My best friend and college roommate died of cancer.
He got sick on a post-college, cross-country road trip. Two other buddies and I took turns driving the 38 straight hours from Las Vegas to Red Bank, New Jersey, to get him to his parents and the hospital.
When we got him home, he collapsed in his driveway. He was diagnosed with leukemia and died a little over a year later. Longest year of my life. Watching the disease eat him alive ate me alive. To say nothing of what it did to his parents and two younger brothers.
He fought an unwinnable fight for 13 months. I spent that time awed by his enduring strength, watching him defiantly fight against an enemy that wouldn’t fight fair. Whenever I think back to that time, I’m steeled by the memory of his courage and warmed by the meaningful moments we spent together.
So when I hear Charlie Villanueva complain via cyberspace that Kevin Garnett said he looks like a “cancer patient,” it hits pretty close to home. I know exactly what cancer patients look like. I still see one when I close my eyes.
And you know what my reaction to this “controversy” is? Give me a freakin’ break.
People are dying.
You know how many new people will be diagnosed with cancer this year?
You know how many will die?
I can guarantee you one thing, not one of the people fighting cancer today gives a lick about what one basketball player says to another on a basketball court. Not one of them is worried about whether K.G. said Villanueva “looks like a cancer patient” or is “cancerous to his team.”
Those people – the ones who wake up every day with the possibility of malignant cells growing inside of them – have a lot bigger things to worry about than NBA cancer trash talk.
They’re worried about things like white blood counts, hemoglobin, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. They’re worried about medical research, early detection, clinical trials and fundraisers. They’re worried about family. They’re worried about friends. They’re worried about each and every one of them suffering from the disease. And their worried about living each day to its fullest.
Because one thing about cancer: It puts life into focus. No one who has experienced a disease as debilitating as cancer cares about trivial noise like what one millionaire says to another millionaire as they both go for a rebound.
So let’s stop pretending we’re defending the sick by admonishing Kevin Garnett. Let’s stop pretending cancer patients are so weak and feeble that they can be shattered by the words of a man who means next-to-nothing in their world. And let’s stop pretending moral high ground can be gained by criticizing the words of another.
Instead, donate your time. Donate your money. Contribute to this worldwide fight against one of human kind’s biggest enemies.
Stop wasting your time critiquing a pseudo-issue like this.
Because one thing about the people you think you’re defending: Cancer patients have perspective. And that’s something the pundits preaching from their Internet soapboxes are sorely lacking right now.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/leerussakoff.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.