by Joe Shea
November 12, 2014
END OF THE ROAD?
BRADENTON, Fla., Nov. 10, 2014 -- The dream started with me driving down a broad highway, as I love to do. The road then turned into a quiet country road, and suddenly I found our dog, a happy Shetland Sheepdog named Bounce, licking my face as he jumped up and down in my arms. I hadn't seen him since he died 54 years ago, and like him I was overcome with joy.
Then, as I looked out the windshield, I saw the single-lane country road was now turning into a gravel one. We kept going a little further, and then off to my right I saw a vast plain of cleared fields, with gravel over all of it, and I thought maybe they were building an Interstate highway. As I stared out at the endless expanse of grey gravel, the car slowed and began to stop. I woke up.
A few days earlier I had a needle biopsy that was done by a female Nigerian radiologist at Blake Hospital here in Bradenton. I got the results a few days later, and they were not good. A nurse practitioner told me the results over the phone after I failed to show up for an appointment: At the spot in my colon where a tumor had been removed in March 2012, there was another tumor, an adenocarcinoma, I think she called it, and she said it had "extended to the bladder." It was the kind of cancer that had killed my oldest brother, John, a few years ago. Something told me it was going to kill me, too.
The dream seemed to confirm that; I was reunited with my beloved dog in the afterlife, and ahead of me was an unknown highway, one still being built. Was it the rest of my life? Was it the potential of the journey I was on? Or was it, as it seemed, just the end of the road?
When I spoke to a beloved priest, Fr. Fausto Stampiglia, after Mass at St. Martha's Catholic Church in Sarasota, I had been shedding tears all through Mass, and when I told Fr. Fausto I'd had a biopsy I started crying in earnest and told him, as I wept, "I think I'm going to die." He gave me a heartfelt blessing and told me I was not; "I can see your guardian angel walking beside you," he said.
"He's got my other hand," I replied; he laughed.
Medically speaking, my treatment has been delayed for months by Florida Cancer Specialists, whose chemotherapy obviously had not worked. My insurance company, Humana, had cut them off, and it seemed like they blamed me for it. I would call them and wait for weeks for a response, unsure why they were allowing me to fall through the cracks.
It was as though someone powerful whom I had offended in this column had persuaded my doctor just to hold off treatment and appointments for a couple of months to let the cancer grow and take more of my colon and my bladder, and me along with it.
Perhaps that's paranoia speaking, or perhaps it's not. I did learn as I spoke with him about it that my chemotherapist was a fervent enemy of Obamacare, which I had fought for and still very strongly support. The President had actually written me a personal, signed letter about it after I wrote to congratulate him on the achievement. That may have cost me my life when it appeared in this newspaper, making my doctor more susceptible to a corrupt offer to delay my treatment.
Death will not deter me from condemning the enemies of President Obama and universal health care. It is not a huge issue for me, even though through it and through Humana and Sunshine Health, my providers, I have enjoyed complete freedom from medical costs - CVS did manage to cheat me out of a few bucks, but that was trivial.
Medicare allowed me to have the company of a CNA for a few hours a day during the week. They cook and clean and chat, drive me to appointments and keep me socialized. It's hard to say how deeply I have appreciated their presence because I'm sure I would start to cry and not be able to complete this. Let's just say that their kindness has meant worlds.
The prospect of my abandoning humanity to its own designs has brought my brothers and sister closer to me, and I am only sad about leaving them and many other people I love for a place that is either full of choirs or full of virgins, or which doesn't exist at all - it's a place from which only Jesus Christ returned, so there's no two-week summer vacations one can take there to find out.
I do have an inordinate love of people, all kinds of them - ordinary, famed, criminals, politicians, the poor, the plain, the brave and the cowardly. Each has that essential human spark that makes them unique and a challenge to know and understand. In the 33 years between the ages of 19 and 52, when I married for the second time, I had avoided ever having a television in my house.
I'm fond of saying, in that viewing time I spent otherwise occupied, I believe I had conversations with at least 10,000 people, started a very successful community association that gave at least 7,000 kids a Christmas gift and a festive meal with Santa Claus, wrote 8 travel books (the Beverly Hills and New York Goldbooks), wrote three short novels and a volume of my sonnets, acted Off Off Broadway and down on Melrose Blvd., produced a talk show and a half-dozen special events, worked for millionaires and paupers, went all the way around the world as a journalist, met with heads of state like Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, Mujibhur Rahman (founder of Bangladesh), Indira and Rajiv Ghandi, Benazir and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (presidents of Pakistan), Ferdinand Marcos and lots of U.S. and foreign ambassadors - as well, more importantly, with countless hundreds of ordinary people in the 19 countries where I visited or lived. I also founded the first online daily newspaper in the world, and sort of "saved" the Internet from government censorship in Shea v. Reno. I was even a practicing Buddhist for five years.
A television, therefore, can be a pretty bad investment!
Whether a Florida sinkhole swallows me next month, next year or two decades from now, it will have a mouthful. In the meantime, I plan to just keep on keeping on, even if here, at the end of the road, my instinct is to step on the gas. Honestly, though, I just can't wait to have Bounce jump into my arms again. Otherwise, I'll still be out there building the road.
With 30 other journalists, Joe Shea founded The American Reporter on April 10, 1995, and has edited it ever since.