I very nearly didn’t survive my first two years on this stinky planet. No joke. Got really sick after birth from what turned out to be a lung gone all septic and sif, half of which the doctors chopped off in the end, at the tender age of 18 months.
The story goes that my dad was smoking outside on the hospital balcony when he overheard two doctors discussing a baby boy with a messed-up lung and his chances of survival. They were not very optimistic, with the one predicting that the boy actually has no chance at all. My dad (a retired amateur boxer and erstwhile bar fighter of some renown in the Vaal) nearly clocked the doc right then and there. I am happy he didn’t because they really needed him for the surgery. And I made it!
So there I was, 18 months old, half a lung lighter, a little shorter of breath than most toddlers but otherwise okay. I had a bad-ass scar from under my left nipple stretching around my ribcage and reaching almost all the way to my spine. But wounds heal and chicks dig scars, right?
The scar is still there, it stretches with your body as it grows. Weird… Over the years I have invented great alternative stories for pool parties, beach trips, raves or other events where one is generally shirtless and when new acquaintances inevitably ask what happened theeeere (pointing).
“That’s why I don’t surf anymore mate,” I would say softly, my head turned to look at the ocean some distance away, peering deep into the horizon. “Shark attack in ‘99, just off Kommetjie. Was all over the news. Just glad I’m still here man.”
The other story only works because I am originally from Vereeniging, an industrial town south of Joburg. I would claim that I went to work in a sheet metal factory after school to earn some extra cash and got hit by a flying steel disc. Of course they could not remove it there as I would bleed out (duh). I had to travel to hospital with this steel disc stuck inside my body, for it to be surgically removed. Took 18 hours. Can’t believe you didn’t read about it? It was all over the news.
The point is that the cards get stacked against us, sometimes at birth, sometimes later, sometimes all the time. This is what inspired Lemmy Kilmister, frontman for Motörhead and the truest embodiment of rock and fucking roll, to live by his “Born to Lose. Live to Win” motto (and accompanying tattoo). Abandoned by his father after birth, he grew up poor and was expelled from school,but went on to rewrite rock history and kept performing flat-out until his death in 2015 at age 70.
I was able to beat the bad hand I was dealt way back in 1975. I am proud of my feisty little 18 month old heart for being strong enough to keep fighting. Little bugger clearly wanted to live dammit! The 41 year old version of said boy approves. A lot.
Now I’ve been dealt another bad hand. No sharks or flying steel discs this time, thankfully. This time it’s a cancer diagnosis and the added bonus of chemotherapy, the gift that truly keeps sucking.
But that’s life for you hey? You’re born to lose and it’s up to you to keep living to win. Dying does not get you to the next level. Giving up does not get you to the next level. Being depressed does not even get you up out of bed.
So thanks Lemmy, Mr. Kilmister sir. I will take your words and make them mine also. I was quite literally born to lose (my life) but I am living to win. I did it before and I will do it again.