Cancer Journal: Weathering a Storm with Friends

By Mike Celizic
|  Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010  |  Updated 2:45 PM PDT
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Cancer Journal: Weathering a Storm with Friends

MSNBC/Susan Houriet

Mike Celizic at a TODAYshow.com get-together.

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Editor's note: Mike Celizic is TODAYshow.com’s ace morning news reporter as well as a sports columnist for msnbc.com. He is renowned for his ability to write compelling, accurate stories at lightning speed, as well as for his trademark hat, which he never removes, even when appearing as a guest commentator on MSNBC.

Last year Mike was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma. As a dyed-in-the-wool journalist, his first instinct was: Report on it. Thus he is sharing this cancer journal with TODAYshow.com and msnbc.com readers as he turns his reporting skills to his most difficult subject: his own mortality.

I’m home, and while I feel my strength ebbing like air out of punctured tire, I still can’t believe how lucky I am.

It’s four days since my release from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. I don’t think I’ve had a peaceful minute since I came home. I’m glad of that. Time has been filled with friends and phones and emails and text messages — and boxes of tissues.

There have been doctors, but just to order blood tests. The home hospice folks arrive today with furnishings that are not going to enhance even my living room: hospital bed, shower chair — that kind of stuff.

The plan is to die at home, but if it gets ugly, I’m going to a hospital. Some things shouldn’t be inflicted on one’s family, and one of them is a lingering death at home.

That’s easy to write about. The rest is harder. I wish I could express myself with my customary style, but that’s not going to happen.

I’m tired. The words are hiding somewhere. But I’ve sworn to myself that I wasn’t going to write one entry and disappear. For once, I’ll get a story in without a deadline — no pun — to push me.

Related: Cancer journal, Part 1 — The diagnosis

Related: Cancer journal, Part 2 — Lust for life

Related: Cancer journal, Part 3 — Grim news and a happy birthday

Right as rain
Sunday was glorious. I had friends from Todayshow.com, from Washington, from down the road and from Westchester County and New York all coming up to my place in Orange County, in the mid-Hudson Valley. They braved brutal weather — a day-long downpour. But it’s been dry up here, and we needed it.

We spent substantial time on the porch, shielding ourselves from the spray and talking. I got to tell the most stories, and I didn’t hold back on the embroidery. All turned out to be a lot funnier than they were when they happened.

I can’t eat or drink very much; my stomach has no interest in it. But I tasted some fabulous beer (including a strong raspberry beer from Belgium that tasted like nothing I’ve ever had) and ate a bit. Mostly, I wondered what I’ve done to deserve such friends. I still can’t think of anything, but I sure am grateful.

Dressing for the occasion
I was so weak it took an hour to take what should have been a five-minute shower and get dressed. My wife, Margaret, probably thought her dear hubby had finally jumped the shark when I showed up in the white linen three-piece suit I had had made in China two years ago. I added a gold watch and my signature white hat and was ready to greet folks who came up in shorts and T-shirts.

Margaret never said a word as she helped me get dressed, but I felt she needed an explanation. It was if I had painted the house chartreuse with orange trim.

It took me about five minutes to explain — not because it was complicated, but because when I realized why I dressed that way, I just lost it. “I don’t know how many more chances I’m going to have to be Mike Celizic,” I finally managed to say. “So I’m going for it.”

Some of our guests we hadn’t seen for years, even though we’ve been the best of friends. Margaret and I kicked ourselves for taking so long to connect in person again, but we were glad we got a chance to renew the friendship. Margaret will still have them when I’m gone. That makes me feel pretty good.

I don’t know how long I’ve got to go. Nobody does. It should be quick, but I could go into spontaneous remission. It happens, although it’s far less likely than Option 1.

So every day gets more precious and more soggy. I’m hoping to hold it together long enough to welcome another crowd the weekend. My young friend, Chef Jon, is threatening to smoke our signature ribs. I’d like that.

I probably won’t be able to eat more than a bite or two, but I’m forcing down the whole thing. My Latin isn’t very good, but here goes: Carpe ossum: “Seize the bone.”

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