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Seriously, those dark clouds of doubt were no laughing matter

For the past couple of months, I have not been able to shake a feeling of impending doom.

Not even my steady diet of lowbrow humor and juvenile jokes rejuvenated me. There have been times when I barely managed to crack myself up. And I normally laugh hysterically at my lame jokes, making up for those who suffer in silence.

Nor was I swayed by my wife's infectious cheerfulness. We're talking about a sense of merriment here that causes the Grim Reaper to giggle.

"Geez, you'd think you were up for an Oscar nomination in your own version of Les Misérables," Maureen complained. "You are being a big baby again. Everything is going to be fine."

Never mind she was the one who insisted I see a specialist because of a periodic pain in my lower stomach area. To be discreet, we'll just refer to it here as the nether region.

As I waited for Medford gastroenterologist Dr. John Walker and his sought-after team to be available to do what they do very well, I moped about with the sword of Damocles hanging overhead.

Granted, I have an imagination that has been known to work overtime.

But there was cause for concern. The nagging pain is not unlike that experienced by my twin brother, George, who was diagnosed with colon cancer last fall. He now has a semicolon — if he were the musician Prince, we would call him ";" — yet happily seems to be holding his own.

However, he knows the medical jury is still out on the success of his operation.

We are fraternal twins, therefore not identical when it comes to everything from habits to health.

But our father died of cancer on Feb. 16, 1961, when we were 9. My gut feeling — pun intended — was the team would find cancer when they scoped out my nether region.

After all, George, who lives on the isle of Vinalhaven some 12 miles off the coast of Maine, went from the colonoscopy right into surgery.

Black humor cuts most problems down to size. But there is precious little funny about even the mere threat of cancer. Yes, that was clearly demonstrated by the semicolon joke.

Maureen tried her best to perk me up. After a short walk through our garden and orchard last weekend, she suggested I needed a new pair of hiking shoes since my old ones were getting a bit threadbare.

"We had better hold off on that for a bit — I might not be needing them," I replied.

Feeling as threadbare as my hiking shoes looked, I glumly observed that our vegetable garden resembled a graveyard with the skeletal remains of last year's stalks haunting the place.

"And look at those dead leaves still hanging from the apple and pear trees," I said.

"Well, yeah, that's why they call it the dead of winter," she said. "Remember, spring is just around the corner."

Usually, I get gung ho when we walk about and plan what veggies will go where in our annual garden. February is also the time we like to prune fruit trees in our mini climate.

Instead, I was thinking about how things could very well go south real quick just as they had for George. Would I still be able to walk a daughter down the aisle for her big Aug. 3 wedding? Who would finish the forest-thinning project near the house to reduce the threat of wildfire? Will we still be able to go to Ireland and Scotland? What about Maureen, our children and grandchildren, not to mention our lovable pets?

So I was actually relieved Wednesday morning when the dreaded time came for the team to explore the nether region. But I was more relieved when Dr. Walker informed Maureen that he found not a blemish, that I had the colon of a young juvenile.

She didn't say it, but you just know she was thinking I had a juvenile mind to match.

The occasional pain is still there, albeit seems to have subsided. Maureen rightfully insists we err on the side of caution and make sure there isn't a serious malfunction elsewhere.

But worries of colon cancer no longer dictate my day.

That afternoon after the colonoscopy we again walked in the garden, this time hand in hand. That's when I noticed daffodils popping up around the fruit trees. And that garden? It will be the biggest ever we've ever grown on this wonderful Earth of ours.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.