Yesterday I wrote this letter to a man from Glasgow, UK, who I had met in an online Prostate Cancer support group:

Co-Latha Breith Sona Dhuibih, Dearest Hughie.

For all of you who don’t know Scottish-Gaelic, that means Happy Birthday. But it can also mean something more. Much more. Here’s the rest of what I said to my Glaswegian friend:

“Just wanted you to know, Birthday Boy, that I read in the paper yesterday that Bill wants Hillary to win so that he can be “First Laddie.” Well, Hughie dear, you have already won my heart, and so you are *my* “First Laddie.” And you will still be “’til aa the seas gang dry.” (But please don’t tell Ted.)

Then, in closing: “Attached, my Luve, is a red, red rose. In return I expect a melodie that’s sweetly played in tune”. (Quoting from Robert Burns’ poem.)

Your Lassie Always,

Leah XXX

So why does all this sweet talk matter to you, you’re asking? I’ll tell you why. I don’t like to play favorites, but it’s an open secret that I have a “thing” for Hugh Kearnley. We do engage in a bit of flirting. But my affairs are my affairs and they should stay that way. Right? Maybe. But I’m not so sure.I want my blog to be authentic. I don’t want to waste time doing what everyone else is already doing. I want to show you, up close and personal, real people who are living (and dying) with prostate cancer. I thought Hugh, who was diagnosed with advanced PC last December, would make a very good subject. Over the last six months I’ve gotten to know this man a bit, and my friendship (OK, it’s platonic) with him has enriched my husband’s and my life considerably. And he’s about as colorful as a person can get.

I had been thinking of making “people stories” a regular feature of my blog and calling it something like “Profiles in Courage.” But that’s a cliche, if you ask me. Many, if not most people with prostate cancer, are not stoically confronting their potentially foreshortened lives. Even if they say they are.

That’s what I like about Hughie. He is not “going gently into the good night.” A career military man, he is fighting hard, “raging against the dying of the light” (Dylan Thomas).

And why shouldn’t he be? Hugh is only 56, and he is the most vital person I know. I keep on thinking his membership in this club must be some kind of mistake.

When Hughie joined a support group I belong to back in January, he caused a bit of a stir. He always does. In my experience, every PC forums has its own “ethic,” you might say. This group’s is, in a word, “macho”. Metrosexuals need not apply. So if you’re a guy who wants to emote, you’re probably better off doing it elsewhere.

But Hughie speaks his mind. He can be bawdy and brash, and occasionally he gets a bit tipsy. But he is tough on the outside and tender in the inside. A gentle giant. Hughie is a person who has a big mouth and a big-heart to go along with it. He’s a person who feels deeply: his emotions run hot and cold, but never lukewarm.

Hugh speaks of the people and things that he loves eloquently, even poetically. Sometimes I find his letters painful to read.

It’s refreshing for me to see a man who is comfortable letting it all hang out. My dear husband is so reserved that I call him “Ol Man River,” because he “must know somethin’ but don’t say nothin’. Jes keeps on rollin’. . . ”

I can’t do justice to Hughie in one message. So there will be more. And I think you will like it. 

So long for now.