At fifteen years of age, Dad grieved when Grandfather died. He begged Grandma to allow him to transfer to a Catholic high school in Los Angeles which was filled with other dark-skinned children, primarily of Hispanic ethnicity. Not happy about it, she finally consented. Dad converted to Catholicism. For the young, self-protection comes in numbers, and a natural tendency exists to gravitate toward what is familiar to achieve safety and comfort.
For those with chronic disease, including a family history of cancer, Pasadena was a frightening place to live. This fear was lifelong. In our family, we had a strong rule to not discuss private matters outside the family. It was not just for privacy but also for survival.
In the early twentieth century, in Los Angeles, California, cancer was something that simply was. Few screening tests existed until the early 1940s. Seldom detected early, it resulted in a devastatingly, difficult death. Considered a burden upon society by public health officials, cancer sufferers experienced discrimination and lived quietly in the shadows, often being sent away from hospitals to die at home.
Living a risk-filled life, I experienced my share of serious accidents and dangerous situations during my lifetime. I was not a stranger to Murphy’s Law. “If anything can go wrong, it will.
My life has been challenging. Blessed with the good fortune of being born with more lives than the average alley cat, I mostly ended up walking away from dangerous situations, unscathed. Though calamities seemed to befall me, hopeless optimism always seemed to get me through. As a kid, I swallowed dozens of straight pins; took a leap into the icy waters of Lake Tahoe without knowing how to swim; and I shared my bed with a pet rattlesnake.
As an adolescent, swinging on a rope swing, I fell twenty feet above the asphalt and landed upon the hood of a police car. I sailed into a lake while riding in a car with other teens, fell through a hole in the ice on a frozen lake, and with Sandee, flew above the wake of her father’s fishing boat, at thirty miles per hour, hanging onto a rope.
As a young adult, I was twice catapulted from a raft filled with burly cops as we bounced atop large rocks while gliding down the icy Class V rapids fed by the chill of Sierra Nevada spring snow melt. Pounded by streambed rubble and repeatedly slammed against rock after rock, I rolled down a quarter mile of the rapidly moving river.
Working in the most dangerous prisons in the world, I dealt with stabbings, hangings and major incidents, and later as an investigator, I found myself flattened out upon a sidewalk when my shoe hit upon a loose brick. While peeling me from the ground and inquiring if they could call someone for me, none of those working in the building laughed when I asked for an attorney. They had no sense of humor. Then again, they were mostly trial lawyers.
My work created more adrenaline rushes. A disgruntled murderer wanted to throw me off a forty-foot high tier; a serial killer exhibited a desire to coldcock me; and a drug dealer put a .45 caliber gun to my head and fired. I survived the hits that gang members and high-level drug dealers placed upon my life, and I received many Tarasoff duty-to-warn notifications from the psychiatrists treating a stable of my loyal stalkers. Finally, Lord knows how many people out there have become disenchanted with me following my years of investigations into homicide and violent crimes, public corruption, and terrorism. After surviving all that, I sure as hell was not going to let cancer beat me.