Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 5

I woke up this morning feeling as bad as I did while going through chemotherapy. I was weak, nauseous, and extremely tired. The last four days of getting my affairs in order, purchasing a new car, and running off to Vegas caught up to me.

I can't really complain, though. If I can get one bad day in every five, I will consider myself pretty lucky.

Laying in bed and feeling as badly as I did, I actually wondered what was wrong with me. It took all of one minute to remember that I was sick and dying. How ridiculous is it that I had to remind myself of what was happening to me?

I have been so caught up in leaving Los Angeles, my encounter with the beautiful Ann, and playing poker in Vegas, that I had forgotten why I was doing it all in the first place. This thought brought a huge smile across my face as I realized that I was doing exactly what I set out to do: beating cancer.

I am going to eventually die. . . sooner rather than later. While I am here, I am not going to let the cancer dictate how I live or how I feel emotionally and spiritually. Nope. I can't let the cancer get the best of me in those regards.

With that thought motivating me, I reached across the bed and grabbed the phone to call for room service. I ordered a breakfast of oatmeal and fruit and convinced myself that I would force it all down despite the nausea.

Satisfied with my victory of finishing breakfast, I got up and walked gingerly to the bathroom to shower. After 10 minutes of sitting down and leaning against the wall with the water running over me, I got up and went back to the bed and began to dry myself off.

Such a minute task seemed liked another victory for me. I was exhausted and in pain, and yet, I was doing it. I was getting ready to head down to the casino and play some blackjack, poker, or craps.

It didn't really matter what game I would play. What mattered is that I was going to play.

For four hours, I sat at a blackjack table with eight other people trying to win money from the house. We laughed at each others jokes, cheered when the dealer busted, and moaned in disgust when he hit 21.

The great thing about blackjack is the camaraderie that is formed at the table with the players. In poker, you are playing against the other players and the tension at the table can pretty intense. In blackjack, you are all trying to beat the dealer and friendships can be built while playing.

Fifteen minutes after I sat down, a man 20 years my senior joined us at the table. Right from the start we hit it off and we began to talk to each other exclusively. With the first words that came out of his mouth, I knew we had a common bond.

"This sure beats the hell out of sitting in a courtroom all day," he said. "I just retired from practicing law for the last 30 years last week. If I am never in court again, I will die a happy man."

I, too, walked away from life as a lawyer last week. I worked in a firm in Los Angeles for 14 years, spending the last year working three days a week while going through chemo. I joined the firm as a 26-year-old and quickly moved up the ranks as a defense attorney.

I loved my job and thrived being in front of a jury and judge. Working as a consultant to other lawyers on their own cases for the last year wasn't nearly as much fun for me.

"It's funny that you said that," I told him. "I would love to be in the courtroom again. I quit my firm last week, too."

We talked while our chips went up and down at the blackjack table for another two hours. After finally getting back to even, I decided that I had played enough for the day. Still feeling weak and tired, I was ready to head back up to my room and lay in bed in front of the TV.

As I collected my chips, the man that identified himself only as Chet handed me a business card and asked me how long I was going to be in Vegas.

"I am not sure how long I will be here," I responded. "I have no timetable, but I am sure I will be here another week or two."

"If you want to play in a few poker tournaments together, give me a call on my cell," Chet said. "I am going to be here for a month. It will be fun to play with another lawyer. At least I will know who the other bullshitter at the table is."

While laughing, I shook his hand and told him that I would definitely call him. I meant it, too. It would be fun to have someone to play with while I was in Vegas.

I finally reached my room and collapsed into bed. I was dead tired and ready for a long nap. Falling asleep, I couldn't believe how good it felt to be in bed.

It felt almost as good as when I climbed out of it this morning. Despite how bad I was feeling, I got up.

Getting up feels pretty good to me.


  1. Most people consider "climbing mountains" to be the only goal worth attaining...if it isnt a mountain it isnt worth the bother....but sometimes...even climbing a mere speed bump is worthy of accolades and high all depends on our perception.

    Ive been reading you awhile...first comment. Ive always considered going to Vegas too but for other reasons. Life is so full of stress...headaches and worry...Vegas to me seems like a place where you can just let that all go...for awhile anyhow. Of course you could aquire some new stresses while your there but lets not bring ourselves down.

    Glad you had a good day.