When I was a kid, I avoided fights as much as possible. I cried when I got in a fight, even when I was winning, which was very rare. It was just some weird emotional response, for the tears to flow no matter how the fight was going.
I’ve worn glasses since I was 2, and my mom drove home the notion that I had to protect my glasses over all else, so that was one reason I didn’t do well in fights. Believe it or not, it’s also why I can’t catch. (You can’t keep your eye on the ball when you’re looking away to protect your glasses.)
I got into a fight one evening and was getting beaten pretty bad, as I backed away, protecting my glasses instead of fighting back. Then my dad showed up. I ran over, handed him my glasses, and returned to the fight. I won that fight, big time.
In my adult life, image has trumped reality when it comes to toughness.
Back in the 1970s, I was in a bar with friends one night when one friend, a self-professed Kung Fu expert, grabbed me from behind and urged another friend to hit me. Yeah, I don’t know why.
I reached up behind me and flipped that guy over my head, through the air. Not wanting to really hurt him, I dropped to one knee so he had a shorter distance to fall when he hit the floor on his back.
Everyone at the bar, including an off-duty state trooper, rushed to my side to make sure I was OK, indicating they all believed I was the victim in the incident and that they thought I was one tough son of a gun.
In the early 1990s, I was covering some self-defense training at the Gloucester County Police Academy when some cops and I started talking about self defense. I explained that because I can’t really fight, I have my own approach to self defense, an approach that included some extremely unorthodox moves I won’t describe here. The cops’ eyes got wide and they all said what a tough guy I was. Once again, image trumped reality.
But then it got to be the spring of 2015. I was diagnosed with a fistula that would require the removal of about 12 inches of my colon and six inches of my small intestine. Oh, and it was discovered that I also have bladder cancer.
So in June I had stomach surgery. Then in August, I started chemotherapy. And started preparing for cancer surgery that would remove a non-functioning kidney, my bladder, my prostate and lymph nodes and create a stoma, which would allow me to urinate into a small bag attached to the side of my stomach.
But, before that could happen, doctors learned I had four arteries that were seriously blocked. So last month, I had open-heart surgery to bypass those blocked arteries.
That surgery postponed the cancer surgery. So shortly after I start cardiac rehab, I will be meeting with my cancer surgeon so we can set a new date for this major cancer surgery.
People have pointed out how tough I am to be going through all this.
So I have decided that, yes, I am tough after all. Tougher, way tougher, than I thought.
The thing is, I don’t think I really have any choice in the matter. It’s be tough or go home.