Confessions of a Rocket Scientist
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
  Courage Should Be Made of Sterner Stuff
I've gotten some nice e-mails from people who have read about my colon cancer. Thank you all for the kind words. I have yet to receive a negative comment.
It seems that just about everybody who responds has either had cancer themselves or has had a relative with cancer. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I read somewhere that one person in four will get cancer. With odds like that, it's no wonder that everybody knows someone who either has the disease or has had it. Personally, I like hearing about the people who had it and still are alive. It gives me hope.
But some of the comments I get really puzzle me. They congratulate me for my courage.
Courage. That word is getting a lot of misuse lately.
Courage, in my humble opinion, is exhibited when a person acts for a greater good regardless of the personal consequences. Courage is when a soldier falls on a grenade to save his buddies' lives. Courage is when a fireman rushes into a burning building to save a stranger's life at the risk of his own. Courage is when a lifeguard dives in to pull a swimmer out of an undertow.
In my own case, I was not exhibiting any form of courage. My fight for survival was motivated by the most self-serving of intentions: I wanted to stay alive. Yes, there was some risk to the surgery. One does not consider having one's gut cut open to remove two feet of large intestine without evaluating the danger. I could have died on the table or due to complications. (I almost died of congestive heart failure, but the staff at Grand View Hospital acted swiftly to save me.) I evaluated the risks and concluded that I had a better chance at sustained existance if I got the surgery.
I wanted to live.
The motive was fear of death.
Don't get me wrong, folks. I am grateful for the words of encouragement you have been sending me. And hopefully my experience will motivate you to stop putting off that colonoscopy. Had I gotten mine five years earlier things would be very different today. But I was not being brave or courageous. Courage is the stuff of heroes. I was surviving, plain and simple.
If anybody showed courage in this whole affair, it was my dear wife. This lady was at my side throughout my ordeal, giving me love and support. I know there were times when she wanted to break down and cry, but she neved did so in front of me. Through it all she was and still is my rock. She's the courageous one.
The continuing story of a man, his hobby, and the search for a really good cup of coffee.

"The first cup of coffee in the morning recapitulates Phylogeny." -J. Pournelle

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Location: Quakertown, Pennsylvania, United States

Two time cancer survivor, happily married, LaSalle Alumnus

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