Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cancer Fragments

 I hope you never have to go through this shit. It's boring as hell.
I didn’t write very much during my recent medical odyssey (which I’m still sort of navigating anyway). I wish I had (my memory is like a battered old movie – full of splices and jump-cuts and missing frames and  the soundtrack fades in and out). I wrote a couple of vignettes, and scribbled some notes. If you’ve been following me closely, you may have read some of this already. This will all end up in my autobiographical novel (Anosognosia), eventually.


I’m sitting in a recliner, drinking alkylating agents through my arm and my nurse says, “So, I won’t be here next week.”

     “No? How come?”

     “I’m on vacation.”

     “Really? That’s great.”

     “Yeah, I haven’t had a vacation in a long time. I’m looking forward to it.”

     “I consider this my vacation,” I tell her.

     She laughs but I’m not kidding.

     “You need a new travel agent,” she tells me.

     “Yeah, I guess.”

     “Okay, time for your Etoposide.”


The hospital waiting area. Opposite me stands a rack displaying an assortment of sad cancer hats. They are all fuzzy little bonnets. I don’t think I’d look good in one. And why do hospitals offer such wretched magazines? Wouldn’t it be cool to find a Fangoria or Playboy on the table? Instead, they give you Golf Balls Quarterly. Trout Fishing with Diabetes. Pinecone Crafts Illustrated. I flip through a Ladies Home Journal. There’s an article telling me how to get in touch with my “inner Beyonce’”. I don’t think I should try that. Not now. Not while I’m taking steroids.

     They offer plain donuts cut in half. All the beverages in the fridge are 8oz and lukewarm. The worst thing about chemotherapy is the food.   

The Money Shot

They offered to freeze my sperm. I guess chemotherapy is an almost inevitable micro-holocaust for the persistent little swimmers. I told them not to bother. I sort of regret that decision now. It might have been interesting to see what kind of porn the hospital stocked. Did they have softcore or hardcore or both? Did their collection cater to various sexual persuasions?  They probably had gay porn, I’d assume. But what if your thing was sploshing or plushies or crush? Did they have any of that really gross Swedish enema porn? What about S&M? B&D? What if your toolkit only responds to stimuli of the Asian persuasion? Or Pygmies or Eskimos. The elderly. Amputees. Elderly amputees. I knew a guy who could only get aroused with his wife if his dog was in the room. We have an unlimited supply of very specific fetishes in our vast nation.  It's what makes us great.

     Or maybe all they offered were soft, gauzy Guccione-type pictures. Stuff with class. In which case it wouldn’t have done me any good anyway.

     Oh well, this is all empty ejaculation speculation since I chose not to turn my tadpoles into protozoan popsicles.  


During the second week of chemotherapy I somehow contract poison ivy. My oncologist sends me to a dermatologist. Dr. Kean Puce. He takes a quick, cursory glance look at me and declares, “Yep, that definitely poison ivy!” It spreads quickly and itches like hell. In fact now I realize that Hell doesn’t burn. It itches.

     The rash covers my face, making me look a bit like Rondo Hatton with zits. My right hand starts to swell until it resembles a Mickey Mouse glove. Little sacks of pus develop that I puncture and drain, only to watch them bloat-up again with a constant trickle of warm clear sap. I endure both the chemotherapy and the hellish rash for two more weeks. That’s when they finally for fuck’s sake figure out I don’t have poison ivy. The dermatologist had been wrong. WRONG, PUCE! I'm allergic to chemotherapy. More specifically, this poison called Bleomycin that they’ve been pumping into my veins. So, they discontinue the bleomycin (after a trip to Boston where a specialist takes a gander and says, “Oh yeah, that’s a text book reaction to Bleomycin.” Text book, Puce! You really earned that medical degree there, Doctor. Twit. Anyway, the rash finally clears and I’m given an early release from Hell. At least this particular hell.

     That’s another thing about Hell I learned. There’s more than one.

Buy a book! All proceeds go to a (former) cancer patient. 

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