When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I decided that rumors about my condition would be harder on my company than the truth. So I came clean with our staff (about 325 people at the time, I think) and promised to keep everyone informed.
I’d been told that within five years, I’d either be dead (84% chance) or cancer-free (16%.) Five years came and went. Turns out I fell into a small rounding error: I wasn’t a doornail—but I also wasn’t cured. Eighteen years with cancer, and I was still keeping everyone informed—and the staff had grown to about 575 people.
I got self-conscious about all the emails about me and my health. I decided a blog would let people check in for information whenever they wanted, but it wouldn’t be intrusive. To my amazement, I’ve now had thousands of visitors to my site.
I never thought I’d make a spectacle of this thing. Friends know that I’ve never wanted in-person visitors when I’m sick or hospitalized. Ginny, my son’s family, my sister, a very small number of very close friends—fine. Otherwise, I’d rather see you when I’m dressed in regular clothes and feeling OK.
I also never thought I’d enjoy being part of this kind of spectacle. But I’m finding I like it a lot. I’m trying to figure out why.
To begin with, I’m not a social media kind of guy. The only thing I ever do on Facebook or Linked In is confirm friends, most of whom are complete strangers. Every couple of years I try to quit those sites altogether, but I’m obviously doing something wrong. I do what I think I have to do to quit, but a couple of weeks later I’m confirming more unknown friends. Zuckerberg can’t quit me.
One thing I do like about the public nature of the discussion is that I don’t have to describe my current status every time out. My business partner John Adams is always nervous when I start talking because nobody knows what tangents I’ll be running down. (“What will he say???” “Will he leave any time for the analytics presentation???” “What is he even talking about???”)
I’ve also appreciated the feedback. People have been over-the-top kind and generous in expressing their feelings for my family and me. I feel like I’m having a very interesting discussion with a lot of the best people on the planet. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
And I like being able to post when I want. Someone said they worried about me when I skipped a day or two. Please don’t do that. Anyone who knows me knows I never, ever make a deadline. I’m not posting daily, I’m posting when I feel like it.
If I’m lucky, I will once again be guilty of not dying as advertised. It sounds silly, but that really is a little embarrassing. (Don’t worry about it: I’ll get over it.)
I’m feeling about the same as I felt when I first got back to Richmond from NYC. Maybe a little better. It’s good to be me.