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“The Day I Met the Legend” – a Tale of Empowerment Against Cancer by Sundance

Sundanceh's picture
Sundanceh
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

As the old Gilligan Island song used to say, “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…” LOL! LOL!

“Does anyone want to hear about one of the greatest days I’ve had in the last 7-years since I was diagnosed with cancer?”

Ok, lets have a show of hands…that’s 1-2-3…and oh, you ma’am…that makes 4…great, majority rules then:) LOL!

First, I took a vacation day from work – and if that’s not enough, and don’t you think it ought to be?.....I actually used it for fun! Gasp, aargh! You back there, a little more applause, I’ve got hearing loss in one of my ears, LOL!

I had a friend of mine, whom I’ve not seen in 2 years or more come up and stay with us a couple of days this week. We’ve all talked about going to the NHRA Fall National drag races for about 20-years or so. You know me, Time and Patience:)

We woke up on Friday, and the morning was drop-dead gorgeous! One of those Texas mornings that you wait for all year ‘round and it was boogity-boogity, boogity, let’s go racing boys…

The air was crisp and cool and I felt more alive than I could ever remember in such a very long time…..at least as far back as the two days I spent with my semi;colon pals in FTW last year at CP-8.

You see, THIS DAY was so much different than the past 365 that I’ve been existing - THIS DAY was full of PROMISE and HOPE….two ingredients that have been in very short supply in my medicine cabinet this past year of fighting.

“Why is this significant, you say?”

Well, because this past year of fighting has really knocked the wind out of your old Sundance over here – I’m just not one to let on ‘too’ much:)

It was/is something psychological at the core of it all. Because, after I wrapped up this 3rd recurrence, I knew that I had won a “huge albeit temporary” victory over cancer “3 times.” When you really sit back and think about it, how many folks who are stage IV that win even one battle, much less 3? You’d think you would be on top of the world, wouldn’t you?

This was bothering me and I wanted to open a post but after Jennie and Buzz came down with recurrences, I just decided to table the discussion and set about to deal with what I was experiencing with and try and come through it on my own.

And what it was…..WAS/IS that since going to ‘watch and wait’ status four months ago, I’ve been searching desperately for and trying to find the MEANING in the “Meaning of Life”, you know what I mean or do you?

In the book, I write about finally coming to the conclusion that if and when we get ahead of cancer, then we return back to the “normal world” –and that’s if we are very lucky and foturnate to be able to even do so.

Yet, this time, I just felt that there should have been “more to it.” I suppose, when I look at that, I just realize that my life is not as full as so many of yours is. Having your own personal families, and your family’s family, gives you the options of having companionship and the ability to make memories on a regular basis for years and years on end.

With long distance families and our friends out of town - out of state, it feels lonely and empty on those times when you just wish you had access to them. Plus, as I’ve said before, the years have knocked the $hit out of me and my better-half. It's hurt our relationship and she's all that I've really got to share with and when your life partner dials out on you, well, things feel hollow and senselss.

She’s told me that she’s “emotionally bankrupt” right now and I can see it in her these days. When we have more than just us for stimulation, I see the life dial back into her eyes and I'm sure she sees the same thing from me. Maybe, it's not that cancer has squelched our love, rather we just need an infusion of another kind - with other people to complete the cocktail, LOL:)

On the day we got the good news a few months ago that I was back to 'watch and wait', we went to eat to celebrate….I looked across the table and said “Yay” in a soft voice….and Kim said oh yeah, “Yay” even softer. And that was it - after the biggest victory of my life.

With no one to celebrate with it all seemed a little hollow and pointless to me, so I just turned my energies towards the chapters I was writing rather than dwell on it. You can't muster emotion from someone if it's not there or they don't feel it.

Well, THIS DAY, showed me why I write all of the bull$hit that I do about this cancer. THIS DAY was the reason I take my beating with the cancer and have for over 7-years now – and THIS DAY was the reason I won’t commit suicide.

Because, if I did, then I would have missed THIS DAY and THIS DAY was the “Road Marker” that said to me…”This is THE why you do – what you do.

So, we get to the track and start looking around. We had pit passes and got to go see the Funny Cars and the Dragsters up close, really up close. It was interesting and fresh – something NEW that I’ve never experienced before.

I met one of the Drag racers and got an autograph and talked to him for a moment. We had our hands full of those free type of promos that pass out, so we decided to take those back to the car to free ourselves up.

On our way back in, my buddy saw a long line forming and knew something was up. He told me to “Get in Line – get in line, quick!”

So, we did. And there standing before me signing autographs and having his picture taken with his fans, “larger than life”, was 15x NHRA Funny Car Champion - John Force!

My buddy and I had talked about “the possibility” that we might see him in the pit area around his car, but even he had no idea that anything like this would ever be even remotely possible.

After all, it was unannounced that he would be signing and we just happened to be stumbling along back from the car during that timeframe and it was just incredible timing!

The story gets better….

So, I’m taking my buddy and Kim’s pictures and then it comes my turn. So, I walk up to the legend and put my arm around him and in the 30-second interaction I had “to reach out and touch greatness”, I told him this:

"John, I've had cancer 3x and survived 3x - I spent the last 12 months fighting this latest round - You are the reason I am here at the races today - to see you - It was great meeting you - and good luck out there today."

Guess what John Force told me? "YOU LOOK GOOD!"

LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL! LOL!

There was a post the other day that spoke of the topic of ‘you look good.’ Many see it as hurtful, I’ve come to see it more of something like a ‘how are you feeling’ type of greeting.

I think that when people say that to us, they are really trying to pay us a compliment. I think when they say that, they are really telling us, “I’m glad you’re still here.” Or, maybe it’s, “Oh my, I’m surprised you’re still here.” LOL! LOL!

But when John Force told me that, I think that’s what this bad a$$ racer and one he11 of a great guy was telling me was, “I’m proud of you - way to go - and you look good":)

In all the confusion, I walked away from the tent WITHOUT my autographed picture. I was crushed to say the least. I walked back around but they had already cordoned off the area and nobody could get back in. John was signing the last pictures and got up to leave for his next gig – to get ready to race the first qualifying heat.

I stood outside the tent somewhat dejected and then John Force saw me and said to me, “Wait a couple of minutes…” I’m thinking , are you talking to me?

He went back over and signed ONE more copy and came over to hand it to me personally – I told him thank you and good luck one more time and then we was off on his yellow motorcycle speeding away out of sight – BUT NEVER out of my mind or my life from that moment in.

“’Cause what just really happened here?”

I’ll tell you what happened. John Force, a very busy man, with a very big heat on his mind, went a few steps out of his way to make another person and a fan very happy – and one of the most memorable moments of his entire life. More significant because he could just as easily not have done it – his “obligation” was done and he could have motored out of sight, with his conscience clean.

But, it goes deeper than that I think. When I told him I had cancer and wanted a picture with him, I saw the expression of his face change, even with his sunglasses on. I could tell that in those moments, that I turned into a “Real Person with a Real Face and a Real Life.”

That meant something to John Force. I think knowing that I had cancer last year was the reason he made sure I got my autographed picture….he knew I did not pick it up when we met and when he saw me again, he made it a point to get me taken care of.

What a great guy, huh? One of the greatest legends in motorsports had time for a lil'ol’ Craig. Just Wow! I’ve got the picture in my expressions page now, so you can get a close up look. It's also on my avatar now. Lizzy wanted me to change the picture.

What a wonderous moment! And Cancer didn’t steal it away from me either, so I won my heat on 09-24-11 as well:)

It goes back to a lot of what I keep saying and what I just spent a chapter writing about. The GREATEST GIFT that we can give one another is our time – and when one heart reaches and steps out of its way to touch another one, then honestly, I just don’t if there is another PURER emotion and feeling that there is!

What John Force really told me THIS DAY was this – “I See You – and You Matter.”

I learned a lot from John yesterday and I could only hope to be as graceful or elegant if by any chance, I ever found myself in a similar position as he was. John understand people and he understands his fans. He knows it's PEOPLE that count. That’s why people love him – and why people look up to him.

Please count me among the throng of his followers as he showed me yesterday that he was more than a highlight reel on Sportscenter. He was a real man with real feelings and for those few seconds, CRAIG was on his mind, even before a big race.

I’ll close this post by saying that we know LIFE is made up of the 5-senses:
SIGHT-SOUND-TOUCH-SMELL-TASTE

So, yesterday, with Sight, I saw what life still has to offer and I saw the greatest drivers driving the big rigs down a narrow straight away at speeds as high as 317.8 miles per hour in the quarter mile.

With Sound, I heard the roar of 7,000 HP engines passing by me so close, it would rattle the crowns and fillings in your head. I heard the roar of the crowd. And I heard that 'voice' in my head that told me that Life still has something left to offer me.

With Touch, I reached out and felt the incredible vibrations of those cars as they roared past from the tip of my toes all the way to the ends of my hair. I reached and felt the sun on my face after a year of incarceration; I felt the warmth in my soul being renewed.

With Smell, I smelt the burning rubber of the tires during the burnouts, I smelled the aromatic scent of wood-burning barbecue off in the distance – and the smell of corny dogs and funnel cakes in the air.

With Taste, I tasted the nitro fuel, a taste that one can never readily forget and it was wonderful. That morning, we stopped off for breakfast and I tasted a wonderful breakfast, where months before Folfiri had killed my taste buds and everything tasted so sour and bitter.

More importantly, I felt what it was like to “feel alive” for the first time in so long, having forgotten what it was like to really live again. I felt what it was that we all are really fighting for - the Chance to Be. I came back to the realization that I’m still pretty happy to be here, despite all of it. Something that one can only see AFTER they are done with treatments. For in treatment, life loses its meaning and we lose sight of that for which we are fighting so hard and desperately for.

I came away with knowing what I’ve been trying to learn. It’s about the sights and sounds and tastes, that are important - they are what make up LIFE. They are what make up the QUALITY. I felt what it was like again to have a friend back into my life for a couple of days of laughter and sharing something new and out on another adventure of life itself.

And I realized there were still things to see and do. That my life had become stale because there seemed to be very little NEW in life anymore and somewhere it had lost the real meaning of what I was trying to find again. It's not like a light switch that you can turn ON or OFF on a whim. It's more like a wave and when you're wave comes, you better hop up and "hang 10."

In the end though, it was right there in front of me all along, I had just forgotten that it existed. It’s adventure and seeing new things and going new places and doing things why you still have the time to do so. And being in the company of others, which is good for the marriage when it's just you two and you're both undergoing stuff. New people, fresh faces, and old rememberances provide you a different stimulation from the stale, humdrum things that we have to do everyday.

Cancer has taken so much away from me – it was so clever it robbed me blindly of 'feeling' and it was so quiet in the way it went about its business, tht I did not even know it or was aware it was even happening, long after he had taken it. He’s a pickpocket this cancer is:(

But THIS DAY, cancer did not win – Craig won. THIS DAY cancer did not take my life – instead, CRAIG lived it to the fullest.

We capped THIS DAY off by stopping off for dinner and having a margarita to toast this most special day. A day perhaps that will help keep me focused on something I may have lost sight of.

We turned in before something bad could happen – I wanted to remember this one always. We were tired, but such a good tired. A stark reminder that I stood up to cancer THIS DAY in a different way and came away more empowered than I did when I woke up that morning.

I realize THIS DAY does not make a lifetime – and THIS DAY does not justify what I’ve gone through in my cancer journey.

But, THIS DAY was one he11 of a great start, don’t you think?!

Just so happy for a change and wanted to share a great story with you for a change of pace.

Hey, Lizzy, changed my pic just for you. Big Billy was hurt but says he gets it:)

Stay tuned to the Sundance Channel:)
“Story Matters Here”

All my loves, hopes and dreams!
-Craig

johnnybegood's picture
johnnybegood
Posts: 1122
Joined: Oct 2008

buddy for your story.ever since my surgery 2 weeks ago i have really been feeling down cause i know in another week i got to meet with the chemo doc to talk about more chemo.i am so glad you had a wonderful day.thats the way my horses make me feel and i try to be around them as much as i can.thanks again for sharing....Godbless....johnnybegood

pepebcn's picture
pepebcn
Posts: 6352
Joined: Aug 2010

that it's making me think in many many things right now.
Follow like this my friend! and thanks!

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1721
Joined: Nov 2001

I'm glad you were able to escape the shadows even for just the weekend,Ron.

tootsie1's picture
tootsie1
Posts: 5056
Joined: Feb 2008

Oh, Craig.

I love this! I like being able to detect excitement and happiness in you. Makes me happy!!!

Don't forget this day. You won't be able to have this high an experience every day, but there can be moments of quiet joy. And if you and Kim take time to "be real" with each other at least once a day, I hope that sparkle returns, too.

*hugs*
Gail

LivinginNH's picture
LivinginNH
Posts: 1458
Joined: Apr 2010

Awwww, I'm so very happy that you had such a wonderful day! As Gail mentioned, it's so nice to feel your excitement and happiness. :-) So nice....hugs, Cyn

Fight for my love
Posts: 1530
Joined: Jun 2009

You made my day and your day made my day.Very very beatiful story.

pokismom's picture
pokismom
Posts: 153
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi Craig,
As always you are such a incredible writer and an inspiration to us all! Much love to you and Kim!
Donna

idlehunters's picture
idlehunters
Posts: 1792
Joined: Apr 2009

That was so uplifting. I am so happy you and Kim could mix this cocktail together. You both really needed this. I have no clue who John Force is but boy am I thankful for him. Your story has hit home for me. At a time when I have been catching myelf saying....why am I going thru all of this again???.

You are one of the biggest inspirations on this forum. Your life experiences touch us all...in many ways. Luv you!

We have LOTS of celebrating to do at CP9...so you and Kim rest up now!!

Jennie

buckeye2
Posts: 428
Joined: Jul 2011

You do for us what John Force did for you. Thanks. Lisa

rogina2336
Posts: 188
Joined: Apr 2011

Just have to say Loved, Loved your story. You truly have a gift!!! The way you put your life into words is amazing!!! Hopes and Prayers. Kim

Sundanceh's picture
Sundanceh
Posts: 4408
Joined: Jun 2009

Thank you for taking the time to share this rare wonderful day with me. I tried to put you all right there with me. I built a beautiful memory that I'll take with me and nothing now can ever take that from me. I like it.

Nice seeing everyone and hello to any new folks who might happen upon this post. Nice to meet you too.

Thank you to those folks who read but did not post as well. Thanks for reading:)

See you later.

-Craig

karen40's picture
karen40
Posts: 211
Joined: Aug 2011

Hi Craig,
You're welcome,from someone who read but is just now posting.
I'm glad that you had a great day.
I picked up on a very important message in your post.
That is: Everyone needs to recharge.
Both patients and caregivers can benefit from this.
It is so easy to become overwhelmed. Not a good thing.
We all need to schedule recharge days. (aka: A Craig's day)
Karen

smokeyjoe
Posts: 1428
Joined: Feb 2011

Craig...I don't know if race cars have/offer "ride of a life time" ....but two summers ago my one son and husband signed up for a "course" in driving race boats!! They had to go through the drill of dive tests, where they dunk you under water and you have to be able to get out of a underwater crash scenario...you have to get yourself out of a five point harness underwater, release the steering wheel, and get yourself out of an upside down boat under water and surface without panic...if you passed that you got to go in a real race boat next day on a race course in a race boat on a lake....my son and husband absolutely loved it!!! Chance of a life time and they went for it!!!

lizzydavis's picture
lizzydavis
Posts: 893
Joined: May 2009

Craig -

I am enjoying your enthusiasm and liking the new pic!

Love ya,

Lizzy

taraHK
Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Loved this story. Just want to add: you may feel that John Force gave you a gift -- but you gave him one too.

Tara

taraHK
Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

Loved this story. Just want to add: you may feel that John Force gave you a gift -- but you gave him one too.

Tara

dorookie
Posts: 1736
Joined: Jul 2007

I really wish I had the words to express how you and your writing affects me, in all good ways, even though I find myself crying sometimes after reading your posts, its a good cry, one I probably needed, I am so thankful for you, and proud to have had the opportunity to have met you in person. You are a Hero to me, and I cant wait for that big hug when I see you in CHI TOWN in a few weeks, you, Kim, Jennie and all the rest are going to have a few to celebrate all you have been through, and to all our family here...

Love ya buddy, say hello to Kim for me

HUGS
Beth

plh4gail's picture
plh4gail
Posts: 1238
Joined: Oct 2010

That is an awesome story! Thank you so much for your wonderful heart!

gail

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