Wednesday, April 16, 2014


This is the 4th of a series of posts chronicling Chris' battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

A few years back, some friends of mine decided that we would faithfully meet two weekends a year to reconnect, encourage one another, and have fun. We cheekily dubbed this assemblage the Refined Southern Gentlemen's Club, assuming that it would draw images of well-groomed mustaches, cigars, and playing cards. It did not occur to us at the time that it sounded like the name of a white supremacist group. We also did not consider the common association people made with the term "gentlemen's club." However, the name stuck, and our little group became the RSGC.

The second biannual meeting of 2013 had been scheduled for October 4-5 at Lake Claiborne State Park near Homer, LA. I had seriously considered not attending because of my still hurting abdomen, but felt better about it after talking with my doctor.


On Friday night of our little get-togethers, we always try to find a fun place to eat dinner. We drove out to a remote gas station that serves huge ribeye steaks called Moon's Grocery. I drove my brand new Honda Fit. This was my first of many terrible decisions over the weekend, as I realized driving into the gravel parking lot that Seabass and the Fellas were going to find my little car very "cute."

If you've never been to Moon's, it's a wonderful experience. This was my inaugural visit, and I wasn't going to waste it just because I had an upset stomach. So I bypassed the 1-1/4" and 1-1/2" steaks and went straight for the 2-incher. As with most foolish decisions, this was really fun in the moment, with no thought given to the toll that this slab of muscle would take on my digestive system. We sat, eating until we couldn't move, and watched the Dodgers lose to the Cardinals in the postseason. I am a Dodger fan, so that stunk. But that night felt good. I was with friends having a great meal, experiencing an America that many people will never know about. I was thankful, even if I was miserable.


I didn't sleep well that night. Shocking, I know. The next morning, we carried on our tradition of doing something semi-active by scheduling a Wiffle Ball Home Run Derby. It was a rainy weekend, and we found an open field somewhere near the lake. Our home run derby soon devolved into a game of "full-contact" mud wiffle ball. This would have been a terrible decision had I been completely healthy. But being sick, it was downright stupid. RSGC weekends aren't about making good, responsible decisions.

That afternoon, while the rest of the guys played a rousing 4-hour game of Risk, I slept. I would be awoken every few minutes by a new, sharper pain, but my exhaustion won out and I'd turn over and fall back asleep.


I woke up a few hours later. For the first time through this whole ordeal, I was getting scared. I couldn't lie to myself anymore and say it was just a passing stomachache. (Cancer was still nowhere on the radar.) I could no longer just shut it out of my mind with the force of my will. I wandered from the bedroom, through the living room, and out onto the screened-in porch. It was almost dark, and a light rain was falling. The sound of the rain in the trees and the nearby lake was peaceful. It was a stark and necessary contrast to the turmoil going on inside my body. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't this pain going away? 

I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket and put a song on called "Song of Solomon" from a new Martin Smith album. I'm really not sure why I played it, but I'm glad I did. The haunting, repetitive melody wasn't his song at that moment, it was mine. When I feel the cold of winter, and this cloak of sadness, I need You... All through the valleys, through the dark of night; here, You come running, to hold me till it's light.

I walked back inside, trying to act like everything was fine. I hung out with the guys for a while, ate something, packed up my things, and started for home.


The road from Lake Claiborne to Ruston is notoriously curvy. And it's dark and still at night. A dead calm. In fact, I didn't see another car for the entire 25 mile ride home. The car was quiet - I didn't play any music - just me and my thoughts. Am I okay? Will I wake up tomorrow feeling fine, having worried about nothing? How sick am I?

A light fog began descending along the way. And then something really strange happened: I rounded a curve, and there was a guy walking down the road carrying a backpack. Needless to say, he startled me. This guy was in the middle of nowhere on a pitch black night, wandering down a remote, curvy highway alone. Just thinking back to it now spooks me out. But as I drove the rest of the way home, I thought about that guy. In a way, I identified with him. He was just a shadow - a hazy figure on a dark background, walking down a foggy road because there were no other options, unable to see what was ahead, but walking towards it nonetheless.

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