By Tim Christie
Appeared in print: Saturday,Apr 17, 2010
Cancer sucks. Life is good. Choose joy.Those are words Aaron Jamison lives by these days. The 37-year-old Springfield resident is choosing to live his life with as much joy — and no small amount of offbeat humor — as anyone with a terminal case of colon cancer can muster.
That helps explain why Jamison has decided to sell advertising space on a pair of funeral urns, one of which will go to his wife when he dies, and one to his parents. He hopes to sell at least eight ads, at $100 a pop, so he can pay for his cremation and funeral ahead of time. So far, he has sold two ads — one to Terese’s Place restaurant in Springfield, and one to Cry Baby Ink tattoo parlor in the Valley River Mall.
“I don’t have any money. I’m on disability, and that ain’t much,” he said Friday with no trace of self-pity. “I was trying to figure out how to not leave my wife in more debt.”
Jamison has a background in graphic design, and he plans to paint the ads himself on urns he purchased at Potters’ Quarter, a pottery painting gallery.
His wife, Kristin, said she was not too keen on the idea when Aaron first came up with it.
“But the more I talked about it, the more I realized he’s always been quirky,” she said. “That’s just something fun, and out of the ordinary, that helps him feel more secure, (knowing that funeral expenses) are taken care of and I won’t have to deal with it when the time comes.”
Jamison, a graduate of Springfield High School, worked at KMTR as a master control operator until he was unable to work because of the debilitating effects of chemotherapy. He’s also a self-styled comedian, musician and improvisational player who uses humor as a way to cope with a decidedly grave situation.
Jamison was diagnosed with colon cancer in February 2009. Doctors removed 18 inches of cancerous colon, but the cancer already had spread to his lymph nodes and liver. He has gone through eight cycles of chemo, and speculates that his girth has enabled him to withstand the rigors of the treatment. He recently began a new round of chemo. If it works, he could live nine months, his doctors have told him. If it doesn’t, he might have three months.
A few months after his diagnosis, Jamison won the 2009 Eugene Laff-Off comedy competition. He jokes now that he won because he played the “cancer card,” telling the audience at the beginning of his routine about his disease.
“That’s not really a joke,” he told the audience, “but I tell you so when I start talking about cancer you won’t think I’m a jerk. Not that I’m not a jerk — I just don’t want you to think that.”
Jamison has embraced social media to share his humor and his travails with friends and followers. He blogs at www.judasforgiven.com. He created a Facebook page called the “Aaron M. Jamison Pre-Memorial Foundation,” which cracks him up every time he thinks about it. And he tweets about the daily ups and downs of living and dying with cancer at twitter.com/judasforgiven.
His left forearm is covered with tattoos, mostly of favorite cartoon characters but also one of a bottle of Joy dish detergent to always remind him to choose joy. He got another tattoo of the biohazard symbol next to his chemotherapy port.
It’s not all laughter. He has rough days, and battles depression. Jamison is an avowed Christian, and some of his friends have told him that God will heal him.
“My response is, God could heal me, but it doesn’t seem to be his plan,” Jamison said.
He said he’s determined to go out on his own terms — laughing, and making others laugh, if at all possible.
“You got to have fun with it,” Kristin said. “The situation is kind of crappy any way you look at it. You don’t want to spend all your time crying. Joking around is a good way to handle it for us.”
Jamison understands that some people may find selling ads on a funeral urn to be macabre or in bad taste, and he’s OK with that. If people show up at his memorial service, and laugh out loud at the urns, and are embarrassed about it at the same time, well, then, he figures he’s accomplished something.
“I don’t know if it’s brave — but it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I want to have fun. I don’t want to die pouting.”