• Waldenström Macroglobulinemia
  • Melanoma
  • Bladder Cancer
  • Brain Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Childhood Cancers
  • Gastric Cancer
  • Gynecologic Cancer
  • Head & Neck Cancer
  • Immunotherapy
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Liver Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Lymphoma Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • MPN
  • MDS
  • Myeloma
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Rare Cancers
  • Sarcoma
  • Skin Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer

Writing Our Final Story


This cancer survivor finds a hidden treasure in death and dying.

I have no indication that I'm going to die soon, but I have every reason to believe that I am, in fact, going to die one day. So as a guy with male breast cancer, it makes sense for me to prepare for that inevitable event—and to prepare with a bountiful amount of imagination and creativity. I'm not planning on sending out announcements just yet, but certainly giving some thought as to how I want to be remembered isn't such a bad idea. Is it?

I don't want to talk about religion here. So please don't read anything more into this than is necessary. I'm simply a man with cancer who, for the time being, loves waking up every a day and having fun with life (once my new titanium knees kick in).

As a working magician, Disney cast member and Legoland performer for many years, it's not really surprising that, while I think life is a serious matter, it should never be a matter of seriousness. My world has always been a playful place. Walt Disney is my hero (followed by Carl Sagan, the astronomer, who showed me that real magic does indeed exist all around us).

Dying makes lots of folks get squirmy. I understand that. Blood work does that to me. In fact, my legs and feet get so spasmodic at the sight of a needle that my nurses accuse me of tap dancing. I hate needles. But I don't mind talking about my own, inescapable death at some future date and hopefully not while I'm composing this little essay, since I would really like to know how it's going to end.

The truth is, memories of me will be gone in a generation. Possibly less since I haven't done the best job of staying in touch with my nieces, nephews and the herd of lovely youngsters whom they have propagated.

After my first wife died of ovarian cancer in 1997, I was completely inspired by her beautiful and heartfelt exit. With just days to live, she composed a remarkable essay about her views of life and death, along with a rather long list of friends that I was to visit and deliver some of her personal belongings to. These weren't just knickknacks collected from overpriced cruise ship vacations. These were special gifts, thoughtfully selected for half a dozen of her colleagues: a collector's guitar, gold jewelry from Greece, one-of-a-kind art pieces and more.

I drove from Portland, Oregon to San Diego, California, hand delivering these special remembrances. It made me a little crazy. I never knew what to say. I never stayed for long. And I vowed never to do it again. But in the end, I had great admiration for her foresight and fortitude. She did it well.

As a musician and composer, I've thought about writing a final symphony for my friends, but music is so personal. “It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing,” after all. I could throw a party, I suppose. But in the "retirement community" where I live, these folks are party animals. Seriously, there are multiple events happening every day. "Active Seniors" is an understatement. And a shot of good Tequila is never too far away.

I'm toying with the idea of making a short "farewell video"; but what if I live another 20 years? The technology for watching DVDs will be extinct. So, after giving this way too much thought, I've decided on a good treasure hunt to challenge and probably irritate a few of my closest friends. I'd love to get my pals together and have them follow clues around some fun place, like Disneyland or Big Sur Beach in Central California until they discover the "treasure" I've hidden in the sand. It should be something expensive, but I'm not sure what will be left in my budget at that point—so maybe just a gift certificate for some mochas at Starbucks.

At any rate, I've always been told that I have a penchant for drama and theatrics, so this may be the perfect way to say goodbye while annoying a few folks with busy schedules.

I don't remember my own birth being particularly fun. I suppose there was a lot of screaming and hot lights and a few figures in blue smocks looking on, so I hope to make my departure a little more entertaining. Now that I think about it, life, even with cancer in it, has always been a treasure hunt. The trick is to simply find the gold in each and every day we have left.


Related Videos
Cancer survivor, Frank J. Peter, playing an original song on the piano
Brandi Benson, sarcoma survivor and military veteran, in an interview with CURE