Years later, as I reached “maturity”—past middle age—I came down with lung cancer. I realized how serious it was when my doctors hinted in a round-about way that I might want to get my affairs in order. There was a real possibility, I realized, that I might not survive. My old obstinacy kicked in. I wasn’t about to let this nuisance of an illness do me in. I had too many books left to write, but mainly I was insulted that fate dared to threaten me. I dug in my heels.
After I underwent chemotherapy and radiation to reduce the size of the tumor, a surgeon removed the upper lobe of my right lung. As I regained consciousness from the anaesthesia, I listened to the sounds around me in the recovery room. I imagined that I was lying by a black stream. It was close enough I could touch it. A voice urged me to reach out my hand and put it in the dark liquid. If I did, my struggle would be over and I would die. I refused.
My physicians were surprised and delighted at my recovery. They credited my survival to my excellent overall health. They didn’t know I was an obstinate bastard that wouldn’t give up. Once again, it was up to me. I had to do it myself, and I did.
Friends and readers sometimes remark on my intelligence and creativity. But I agree with my early counselors that I’m not really very smart. And I wouldn’t know creativity if I met it naked in the shower room. I am, though, the most determined man I know.
In short, my stubbornness saw me through time after time. It got me through the war in Vietnam with minimum damage. It saw me through my struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and cancer. It guided my writing. Thanks to my stick-to-itiveness, I now have 17 short stories and four novels in print, with another short story collection and another novel due out early next year.
You never know what the future holds, but if the past is any predictor, I’m tenacious enough to live to be a hundred. I insist on it. I’m too stubborn to die off sooner.