P.J. O’Rourke is a funny man. His ability to find humor in just about any situation served him well when he was diagnosed recently with cancer.
O’Rourke’s cancer – a malignant hemorrhoid – is highly treatable with a 95 percent survival rate. The humorist asks “What color bracelet does one wear for that? And where does one wear it?” He also writes of the irony that Teddy Kennedy has brain cancer “and I should have cancer of the ass ... Well, I’ll say a rosary for him and hope he has a laugh at me. After all, what would I do, ask God for a more dignified cancer? Pancreas? Liver? Lung?”
We all have friends and relatives who have received dire medical prognoses. It’s got to be among life’s more gut-wrenching moments. Breaking the news to patients has to be one of the more difficult tasks a doctor faces. You never know how a person will react to grim news.
Some people get angry. Others wallow in self-pity. Some people reassess their lives, mend fences and take those trips they’ve always wanted to take. Some people simply put their affairs in order and treasure each day, often wondering why they haven’t done this all along.
We find inspiration in those who rise above their own interests and well-being to reach out to others. This is why The Last Lecture by the late Randy Pausch has been such a phenomenal success. A former colleague of mine, columnist Rob Borsellino of the Des Moines Register, was just as inspirational in his battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
I’m not sure that knowing you are going to die soon is a good thing, but it does tend to bring a person’s life into a tighter focus. How do you think you would react to such news? Now consider this: Given the unpredictability of our time on earth, is there any reason why we shouldn’t live each moment as if it were our last?
Photo: P.J. O'Rourke courtesy of Broussardish.