Seven and a half months. That’s what my nephew Joe had between the first symptom and death. 235 days, from the time he went to the hospital with severe abdominal pain on a beautiful Friday in June, to the dark, bitter January night when he breathed his last breath on this earth. Liver cancer kills all its prisoners swiftly, even the young, healthy men with kind hearts and gentle natures. And they die in horrible ways, with excruciating pain, enduring suffering that is difficult merely to watch, let alone go through.
We talk of workouts filled with pain and suffering. We talk of battles and struggles. But these things we do with barbells and bumpers are nothing in comparison to what goes on in the real world, to the ordeals that some folks must endure simply to breathe one more day.
I can’t say this is fair, or right. But it is simply what is. And we must remember that our workouts are not meant to be greater than. This is not a comparison test. No one on this earth truly thinks that a good “Grace” time beats a battle with death. No, these times spent willfully putting ourselves through some sort of suffering in the gym are preparation, always preparation, for things we know to come and for things coming of which we have no idea, no inkling, no hint. Not one of us knows if we will wake up in the morning and suddenly have only 235 days to live in this world.
And if we did wake up with this kind of terrible news, what would we do with those 235 days? How would we live them? How are we living them now, here, most of us unaware when our days will end? Are we wasting them? Filling the days with worthless junk? Squandering our hours? Or are we really living? Loving? Helping? And yes, getting strong so our strength — physical, mental, spiritual — can help others?
Quite simply, what are you doing with your days, with your hours, with your minutes? And, if you only had 235 days left, could you live them as courageously as Joe did?
One day, coming out of the hospital, after another treatment, Joe said this to his mom: “You always told me I had to live every day. I just didn’t know I’d have to do it so soon.”
Live each day, my friends. Each day. Go hard, go heavy, but, above all, be kind to those in your life. For in the end, it really is all that matters …
Rest in peace, Joe Garassino, 1984-2013. We’ll never stop loving you.
To learn more about Joe’s life and battle with cholangiocarcinoma, read his blog here.