When I got up this morning, I hoped it was just a bad dream. The thing is, you really have to have gotten some sleep to have a wild dream like that, but at best I tossed and turned all night.
Sometime around 1989, we got our first “real” computer (as opposed to the Timex Sinclair we’d played with, writing crappy looping ascii images in BASIC) and got online with Prodigy. Since then, when I discovered message boards and chat rooms, I’ve made a few friends and some have stuck around since those early days.
Some I know better than others, but those who I’ve stayed I touch with, I’ve come to know pretty well.
Last night I got a text message from someone I’ve known for at least 15 years; we had in common a Fibromyalgia newsgroup, talked over IRC more than we interacted in the NG, discovered some common interests—she loved karate even though she had too much pain to train, so she watched her kids participate in tournaments; she loved to write, though she had no aspirations to be published, and reveled in coughing up what she said were “silly, stupid stories” meant only for her kids—and we became friends of a sort.
As the newsgroup fell away, and IRC became less popular, we drifted. A few times a year, though, we’d exchange emails, a random text here and there, and then Facebook made connecting a lot easier.
She cheered my efforts in walking the 3 Day, always apologetic about not being able to contribute to fundraising, because “a mess of kids is expensive” and there was no wiggle room in the budget. And that was fine; I not only don’t want friends who are cash strapped to donate, I would be upset if they did. The emotional support is just as important.
So I got a text last night.
“Stage IV metastatic. It’s in my liver and brain. Prognosis maybe January if I respond to treatment which I don’t know yet what that will entail.”
The roller coast took off without giving me a chance to buckle in.
“I have a request if it’s not a huge bad idea. My birthday falls on the 2nd day of the SD 3 Day … I don’t have more than the rest of this year, it would mean everything to me if someone walked for me.
If someone would write my name on the flag.
I can’t think of anyone I would want walking for me more than you.”
Loops. Fast, hard loops.
I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t choke out an explanation when the Spouse Thingy asked me what was wrong. I’m not generally a crier, but this took off so hard and fast I couldn’t help myself.
This is the year I’m not supposed to walk; my doc did not want me to travel, walk 60 miles, and then travel home. This is the year I’m supposed to get into better shape, lose some weight, and take care of me.
But when someone presents you with what is essentially their dying wish?
You farking agree to do it.
In the span of about 10 minutes I fired off a message to my doc, explaining that I’m tolerating the level of exercise I’ve done fairly well, have had few serious drops in blood sugar, and that I would not camp and would have someone there with a van—DKM is driving sweep on San Diego—and would be able to walk a couple of miles, ride a couple of miles.
I texted DKM.
I emailed a 3 Day coach about how I would go about switching my registration from Philadelphia to San Diego.
The thing is, within a few minutes I was firmly resolved that I’d go no matter what my doc said. I went through a range of jagged-edged feelings, everything from I WILL DO THIS to feeling a little guilty because if I walked at all it should be with my team in Philly, to “this is gonna get spendy” because there’s not much time to fundraise.
The San Diego walk is in a little over 60 days. I can train well enough to be ready for the amount of walking I would do, but raising $2000 in that time?
Self-funding looked like it would be necessary.
I went to bed with the decision, though: I would walk the 3 Day in San Diego, for no other reason than someone I have known for a very long time needed me to.
The risks? I was fine with those. Because when you try to balance the scales, someone else’s cancer crap weighs more than my nuisance crap, and if this one thing takes a little of the load from their side…of course I would do it.
As I tried to fall asleep, a song that’s been poking mercilessly at my brain for the last few days jabbed hard; I was grinding my teeth to the beat, and swearing in my head around the lyrics. Since it was going to keep me from sleeping, I sat up and grabbed my iPad, and tried to distract myself for a bit.
I played some Solitaire.
I got onto Reddit and read through a bunch of stuff in /r/askreddit.
Then I got on Facebook, whined about the stupid song stuck in my head, and just before I was about to shut it down and try again to sleep, I got a message. I didn’t recognize the name at first, but opened it anyway, because sometimes Max’s readers ask me things.
My longtime friend from the old newsgroup days has a longtime roommate, who had something fairly important to tell me.
“…she left her computer on and I went to put it to sleep. She had a bunch of windows open and I read it all. She doesn’t have cancer. She doesn’t have anything. But she has a bunch of notes here to a lot of people about it and a list of things. One of them is about starting a Go Fund Me page. She’s just trying to get money from people. Don’t worry, I will shut this down…”
Thusly did the brakes go on, hard; the roller coaster didn’t slide easily to the end. It buckled and I felt every bit of pressure from the sudden stop.
For a few hours, I was completely broken for someone else; I mourned her pain, what she was going through, the unfairness of it all, and I was about to jump feet-first into doing this one thing for her. I was going to train hard, and I was going to ask my friends to support the effort.
And surely when the request came, when the “I can’t afford all this” pleas started and the Go Fund Me page went live, I would have contributed. I would have shared it.
I didn’t sleep very much last night; at first it was the stupid song, then it was the anger.
I will put up with a hell of a lot from people online, and most of the time I won’t call them out on their crap. You want to be Studly Dudly DewRight in chat rooms, even though I know you’re very much not that? No skin off my nose. You want to be a guy on message boards, though I know you’re female? So freaking what? You can be anything you want online and I pretty much don’t care…unless you’re doing it for truly nefarious reasons. If you’re not hurting anyone, trying to manipulate anyone, or asking for money…I don’t care.
You play the cancer card, I care.
This isn’t even the first time someone I know has said they have breast cancer, when they never did. But this is the first time it’s been made this personal. It’s the first time that I know for sure I’ve been pegged to play someone else’s cruel and heartless game with the apparent intent to scam people for cash.
I would have done it. I would have walked—likely in defiance of what my doc wants—and I would have not only asked people to support that walk but also to donate to her when she inevitably asked.
When someone is faced with a terminal diagnosis, you don’t say no if you can do something they wish.
This morning, I am a curious mix of relieved and angry. Relieved that she’s not really dying, relieved I didn’t get pulled deeper into it, and angry that someone I’ve known long enough to trust would use something like this to get me to unknowingly help.
And I don’t get it. Why ask me to walk? Why do that knowing I’m supposed to take this year off? Why do it knowing it would cost me money that would never line your pocket, and in the end would have no real benefit to you?