Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cancer man: clown

I have a not-too-unreasonable fear of Cancer. In my life, it has killed two grandfathers, a couple of uncles, a great aunt or two and was a factor in my grandmother's death. It's also popped up in the lives of my sisters and is the odds on favorite for how I will eventually go.

Part of the reason I've continued with the Road to Recovery program with the American Cancer Society is because Cancer is waiting for me. I've seen how frail it makes people who have it. I have compassion for them because I have compassion for that future me, that shriveled man somewhere down the line who will likely face it alone.

I am man who is very aware of the reality of his surroundings.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from the circus, from Ringling Brothers. A clown, who I did a feature on, was diagnosed with brain cancer. Surgery had been performed, but they were really only able to remove part of the tumor. They're treating it as best they can, trying to keep him comfortable and in good spirits, but his hopes for a meaningful recovery sound bleak.

The treatment buys him some time.

Someone at the circus remembered the article, remembered maybe that he liked it, and wanted a copy to send him they could put on his wall. The circus was gathering things to help cheer him up and show them they cared now, especially now.

I said yes. I didn't hesitate. I didn't ask anybody what it was going to cost. I just said yes.

It took a little bit of doing. It wasn't entirely easy, but I had help shepherding it through. The glossy poster version of his front page article got done and all I had to do was write a check to pay for it --something I will do in a few minutes once I figure out where the accounting department is in this building. Our secretary, really kind of a saint, gave up her money for the postage. The poster is already in the mail.

I've thought about the clown, about why the man behind the makeup got into his chosen field. It's not an easy choice to become a circus clown. It's an outright weird choice. There are much easier and more obvious ways to become an entertainer, but he chose it, I think, because he loved the audience, because he loves children.

As a symbol, I couldn't think of anything sadder in the world: a clown dying slowly of cancer.

I think I would have said yes, even if the picture had cost a hundred bucks. As it happened, it didn't. There's not a lot of justice in the way of things, but you can get a discount now and then.

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