Yep, that’s a selfie. One of maybe 5 I’ve taken of myselfie. Ish. But my kids take lousy pics (of their dad) and still don’t do what they’re told, so what’s a guy to do? Anyway, it’s now 4 weeks since that final radiation with bells on. Sometimes, I can even breathe again. Hair is growing back–more salty-dog than I remember. But it’s nice to play with shampoo again.
I’m sure there are some good jokes in all that (a women would dye for this!) once my comedy writers gather and get their snark on. But my own joking has turned rather reflective. Shock and awe. Which is so boring, really. Dude: Could you be almost normal again? (Doubtful.)
The Gods took me to the Virgin Islands to heal. My virgin body says snorkel; my fried head says, “Not yet, idiot.” Still, the vitamin D is jamming like the Mr. Marley don’t-worry-’bout-a-thing songs that still play nonstop down yonder. I try to focus on the sand in my shorts. But as I move on, I’d like to get some things off my unhairy chest. So may I submit my 5 Confessions…
1. I avoided the C Club. If you haven’t noticed—and if you haven’t, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention—the C Club is one of the most cocky, most exclusive, yet most unfettered cults around. Imagine hopelessly-hooked fishermen swapping tales with terrific time-share sales reptiles at a Trump University reunion mixer at closing time. Let’s just say I quickly felt out of my league and forfeited any and all rights to freedom of speech.
Survivors, when cued, will gleefully chirp about their 55 radiations of the tongue while hosting needles stuck in their belly. Or their seven months of blowing chunks out of various orifices while hallucinating Arianna Grande performing the complete suite of all German opera composers. They tend to offer unequaled encouragement and support, which is priceless, but at a cost.
For me, that cost was often too dear. What would start with ginormous hugs of empathy would sometimes end abruptly with me running for the nearest bathroom. And not because of the usual side effects. It’s possible I’ve passed the initiation (or is it hazing?) and earned my C Club rights. But in this case, W.C Fields may be right: “I wouldn’t want to be in a club that would have me as a member.”
2. I played the C card.
C Club cred aside… People mean well. And no one knows what to say (or write or post). So you get dozens of… “If there’s anything I can do…” “I’m there for you.” And “Just let me know how I can help.” I know I’ve done the same thing, whether or not I ultimately delivered any goods.
In most cases, you really do travel this journey alone. In my case, that turned out to be especially true. I was lucky enough to be able to handle nearly all tasks by myself, although the healthcare professionals didn’t like it and sometimes insisted I have assistance. (They’d even ask for names and numbers, geez…)
Yet I’ll confess to manipulating my way to some things I wanted, some things wicked, and some things lazy more than once—rather like my grandma who thought nothing of shooting unwelcome critters from her farm porch in her 90s but wanted help taking out the trash.
Tickets to shows? Yep, and thanks, old friends in high places. Rides to events? Heck, yeah (and the driving-while-texting crowd is grateful, cuz I was in no mood). But my favorite? Definitely calling the chit on about 20 people with those three words every man longs to bellow: Rake my leaves! And boy, did they, one lovely Sunday afternoon in November. I provided beer, brats, and bossiness, and smiled from root to canopy. “You know, this is almost fun!” said one sweaty friend. For me it was. For me it was!
3. I frittered away my education. Some of the smartest people alive are in the cancer business. And the body of information is morbidly obese. But I wanted nothing of it. How tall is the printed homework they assigned me throughout the process? Kareem would squint. How many people wanted to connect me with someone who’s “been through this?” I could start the next LinkedIn. How many support groups did I fail to show up at? I lost count, but it easily surpasses the number of weddings I’ve managed to miss.
Oh sure, I took on info my way, and at times was a voracious learner. Like, during the otherwise tedious all-day chemo day when my excellent (and cute) nurse asked me, “Has anyone had the sex-during-cancer talk with you?” I’d paid not attention to the hand-outs. Had skipped the group sessions. So, not faking it, I replied, “Uh, no. What’s up?” And we had a long, hard chat. Who knew? When your body is being pumped with poisons… Oh, never mind.
4. I sought the answers I preferred. While I’ll admit to shunning information overload, I did ask a lot of questions. I drove my care team nuts. I made schedules run amok. I made a loquacious and precocious three-year-old look mute.
With healthcare issues, that’s always been my easiest route to understanding. But in this case, it became a little game. Because you rarely get the same answer twice. So the best result, really, came by asking, say, five people the same question—and then running an average. Or when that math was too hard (and it usually was), just going with the answer you liked best.
Case in point: Right away, just for yucks, after finding out I’d be on several chemos for several weeks, I asked the highest (no pun intended) professionals just this: “May I ask you something off the record?” “Yes! Of course,” they’d reply. So then came my one-word query: “Marijuana?” After all, I hear it’s prescribed in some states.
You’d think I’d brought up that whole Don/Hill argument again.
The first very high expert practically cut me off while jumping up and down and grabbing a four-foot bong: “YES! Absolutely! And we can put that on the record!” The next one, obviously from a different party, gripped his forehead painfully and nearly started to weep and share secret Betty Ford stories: “Oh. Umm. Oh. Hmmmm. Well, I don’t think we’ll be needing any…marijuana…for this chemotherapy.”
5. I used my condition as an excuse. Only a few times. Or maybe more. But usually, I’m the go-to guy. I try to show up. I’ll host the party if ain’t party lately and everybody be getting antsy. I endeavor to attend the game, the recital, the funeral (if it comes to that, and it always does eventually).
But in this chapter, I often became the curmudgeon who says, “I don’t feel like it.” Because I could. And in truth, sometimes I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. Which is too bad, because after diagnosis, I had this delusional vision of organizing my 49,555 photos. Of binge-watching those TV shows everyone talks about. And of playing guitar and piano daily.
But as my wise, not-yet-old dad (who practices music daily and performs often) said when we discussed this at Christmas, “Yeah, when you don’t feel good, you don’t really feel like playing music.”
True dat. But not to worry: I’m playing now. Music and otherwise. Could you be getting over this? Could you be comin’ in from the cold? Could you be jammin’?
Sand. It’s everywhere. Jam: We got this too.
Thanks for listening…