Jeff Pearlman

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My life

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I started out this morning believing a doctor would tell me I have colon cancer.

For four months now, I’ve had pain in my lower stomach. Then, a few days ago, I stared into the toilet and saw blood. Lots of blood. I started looking things up on the internet—Google searches for “stomach pain” and “blood” and “toilet.” The No. 1 thing I kept finding was “colon cancer.” Thoughts went through my head—I have colon cancer. No, I can’t have colon cancer, I’m only 36. Yes, I have colon cancer. No, you have zero family history. But it has to start with someone. But it doesn’t have to start with me. I’m doomed. I’m OK. I’m doomed. I’m OK.

I’m doomed.

As I’ve documented before in this space, I have a history of hypochondria that spans far and wide. Through the years, I’ve been convinced that I’ve had (among other things): Lou Gehrig’s Disease, testicular cancer, heart attack, brain tumor, MS. But this one—well, this one seemed different. The pain was legitimate. I felt it whenever I ran, and sometimes when I woke up. It was there—it is there. Of course, in my mind it has to be something terrible. There’s no such thing as a pulled muscle, or an inexplicable ache, or a pain that means little. There’s no minor injury, and no recovery from major injury. You get sick, you die. Life over.

It many ways, it goes directly back to a philosophy I’ve had for years—that the best way to live is to ponder death on a daily basis. My thinking went that if you always remind yourself that you’ll die, you’re also always reminding yourself to live. Logically, it makes sense—with one huge problem: Reminding yourself of death on a daily basis absolutely, positively sucks. It’s a real downer, and, truth be told, it doesn’t serve as a reminder to live … it just makes you feel like crap. So, in thinking about death regularly, I’ve not only become a negative thinker, but I’ve lost sight of life’s joys. I watch my kids play and instead of thinking, “Man, look at my amazing children!” I’m thinking, “I hope I love long enough to enjoy them fully.” It’s sad and pathetic, but it’s what I’ve become.

Anyhow, I arrived at the doctor’s office today for a long-scheduled colonoscopy, convinced that I’d awake to the words, “You have cancer, and it’s bad.” I was soooooo scared, pacing back and forth, thinking dark things, any nuggets of positivity buried deep within my psyche.

So what happened?

They put me to sleep.

They shoved a tube down my throat.

They woke me up.

The doctor said, “You don’t have cancer.”

And at that moment, I made a decision: I need to change.

In three week I’m turning 37. I have the wife of my dreams, the children of my dreams, the life of my dreams. I love to write, and I get paid—actually get paid—to do it. I never wear a suit; I’m with my kids all the time; I’m comfortable and (by my standards) successful. I’ve got great parents, great in-laws, a dog who sometimes poops outside … everything I’ve wanted

I need to change.

I’m not sure if this requires therapy or meditation or Yoga or large quantities of Peeps, but I am committing myself to moving beyond my chronic, ludicrous fear of illness and death.* It has done me no good for faaaaaaaar too long, and is an insult to the people I know who have faced real tragedy with far more courage than I possess.

Again, I’m not yet sure of the path, but I’m committed to finding it.

* Note: This search will not include turning my life over to Jesus Christ. No offense, and all due respect. But it just won’t.

  • Matt

    The impact you have made on others through your writing, personal and professional, (at least for me) will live on through many many people…

    *BOOM*

    Jeff Pearlman has an afterlife.

    While I make light of a very real fear of illness and death and loss for those you love, my point is, that you, Jeff Pearlman, have everything you need to re-focus your life, if that’s what you feel you need.

    E.G. No Jesus Required.

    Hang in there.

    You’ve got people who care. And people like me who read everything you do and, you know, kinda care, too.

  • PMN

    Hey Jeff-

    I find it very impressive that you are willing to lay you psyche out bare, for all of your readers to see. Obviously, this is very rare for a (somewhat) public figure. Get some help and keep talking about it and you will do wonders for you’re readers who suffer in the same way, and are scared to talk about it. Good for you.

  • PMN

    your, dammit, your readers!

  • GJR

    I am really glad that everything is fine w/you. This first step in speaking to your public readers about this is a part of healing. As PMN said, get some help and continue to share… this will definately help many people who read this w/ the same issues…

  • Robert in Dallas

    Damn, it would be tough to live that way. Try seeing a shrink. Granted, I am a mere layman, but I do not see how you can shake such a longstanding, irrational fear on your own.

  • jerry manley

    i had something similar happen recently and was sure it was colon cancer. had the colon examine and it was ulcerative colitis, which can — thanks to better living through chemistry — be fixed with a little pill every day.
    take care of yourself. the world needs good writers who understand baseball

  • donna

    You dont need a shrink. You need a good book, a smile, and some post it notes all around the house. One on the toilet bowl lid saying “good morning Im happy to be alive” then in your dresser drawer that says “life IS good” kiss your wife, kiss your kids walk the dog with a big smile and feel it in your heart. read:) you can do it Pearlman! Life is grand and we are all lucky to be here! aaahhhhh…now. now is all we have. embrace it and thank it. thank the now:)

  • Darb

    When I was 18 I had a pretty severe panic attack. The repercussions of those 45 seconds lingered for the next 10 years.

    When my wife and I found out we were expecting a little more than a year ago, I took it upon myself to do something about the anxiety, so I enlisted the help of a therapist.

    I’d say it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It wasn’t cheap, but I’ve seen a noticeable difference in myself. I’m no longer held hostage by crazy thoughts that I know aren’t true, and I can better handle situations that may have stumped me in the past.

    If it’s an option, I say to look into it.

  • http://organizer.wordpress.com Phil

    And your work gives information, entertainment and fun to many (I guess the denizens of tomatonation excepted.)

    Hope you find a better way. My personal life improvement mantra is Woody Allen’s suicidal character in Annie Hall having an epiphany while watching the Marx Bros.–”hey, it’s not all a drag.”

  • Son of Orson

    Some mueslix in the morning should take care of that blood problem too..

  • http://itsaboutthemoney.blogspot.com Jason

    Sorry for the late response, Jeff, but that’s some good news. I had my oldest and closest buddy get diagnosed with colon cancer at 37. Thankfully he’s alive and cancer free two years later, enjoying his young kids.

    Let this be a lesson to anyone reading: if you think something might be wrong, get it checked. Don’t let fear keep you from the doctor. It ain’t worth it!

    Jason

  • KushToker

    Just because you are some dildo in ass writer doesn’t mean you can write some nonsense book about Walter Payton you fucking faggot.

Showtime Book
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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life