Throwing In The Towel

March 10, 2020

When the time comes to throw in the towel, it's devastating to fathom, but easier to expect when you know the time is right.

A good friend, we’ll call him Jim, emailed me saying he’s throwing in the towel.

Words cannot express how I feel. Heartbroken is a start. Devastated is closer, all of them still not enough to describe the sadness I am drowning in.

Over the past 12 years, Jim has been a paragon for me. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2007, his doctors didn’t offer him much hope, but he pushed them to come up with something, anything to keep him alive. Through trial and error, his doctors came up with a combination of cutting-edge drugs and maintenance chemo to hold his disease at bay. But at the time they told him it was only a temporary fix.

Like so many of us post-treatment, not in good shape, Jim was forced to stop working and draw on disability. Wanting to do his bucket list and being an enormous baseball fan, he and his wife of many years started traveling around the country, often staying with friends, to attend a game at each of the major league baseball stadiums. Quite a bucket list. For me, it’s to visit all the presidential museums. My wife wishes she’d married Jim.

Years clicked by with occasional email notes from Jim telling his larger family how he was doing. Always a little snarky but fun to read. He never dwelled on the impending doom of his cancer but wrote about his life and how much fun he was having. He talked about his family and good friends — the important stuff.

Six years ago, Jim got to be there for his youngest daughter Amy’s big day, her wedding. His daughter and one of mine often hung out together in high school. For a time, I thought I had gained a daughter.

Being there for his daughter’s wedding is something I can relate to. Since my own diagnosis with pancreatic cancer back in 2013, I have been able to attend two of my three daughter’s weddings. I didn’t think I would be there for any of them.

This is something most of us Dads have in common, we will bust through any door and scale the highest wall to be there for our daughters. I guess it’s a Dad-thing.

With his daily transfusions no longer working, out of options, Jim reached the tough decision to throw his towel in and cease treatments — to let his leukemia run its course. Should my pancreatic cancer come back, I hope I will be brave enough to throw my towel in when it’s time.


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