Malignant: Steve The Hellhound


Remember how I told you my radiation oncologist, Dr. Wu, said my treatment was going to be “hell”?

Ever since he said that, I’ve been doing mental gymnastics trying to understand, foresee, and even conjure up a way of getting out of radiation therapy. Linda Oblack sent me a wonderful note regarding someone near and dear to her who’d also suffered cancer and who, too, went through hell. I was ripe to hear her suggestions of how I should approach this thing in my head. I’m hugely appreciative.

And yesterday, coincidentally, something happened to me that common sense tells me is far worse than facing a firing squad without a blindfold or even radiation. I was sitting back in the living room recliner, the oh-so-rare sunshine streaming in through the big picture window, napping at about 2:00pm. Steve the Dog was doing the same on the couch in the other corner and Sally the Dog was snoring on the sofa across from me. The Loved One at the time was conducting her own sleep symphony with the pussycats, Terra and Kofi, in her bedroom.

As happens often, the dogs and I came to consciousness as one. There was a lot of stretching and yawning, snorting and scratching. Then Sally did the dog thing, you know, the head and body shake. Both mutts have flop ears so when they do that in the very early AM, when it’s still a couple of hours from sunrise, the stereo rat-a-tat flumping sound could wake Pavlov himself.

Steve followed with his own head and body shake. Only this time — Satan only knows why — he had to throw up simultaneously. The floor, the coffee table and — aaarrrghh! — me were splattered with dog hork. If I had hair on the top of my head, it would have stood up.

The poor hound. I called him every name I could think of. If he had the capability, he would have shrugged his shoulders. He padded over toward the back door to be let out. “Jesus Christ, Steve,” I growled, “why couldn’tcha do that outside, ya knucklehead!”

So, okay, before you howl at me for verbally assaulting him, let’s just say I should have cursed his entire species for not having evolved enough to know not to upchuck on a pal.

Anyway, I had to clean the effluvium from all surfaces, including my own. Cleaning up dog hork is one of nature’s most foul tasks, especially when the curs are coprophages, which most domestic canines are. (BTW: Look up coprophage yourself. I hate even thinking about the word, much less attempting to define it here.)

To be sure, Steve had indeed dined al fresco immediately before settling in for his afternoon nap, so my task truly was Herculean in nature.

Every sense organ of my being was offended and when I was finished, I dumped all the paper towels in a plastic bag and, as if to remind me of the horrors, when I tied the bag up, out came a gust of aroma. I gagged for the eleventeenth and final time.

So, there it is. The “hell” of radiation therapy cannot be worse than that. Bring it on, Dr. Wu!

The oncology nurse whose job it was to hint at how nasty this radiation business would be, told The Loved One and me that extreme weight loss was a very strong possibility — even an inevitability. People who — shall we say — are less taken by the pleasures of the table than I am must worry about malnutrition during therapy.

“But I don’t think you have too much to worry about,” she said, smiling. “You look like you have plenty in reserve to get through this.”

Hah! Reserve. Keep this euphemism in mind in case your best friend asks you if she or he looks fat. Say, “Why no, darling, you merely have plenty in reserve!”

Should she or he still clunk you on the side of the head, why then, at least you’ll know you tried your best.

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