The Bucket Carrying My List is Lighter

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I hear lots of people talk about their bucket list. This would be a list of things that the person would like to do before it’s too late. I suppose I had such a list when I was a kid or a teenager, but I really haven’t given it much thought throughout my adult years. I had career goals, family goals, etc., but not a personal list of events that I would like to do before my life is over. That is, until a little over a year ago.

I woke up one morning with a sharp pain in my stomach that was terrible. I couldn’t stand up straight and couldn’t tolerate it. My wife took me to the emergency room. For the next 5 hours, they poked me, scanned me, and injected me. They never could find the source of this pain. But in the process, they found a small mass that thy wanted me to have a checked out. The next day I met with a surgeon and we decided to remove it.

A week later, I went into surgery for what I thought would be a very minor and routine surgery, but when I woke up I was told that I had just come through major surgery where I had 15 tumors removed, along with a foot and a half of my small intestine, and told that it was most likely cancer. As the pathology reports came back, it was verified – I had cancer. AND, they missed a tumor, so I needed to do the same surgery again. So 2 weeks later, I went through the same surgery and had a 16th tumor removed.

The recovery was not good. I felt horrible and knew that something was wrong. After 9 days of not eating or drinking, not being able to move, and spending all of my time in a bed, they did another CT Scan and realized that my small intestine was leaking and had never sealed from the previous surgery. I was septic. If this goes on long enough, it’s possible to die. So I was rushed back into an emergency 3rd surgery to fix this leak.

In the months to come, many things changed for me. My personality. My weight (dropped 80 pounds). My priorities. Faith, family, and friends were highly valued more than before. When people are discussing you and you hear the words “cancer” and “die,” it has a way of getting your attention and causing reflection.

I guess this is when my bucket list began to take shape again:

  • Beat cancer. I was declared cancer-free in May 2012.
  • Build family memories. Vacations to San Diego and to Gulf Shores in the next few months with the family.
  • Run a 5K by the end of 2012. I ran my first 5K the week before Christmas.
  • Give music a try. I’m auditioning for America’s Got Talent this coming Saturday.

Music has always been a big part of my life. I first hit the stage when I was 2 yrs old. I took 13 years of vocal training. I have sung in big arenas to 20,000 people. I’ve recorded, been on TV and radio. And I went to college on a vocal scholarship where I was a double music major. But as I was growing up, they didn’t have American Idol, X Factor, The Voice, or America’s Got Talent. Now that I’m past the usual demographic that wins most of these shows, I wanted to just go try it one time and see how I do.

Do I expect to win? No. Do I expect to be on a couple of episodes? I really hope so. You may wonder why I would even try if I don’t think I’ll win. Good question. What matters most to me are two things:

1) The experience of doing it and letting my daughter see that I’m fearless in trying something new.

2) I want people to hear my story. I always saw cancer as a platform for me. It has given me the opportunity to speak with people about the more serious issues of life and death. I want people to know that my faith was strengthened by cancer – not weakened. I want people to cherish the moments and the opportunities that come their way each day. I want others to realize that just as I didn’t know when I might take my last breath – neither do they. Make the most of whatever your circumstance.

My sister-in-law passed away last week from colon cancer. From the time she was diagnosed to the time she passed away was only a couple of months. Life is but a vapor – here today and gone tomorrow. What will you do with the time that you have?

I still have other things to do on my bucket list, but the bucket is getting lighter. Maybe I should consider adding a few more things to it!

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