Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Marked For Death

According to Mark, the recent sequence of landmark events went like so: //// He capped another summer playing softball with the same guys he's played with for 15-20 yrs. and he went something like 17 for 19 in their final tournament of '08. //// Then, he turned 50 in November. //// Then, he underwent a CAT Scan to determine the cause of his frequent headaches -- andwas diagnosed with glioblastoma. ///// If we're compiling corresponding responses, it's: A) "Seriously? 17 for 19?" B) "50? Nice job, man ... " C) "Glioblastoma? That's a death sentence from which there is no escape." ///// Glioblastoma ... that shit takes ya down quick. ///// It's the same type of brain cancer which killed Johnny Oates (not to mention millions of others). ///// Just hearin' those words -- "brain tumor" or "brain cancer" -- it shakes ya up and reminds ya of what Pops went through. ///// They gave him 2 mos. to live and he extended it to 3. //// In the end, though, The Big C -- an arbitrary predator -- always wins. ///// And, glioblastoma is as bad as it gets. ///// In Mark's case, more tests are scheduled, but, according to those in the cancer community we've come to know in the past year, glioblastoma is ruthless ... serving up turbo-charged punishment. //// It's a guarantee that Mark'll be dead within 2 yrs. ///// Ya simply cannot outrun The Big C. ///// It definitely hits home when you yourself are saddled w/ three gigantic risk factors -- 1) Your Zodiac sign is Cancer 2) Your wife is recovering from breast cancer 3) You're sucking down another Marlboro (as you've done for 26 yrs. in a row) ... not necessarily in that order. //// What else hits home: Mark's face when he stopped by today. He used to look a little like Ed Harris with hair ... but, not so anymore. ///// Dude was unrecognizable. ///// He looked nothing like the guy we've known for yrs. ... the friend who brought Zo-Zo to the D.P. and then was a patient receiving treatment for neck pain two years ago. //// Today? That WAS NOT Mark. //// It didn't look anything like him. ///// Cancer drugs'll do that to a fella ... it matters not if you've got a large family ... or if you're a single guy who happens to sell insurance ... and enjoys takin' his rescue Golden to the D.P. //// He can still do that ... but, softball must seem like a memory. ///// For those of us who played against him, it was easy to classify him as a classic softball rat. //// Not a He-man super-mashing ball-smasher, but constant in his constant line-drive production and goo enough wheels to scoot around the bases and cover some ground in LF. ///// He was playin' second base when I cranked that double down the RF line and as I arrived at second, he remarked that I should be doin' that EVERY at-bat. ///// Maybe he noticed that I wasn't especially motivated playing with a bunch of strangers who didn't seem to give a crap (which, invariably, always affects my focus). ///// Softball and cancer ... it's reminiscent of the time when non-Hodgkins lymphoma sidelined Johnny A. -- the ultimate No. 3 hitter -- for almost the entire '95 season. ///// When ya see something like that, you can either offer up platitudes -- or you can shave yer head for a fallen brother before affixing a "34" decal (no larger than a postage stamp) to the lower left sleeve of your softball shirt. ///// Not everybody understands such gestures ... because not everybody acknowledges the line between talking about something and doing something about it. ///// It's true: 100 yrs. ago, when somebody had cancer, that person was said to have tuberculosis and/or dementia ... and when the morphine ran out, that somebody was dead at age 34. ///// Now that I'm in my third year of softball retirement (not so much by choice), there's not softball shirt on which to apply an "MK" decal. ///// Was it really 5 yrs. ago when the Fightin' Phils Phamily lost three guys to aggressive brain cancers within a year? //// Ken Brett (at age 55) in Nov. '03 ... followed by Tug McGraw five days into '04 (at age 59) ... and then Oates (at age 58) seven days before the end of '04. //// Two years ago, John Vukovich checked out during spring training two years ago (age 59). ///// Those guys were lost their battles -- and Mark's gonna lose his. //// And, I don't know if memories of 17 for 19 in a softball tournament is enough to sustain a fella through such difficulty. ///// It's a fuckin' rip-off, that's what it is ... ///// + + +

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