Saturday, May 03, 2008

Down The Barrel Of Mortality

(My Grandfather wins circa early 1960's)

Some months ago I found myself at my Doctor’s office, sitting on the cold examination table with that rather unflattering hospital gown wrapped around me, the knots in the back tied and re-tied as I tried to fight back the annoyance of the wait for my doctor.

The thin walls of his office allowed me to here him firmly chiding another patient for his lack of exercise and poor eating habits. I could hear in the patient’s response a respectful, but firm kind of defiance mixed in with a hint of sarcasm. I nervously chuckled to myself as I knew it was my turn next and that invariably I would be in for a lecture of my own soon enough. I than thought of the irony of how my Doctor had grown up in India, probably seeing and perhaps even suffering the diseases of want to now be here in America where the diseases are largely ones of over-consumption. I thought of how if I were in his shoes, that my career would have been ended the first time some obese American came in and glibly told me that their weight problem was the result of some glandular issue. I wouldn’t be able to take it.

Unfortunately, I am cursed with a set of bad genes. The exception being my Grandfather who I swear has found in his Florida backyard the famed fountain of youth and is quietly holding out on the rest of us. As long as I can remember, he has been old. But aside from the fact that he quit dying his hair some time ago and he is slightly slimmer than he was when I was a kid, he looks mostly the same. A race-car driver till they forced him from the track due to his age, he endured the death of my grandmother from diabetes and is presently watching his current wife descend into the horrific nightmare of Alzheimer’s disease. Yet, he is composed enough to not complain about things in front of us grandchildren, despite the fact that the oldest of us are in our thirties. If I have a quarter of the mental toughness he has when I am his age than it will be sure sign that miracles do indeed occur.

So there I was, after submitting to the weeks of harassment from my Doctor’s staff, waiting for my yearly exam, complete with testicular fondling amongst other fun activities. I already knew what he was going to say. I had to be careful of blood pressure etc...due to family history and was ready with a whole host of excuses to give him when he chided me for bailing on several past appointments. There was however, something I wasn’t expecting to talk about.

Cancer. The dreaded “C-word”. A few minutes into the lecture and not so gentle poking and prodding, my Doctor grew very quiet and seemed fixated upon something on my back. He then started asking about the outdoors, as in how much time I spent out in it. I did spend many a summer day on Virginia Beach, either in the water, or enjoying the scenery. And still now, when I can, I am at the beach. I have always loved the water and the warm sunshine that caused me to tan deeply, but rarely burn. My somewhat darker complexion kept me from sunburns, but apparently not from the long-term effects of years outside sans sun-screen. Just last summer I recall making sure that every inch of my daughter was covered with the best suntan lotion one can buy and tossing the container in the trunk when it should have been my turn. “What was the point ?” I thought. I don’t burn anyways.

The point was skin cancer can get you whether you burn or not. I learned this little fact the hard way as my Doctor sent me off to a dermatologist to check out a “suspicious” mole on my back. I was circumspect. I wasn’t in pain. The little mole on my back looked fine to me and my thoughts turned to what a damn racket the insurance industry is as I would have to pay some other Doctor to tell me that my own general practitioner was being overly cautious and there was nothing wrong. But if you haven’t figured it out yet, there was something wrong.

The Dermatologist ordered the mole removed for testing. Several days later I called to get the results and was not at all nervous until the people at the Dermatologist passed me along from staff member to Doctor and back like a hot potato, until my frustration got the best of me and I demanded somebody talk to me. At which time I was told the “sample” was indeed in the midst of changing from normality to cancer. I got that queasy feeling in my stomach that only subsided as it was explained to me that it was caught at the perfect time, the earliest stage, and the treatment was quite simple. The pain involved would be an inconvenience, but nothing that some Tylenol couldn’t handle.

Today, it is done and over with. I go back in six months for a check-up. I have no cancer in my body or on it.

What does this have to do with a blog about MOVE? That answer is easier than you might expect. Had I stayed in MOVE I would not be a doctor’s office for a yearly physical. In keeping with my devotion to the cult, I would have eschewed health-care and instead relied on John Africa’s magical powers to keep me safe. Powers, which if you think about it, have a pretty low rate of success. I would have most likely developed skin cancer and perhaps something worse, as the area in question was directly over the middle of my spine. And the later you catch and try and treat cancer, the harder it is to beat.

I would have possibly met the same kind of untimely demise that Merle Africa did in 1998. While MOVE clings to their official position that her death was “suspicious”, they know that she died of cancer. Cancer that may have been caught, treated, and dealt with had she not been so ensnared in a cult which robs you of the primary instinct of self-preservation. And she is not the only MOVE member to die young from cancer. Beverly Africa, whose husband Raymond Africa died on May 13th 1985 similarly died from cancer, leaving her three sons to be reared in the sect, one of whom would abandon the group a few years after her death.

This little health scare of mine offered me time for introspection and an excuse to catch up on some reading, while providing me with yet another example of why it was the right thing to do in leaving MOVE.

Speaking of reading, here are some of the books on my reading list:

“The Ayn Rand Lexicon” edited by Harry Binswanger
“Liberal Fascism” by Jonah Goldberg
“Parenting Beyond Belief” by Dale McGowan (a fine writer whom I had the privilege to meet and who offered me more of his time than I deserve)
“Dune” by Frank Herbert
“Red Mutiny” by Neal Bascomb

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