Holy Sit: Suicide By Cancer - Part I

Suicide By Cancer - Part I

When I was in college, I took summer job building ground support equipment for airplanes. I worked in a blue-collar shop full of men and I learned how to build devices that somehow contributed to airplanes landing safely at SeaTac airport. Eventually, I was upgraded to truck driver when the last poor soul in the driver’s seat was caught napping in the cab of the company truck after downing a Big-Mac and fries. I guess you could say he was McFired! That job subsidized my college education, which eventually landed me a job at Microsoft.

The Isuzu truck I drove when I worked for Mack
My boss that summer was Mack, a 26-year old, skinny, former navy, tattoo-sporting, foul-mouthed, chain-smoking man with a heart of gold. We had nothing in common, but he taught me how to read blueprints, operate a forklift and drive the company truck, an Isuzu five-speed diesel over-cab. I transferred heavy equipment from place to place around Southpark Seattle in my truck. As a twenty-year-old female, I turned a few heads in this male-dominated industry, but Mack always had my back. Nobody messed with me for fear they’d have to deal with him. He taught me how to cuss like a pro, play Billiards, and appreciate a cold Labatt’s beer at the end of a long workday. I got much better at playing pool. The more bets I won, the more proudly Mack would contribute some of his earnings to my college tuition.

When Mack was diagnosed with cancer that summer, his life wasn’t exactly a cakewalk. His marriage was ending, and while a strong worker, his ornery attitude wouldn’t likely earn him any big promotions. I could tell he was also battling some old emotional and physical wounds that would likely never be addressed. Was it a coincidence that now his life was at stake? He handled his cancer diagnosis by drinking and smoking more frequently. He seemed to simply accept the diagnosis and half-heartedly go to treatment. At 20 years old, I only had the skills to make him laugh and provide a distracting game of pool from time to time. Still, I was baffled about why he didn’t give up his vices or search for other cancer treatment options.

Mack was given both a diagnosis (fast-growing cancer) and a prognosis (less than one year to live) by people who appeared to be more educated than he was. Although we never talked about it, his actions in regards to his cancer told me two things: 1) He actually believed the doctors when they put a timeline on his life; and 2) He did not really want to live. Over the course of one short year, I watched a spirited man get reduced to nothing. He spent his remaining cash on fast cars and vacations. He left this planet in style and adhered to the timetable prescribed by the doctors. From where I was watching, it looked like suicide by cancer brought on by a lack of hope.

Mack died quietly at the home of his ex-wife. His last act pretty much summed up how he interacted with the world. As the hearse pulled out of the driveway of her home, it backed right over her cherished cat – a cat Mack simply couldn’t tolerate. While I’m very sad for the feline, Mack had the final say. He was tough, direct and rough around the edges. He did it his way and he usually got the last laugh.

After my experience with Mack, I wondered about other people who are already depressed, physically challenged or overwhelmed by life. Does a cancer diagnosis then become the tipping point that causes a person to give up and slowly let life go? Never in a million years did I imagine that over two decades later, I might be feeling the same way Mack did. We had nothing in common, or did we? 

Now, it was my turn to ask the all-important question; did I really want to live? Continue reading here: Suicide by Cancer - Part II.  

Mack, you are still missed.

In peace,

Note: This Holy Sit blog is one in a series of blog posts that tell the story of my journey healing from cancer without surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. It's also about spiritual awakening and finding inner peace in a chaotic world. If you want to read the full story, check out the chapter titles on the Holy Sit home page & start with this one.  Cheers to your health!