Ron Sparks, 2013

Unbowed, Unbeaten, and Alive

My Scar

my scar –
but my vigor remains
I stand unbowed, unbeaten, and

© Ron Sparks, 08/24/13

Over 41,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2013.  That’s a lot of people and we’re now finding out that one of the leading causes of oral cancer, in addition to the obvious smoking and chewing tobacco, is the HPV virus.  That’s right, the sexually transmitted virus that has been linked to cervical cancer in women has in recent years been linked to many, many instances of head, neck, throat, and tongue cancer in men.  If you have children, and aren’t one of those lunatics who think they are evil, please, please, please make sure you children are vaccinated against HPV.  It could, quite literally, save their lives.

The scars oral cancer leaves on a person are some of the most visible scars cancer patients can have.  Take a look at my picture above.  My neck is deformed.  A much more sever case of disfiguration by oral cancer can be seen in the late Roger Ebert who, sadly, lost his battle with his cancer in April of this year.

On August 27th of 2008, I was diagnosed with stage III squamous cell carcinoma in my head and neck.  A month later, in September, 2008 I underwent radical neck dissection to remove the cancer that had spread from my tonsils to my lymph nodes.  The scar from that surgery, almost exactly fives years later, is a daily reminder of the life and death struggle I endured.  My five-year survival rate was statistically less than 60%.

And yet I survived.  Here I am, five years older.   I am one of the lucky ones.  Many have not been as lucky as I.  I know  people who are just beginning their epic struggle against cancer.  I know people who have lost their battle and are no longer among us.

This next series of blog posts is my celebration.  My celebration of survivorship.  My celebration of the battle, of my friends and family who have fought and won, and my memorial to those who have lost their battle.  You’ll find that these posts will be a mixture of poetry (I am a biker poet, after all), introspection, observation, and just plain silliness.  I hope you enjoy.

I formulated my plan in this hospital bed

I formulated my plan in this hospital bed

It was December 21st, 2008 when I first formulated my five-year celebration, should I survive that long.  I had, just days before, been fitted with my PEG tube.  The process was excruciatingly painful.  I had barely begun to learn how to use my new feeding tube when peristalsis stopped working in my body – my guts stopped processing food through my intestines and I was throwing up everything that went into my stomach.

I was there for three days before my doctors were able to kick-start my digestion again.  Lying in that bed, all day and all night, waiting for some magic moment to happen over which I had no control left me with a lot of time to think.  I decided then and there that if I managed to reach the ever-coveted five-year mark without a recurrence of my cancer, I would celebrate in an epic fashion.

And so , the Binary Biker decided that an epic road trip was in order.  Two weeks. 5,000 miles.  To Sturgis, South Dakota and back on a motorcycle.  A cross-country spirit quest.  Discover America and hopefully along the way, rediscover myself.

My trip was epic.  It was beautiful, eye-opening, scary, fun, instructive – and any other number of descriptive words you can think to add.  I have a lot to share, so buckle up – this blog post is just the beginning of what’s coming.

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One Response to “Unbowed, Unbeaten, and Alive”

  1. Congratulations Ron! We were so fortunate to have stumbled across your blog about a month ago as it is helping get us through this battle and we are looking forward to your updates. We wish you continued good health … keep riding … keep writing.

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