Monday, August 27, 2012

Session Two

Today is poison day, i.e., I go to the doctor and have noxious stuff injected in me in order to kill even more noxious stuff. It is Session Two out of six, or possibly 12, or maybe 25 depending on how the cancer cells react. It's an unpleasant procedure for which I have no kind words.

I am tired of having cancer. It's been a year of uncertainty, fear, poor diagnosis, pain, bereavement and anger. I've allowed this nastiness to define my life and it's all I have to talk about, it seems, and that somehow is not right. I hate the unknown. I still don't know what to expect when the chemo really kicks in around Session Three or  Four; I am told the derivatives may be cumulative. The first session last week had relatively few side effects; I was slightly nauseous for a while and now I find myself exhausted most of the day. I suppose this is normal; the Battle of Agincourt is being fought in my innards.

I've been having strange dreams, not always unpleasant but often disturbing. I also suspect a lot of my  thinking has become irrational lately. Chemo, when all is said and done, is a large event, commensurate with the incomprehensible change that is happening within, where tiny, nasty cells are multiplying and setting up outposts. My brain makes bad assumptions (never assume, since it makes an ASS out of U and ME), and I promise this and swear that without the least intention of following through. I am not even sure to whom or to what I'm making these wild commitments. Most of the time, I end up doing nothing save rewriting a book I finished years ago, or cooking too much of something barely edible. Also, I am collecting cheese. Really. I can't seem to go to a food store without bringing back a wedge of Roblochon or a hunk of Gruyere. This is truly worrying as my Internet research has yielded no relationship between cancer and an addiction to  fromage.

And then last week I read that Richard Thompson,  creator of the wildly successful Cul de Sac comic strip and who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, had decided it was time to put his pen down. He and I had a brief email exchange a few years ago--we're both Washington Post alumni--and his strip is the first thing I read in the morning, it is the best thing to happen to comics since Calvin and Hobbes. I give his books to friends for their birthdays and have all his collected works, a desk calendar, and even a French translation of one of his early books. It cost me an arm and a leg and is worth every penny.  His tragic situation puts mine in a clearer perspective.

I'm still OK. In fact, compared to him I'm a wimp. I can write, I see friends, I hike, I play tennis. I barely feel whatever is happening inside me, and its influence so far as been more emotional and intellectual than physical. I'm the one who has given my blessing to feeling how I feel. My paralysis is strictly consensual and I can revoke this contract made between cancer and me.

So I think I will do just that, after I take a nap.

Oh.  I know I've noted all along that my condition brings out the strangeness in some folks. Recently, a man I know slightly  told me he had come to believe in the goodness of God because God created crepe myrtles, and any entity capable of creating such a gorgeous bush had to be good, and therefore everything was going to be all right.

This was heartening, since I have a half-dozen crepe myrtles in my yard. Then he wrote his telephone number on a slip of paper and pushed it into my hand. "Call me," he said, "I have a lot of even more important things to tell you." I was tempted to throw away the number but I didn't. You never know, he may have a lot more wisdom on tap than I do right now.




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