This post won't be very Christmasy. I'm not feeling very Christmasy today, nor have I much this week. Cancer didn't steal it, circumstances did. But that's not what this post is about. Several things have deeply affected me this week, one of which was a post in a support group yesterday by a friend I've met along the way. His name is Dan.
Dan titled his post, "The Death Of Passion." In it, he described how Lupron and Xtandi - the same drugs I am on - have robbed him of the passions he used to have, and even the man he used to be. Once a guy driven by his passions, now he's lost interest in most of them. Now he finds it hard to care about much of anything. He misses the guy he used to be, and the life he used to have.
Many responded to his post. Most of the men who responded felt the same as he does. They miss their old lives, interests and passions. One put it perfectly in a comment. He said, "I must force myself to do everything I once loved." Sounds familiar. Hormone treatment doesn't just suppress our sex drive, and hopefully, our cancer. It suppresses our motivation and ambition too. It's amazing how much of what we accomplish as men comes from the pure drive of testosterone. But testosterone also feeds prostate cancer. So suppress it, we must.
Dan's post resonated with me, and got me thinking. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that in my mind, there is a clear demarcation between "pre-cancer Mark" and "post-cancer Mark." The entire theme of this blog is summed up in its title: God's 2 By 4. I feel like God had to metaphorically hit me over the head with a 2 by 4 (cancer) to get my attention, and wake me up to what's important. As a result, I thought, I lost my desire to "run the show." My desire to perform and record has been sharply reduced, if not killed off altogether. But after reading and rereading Dan's post, I can't help but wonder, how much of that is chemically induced?
I recognize that Lupron makes me weak, and makes it hard for me to do things that require a lot of ambition. But I hadn't thought that this new direction my life has taken could simply be the work of a drug in my system, rather than an abrupt life change brought on by the realization that I'm running out of time.
My wife and I led the congregational singing in church last Sunday. It was just a few carols with piano accompaniment, so it was easy. It didn't require much energy output on my part, so I didn't mind doing it at all. But it stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest. A couple of friends who were part of our previous church where I was worship leader came up to me after the service and started trying to push me back up on the platform on a regular basis. Not that it's in their power to do so, but that's their desire, and that was how it felt to me. This only made me upset. It showed that, in spite of the many conversations about this we've had, (and we've had many) neither of them understand how I feel.
Someone needs to explain something to me. Why is it that people understand the concept of retirement in every field except music? In any other line of work, when you retire, people slap you on the back and congratulate you. They tell you to enjoy your retirement. But musicians are expected to keep going until we drop dead. Why is that? Maybe it's because music is perceived to be so integral to who we are, people can't separate the musician from the person.
Many musicians feel this way themselves. I used to think that way. I'll always do music, I thought. Maybe in a different form, or not to the extent that I'm still trying to make a living from it, but I never thought I'd want to stop doing music altogether. But that was before I got whacked by God's 2 by 4. That was before my first Lupron shot. Now I feel differently, and nobody seems to understand it except my cancer brothers. Some of them don't even understand. When I posted Done Running The Show about this, one of my brothers in a support group commented, "For now." He must not be on Lupron. If he was, he'd get it.
Mostly, I think people's inability to accept that I want to hang it up for good when it comes to performing, recording, and leading worship comes from pure selfishness on their part. They've enjoyed what I've done, so they don't want me to stop doing it. It's about them. But others worry that I'm losing my zest for life.
To be honest, at times, I am losing that spark. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that recent events have reduced my desire to live. I am both horrified and terrified by things that I will not discuss in this blog. There are mornings when it takes an effort for me to take my pills in the morning, and not just because they're so hard to swallow. A lot of things are hard for me to swallow these days. I'm just being open with you about how I feel. And I did take my pills this morning. I haven't missed a morning yet.
On the flip side, my journey differs from Dan's in fundamental ways. He began his post with a very amusing statement: Warning, your results may differ. Please consult your doctor if you have any of these symptoms or you could be just as messed up as Dan is. I can certify that I am at least as messed up as Dan is, but my results do differ. For one thing, I don't miss the old me at all. Not one bit. I like the new Mark much better than the old Mark, and everybody else seems to as well. Except those who want to hear me sing, that is.
I have new passions that I'm excited about. I don't mourn the death of my old passions. I have one more CD project to produce early next year. I want to do it, but the thought of the energy it will take makes me tired just thinking about it. But the thought of selling off my studio gear when it's finished excites me. I'm excited to move on to the next chapter. So for me, it's not The Death Of Passion, it's The Changing Of The Passions. Like the seasons, my passions are changing. Or they have already changed.
I'm excited to continue working with the kids in the rock band school I've talked about. I'm excited to begin the process of turning this blog into a book. I'm excited about sharing my story with as many as I can for as long as I can. I'm excited to get my Chosen Family Chocolate Ice Cream® on the market.
More than anything, I'm excited to experience more of what God is showing me, and to spend as much time with the people I love as I can. That's more than enough to keep me busy for my remaining time here on earth.
I've said many times in this blog that if I could go back in time and change my diagnosis, I wouldn't do it. Not if it meant I had to lose everything I've gained, including all of the friends I've made along the way. Friends like Dan. Not if it meant I had to go back to being the guy I was before. No, thanks.
It's a moot point, anyway. I'll be on these drugs for the rest of my life. So I'm not likely to change my mind. The old Mark isn't coming back, and good riddance to him. So to everyone who has scoffed when I've said I'm retiring from music, who reminded me of every band or artist who did a farewell tour and came back, who can't conceive of how the one thing that drove me for so many years could just disappear, I can only say that you must not have Lupron and Xtandi running through your veins. If you did, you might understand. I sincerely hope you never do.
Dan is a good writer. Several said so in their comments on his post. If he found any joy in writing that post, or in the responses he got to it, or both, I hope he'll pursue writing about his journey. I hope he'll find a new passion in it.
Dan closed his post with this: Find whatever passion in life that you can. I thank God that while I've lost my old passions, he's given me new ones. At my age, my old ones were a dead end anyway. The new ones have real possibilities. I'm sorry if you miss what I used to do, but I hope what I'm doing now has some meaning for you too. I know it does for me. Thanks for getting me thinking, Dan. #waroncancer