By JAMES GROB
This week, I joined a club I never wanted to join.
It's not an exclusive club. You don't need to be of a certain race or nationality to take part. You don't need to have any special talents, or rise to a certain level of income, or be at any certain level of intelligence or education. All ages are welcome.
We have long-haired hippies and buzz-cut Marines. We have bleeding-heart liberals and wing-nut conservatives. Sinners and saints and swindlers and saps. Grouchy old grandmas and tiny-toothed toddlers. Christians and Muslims and Jews, atheists and agnostics, Buddhists and Hindus and Sikhs, poets and pipers and prophets for profit, cops and killers, scholars and students and hunters and whores.
Anyone can join. All you have to do is hear one magic word.
And you're in. Malignant. That's all it takes.
I didn't want to join. I wanted to hear another word. Benign.
And I heard that word, too. But one "benign" isn't near enough. In fact, you could listen to "benign" one hundred times, or a thousand or a billion times, and it wouldn't come close to overpowering that one little goddamn "malignant."
Ninety-nine point nine percent of you can be benign, but that one-tenth of one percent of you that's malignant -- that's the whole ball of wax, there, buddy. Slap my ass and call me Suzy, that's some powerful thing to say, malignant.
For me, it's actually malignant times two. But that doesn't really matter, because once you walk into Malignant Reception Hall, you can't leave until you dance naked with every ugly broad around the punch bowl.
All this rhetoric is a failed attempt to find a clever way to avoid writing four words that I don't want to write.
I have colon cancer.
I'll spare all the details of the scope, the procedure, the biopsy, the conversation with my doctor, the tears shed with my wife.
I will tell you that it stunned me. I'm still stunned. And scared -- more scared than I've ever been for myself. Scared like swimming in the ocean, 100 yards from the beach, and I see a shark's fin in the water, and it's huge, and coming my direction. And in my mind, I hear those two brilliant musical notes that John Williams composed. Da-Dum. It's that kind of scared.
And I will tell you that it's been hard, oh so very hard, to tell people about it. My mom, my daughters, my sister, my friends, my co-workers. Every call I've made, every note I've sent -- I feel as though I am spreading fear and anxiety and strife to the people I care the most about. I'm projecting my shock and my fright on to them.
And that's not my job in life -- that's never been my job in life. I hate drama -- I feel it belongs on the stage and screen, not in my own life. My job has always been to make people laugh, to make people think, to get people to look at things from a different -- hopefully positive -- perspective.
It's what I do.
And there is positive here. I'm told my condition is very treatable, and 95 percent curable. It's contained to one area of my body. One friend, a 20-year cancer survivor, reminded me that if you're going to have cancer, there's no better time or place in history to have cancer than right here, right now. And he's right. Short-term, this is a bitch. There will be some kind of surgery. Long-term? This will be good, this will be fine, this shall pass. That's what they tell me.
But I can still see that fin out there, and I can't swim like a shark can swim.
At this point, I really have no idea what I'm in for. I will receive a call from the surgeons and the cancer specialists in a week or two. I will have consultations, serious discussions with serious people. Options will be presented, recommendations will be made, second opinions will be sought. A plan of action will be composed and executed.
I don't know what to expect. This is a foreign country to me, and no one speaks English. I don't even know how long this road is -- will this take a few weeks? Months? A year? Longer? What about after that? How does one live life without a colon? Or with half a colon? Seems to me I use my colon regularly, sometimes irregularly. Won't I be needing that?
I'm not sure I'll completely understand these things even after I've talked about them with all the experts.
I'm only sure I don't want to be a member of this club.
I want out, please.