God and Life work in interesting ways. One day you’re going about your business and the next you’re being told you have cancer. The news sends a shock through your body. You’re confused because you don’t understand how you “caught” cancer. You’re sad because hearing the word “cancer” is never a good thing. And you’re scared because you know the next couple of months bring uncertainty. That’s how we felt on April 7, 2005 when Lis was diagnosed with leukemia. That’s what one of my best and closest friends, Dennis, is feeling today after being diagnosed with lymphoma on Monday, June 11, 2007.
Dennis was one of the first people I met when my family migrated fromHawaiitoWashingtonStatein May 1992 – yes one month before school ended and definitely not enough time to make friends. We shared the same lunch period and every lunch hour we’d grab our lunches, he of the school-bought kind and me of the sack lunch, and head off to the back of the school where nobody could find us. Unfortunately, we found each other. We talked a couple of times before the school year ended but that was it.
Our “friendship” rekindled later that fall when school resumed. Again, I’d take my sack lunch and head to the picnic bench furthest from everyone else. Unfortunately, I kept running into this Canadian-born kid. We eventually struck up a conversation and a couple weeks later we’d be joined by a mullet-sporting, Hammer-pants wearing, lanky kid by the name of Josh. Yes, the same Josh I continuously mention in my blog.
Dennis, Josh and I had one common interest. Okay, maybe two, besides hiding from everyone else we also loved sports. I’d wear my T-shirts with sports caricatures on the front, Josh would wear his Charlotte Hornets hat and Dennis would wear hisUSAbasketball tee. We were geeks of the biggest kind (see photo below).
Josh and Dennis had already known each other though they weren’t really “friends” but acquaintances. Later that fall Dennis would get the chicken pox and would force me into forming a friendship with Josh.
The three of us eventually became friends and the real icebreaker was when Josh invited us over for his birthday to play some football. There we met Wendell, a short, stocky guy that also had a love of sports. Together we became the self-named “Fab Four”. Okay, maybe Josh, Dennis and Wendell didn’t name us that but I did! What! What!
Dennis and I became best friends throughout the remainder of our high school career (sophomore – seniors). We took Driver’s Ed together and always took our drives at the same time. He, however, got his license before me because he wasn’t afraid to drive and his parent’s forced him to.
When everyone else from our class went to a movie on Senior Skip-Day, Dennis and I went golfing and had Burger King. He loved his Whoppers!
Together Josh, Dennis, Wendell and I spent countless Friday and Saturdays together playing basketball until midnight and Mario Kart until 3am.
After high school Josh went into the Army and Dennis and I still hung out. He eventually became my parent’s fourth son, house-sitting for us when we went on family vacations and spending more time than I did at the house.
Every afternoon after I got home from community college Dennis would come over and play Ping-Pong. We’d play for hours straight; I won frequently though the games were always close.
Dennis and I became friends with a couple other guys from high school, Shawnn and Ian. Together we formed the group KIDS (Kevin, Ian, Dennis, Shawnn).
With Josh in the military, Ian became his replacement and the three of us would end up spending a lot of time together. We’d go on weekend trips together and Ian showed us the nightlife. Together the three of us went to our first dance club together and they got me drunk for the first time (believe it or not, I was 21).
Sadly, a girl sort of got in the way of our friendship. Dennis had told me about a girl he liked, that girl ended up liking me, I ended up dating that girl and Dennis, confused about what he wanted to do with his life, joined the Air Force. The day that he left we shared a good hug and a few tears saying goodbye to each other. One of the hardest times of my life – saying goodbye to my best friend.
Dennis would return occasionally and would once again enter my personal record books with one of the funniest moments of my life, though he’d disagree.
Ian, Dennis and I hit up Seattle for a night on the town a couple days before he was to leave for South Korea. We had a couple drinks but felt fine. A couple minutes later we were all out of it. Dennis decided to (and I begin chuckling as I write this) jump and touch a sign that was about 8-feet off the ground. When he landed, he hit the slick sidewalk, stumbled then fell into a parked car. He then bounced off the parked car, landing in a puddle and hitting his face on the sidewalk curb. Seriously it was hilarious (and I begin to laugh louder) until he stood up and smiled at us (and if I find that photo I’ll post it here).
It was then that Ian looked at him and said, “Dennis, what’s wrong with your tooth?”
His front tooth was in half, the bottom part dangling from a root.
Dennis became furious, yelling “My tooth!” Of course, that was mixed in with a bunch of obscenities.
He KO’d a newspaper stand and knocked over a few people en route to his way to the closest bathroom. A few people weren’t happy but Ian and I had to tell them to don’t let it bother them. Nobody would be winning a fight with him at that time.
The next day we had to find a dentist open on a Sunday. A couple days later he had part of his tooth removed. It wasn’t until the next time he visited that he showed me he had to wear a retainer with a fake tooth. It actually made for some funny jokes as he’d be talking to people and one minute he had all his teeth and the next one was missing.
Dennis and I would keep in touch. Josh came back and took Dennis’ place and Josh, Ian and I would often call Dennis late at night (or early in the morning England time, where he was stationed) to bother him.
In late January 2005, Josh and I flew down to Las Vegas to spend time with Dennis at his bachelor’s party. Though there were about 10 other guys there Dennis spent most of his time with Josh, me and his buddy from the Air Force.
In February 2005 Dennis married Allie. Being the good friend that he is, Dennis asked me to be his best man. I gave a speech, broke out in tears and did the whole, “I love you man!” thing. My family joined us and we all had a great time at the shortest ceremony in the history of weddings. I’m not kidding!
In April (coincidentally, the 7th) 2006, Dennis and Allie had a baby girl Ellena. I think she looks like Denny, Lis will say she looks like Allie. Either way, he joined the fatherhood world.
We saw him again February 2006 when Lis, Lukas and I went to Disneyland and in November when the whole family went to California for our friend’s wedding.
He’s always been one of my best friends, someone you can always lean on. Ask my parent’s to name their “other” kids and Dennis and Josh will be the top two on their list.
And now this. It’s so odd for me because before Lis, I had known just one person close to me, to have cancer. That was my Grandpa who had a cancer in one of his kidneys. They removed it and he didn’t have to go through any real intense treatment procedures.
Then Lis was diagnosed and cancer became a part of our life. I realized that many people are affected by it and too many people have it. In fact, I heard that Tony from our old Goonies team, and a co-worker of Lisy’s, had leukemia, though we haven’t been able to confirm that with him.
But come on! My wife and my longest and closest friend!? It didn’t make sense!
Dennis usually calls me every Monday on his way to school, just so we can keep in touch. Our conversations are mostly about fantasy sports as we play fantasy football, basketball and baseball together. But yesterday’s conversation was a little different, a little somber. Sure we made stupid jokes about the fact that he’ll lose all of his body hair (he’s not disappointed about losing the chest hair he dislikes) but still its cancer and that’s no joke.
Currently, he’s unsure what the next couple of weeks will hold for him. He’s got some blockage in his intestines that he may have to have surgery on. This is what actually put up the red flags because he lost 30 pounds, and had to go to the hospital with stomach illness.
He will have to go through chemotherapy though he doesn’t know how intense or anything. After doing some research last night, Lis and I noticed that a lot of time its outpatient chemotherapy, which means he won’t have to hang out in the hospital for weeks. Though it doesn’t sound as intense as what Lis went through (we unfortunately didn’t notice the red flags waving in front of our eyes) I still have to watch as my friend goes through the same thing that Lis had to go through. After seeing her go through chemo, I don’t wish it on anybody.
What I do wish is that you all add my buddy Dennis to your “thoughts and prayer” list. I know it helped with Lis and I want to the same help for him. Thanks!