What’s the Alternative, Man?

A leg-up can come from the oddest places. Even then, you can loop your hand to get someone up in the saddle, but you can never run his race for him.


So, in walks this aging, wiry biker, a man who has become millionaire with his businesses, a cold call out of the blue. I had been telling my husband for days, “Call Rod.” I have no idea why I even said it. Must have been some karmic shit, because Rod came, and came bearing an open heart and hard truths.

Still, in the end, he said that he has no idea what he would really do in Mike’s place, despite his desperate attempts to will Mike into having the will to fight longer, not give up.

But, having gone through this with his brother, he made the point crystal clear. Once you give up, and things get bad enough to where you realize you are going to die, there is no going back, no re-do. “Sure its hell, but whats the alternative, man?”

The thing is, he says? Lots of things in life are like that, not just life-itself. You have to weigh the pain/sacrifice equation out with the alternative of never-going-back to whatever you decide to end, and take responsibilty for your choices and fix them….because after a time, be it a career choice, a degree or a mate, there is no going back. Especially your life itself.

Rod’s about to spend 1-4 in a Federal Prison. He knows that of which he speaks. And takes it all with aplomb.  

Rod’s brother was just like Mike…. “I’m sick of being this sick. That shit is poison. I’m not going through that again. I’m done with it.”

So, after his first round, he stopped treatments.

And ended up sick and in pain anyway, with no hope of it ever getting better. He realized that he was really going to die. He couldn’t walk, he was down to 80 lbs. He was in agony.

He went back, and they said, “You are too weak, we can’t treat you.” So Rod drove him cross-country to the Mayo Clinic. They said, “You are too weak. Do you want to die here or at home?”

When he said, “At home,” they looked at them both and said, “You’d better hurry.” He was gone 2 days later, home just in time.

You see, I think Mike was thinking, that since he felt ok before the treatments and had this cancer, and since he is starting to feel better now, that without treatments he would be fine, and then one day just wake up dead or something. (Wake up dead is an inside joke, btw)

He told us, man were it me, if they were gonna give me 20 shots, I’d beg for 22.

Experimental shit, anything, everything to live. You give up, you die, and it ain’t a pretty death.

Mike was really hearing him… hearing him like he’s heard no other. You see his aunt keeps telling him it was the treatment that killed her husband. 30 years later and she is still an angry bitter old woman. She scared Mike, I feel.

But like the showing in torture, where they show you all the implements and let your psyche’s dread do more than the actual pain will… there is all this fear for him.

It shows up in nightmares every night. It shows when he refuses to eat real food. “Why get used to loving food again, only to have it taken away from me? Nah, I’ll just keep living on ramen, so the adjustment won’t be such a bummer.” He feels fine right now, but is living like a man in pain to make some future pain easier?  How do you balance the desire to live with the fear of pain?

The decision to quit is personal, and I mostly leave him alone on it. Who am I to dictate the only thing a man truly has control of? I want him to live, to be all better, to come back into the light of love and hope. But I am not in it, he is. I feel repercussions, to be sure, but its not my life in the balance, nor my pain.

We are waiting for the tests. I have no idea what he is going to do, even with Rods awesome soul-baring.

He has said over and over to me he is done with it.

But maybe, just maybe he heard Rod, and realizes what the alternative is.

An end to this precious gift of life. “That’s the alternative, man. You really want to die?”

He gave him a leg back up on the pony of at least considering what the ride will be, but ultimately he has to jockey his own course.

Life is short and precious, my dear ones. And sometimes the pain you have to take is worth the the joys. Do your best with it, is all I can muster as an out-line. Because, every day, every action, every decision should always be weighed by words like these:

“What’s the alternative, man?”

1 comment

    • Diane G on November 20, 2010 at 18:21

    and celebrate the alternative of being above ground.

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