My life is now a seemingly endless stream of days wherein I wake up at 6am, pump a can or two of Abbot Laboratories Jevity 1.5 Cal “high-protein nutrition with fiber” into my belly — and if I’m feeling ambitious perhaps a tumbler-full of water or even the same volume of grape juice as well (should I be smitten with whimsy) — and then off to the shower.
Once I turn the bathtub spigot off it feels as though I’ve just completed running a marathon. Marathons. I remember when the annual Chicago Marathon would pass almost directly in front of my house when I lived in the East Pilsen neighborhood on the South Side. I’d dread those particular October Sunday mornings when I’d be stirred into semi-consciousness by the din of hundreds of people clapping, stomping, and beating on drums as tens of thousands of obsessive-compulsive runners flowed past. More than once I’d be tempted to scream out my window, “Don’t you damned people know I was out downing madrases and chasing women until about a half hour ago? For chrissakes, if you have such a pressing need to go 26 miles, 385 yards, try the bus or a taxi!” and then dramatically slam the sash.
Now, after my shower, I wonder where my own cheering section is, congratulating me on my superlative effort.
Then I comb out my beard. No, really — I comb it out. In fact, there’s a healthy pile of long white whiskers on my dresser, where I’ve amassed each day’s output. Don’t ask me why I’m saving my beard as it falls out. I just have to. Speaking of obsessive-compulsive.
Anyway, my next Herculean task is to put on my socks and shoes. I have to sit back in my chair for about five minutes to recover from that. Then, after getting my proverbial second wind, I put new tape on my stomach tube. Nothing tells a guy he’s ready to face a new day like a fresh tube tape-down.
Now it’s off to the radiation center. Sadly, I can’t drive myself anymore. It’s simply too much for me. The Loved One chauffeurs me down to the Southern Indiana Medical Park down by Tapp Rd. near SR 37. BTW: TLO has set up a schedule of volunteers to take me to radiation for the next two weeks until my brother comes down from Chi. for the finale. Allow me to gush thanks and love to Les, Susan, Tyler, Hondo, and David. I’ll owe you all big time when this rigmarole is finished.
Okay, in the radiation center waiting room, I thumb through the Herald Times. Often, the television is tuned to Fox News. If I cared about such things anymore, I’d be miffed.
The radiation technologist comes out to fetch me and I get my daily exercise by walking the 25 or 30 yards to the treatment room. Again, no cheering, stomping crowds.
My X-ray beam zapping process takes about 25 minutes, most of the time given over to adjusting my position just so under the aiming lasers.
That task completed, I’ll visit with the social worker, the dietician, a nurse, or Dr. Wu. Here are some snippets from these encounters:
Jessee, RN: Your oral thrush looks completely gone.
Me [thrusting my fists in the air]: Woohoo!
Jessee: Small victories!
Me: No, ma’am. That’s a big one.
Melissa, the dietician, board certified in oncology: Are you keeping up with your liquids? Are you eating enough?
Me: Well, I did two whole cans of Jevity yesterday. First time.
Melissa: Did you have any problems with your feeding tube?
Me: None. It’s a snap.
Melissa: Okay, but I want you to do at least six cans a day. That’s enough for minimal maintenance — 2200 calories. Otherwise your body starts consuming your lean muscle mass. Your body’s working in overdrive right now, your immune system chugging along trying to keep up with all the insults we’re throwing at it. That’s why you’re exhausted. That’s why you shouldn’t do any exercising now — your body is being taxed enough. Even when you sleep, it’s going full speed. Some patients say “All I did was sleep all day. Why am I still tired?” That’s why.
Me: Friday’s the halfway point in my treatment!
Dr. Wu: Yes it is. Now the tough part begins.
Me [to myself]: Bastard!
My social whirl complete for the day, TLO drives me home, whereupon I shed my shoes and my drawers and lie down as if I’d shoveled coal the live long day.
To borrow a line from Truman Capote, “And how was your day?”