Monday, June 4, 2012


I'll set the record straight - I am not a public speaker. There I said it.
Stemming back to my college days where I lost weight sweating in my oversized sport coat during a class presentation which no one had that guts to have a Q&A because they all confessed they felt bad for me, I have a fear of being in front of people.
It's not a deep seeded fear of the populace. It's not a deep rooted trauma based on being captured by aliens.

I know exactly what my issue is. I doubt I will ever get over it.
That sets the stage.
I was asked to be a part of a panel for a discussion on Cancer Survivorship. Basically, it was a conference to discuss the long term effects of treatments. We're in a sort of where are we going stage of the process.
It's a funny thing when I walk into a medical office nowadays.

"Well Mr. are things?"
"Too good"
"Excellent. Bloodwork is fine...."  (Awkward silence ensues). "So. How, um, do you feel?"

Here is where I'd love to turn green and go all Hulk on the joint but alas, I don't even stick to walls. No super powers to be had. Just stunted growth, odd body parts, and something they like to call "chemo-brain". I don't like being in front of crowds. Get it?

Twenty four hours before the conference was held, I was told I was to speak. Not answer questions, but speak...walk up to a podium, hold a mic, and talk. I kept pushing this thought off for a day. I couldn't be the one who goes up there and talks. Not me. I don't do such things.

People will judge. They will see flaws. They will whisper. They did when I couldn't go to recess for months. They drew pictures during high school about it. They didn't even bother whispering. It was brought to my attention time and time again. The sick kid with the odd body.

The conference was a blur. Speaker after speaker got up and did their thing. There was a doctor, social workers, and even a priest.

Then there was an introduction. It was for me.

I couldn't be walking in front of these people could I? I don't remember any of it. The last thought I clung to was watching 3 of my survivor friends in the corner table watching me as I emotionally stumbled to the podium.

Trust me - I didn't have a practiced speech. I just knew my story.

A vibrant, tough, outgoing and rumpled Italian 6 year old boy on a hot July summer day gets pulled aside by his father who notices a lump on the side of his son's neck...

I couldn't get the rest of the story out. A wave of emotion swept through me as if I was transported back to that hot day on the cement steps of my old house. I choked on my words as tears started to swell.

I don't do this. The story carried on as a 6 year old boy went through 2 years of "shock and awe" as I often put it. Three decades later, a bad stress test has the young man in for a triple bypass. Six years later, the Chief of Surgery is high fiving his people over knowing "just where to cut" my liver.

It's not a pity parade. I don't want it so don't bother. It's a reality.

I cough, stop, re-collect then choke again as my stutter through my speech.

I tell the YMCA representative.....JUST DO. Someday, some god, doctor or inner voice will tell you can do no longer.

I am done. Speech is over. People least I was told that. I stagger back to my seat and berate myself over being this way. I was exposed and I didn't like the feeling.

I have many things I need to change. I work, like most of us, on it daily. Some fail more than others.

I don't know what's next. People ask me in different ways every day.

I don't have a lot to say to them. Who would understand anyway? I am better with actions. Show them.

Sometimes what you do is infinitely more powerful than what you say.