Cancer Closer

2 Nov

Cancer Closer

I’ve noticed that a number of you have been taunting my cancer.

“That cancer doesn’t know who it’s dealing with!”

“Cancer picked the wrong man!”


Your enthusiastic, and much appreciated, taunts suggest that I am the Joe Louis to cancer’s Max Schmeling , the Roadrunner to cancer’s Coyote, or my favorite, the New York Giants to cancer’s New England Patriots.  To read your numerous barbs at my cancer, one must believe that I am one badass, cancer kicking motherf…, well you know the rest. I will take cancer’s lunch money, slam it into a locker and tell it to back off, beat it up in the parking lot and steal its girlfriend.  I am the man, and cancer is the mouse!

I thank you for your well-meaning trash talk, and I hope that my cancer has been listening and is sufficiently scared.  The truth is though, that if you’ve known me for enough years, you know that really, I’m a bit of a wuss.  In 3rd grade I tried on the bully persona and picked on a timid, though admittedly large, kid in school only to get my ass kicked in front of the school while the kid’s mother cheered him on.  When we moved to Hollywood in the 90s, my friend and I tried to stop a guy from giving his girlfriend a hard time only to run away when he got out of his car and came after us, and back in the Blues Brothers Show, I got involved in a minor scuffle that witnesses described as more of a romantic slow dance than a vicious fight.  This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the encouragement, I do.  I’m just not sure you’ve picked the right persona for me.  Sadly, at least sad for this instance, I am not a badass.

What I am, what I have become over the past 14 or so years, is a closer.  I set my mind on a goal and I work relentlessly, tirelessly towards it.  In 2000 I was an out of work actor sliding along from gig to gig when Amy and I decided to change our lives.  I decided I would go back to school, finish my degree, and become a teacher.  About two years later the goal became much larger, to undertake a graduate degree and become a public historian AND teach in university. None of this made any sense.  I was in my mid-thirties, had already failed of college…TWICE, and simply didn’t seem to be the intellectual type.  But the truth is that around that time something had changed in me.  I came to understand that successes are created one small step at a time.  Though I may have occasionally whined about my plight, and I surely didn’t do it alone (virtually every person who reads this blog helped me at some point along the way),  I never stopped working towards my goal to close the deal and achieve the success I had envisioned.  Today, as many of you know and likely tire of hearing about, I hold a PhD in history and am the head of education at an important museum in Los Angeles, and yes, every now and again I teach history at university as well.  I closed the deal.

This is my plan for cancer, too.  My goal is to methodically, and with lots of help from everyone, make my way through the numerous treatments and challenges that will lead to a durable remission or, as is often the case with lymphoma, a chronic but entirely livable and long-lived version of the disease.  I have told my family that ten years from now I want us to look back on this period as a defining moment, a time when we learned more about ourselves and our strength, a time when, together, we defeated my cancer.

When that time comes I want your Facebook pages to ring out with taunts and cheers.  Cancer was no match for Erik.  He doesn’t seem like much, but he’s a closer.  Suck it, cancer….and other such jibes.  Till that time comes, you may feel free to describe me as the John Shaft, or Bruce Lee of cancer patients—or whatever other badass comes to mind.  Truth is, though, I’m not a badass.  I’m just a closer, a steady, methodical, and determined person who will keep moving forward until the deal is done.  Watch out, cancer.



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