Monday, November 4, 2013

The Universe: So funny I forgot to laugh

|”Hey Arnold- hahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!”
The Universe
October 29, 2013

“Hey Universe- shutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutupshutup!!!!”
Jim Arnold
Later that same day

Maybe some butterfly in the South China Sea flapped its wings last week thereby knocking everything I thought I knew about my ongoing recovery into a cocked hat. Probably not, but the timing was too cruel to be coincidental.

I had just finished the rough draft of my previous post lamenting that I would not see my oncologist for some six weeks about 4 a.m. on Tuesday, then posted it around 8:15 a.m. If you missed it, and don't want to take the time now to read through it, here's the gist: I have to let my treatment run its course, which means I wouldn't really see the doctor again until Dec. 4. There was also some gratuitous whining, minor hand wringing and about half a pinch of woe is me.

Look, I understand that things change. I'm a go-with-the-flow-kinda guy. But on this particular Tuesday morning the change seemed to come along so quick, it had the feel of the arbitrary. During my weekly Tuesday morning call with the clinic, I had mentioned a shortness of breath and tightness in my chest, and by 12:30 p.m. I was back at the clinic undergoing more tests. This is why I try to stay as focused in today as I can. Never mind the time wasted worrying about things that never happen, problems that never arrive... There are times it just becomes so clear that the Universe has developed its own play list and it supersedes anything you may have had in mind.

Seems that the breathing thing raised a red flag about blood clots on my lungs (that couldn't be good), a concern made deeper by the fact that that is known side effect of my principal chemo drug. A red flag indeed, one of a size rarely seen outside a national communist party meeting in 1956 Moscow.

As it turned out, it was not blood clots, but it was a long, fairly stressful seven hours before I would know that. I had initially been so sure that this wasn't going to be a big deal (seriously what's wrong with this guy, right?) that I had assured Sheri she could go ahead with her own plans, and I'd just run into the clinic and probably be home before she was. I could tell she didn't love the idea, but she agreed. Oh, Jim, Jim, Jim, why you no think so good? I won't do that again. The staff was great. They kept me informed, made sure I knew what was going on and why, but we've both learned it takes two to hear what is actually being said at these visits.

So in this case, I had to have a scan to see if there were clots on my lungs. To do that, I needed to go from the Alfond Center to the Augusta Hospital. That's good. Traveling widens the horizons, I hear. But as the preliminaries were wrapping up and we were just about to begin the process itself, I realized some of what the clinician was saying didn't sound right; with no Sheri backup, my general lack of attention seemed to have caught up with me. Instead of the smooth, calming humenhumenahumena that I'd come to associate with CAT scans: “Did she just say 'radiation'?” “Wait. Nuclear what?” “Gamma rays?”

I'm far from an alarmist when it comes to nuclear medicine. I'm all for it. But I would be lying if I didn't say it was a little disconcerting to be strapped onto a table listening to jargon that could have come straight from a 1950s black and white science fiction movie, only to realize the little green man was me! And gamma rays? Gamma rays? All I know about gamma rays is what I learned from reading Paul Zindel's play “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man in the Moon Marigolds,” which, believe me, was not a lot when you get right down to it.

When we had finished the relatively pain-free test and I was on my way out, I saw that the path to and from the test was clearly marked as nuclear medicine. For all the use my big brain was in the situation, the signs might as well have said, “This way to the monkey house,” or “Buy one, get one free.”

Well, if it wasn't blood clots, you ask, what was it? It was stress. Yeah. Good old fashioned stress. When it came right down to it, my feeling alright, relatively calm, and all, didn't mean doodly squat. I was stressed out enough to convince myself I was having trouble breathing.

Once again, I was left with the feeling that I am the last one anybody should ask about my health. My brain will be happy to tell me all kinds of crap, with fava beans and a nice chianti, and left to my own devices, I'm just as apt to take whatever it tells me as true.

So, like bringing your older, tougher sibling along to make sure the school bully doesn't beat you up again, I'm bringing Sheri with me every time to poke my big brain in the eye when it gets too big for its breeches...As it were.


There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”