By Michael A. Morris | michael@atljewishtimes.com

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After the head shaving festivities

My friends and I have been turning 50 the past couple of years. We have all been kidding each other about all the new aches and pains and not feeling as young and vibrant as we did in our 20s (go figure) — back pain, less endurance, teeth issues, can’t eat everything we used to, allergies, gray hair, knees just not working like they used to and more.

If you are over 50, you know what I am talking about. It’s time to start eating more healthfully and exercising more often. We laugh at how much we understand our parents’ aches and pains.

Then the laughing stopped.

Four weeks ago my best friend told me he had a cancerous tumor nestled in his back. A slap in the face, a rude awakening, a real wake-up call. A life-changing event to which I can only humbly offer support. Luckily it was detected early, but I know he would say there is nothing lucky about it. The tumor was detected by a CT scan of his spine — he has chronic back pain that just seemed to get worse as he got older.

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Before the close shave

Four weeks have taught him, me and our friends a few things. The most important is recognition that in times like this, you are your own best advocate. All of his doctors care, but no one has your best interest in mind 24/7 except you. In today’s age of information, research becomes a full-time occupation as well as your best friend. Diagnosis, prognosis, protocols, physicians, specialty clinics, new treatments, every facet of this specific disease can be studied, learned and used to create the optimal treatment plan for you and your body.

Another thing that I have witnessed is that the unknown is the hardest aspect to control. For several weeks, he did not know exactly what kind of cancer he had. Different doctors were recommending slightly different treatment paths. You never know how chemotherapy will affect you until treatment begins. The exact outcome of each step of a treatment plan is unknown until you get there.

It is easy to tell when one of these unknowns is just around the corner, and each time an unknown becomes a known, there is always a little sigh of relief. The known can be dealt with and offers a certain amount of control.

Two weeks ago, three of us raced from different parts of Atlanta to be with him when he shaved his head before chemotherapy began. We had to race because his Type A personality didn’t give us much notice as to when and where he was going to get his haircut.

He told me that maintaining control of the process is better than waking up each morning with hair on your pillow. He knew that one of us was going to join him in the barber’s chair; he did not know it was a team effort. It was nice to laugh a little with him before he started chemo the next day.

That was the most we could offer that Sunday. I know that on Monday, any one of us would have sat in for him if it could have helped.

Over the past week I find myself running my fingers over my buzz cut several dozen times a day. Each time I do, I think of Evan. Support is easy compared with his job.

Evan, I want to leave you with this thought: You are going to beat this! To Beth and Evan, Joe, Bruce and I want to leave you with one other thought: We love you.