21 August 2010

A Strange Meeting

Darren and I met about ten years ago, at a party where we each were promoting our respective businesses. It was a networking event of sorts and I was in full gear. The room was packed! But, you could not have missed Darren if you tried. He was striking -- tall and lean for a rugby player, he had a wide, welcoming smile and a very compelling Irish brogue. Upon hello and name exchanges, I quickly handed him a flier to an event I was hosting. Without skipping a beat, he handed me a flier to his, but with a couple of drink tickets and an invitation to get in for free. Wow! (Why didn't I think of that?). By happenstance, both of our events were on the same evening and we were contending for business form the very same crowd of which we were part. We were competitors! But really, even at that, he had managed to charm me and I never really thought him "the enemy." So for years we vied for the same business almost always, until he and his business partners decided to deviate from their current business and do something else. That was when Darren began to be a really successful and noted businessman in our city. His business grew by leaps and bounds, but never had he changed from the Darren that I had met years back.

Still charming and impish, still welcoming and unassuming, still tall and strong. What a great success story! He came here from Ireland a few years before this success, taking a chance and couch-surfing at friends homes for about a year. To then see him owning several enterprises in the city and being featured in local magazine's "Society Page" as one of the city's eligible bachelors was quite a fete! On any given night, you can see him walking on his street with the biggest, scariest pit ball -- Sam in stride with him. He and Sam were so popular in their neighborhood that local merchants always had a treat for Sam whenever they walked by. They were quite the pair to behold. If you didn't know that Darren and his pit bull were the biggest sweethearts, you'd walk the other way if you happened by them in an alley.

On my second chemo session last year, I thought I was hallucinating when I saw Darren walking down the hallway at Dr. T's chemo treatment clinic. Sure, we hadn't seen each other in years and I'd heard rumors that he was ill. But I also heard that he'd gotten well subsequently. So to see him in a chemo clinic was quite shocking. I didn't know what to do with myself. Both of us being as private as we were, I wanted to give him his space (as I didn't know what treatment he could be undergoing). But also, I wanted my own space. The last person I wanted to see in the clinic was a business colleague (we were sort of friends too). So, I quickly put my head down behind a book, raised the book high and "hid" from Darren.

Well, son-on-a-gun, if he didn't plop himself down at the chemo chair immediately to my left. Argh! Still, I kept the book in front of my face, but it would have really looked funny if I moved the book to the left of my face. I just hoped he wouldn't turn to see me. Riiiiiiiiiight! "C!" he exclaimed! "Wat in de world are ye doin' here?" he continued in his charming Irish brogue. And there it was. We had to face each others...business competitors and colleagues sitting side-by-side in a chemo clinic. "If someone 'ad toold me years ago, dat you 'an me would be meetin' in a plece lak dis, I would've punched dem in da mouth!" he said, smiling weakly and winking. And my! How strange is life. Darren's younger than me (by at least 10 years), strong, fit, never smoked...but...

Darren had lung cancer. He looked emaciated and tired. His strong rugby build was gone. But he still had his hair. Certainly, it was hard to process this vision of the former "force to be reckoned with." He said that they thought the chemo had worked, but subsequently, his oncologist discovered that it hadn't. And so the cancer had metathesised to more areas in his body. He was in the clinic for a Neulasta shot, as his immune system had gone awry. He told me that at this juncture, his oncologist didn't have anymore solutions to his cancer.

I begged him to go see my Dr. T (who is in the same practice group as his oncologist). I told him how amazing Dr. T was. He urged him to find a new, alternate route. He nodded "okay" But, he seemed resigned. After his shot, he gave me a peck on the forehead, wished me all the best, and left.

Last night, at Relay for Life, I lit a Luminaria for Darren. He passed away a year ago this month. He was young, strong, fit and never smoked a cigarette in his life. Yet lung cancer took his life.

Cancer is an equal opportunity killer.


Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Great Blog! You are a credit to the cancer blogging community. I have added you to my blogroll, “Cancer Blogs” with over 1000 other personal cancer blogs at www.beingcancer.net, a cancer networking site featuring a cancer book club, guest blogs, cancer resources, reviews and more.
If you have not visited before or recently, please stop by. If you agree that the site is a worthwhile resource for those affected by cancer, please consider adding Being Cancer Network to your own blogroll.
Now that you are listed, you can expect to gain a wider audience for your thoughts and experiences. Being Cancer Network is a place to share and communicate.
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Take care, Dennis (beingcancer@att.net)

Karen said...

Just checking in! I've not "seen" you for quite some time, and thought you'd like to know that I just finished reading this post and loved it. So touching. Hope you're doing ok! Take care!

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