Cancer Circus and Me
By Leonard William Zajicek
How the circus and I got together really all started forty years ago when I enlisted in the U. S. Navy when I was 17 years old. It was 1946 and I was aboard the USS Barton, a destroyer assigned to Operation Crossroads. This was the operation where the government had the atomic bomb tests at Bikini Island in the Pacific. I often wonder if any of the 42,000 involved in these tests lived long enough to join a circus. After my tour with the Navy, I got married and we had three fine sons. After they were grown, my marriage ended in divorce. David, the oldest, became a school teacher and historian. Dan, the second son, enlisted in the U. S. Air Force as an operating room technician. After his enlistment, he went to school and became a surgical assistant. The youngest son, Jim, was circus bound from boyhood. After his graduation from high school, I drove him to a small circus in Illinois. I'm sure now all these events fell into place and led me to the circus after I became aware that I had cancer.
After my divorce, I remarried and moved to West St. Paul, Minnesota where we had a muffler business. It was here that I noticed blood in my urine. I suspected that I had bruised a kidney and went to a doctor there who agreed. For over a year I was treated for a bruised kidney as each month I would notice blood in my urine but no other symptoms. I had no pain and did not tell Dan, the son in the medical profession, as I didn't want to burden him with my minor health problems. It's amazing to me now how foolish I was.
My second marriage went on the rocks and I became extremely depressed. Any of you who have been through this know what I mean. On my birthday, just a week before I was to be divorced, I became so depressed I tried taking my life. I guess my number wasn't up and when my "ex" picked me up from the psychic ward, I asked her why she didn't let me die. She replied what a hassle she'd have with my kids! My oldest son, Dave, my son Dan, my daughter-in-law, Diane, with three month old granddaughter, Michele, came to Minnesota and brought me "home". It was Dave who took me aside and talked me into coming back to Wisconsin where my kids lived. Dan and Diane opened their home to me and I shall always be grateful to them for that.
After a while, I got a job as a draftsman and was able to get my own apartment. I was out on a date and I told the lady I was with that I had to use the boy's "sandbox." I tried to urinate and only drops of blood came out. The more I tried, the more the pain, the first I ever felt with the kidney problem. It was then I passed large blood clots, the size of my thumb and realized I would call Dan in the morning. When I came back to the car, the lady was visually upset as I had been in the rest room for over 30 minutes. She was about ready to get help when I returned. I assured her I was O.K. yet internally upset over that damn kidney.
The next morning I called Dan and told him what had happened. His verbal response was strong words of criticism for not telling him sooner. His harsh words were tempered with love. He knew his stubborn Dad. He made arrangements for me to see a urologist early the next morning. I was in the hospital waiting to go into the operating room wondering what in hell would make a bruised kidney behave like that. After the exam of my bladder, recovering in post op, Dan and the doctor told me what was found. They were both trying to conceal their feelings as they told me: massive tumors -cancer. The "bruised kidney" had now become the destiny of my life. Son of a bitch! Why me? I'm just getting my life back on track and now this. Strange thoughts filled my mind. This is bull shit! This can't be. There's never been cancer in my family. Who in the hell is going to teach my granddaughter to dance? As my anger subdued, I turned my head and the tears filled my eyes.