I was a classic Alpha Male, a war correspondent for NBC News, always pushing forward, chasing the story. There I was, inside Afghanistan with the mujahideen during the Soviet occupation, covering Apartheid in South Africa, drug wars in South America, on the front lines of the Persian Gulf War.
Somehow I managed to keep going despite a crack in my fifth lumbar vertebra from a fall... during a vacation of all things. I was battening down windows during a tropical storm in the Bahamas in 1986 when I fell from a ledge and slammed into my lower back.
The pain was like a slow and endless torture, but I pushed ahead even harder… for seven years. I survived by chewing muscle-relaxers and painkillers, along with downing an extra glass of wine or two every night.
Then, in 1993, while living in Asia, the crack in my spine became a break. I hit the floor screaming and was soon flown to San Diego for a major surgery. It failed. I was declared permanently disabled, confined to a body brace and unable to sit up for a meal. The pain was unbelievable. I was pickled on even heavier meds and drank even more at night. Worst of all, I no longer knew who I was or why I was alive. It was a free-fall into the abyss.
In late 1997, my first and only child, Morgan, was born. As I withdrew into depression, anger and fear, he became my only touchstone to the world. Six months later, I was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer metastasized throughout my lymphatic system. It was from exposure to depleted uranium used on American weapons in the Gulf War. I was told I had two years to live... at best. Morphine was added to my arsenal of drugs. I often couldn’t speak. I ballooned up to 225 pounds, became even darker, and hit the bottom of the abyss.
As my son turned two, he finally became aware that his father was dying. One morning, he came to me as I was lying flat on my back and said with tears, “Get up, Daddy!”