Some of you may remember the initial post about my friend Buddy being poisoned with Agent Orange in Vietnam. More collateral damage care of our government. Lovely euphemism, eh? Just between us, it usually means someone gets killed as a by-product of waging war.
Sadly, I now write a follow-up to that post.
In keeping with the injustices visited upon Bud by the systems that often hold us hostage to the values of others, it turns out that prostate cancer caused by Agent Orange is the most aggressive form of the disease and is most likely to metastasize. It is now just so with my friend. The cancer is in his bones and many other places. A couple of weeks ago, the bone marrow attack left him extremely anemic. May not sound so bad, but it causes an abundance of dire symptoms. Once that was stabilized, he underwent brain surgery for a hematoma. That fixed, he is home, for now. But this is no easy death.
I have only just called him again. I was afraid to address the likely possibilities, preferring to believe that the medical miracles of recent years would work with Bud. Not true of course – not when the system screws up – and Agent Orange was a big screw up. A prime pair of denials by my government and me, don’t you think? “I have about a year to live, maybe, if I take some experimental medications.” Most of these end term treatments are so toxic that he says he prefers death.
I was talking, for time first time, to someone who had a terminal disease. He was going to be dead in a year. What do you say to someone when you both know he will exit life in the near future? And this is a mostly a reflection that is about my problem. Pretty selfish, I realize.
The conversation was decidedly awkward. My head is awkwardly processing the knowledge. I often find myself measuring life in one-year increments the last few days. Well, don’t we all know that this is the proper way to live life? Of course, that’s just a new age hypothetical. How easy to say when you’ve never even known someone in the real predicament.
I’ve known Bud for an even sixty years. Now those years seem far too little time to do what we usually did when we got together, drink beer and talk into the wee hours. Now there is no beer in my friend’s last days. He also has a required six-month blood test for drugs. If he should test positive, his pain pills will be taken away. Did I mention that this form of dying is excruciatingly painful?
So. I’ll tip one for an old buddy, and I’ll try to visit before…