My New Cancer Victim Comedy Routine

Posted on: Wednesday, August 31st, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | 12 comments


One perk for early medical appointments…a sublime sunrise!

“Everything will turn out alright if you can just keep your sense of humor,” my dad used to say, and still does, though I might need to remind him (and all of us) at times. So my new healthcare-survival strategy is to make every caregiver laugh at least once.

Cancer care is a full-time job, so I am getting lots of practice while also simplifying the rest of Reality, including withdrawing, sadly, from teaching at MCAD this fall semester—a tragic loss for the students. One upside: This should allow more time for comedy writing.

I’ll now need extra time for other things too. Like, today, my new cancer-care team added another 4-hour chemo treatment to combat a newly-decided small chance of brain or spinal  cancer. This procedure, naturally, will flow through the spine (insert Spinal Tap joke here). So scheduling all these appointments: Yet another pain-in-the-back that goes to 11—at night, for all I know.

When working with schedulers at the new clinic today, I asked about the next full-day (not to be confused with 4-hour) treatment and stretched my humor muscle: “Since I’ll be here all day, do I get a private room?” “Yes!,” she replied. So I asked, “Does it have a window?” “No!” she answered. Desperate for that elusive chuckle, I replied, “Well then, I guess I’ll have to bring my own!” It worked.

  • Introducing Dr. Zen and Dr. Nostril 

I’ll call my new oncologist Dr. Zen, as he rather floats into the room and makes you feel, however temporarily, quite comfortable to have cancer and wish you were on whatever he’s on. He had so many wise things to say—not only about lymphoma—that I should have taken notes. I look forward to my time with him.

I later shared special moments with my ENT doctor, Dr. Nostril (he’s okay with that moniker) in another location. I had to drive like a NASCAR stud through construction terror to make it on time. But I was oh-so ready to play some C-card humor to any cop who would dare stop me that I was looking forward to that, too.

Dr. Nostril holds the honor of first telling me about my tumor and showing me the pictures (since I had steadfastly ignored everything they were sending me online) and also doing the biopsy surgery. We also have a fun mutual acquaintance. So we’re not only close, personal friends, but are now getting our comic duo act ready.

When he entered the room wearing an old-fashioned head mirror, I was taken aback—having never seen a real one before. “What is this, some Jimmy Stewart movie?” I blurted. Not missing a beat, he retorted, “Actually, we’re doing a Norman Rockwell painting today.” Me: “I just hope your not planning to stick that thing up my nose, too.” He did not, which was nice of him, though he did again probe a camera (not the 35mm this time).

  • All good news mostly 

Happily, he was delighted with what he saw up there. Which is to say: My golf-ball-sized tumor is noticeably smaller than the last time he went sinus spelunking. So you can say what you want about how 5 chemotherapies makes you sick and how that elephant-dose of that effing steroid makes you curse the bald eagles and try to tackle telephone poles. But hey, it seems to be working—already—and I can feel it too. So at this point, if the plan includes my reading War and Peace aloud in the middle of 35W, I’m okay with that.

One hopes their shift in tone can continue. I mean, at those first appointments, it was all doom and gloom and stats and odds that, quite frankly, could ruin an otherwise lovely encounter. “Stop! Stop!” I wanted to scream, and probably did. Now, however, caregivers are sometimes grabbing my arm and cheerleading, “You’re young! You’re strong!” To which I reply “Go on! Go on!”

  • Not a fall guy

September lurks. So does dark, stormy, dusty, messy, smelly, poopy autumn. Me? I’m the Summer Guy. So this time of year usually feels like the slow-mo cessation of an awesome party. On a cool boat. With all your best friends. And babes in bikinis and everyone shouting along to music blasting. And Bud Light (check that).

This year, though, I’m singing a different tune. With any luck, this crap might be behind me by 12-21, the shortest day of the year. And I can quit my cancer-comedy shtick and get back to bellyaching about the lack of light.

Not to complain. Hanging out in hospitals and cancer clinics surely makes a person feel grateful for all that is good and right. As Grandma would cheerfully chirp on the South Dakota farm when someone felt the need to carp about something, “It’s not so bad we are off!”

  • Get through it…

When making late lunch before a blissy-sunny kayak ride with my perfect daughter after today’s appointments, The Current FM played an old favorite, favorite song, Tender. Sweet serendipity. Please watch. My humor was exhausted. A few tears fell from my face onto the carrots. Were they joy? Were they grief? It is such a secret place, the land of emotions.

Tender is the day…the demons go away,” goes the song. “Come on, come on, come on…get through it,” sings the choir.

I hope you, too, are getting through any obstacles in your path. We got this. Thanks for listening…


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12 Responses to “My New Cancer Victim Comedy Routine”

  1. Joe Loveland Says:

    Comrade Kirk, reading this brings me much hope and bitterness.

    Hope, because I’m reminded how strong your light is, and how mere metastasis surely pales in comparison. I feel you winning, truly.

    Bitterness, because in my many hypochondriatic moments, I’ve thought about penning something similar to this, and I now realize how much my version would pale in comparison. This is a beautiful gift you’re giving all of us. Thank you.

    I love not only THAT you’re fighting, but HOW you’re fighting, with laughs, smarts, transparency and candor. That, and badass modern medicine, makes for a winning formula.

  2. Kirk Horsted Says:

    Comrade Joe, embrace the hope and employ the bitterness. Sometimes, that translates to stubbornness, and we need some of that too!

    Thanks so much for noticing my “gift.” Perhaps it takes the slam of inspiration (like C) to make the pen so productive? If so, I look forward to writer’s block!

    Your praise means much, as I know you’re a real wordsmith. Please keep reading and commenting and, next time, I’ll reply sooner!?! *kh

  3. Hawk Says:

    love you – proud of too

  4. Kirk Horsted Says:

    Love you back, Bro P. Squawk soon!

  5. Charlie Says:

    All positives your way.

  6. Kirk Horsted Says:

    Thanks, Brother. I feel the beat…

  7. Beau Says:

    Hey! Thanks for the update. Hugs!!!!!

  8. Kirk Horsted Says:

    Hey, you’re welcome, and hugs back atcha, Beau!!!!!

  9. pam Says:

    Kirk, glad to have stumbled onto your fb invite to read the blog. I haven’t not thought of you since your first post, dodging the implications of sharing my feelings (sorrow, surprise, compassion, sympathy…)I send you heartfelt good wishes from the outskirts. ps know how important you are/have been. A force you are.

  10. Kirk Horsted Says:

    Pam! Thanks so much. I’m wowed and buoyed! And a force I’ll need! May it be with me, and with us all. Please keep reading and, dang it, let’s cross paths one of these days! Meantime, enjoy your farm (and I know you do!)… *kh

  11. Stephen Says:

    Great update! Glad to hear of the progress in shrinking that bastard.
    Blur 21! Fun! Thank you for sharing your journey. Strength and fortitude from your MCAD comrades (you have the humor/positive attitude covered!)

  12. Kirk Horsted Says:

    Thanks, Stephen. I’m happy to share, come along if you dare! Was great to see so many happy faces at MCAD this week–and those sweet words in the “Favorite Art Teacher” article. Blush! Miss you all and carry on… *kh

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