So, I was cleaning off my garage/office desk last night (which act, BTW, merits a banner headline all its own) when I came upon this:
Yeah, it’s the reminder card I got last January, telling me to go to my first radiation session. And, as you can see, it also prompts me to return every single day thereafter (except weekends). I did that for a total of six weeks. A month and a half. Every day getting fried in the neck, jaw, and proximal collarbone areas. Getting more RADs (or what in the hell ever they call the units of DNA-killing waves that would — it was hoped — shrink or destroy altogether the malignant nodes that’d been found in my neck) than any sane person would subject her/himself to. And kill my taste buds and my salivary glands, sear and grotesquely thicken the mucous membrane at the base of my tongue, in my throat, and even partially down my esophagus. And cause me to bleed, writhe in pain, almost drown in phlegm, push me past the brink of starvation and dehydration, lose a quarter of my body mass, and, thus far, never again really taste my homemade spaghetti sauce.
The Nat’l Cancer Institute, on its Radiation Therapy for Cancer page, tells us:
… [R]adiation therapy can also damage normal cells, leading to side effects.
Hah! Can. As in, Well, maybe, y’know, if things don’t work out precisely as your team of nuclear physicists and oncologists planned. That was one of the things that irked me most about the all the propaganda I was given, purportedly to fully inform me about what I was willingly stepping into. In the photographs, all the nurses, techs, specialists, and the rest grinned like loons as they positioned patients to get their daily dose of an otherwise screamingly unhealthy beam of radiation. Oh, and the patients were grinning too, the poor saps.
All those side effects may happen. Sort of like, if you’re thinking of going out drag racing while it’s 28 degrees and there’s a slick coat of ice on the pavement, you may want to consider the possibility — just the possibility — that you’ll skid into a telephone pole. Maybe.
That’s why I fully appreciated Dr. Fred Wu, my radiation oncologist, telling me minutes after I met him, “This is gonna be hell.”
You don’t grin in hell. You can hardly even crack a smile.
Anyway, the sudden appearance of this card last night really shook me up. Not as much as I was shaken the day I was first handed it. I recall thinking then, “This is it. No way I can rationalize or talk my way out of this jam.”
Funny, the first thing I thought last night as I held the card once again for the first time in some nine months — after I wiped away a couple of tears, I must confess — was, “Dang, mang, there oughtta be a flashing beacon attached to this.” Or a skull and crossbones on it. At the very least, one of those air raid shelter symbols from the ’50s. Something to at least hint at the crazy goddamned reality of what was to come.
And, for chrissakes: “Thank you for adjusting your time/schedule for this day.” Honestly? As if I’d sat back and weighed going for a massage and then a light lunch with a pal rather than submit myself to the seemingly endless, debilitating treatment without which I’d die horribly. Hey, sure, you’re welcome. I did it to accommodate you — I’m that kind of a guy.
We love to lie to ourselves, don’t we?
Daylight Saves My Sanity Time
Ah, at long last. Today’s the last day of this planet’s axial lean away from the sun, otherwise known as Fall. Yep. Tomorrow’s the winter solstice, huzzah!
To be almost precise, solstice will occur at a quarter to six tomorrow morning.
That means for the next couple of months I’ll be watching the official daily sunset times so as to confirm that, yes, the days are getting longer. And then, maybe three weeks from tomorrow, I’ll eyeball an actual sunset and think, “Oh yeah, baby! You can really tell!”
The optimist within me — and, yeah, there really is a teaspoonful of those Panglossian genes distributed randomly throughout my cells — can find precious hope in the sun setting at 5:44pm rather than 5:27pm.
Greetings from a fellow cancer survivor. Your experience sounds gruesome. They found my prostate cancer early enough that they were able to get it all in one surgery, but I had six weeks of catheterization and plumbing that will never work quite right. Still, I am alive after nine years with no sign of a recurrence. I hope that you can get back some of what you have lost so that you can enjoy life.