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healthcare vote

What are the chances of any U.S. Senator feeling the pain of cancer, or any other pre-existing condition?

John McCain is front and center with a brain tumor.

Let’s watch his healthcare vote to decide if the rest of America deserves the same medical attention as a U.S. Senator.

This is the Navy flier who wouldn’t leave his prisoner of war cell until others were released.

C’mon, Johnny, don’t leave they guys behind this time either.

My bet is he votes against party lines. He seems like the sort of person who wants to be remembered well.

If he follows Muhammad Ali’s advice, he will be: cruise the first two minutes of each round and fight like hell the last one minute because that’s what the judges remember.

Fight for the people, fight cancer, and do it right. Like this:

It’s Okay to Be a Coward About Cancer

By Josh Friedman on

Screenwriters are the worst kind of cocktail party a—holes: we know just enough information to get us through the exposition scene in the first act, but not enough to be useful to anyone about anything after that.

I’ll take Josh’s word on cocktail banter with screenwriters, but not his idea of useful. There’s always blood-type, pal, and that’s useful. Kidney? Liver?

If useful is the be-all-end-all, you can always part it out.

And the cancer coward business? Got it right here. I’m a big pile of chickensh!t about cancer.

One of the things I know nothing about is cancer, especially my own. I never researched it, never went online to read up on it, never “stared it down” and never really asked my doctor much of anything.

Josh own’s his cancer? I got advised not to own it, like, “My cancer is called HPV16 tongue cancer.

My wife also mentioned it. It’s such a weird sounding deal I had to read up a little bit.

Other blogs collect stories and ask for specific details up front.

I didn’t even know he was cutting out my rib until I was lying in my recovery bed and it was gone. My spirit animal is whatever happens when you get a chicken and an ostrich drunk and give them a room.

This is the way to do it. Show up in the right mood and let the staff do their job.

Don’t be someone else’s bad day because your’s sucks.

But I do know this: Cancer doesn’t give a damn how tough you are. Cancer doesn’t care if you stared down the North Koreans, or won the Tour De France, or wrote two seasons of a scary robot show.

The only one who gives a damn how tough you are is you.

No matter how tough you were before getting dosed with chemoradiation, you break.

Then you treat it like it all happened to someone else. Except it didn’t.

Since the Senator from Arizona’s diagnosis became public, I’ve watched well-meaning people tell a brave man to be brave. “Give it hell, John.” “Fight.” They’re worthy words and always spoken from the best place. But they’re not the words I’ve heard from other cancer survivors in the last few days. We know the dirty secret.

That’s the tag you get after cancer treatment, Cancer Survivor, like it or not.

Of course you can bluff another reason for losing sixty pounds in three months if someone you haven’t seen asks.

I’ve talked some smack about diet and exercise, then cancer.

You don’t battle cancer. You don’t fight it. If cancer wants you it sneaks into your room at night and just takes you. It doesn’t care if you’re John Wayne or John McCain.

Cancer shows up decades after the fatal date with P16.

In a way it’s a romantic reminder of tender times, except for the cancer part.

The “tough guy” narrative is seductive. It suggests we have control over our fate, that we can will cancer away. These are lies we tell ourselves. And for some patients that’s helpful. It gets them through the day. For them, it’s a useful tool. But courageousness is a standard that no sick person should feel like they have to meet.

The last sentence tells it all. There is no courage bar to raise or lower in cancer.

That’s the beginning. The most you can hope for is a clean treatment, no extras.

No added addiction, no extra infections, no more cancer, and call it fair.

As a storyteller I think hard about the tales we tell. Toughness and courage are staples of our cultural business. But these are not how we survive cancer. We survive cancer through luck, science, early detection and real health insurance. If we survived through courage, I probably wouldn’t have.

Ya gotta love a guy this self deprecating, but don’t be fooled. Only the badass cancer survivor can talk the talk about probably not surviving.

The courage part? Just dragging to treatment day after day, week after week, is courage enough, don’t you think?

Watching your body shrink and die like a drying mummy is courage enough?

The luck part? The control part? When you can’t control the normal things, good luck.

But luck shouldn’t be part of the healthcare vote, not when men like John McCain stand up for all that’s good in America. Right, Senator McCain?

“Johnny, can you hear me,” in the tune of Tommy, is the big question.

Every cancer survivor, except Josh Freidman, say the same things that echoe through the canyons of our minds like a Harry Nilsson song.

Everybody’s lookin’ at you Senator John McCain. Show up wearing a surgery wound like a badge on your face and I’m moved.

I’ll be even more moved if he makes the right call on the Senate healthcare vote.

About David Gillaspie


  1. […] The bill that comes after doesn’t make the same claim. […]

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