Do you ever feel like George Bailey had it right before the stupid angel-wanna-be in “It’s a Wonderful Life” butted in. As in, the world might have been a better place without you. Or worse yet, you might have been better off if you were never in the world.

I certainly have. We live in a tough old world, brothers and sisters, and most people, if they get their butt kicked enough days in a row, think — at least for a moment, at least once — that things might be better if they pulled a George Bailey.

I think there are plenty of days when the bravest thing we do is to get up in the morning. For me, those are the days when I run through my morning checklist and realize there isn’t a single thing on it that makes me think it could possibly be a good day. And I get up anyway.

I mean, that’s what I’ve always done. I got up when I was 7 and knew the school bully was going to beat the crap out of me, just because he could. I did it a lot in high school, maybe because I hadn’t read the book and handed in a report based on the movie, or when I extended my own school record for consecutive days without having a girl acknowledge my existence.

And I don’t think you have to have to have a terrible illness, or a broken heart, or any other “big” reason to feel George Bailey-bad; you just have to be a living, breathing human being, just trying to get by.

But brothers and sisters, life also can be wonderful. Maybe just for a few minutes, but maybe for hours, days, weeks … who knows. But I’ve become curious about what terrific thing might happen today to make the past period of misery not even worth considering.


I’m not gonna lie. In mid-September I was about as done as a twice-baked potato. I kept going, as always, but I wondered if this was the time something terrific wouldn’t happen.

Then I experienced the following extraordinary sequence of events.

First, I got a phone call from the best male friend I’ve ever had. We had not been in touch for 23 years. Yeah. Nada. Turns out we’d both made attempts to find each other over the years, but this time he couldn’t get over the feeling that he really needed to find me.

He now lives in Idaho, and the last he knew I lived in New York. He remembered, after all this time, that our daughter Alison’s name was spelled with one “l” and that led him to her, which led him to me.

We had always had a different kind of connection, more than close really. How did we drift apart? Don’t know; we just did. But as we talked, it seemed like my getting cancer was somehow the driving force behind his not giving up this time.

Then, rather incredibly, a couple of days after we talked, he had a biopsy done on a mole and found out he has basal cell carcinoma. He seems OK with it, and it does seem very treatable, quite curable. Still…


Then I checked my voicemail one day to find a message from my sister. I would have been less surprised to receive a message from my other sister, who passed away six years ago. Suffice to say I was stunned.

I had called my sister when I went into the hospital at the end of April, and hadn’t heard from her since. That was fine. That was normal. We used to go years without talking to each other. Truly. Years. But, this call, just to find out how I’m doing, I don’t know about that.

Still a bit wobbly after all that, I talked to my daughter Jennifer. Among other things, she told me she had heard from her college roommate who worked for a drug company that was working on a cure for multiple myeloma. So now we not only know that “they” are working on a cure, but someone we know is working for “them.”

That would have been a lot to miss, and that is why I get out of bed every day, sometimes twice, if I take a nap. Sometimes we have to endure the bad long enough for the good to arrive, because the good is usually terrific, and the bad fades quickly.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog,

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