JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

My life

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I started out this morning believing a doctor would tell me I have colon cancer.

For four months now, I’ve had pain in my lower stomach. Then, a few days ago, I stared into the toilet and saw blood. Lots of blood. I started looking things up on the internet—Google searches for “stomach pain” and “blood” and “toilet.” The No. 1 thing I kept finding was “colon cancer.” Thoughts went through my head—I have colon cancer. No, I can’t have colon cancer, I’m only 36. Yes, I have colon cancer. No, you have zero family history. But it has to start with someone. But it doesn’t have to start with me. I’m doomed. I’m OK. I’m doomed. I’m OK.

I’m doomed.

As I’ve documented before in this space, I have a history of hypochondria that spans far and wide. Through the years, I’ve been convinced that I’ve had (among other things): Lou Gehrig’s Disease, testicular cancer, heart attack, brain tumor, MS. But this one—well, this one seemed different. The pain was legitimate. I felt it whenever I ran, and sometimes when I woke up. It was there—it is there. Of course, in my mind it has to be something terrible. There’s no such thing as a pulled muscle, or an inexplicable ache, or a pain that means little. There’s no minor injury, and no recovery from major injury. You get sick, you die. Life over.

It many ways, it goes directly back to a philosophy I’ve had for years—that the best way to live is to ponder death on a daily basis. My thinking went that if you always remind yourself that you’ll die, you’re also always reminding yourself to live. Logically, it makes sense—with one huge problem: Reminding yourself of death on a daily basis absolutely, positively sucks. It’s a real downer, and, truth be told, it doesn’t serve as a reminder to live … it just makes you feel like crap. So, in thinking about death regularly, I’ve not only become a negative thinker, but I’ve lost sight of life’s joys. I watch my kids play and instead of thinking, “Man, look at my amazing children!” I’m thinking, “I hope I love long enough to enjoy them fully.” It’s sad and pathetic, but it’s what I’ve become.

Anyhow, I arrived at the doctor’s office today for a long-scheduled colonoscopy, convinced that I’d awake to the words, “You have cancer, and it’s bad.” I was soooooo scared, pacing back and forth, thinking dark things, any nuggets of positivity buried deep within my psyche.

So what happened?

They put me to sleep.

They shoved a tube down my throat.

They woke me up.

The doctor said, “You don’t have cancer.”

And at that moment, I made a decision: I need to change.

In three week I’m turning 37. I have the wife of my dreams, the children of my dreams, the life of my dreams. I love to write, and I get paid—actually get paid—to do it. I never wear a suit; I’m with my kids all the time; I’m comfortable and (by my standards) successful. I’ve got great parents, great in-laws, a dog who sometimes poops outside … everything I’ve wanted

I need to change.

I’m not sure if this requires therapy or meditation or Yoga or large quantities of Peeps, but I am committing myself to moving beyond my chronic, ludicrous fear of illness and death.* It has done me no good for faaaaaaaar too long, and is an insult to the people I know who have faced real tragedy with far more courage than I possess.

Again, I’m not yet sure of the path, but I’m committed to finding it.

* Note: This search will not include turning my life over to Jesus Christ. No offense, and all due respect. But it just won’t.