Friday, June 19, 2009
Gary Papa, Gallant Champion!
Philly Action News (6 ABC) Sports Director Gary Papa has passed away.
Gary was not just an accomplished broadcast journalist, a wonderful Philadelphian and a great guy but he was also a Philadelphia lawyer. Gary earned his law degree from the University of Buffalo Law School and his undergraduate degree from Cornell.
Gary's peppy manner, easy smile and winning personality will be greatly missed here in Philadelphia. He was a true broadcast giant in the greatest sports town in America.
Gary's fight against prostate cancer made him a gallant champion - a man of singular courage and decency.
Whenever anyone dies from cancer it makes me damned angry.
It made me angry when my father was diagnosed with cancer; and later, my mother as well.
My father looked me in the eye and told me he would beat it in the end. And he did.
Luckily, he didn’t die of cancer. But the removal of most of one lung seemed to leave his breathing capacity so diminished that I’m sure the cancer chopped extra years off his life.
My mother was not so lucky. The cancer had already metastasized by the time they discovered it. The doctor gave us the bad news as we stood in a hospital hallway. “It has already spread,” he said. He talked about my mother as if she wasn’t even there. He mentioned the word “palliative.” Then, he was on his way.
But my mother was there and she heard what she said. She simply chose not to dwell on it and lived her remaining time best as she could.
Cancer makes me angry. Maybe it’s a guy thing. But the injustice of cancer makes me want to beat the guts out of somebody. I was angry when I heard that Elizabeth Edwards’ cancer has returned. Hasn’t she suffered enough?
And I was just as angry when I heard that the same thing has happened to former White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, who later died.
What did either one of them do to deserve such a fate? I hate it when people say of someone: “He lost his battle with cancer.” None of us gets out of here alive. So, no one loses a battle with cancer. No one.
Instead, the rest of us lose. We lose that person’s special talent; their unique contribution; their smile, their friendship, their love. And with each recurrence, with each new bad news bulletin, with each additional death we lose hope as well.
We don’t want to admit it. We fight bravely on. But fear stalks us and hope continues to die. If you Google the word “cancer” you will come up with more than a quarter of a billion hits. There are so many cancer theories, cancer funds, cancer marches, cancer hospitals, cancer centers and cancer studies that the enormity of the army amassed to fight cancer gives one pause.
Still, there is no cancer cure. Cancer makes me angry. And I have no intention of letting go of my anger. Because cancer is too persistent, too insidious, too pervasive.
Which makes me suspicious as well.
Sometimes I even allow myself to believe that there is some sort of vested interest in not curing cancer if only because cancer treatment has become a lucrative, worldwide industry.
So count me as one of the angry ones – and throw in a dose of hard-learned skepticism as well.