A NEW CHEMOTHERAPY

By Patch Rose


Seek perfection of character.
Live the way of truth.
Endeavor.
Be Faithful.
Respect others.
Refrain from violent behavior.


These are the side effects of my new chemotherapy.
As I lace up my dobok-my white martial arts suit, the one that always makes me feel like a sushi chef-I continue to repeat the dojang hun, the training oath I've learned from my teacher.
I'm convinced my brain cancer came from poisonous thinking, so after my second survival anniversary, I began classes in Chayon-Ryu, a multi-discipline form of martial arts. I knew I'd need strong discipline to clear out the dark and dangerous neighborhoods in my head. As the wise man once said, "You can travel safely through my neighborhood. If you're a bullet."
I've tried to heal my mind before. Often. I've begun many disciplines in my life and never got past the second month; guitar lessons, piano lesson, karate lessons. Nothing stuck. But Chayon-Ryu-that's my new Little Missy. I'm hooked, bad. And that's a good thing. Because I don't ever want to return to my old chemotherapy.
As I repeat once more the training oath, I compare it in my mind to the list of side effects on the mountains of empty chemotherapy bottles in my office closet. I'd long ago memorized each red and yellow warning sticker, which offered monthly their own deathly dojang hun:
Do not break open pills.
Do not inhale.
Avoid contact with skin or eyes.
Do not spill on the floor near sleeping wives or hungry cats.
Do not kid yourself: You don't have a chance.
As I sweep the concrete floor where I will receive my weekly training, I remember the litany of side effects I suffered from 30 years of pursuing a performing arts career:
Do not cry when they laugh at you.
Keep your hand on your wallet.
Believe no one; they don't really think you're a star.
Yes, your professional photos do make you look fat.
You're bald, you're short and you're old. Next.
Do not kid yourself: You don't have a chance.
And as I slowly tie the stiff white belt around my waist, I think of the side effects that punished me as I tried to find a lifetime's happiness in stunningly gorgeous women:
Prepare to be humiliated.
Prepare for a multitude of lonely nights.
Prepare to spend all your money.
Prepare for boring sex.
Do not kid yourself: You don't have a chance.
Is it any wonder I got cancer?
Cancer's lessons-and for me, its gifts-let me stop chasing illusions and embrace what is real and important. Finally, cancer gave me discipline. When the beast takes you, the length of time between that first grasp of the claws and the ultimate, killing bite is largely determined by your discipline. There's luck, too, of course. And good food and good meds. And an amazing wife.
Mostly, survival is about discipline. It's training. It's finding new ways to beat the beast, so you can have one more day, one more hour. One moment of peace.
So, I have discipline. I turn and bow to the room, to honor the sacred space that helps me live. And as I hear the steps of my instructor on the stairs outside, I repeat again my life's new side effects.
Seek perfection of character.
Live the way of truth.
Endeavor.
Be Faithful.
Respect others.
Refrain from violent behavior.
I'm ready teacher, for another round of my new chemotherapy.
~~~
In November 2005, Herald reporter and freelance writer Patch Rose was diagnosed with a GBM brain tumor. Statistically, GBM patients live about one year after diagnosis. So far, Patch is beating the odds.
Patch lives in Truth or Consequences alongside his wife, two cats and two Chihuahuas. Together, they make half a dozen Roses.
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