What Would You Do To Save A LifebySlirpuff©
Hi, my name is Steve and I'm an asshole. Sounds like the opening line out of an AA meeting doesn't it, but it's not. That's what my ex-girlfriend Carol called me when she walked out last month.
"Steve, you're a self centered, selfish asshole." were her exact words. And the worst thing about it, she was right.
"Babes, please don't go, I can change," I said as I begged her to stay. "Give me one more chance and if I screw up, I'll even help you pack."
"Steve, look around you, I've all ready moved my stuff out if you haven't already noticed, besides I'm sick and tired of hearing your sorry ass excuses. It's the same old bullshit you've been flinging for the last year. You gave me the same song and dance six months ago, last month and tonight, I just don't believe you anymore. It's always me, me, me, whatever happened to us? The only reason I'm even here right now is because I've got enough class to do this face to face instead of over the phone," Carol said staring at me. "Look at me Steve," Carol said as she spun around. "Look at what you're giving up because you can't get your head out of your ass. You just lost the best thing you'll ever have."
I made one more desperate plea before she stormed out the door. Did I like her? Hell yes. And she was right, she was the best thing that ever happened to me, as she had the uncanny knack of keeping me grounded and on the straight and narrow; I guess she got tired of babysitting me. Besides that, she was beautiful and the best lay I'd ever had, bar none. So after Carol left, I did what every loser does, I got drunk, a lot.
The next two weeks were kind of a blur. Thank God my boss liked me and I was pretty good at what I did for a living or I would have got my ass fired. He sympathized with me but like everyone else he had more than enough on his own plate to worry about me. The one thing that brought me back to reality was the fact that all my friends were really Carol's friends, who just put up with me for her sake. No one wanted to hang out with me or even stop after work for a drink anymore.
"Fuck them all, I don't need them," I said to myself as I stopped at our old watering hole by myself for the tenth night in a row. I was going downhill fast and if it wasn't for the fact that I had a running partner who wouldn't take no for an answer, I would have lost it.
"Steve, get your sorry ass up," he yelled as he pounded on my door at six o'clock in the morning. "Steve, you look like shit, what are you, still drunk?" Dan asked me as I opened the door. "Don't even think your leaving me high and dry this morning. Get your ass dressed, you've got five minutes."
We took it pretty easy the first two miles but after that Dan picked up the pace.
"Are you trying to kill me this morning? Have you no respect for the fucking dead?" I yelled as I tried to keep up with him.
"Hey man, I didn't pour those drinks down your throat last night. I was stone sober in bed by nine thirty with Cindy," he said smiling. "I'll take Cindy over a six pack of Corona any day of the week," he laughed as he picked up the pace again.
I stopped, puked and started running again. Luckily it was just liquid and no chunks as I wiped my face with my handkerchief before throwing it on the pile of slop on the ground. I never did catch up to Dan but he sure as hell was waiting for me at my apartment when I finished.
"Maybe tonight you'll go a little easier on the sauce," he said finishing his bottle of water. "I expect your ass up and waiting for me tomorrow morning," Dan told me getting in his car.
I would have puked again but there wasn't anything left in my stomach and there was no way I wanted the dry heaves, so I skipped breakfast. A cup of black coffee in hand I went to work. Instead of stopping after work for a few, I decided to quit indulging for a while. I looked like and felt like crap most days and needed to dry out, for a little while anyway.
I must have been stronger than I thought. I made it a whole month without anything stronger than a white soda. Dan still kicked my ass every morning but at least I stayed up with him now without puking.
"Hi mom, just checking in, anything new?" I asked.
I knew what was new and always kept an upbeat attitude when I made my weekly or biweekly calls home.
"Hi honey, not much new here," she replied. "Your father is still threatening to move us all down to Florida with you. He says he's tired of the snow and cold weather up here," my mom said with a laugh. "Since he doesn't golf or fish anymore, I keep telling him he'll drive himself and me nuts in a month. He says he'd rather be a warm nut than a cold one any day."
"How's Gary doing?" I asked fully knowing the answer.
"He's better. He has his good and bad days, you know how it is."
My younger brother Gary was sick again. He'd been in and out of the hospital since he was one year old. He battled a kidney disease for the first eighteen years of his life and finally beat that but now wasn't feeling good again. I used to watch my mother lay out his pills every night, carefully counting each as she went through bottle after bottle. They kept him alive, but ate up his stomach and almost every other part of his body. The biggest problem was, after taking those high doses for so many years, it affected all his joints. He was told that by the time he hit thirty he'd probably have to have his knees and hip joints replaced if he wanted to keep walking.
But talking to him, you'd never know he'd ever been sick a day in his life. He worked out, played sports and even went hunting and fishing. Hell, he did ten times more than I did. Gary even found himself a girl and got married two years ago and now Brenda was pregnant with their first. He sure had it together, unlike me.
"I'll give him a call this weekend and see how he and Brenda are doing. Hell, I might even sneak up to see you guys this summer if I can get away," I told my mom fully knowing that what I'd just said probably wouldn't happen. At least it made her feel good knowing that it was possible that she might have the whole family together for a couple of days anyway this summer. "Mom, got to go for now. I'll keep in touch and if anything comes up let me know."
So life went on. I slept, ate, went to work and got my butt kicked five days a week by Dan; did it get any better than this? I dated a few girls, but either we didn't click or they quickly tired of my attitude. I saw Carol around and even talked to her once in a while. I couldn't tell if she was dating but knew without asking she'd never go out with me ever again. So I hit the bars to see what else was available.
Becky at work suggested a dating service when I couldn't come up with a date for the company spring outing but I told her politely no way, no how. I thought about getting a hot escort for the day and wowing the guys I worked with but gave up that idea after finding out what it would cost me. I skipped the outing.
The week after the loneliest birthday I'd ever spent, my dad gave me a call.
"Steve, I've got some bad news," is how he started it. "Your brother has cancer, lung cancer to be exact."
"Dad, that's impossible, Gary never smoked a cigarette in his entire life."
"The doctors aren't sure how he got it other than to say it's a type you get from second hand smoke. Maybe hanging out in sports bars with his friends or whatever, but the how really doesn't matter at this point. I also found out that when he switched jobs last year, because of his past medical problems, he had to wait twelve months before getting his major medical coverage. Now he's screwed and the company's not going to bat for him either."
"Isn't he on Brenda's insurance?" I asked.
"Because of his pre-existing condition her insurance wouldn't let her add him, so they just figured that within a couple of months they'd be home free."
"In other words he has no insurance coverage?"
"That's about right. They'll cover his prescriptions and general office visits but no major medical."
"Dad, just how bad is it," I asked.
"It's cancer, but it's not that super aggressive type, thank God. They're going to start with radiation to see if they can shrink it and if not, they'll cut it out and give him some chemo. The doctor says his chances are better than seventy-five percent because they caught it so early, but the costs are going to be staggering none the less."
"I don't have a lot saved up, but Gary's more than welcome to it," I told dad.
"Son, it's going to take a lot more than you, I and they can come up with. The kids are still fighting with the insurance company and are looking into a hospital that'll work with them but he's starting treatment next Monday. Look, we haven't told your mom yet because she'd do nothing but worry and Gary didn't even want me to call you, so if you talk to him don't let on unless he tells you himself. I'm sorry it couldn't be better news but I thought you should know. I'll e-mail you updates when I hear anything more. Give him a call this weekend, he and Brenda are feeling a little low right now."
We said our good-byes and hung up. Feeling a little low? Damn, I'd be going fucking nuts about now. I pulled up my bank statement on line and figured I had about five grand extra I could send to him and maybe an extra couple hundred every month but my dad was right, it was a drop in the bucket.
I called my brother Sunday and neither he nor my sister-in-law said jack shit about his condition. They told me they were looking forward to the baby, their vacation this summer and how the renovations were going on their house. I almost said something but respected my dad's wishes.
I spent the next two weeks on the computer finding all there was to know about his condition, costs involved and if anyone was doing any cutting edge research he could get connected with. There was one place in Chicago but they'd have to move there to qualify. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester had nothing and most of the small hospitals budgets, I was told, were too tight to do much for him. I couldn't believe with all the money the insurance companies were raking in they couldn't cut him a break.
My first ray of hope came from the American Cancer Society. I'd raised money for them over the years especially when a close friend died of a combination of breast cancer and then lung cancer. After supposedly beating breast cancer, she caught pneumonia and was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died in less than a week. That, I would not allow happen to my brother.
I talked to a nice lady named Fran from the Cancer Society's local office. I was told I would be allowed to raise money for my brother under the A.C.S. label but she was sorry that their existing funds were already spoken for. She gave me written authorization and wished me the best of luck.
"If there is anything we can do, let us know. The more it's out there in the news the more donations we receive."
Dan came up with the idea of a cancer run fundraiser Thursday morning.
"Hell, get people to donate so much a mile like they do for the Relay For Life fund raisers and then all you have to do is run or walk and collect the money; a piece of cake.
However, when I started to take donations I saw how hard it really was going to be. A dollar a mile was the best I could get from anyone. I had twenty sponsors and figured at this rate it would take five thousand to get the money Gary would need, and I was running out of time. That's when I turned off the common sense button in my brain.
It took me another week to make my initial plans and when I started to talk to new sponsors they just rolled their eyes and said if I was going to attempt it, they were behind me. Things were looking up.
"Are you fucking nuts?" Dan asked as we headed back towards my apartment on our morning run. "There is no way on earth you can do it, physically it's just not possible. Shit, have you even talked to your work about it? Do you have any idea how long that's going to take you?" he yelled as he just kept peppering me with questions on why it couldn't be done; and he was probably right.
You see I came up with this hair brain scheme to walk from my apartment in Orlando to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and give them a check for my brother's treatment. As I said, I had turned off the reality switch in my brain.
"Dan look, I'm in great shape, and if nothing else I can run, walk and even crawl my way there. Two years ago I did sixty-one miles in a day and didn't even get a blister on my feet. I know it's a long ways, but it's for my only brother, what choice do I have?"
"All right I'll help you set it up but I just want you to know up front, you'll never make it."
Never tell me I can't do something; it's like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Dan and I spent the next three weeks planning out my insanity.
My work understood my dilemma and backed me to the hilt. I could take the three weeks vacation I'd saved up and the company let me add in the ten-paid holidays. They told me that we'd work out the details later, but would pledge a dollar a mile to boot. That gave me twenty-five days paid and I was given the option of twenty-five more as a kind of unpaid leave. Fifty days, hell no way it wouldn't take me that long.
I next hit our local running store. Like everyone else, they rolled their eyes but did agree to give me five pair of running shoes, as long as they could put their name on the shoes. I didn't care and they even let me put up a poster for pledges on their activity board.
Next, I had to find a hotel chain that was large enough so no matter where I ended up, I would have a place to stay. The Holiday Inn's gave me a fifty percent discount on their cheapest room rate, which was not to exceed thirty-five dollars a night. They sent Dan a list of locations as we started to hone in on my route.
Since I was our company's material manager I was given permission to hit up our vendors for donations. Of the ninety-three vendors, twenty-seven said they would donate, but told me that I was a decimal place off on the distance I'd given them. When I told them it was correct they asked where they could send the condolence cards. They laughed, I didn't.
Being a Harley rider I stopped off at the dealer I'd purchased my last two bikes from. They asked if I'd take a recent spill because they figured my brains were scrambled when I asked them for help.
"Look, all I'm asking is for a pledge of anything you can give me per mile and ten tee shirts. I will put them in each of the ten dealerships in the tri-county area and people can donate and write on the shirt the name of someone they know that has or had cancer. I know they all sponsor rides and fund raisers, but in this way, they'll also get a little advertisement since I'll be wearing the shirts everyday."
They thought I was nuts but gave me the shirts and contacted the other dealers who also pledged. It was all starting to come together. I spent a week laying out clothes, medical supplies, hats and planning my daily meals. I needed so many calories to keep up my strength and I didn't want to carry a lot of money with me so I was relying on a credit card and a cash debit card.
"Steve, you'll never be able to carry all this stuff," Dan said looking at my pile. "Maybe, just maybe I have a solution." The next day he came back with a little two-wheel cart. "You can put everything into dry bags and pull it behind you. It's going to slow you down a lot, but at least you'll have everything with you in case you run into problems." We tried it the next day on our morning run. I didn't like it, but I really didn't have much of a choice.
Start to finish it took me five weeks to plan my outing, as I liked to call it. My I-Pod, and my smart phone with G.P.S. and an Internet connection rounded out my equipment. I loaded them with every song and phone number I could think of and put my map route in the planner I was going to carry. May 1st at about five thirty in the morning is when I planned my kick off.
I mailed to each hotel I'd be staying at, four pair of socks, a tee shirt and running shorts. I sent my extra running shoes to a few along the way so I'd have a fresh pair every week. I figured my feet were going to be my main concern if I ever expected to finish.
"Steve, are you nuts or just drunk?" my dad asked me the day before I left.
"No, but I kind of wish I was right about now," was my reply. "I've got at least fifty to sixty sponsors which puts me over fifty thousand dollars at a minimum. The closest I can come up with, it's just over eleven hundred miles and I'm hoping to average thirty five to forty miles a day; a piece of cake," I told him.
"I just hope you know what your doing."
"I'm not even sure about it myself, but I've only got one brother and no other way to raise money as fast as he's going to need it. Just don't tell Gary or mom. She'll go nuts and Gary will try to talk me out of it like everyone else has. I should see you in about forty days. I'll have my cell with me so call me if you need me."
"I love you, son," was the last thing he said as I hung up.
Dan met me the following morning just before I left.
"Maybe this will help," he said as he put a little sign on the back of my cart.
"Florida to Minnesota Cancer Run. Donations accepted."
"It may help, but it sure as hell can't hurt. I'm also going to hit up all your friends to see if they'll pledge anything," he told me.
"Friends? Hell, that should get me all of a dollar fifty," I thought to myself.
So, on a beautiful and warm morning I took off on a quest to help my brother. I didn't have a clue what I was in for but I sure as hell couldn't very well back out now.
I made almost fifty-eight miles the first day. If I didn't have to pull that damn cart I probably could have done another five to seven miles more. I was feeling pretty cocky as I checked into my room and took a much-needed shower. I took off my sweaty tee shirt and washed it out in the bathroom sink along with my socks. My Harley shirt had seventy-one names of people who'd had cancer on it. I had decided to switch to a different shirt each day along with rotating my shoes. I had to keep my feet clean and dry that was my main goal.
I grabbed a quick dinner at a Denny's and after watching a little television hit the sack. I didn't set the alarm because I figured I'd let my body dictate my pace. After a breakfast of eggs and sausage I was off again.
I was a little sore but after popping four ibuprofen it got a little better. People honked and a few threw me dollar bills as I ran on. I figured at every town I stopped in I'd see if there was a Harley dealership and maybe pickup a few extra bucks. I called Fran and told her I'd started my quest and would check in with her a couple times a week. I heard afterwards that all the dealerships had put up big maps and were plotting my daily progress on them. I also heard there was a pool going on how long I would last. The big money was on twenty-two days.
On day six my feet were on fire and killing me. As I was soaking them in ice I figured I was pushing it too hard and would have to back it off a little before I crashed and burned. I picked up some A & D ointment for between my butt cheeks and a box of round band aids for my nipples that were rubbed raw and bleeding. I was averaging forty-five miles a day but figure I needed to ease up for a day or two before pushing it again.
I was doing the two ten strategy. I jogged for two minutes and walked for ten. When I found that walking hurt my feet more than jogging I revised it to jogging ten minutes and walking for three. It wasn't perfect but worked for a few days.
All right I wasn't in as good a shape as I thought I was. Running five to eight miles a day was one thing and even running a marathon was an accomplishment but this went way beyond that. After nine days my I-Pod stopped working and my legs felt like lead. I'd doubled up on my socks and was working on a nasty blister on the back of the heel of my left foot.