From the Editor: I have some news
Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been around as much as usual lately. I was conspicuously absent from the Craig Press/Craig Association of Realtors Candidate Forum March 18, and only last Wednesday, regular attendees of our monthly Coffee & a Newspaper gatherings may have been surprised to see that — for the first time since I took over as editor of the Craig Press back in September 2017 — I wasn’t there, either.
I’ve hated being away, but recent circumstances in my personal life have demanded it. Please know that if I could have been there, I would have. And even though the circumstances are personal, you still deserve an explanation of why your newspaper editor has been AWOL so frequently these past several weeks.
There’s really no way to cushion what I’m about to tell you, so I’ll just tell you: On March 15, I was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer.
The disease came out of nowhere. Until a pulmonary embolism landed me in Memorial Regional Health’s emergency department March 14, I had no reason to believe I was anything other than a reasonably healthy, middle-aged man who likely still had a good three decades ahead of him.
I won’t bore you with a lot of medical jargon, but my oncologist in Grand Junction thinks the disease — technically, it’s pancreatic adenocarcinoma — hasn’t been with me all that long, which leads her to believe it’s a pretty aggressive tumor.
The prognosis, as you may have imagined, is not hopeful. The fantastic oncological team at St. Mary’s in Grand Junction is currently evaluating genetic tests to determine whether I might be a good candidate for a couple of experimental, DNA-directed treatments that could slow the progress of the disease, but even if I am, it’s not a cure. There is no cure.
So while I have no intention of going gently into that good night, the fact remains: This is probably the thing that’s going to kill me.
A cavalcade of emotions accompany such thoughts — anger, sadness, denial, self-pity, fear, depression — and I’ve experienced each of them to varying degrees and at different moments through the past few weeks. Whenever they come, I accept them, I own them, I feel them, and I move on.
But when I really think about it, I have nothing to feel angry or sad or fearful or depressed about. In fact, my only proper response to this unlikely existence of mine is gratitude.
Regardless of when my time on this planet comes to an end, I’ve been given an immeasurable gift, a gift many never receive. I was born into a loving family with parents who taught me right from wrong, good from bad; parents who always showed me through example that it is a far better thing to try to help one another than harm one another.
I had a great big brother and a great big sister, siblings who, though not above tormenting their little brother from time to time, were always the first to stand as his fierce protectors whenever anyone else dared try it.
They are with me still today, ever-steady anchors, always there, no matter how hard the wind might decide to blow.
As I grew, so did my family, expanding to include a broad circle of remarkable friends, friends I don’t really deserve, friends who would do literally anything to help me. If I didn’t already know it, the past three weeks have shown me just how deeply and truly I am loved.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen the turn of a century, the passing of Halley’s comet, a total eclipse of the sun. I’ve flown in airplanes, ridden horses, had picnics under the trees in the back pasture, listened to the rain patter down on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
I’ve gotten to work with amazingly talented people, people who were passionate about the same things I’m passionate about.
These are but a few examples. My life has been too full — too incomprehensibly wonderful — to possibly list all the blessings I’ve received through the course of it, but I can tell you this: It’s been a good life, and the feeling I experience most as I ponder its inevitable end is just what I said: gratitude. I’m reminded of an old saying — can’t remember where it came from, but I always liked it: “Don’t be sad it’s over; be happy it happened.”
So that’s what I am. I’m happy it happened.
All that said, I’ll be backing still farther away from my role as editor of your newspaper. I don’t have an expiration date stamped on my foot or anything, but I can’t pretend my time isn’t short. It is, and I want to use however much of it remains doing some of the things I was always going to get around to later.
I want to go back home to Arkansas for another visit. I want to walk the fields of my childhood one more time and catch the scent of honeysuckle hanging heavy in the air on a warm, spring night.
I want to visit the Grand Canyon. Amazingly enough, I’ve never been, and I’ve always heard it’s worth the trip.
And then there’s the Sandwash Basin, and Browns Park, and Moab, and dozens of other things people around here have been telling me I should do. I probably won’t get it all done, but I’m at least going to get started.
There’s just one more thing. I want you to know that being editor of your local newspaper has been one of the greatest honors of my life. You have a wonderful community here, and it’s wonderful because of the people who call it home.
It’s wonderful because of you, Faithful Reader.
I know you face daunting challenges in the future, and the road ahead will not always be an easy one. But trust me — you’re worth it. Craig is worth it. Moffat County is worth it.
Please don’t ever give up, and please don’t ever let anyone convince you your community is dead.
Thanks again for 18 of the happiest months of my life.
I’ll never forget you.
Jim Patterson is editor of the Craig Press. Email him at jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com.