crazy enough to also insist that people like me, because of your sacrificial care, cross the finish line ahead of you.
If they give me any ribbons in this race, the next time I see you, I make you this promise:
I will personally pin them on you.