Friday, February 7, 2014

Adding to my 'List of Whoas'

Well, World Cancer Day 2014 has come and gone. When I initially realized it was Tuesday, Feb, 4, my first thought was, “Wait. What? There's a World Cancer Day? Wow. Is that new?"

Actually, it's been around since 2008. You would think that since cancer has taken the lives of my mother, father, sister, Moira, and some of my closest friends, the fact that there was a World Cancer Day would have registered. Wrong. I do, however, know that Sept. 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. That's how my brain works. There are certainly times I wish it were not so. Arrrrh to be sure, I do. But, there you arrrh.

I spent World Cancer Day flat on my back, sick as a dog, again, and my cancer had nothing to do with it. I had contracted some horrible intestinal thing that was worse than the flu I had just gotten over. Its origin remains in some doubt, but generated one of the oddest discussions Sheri and I have had in over 20 years of being together.

On Monday, she had brought me home a wonderful dinner as a treat and a surprise. Shortly after eating it, I became really, really, really sick. Really. I called the Alfond Clinic first thing Tuesday and spoke with one of my nurses. She said it could be food poisoning, or one of a number of gastrointestinal ailments that were going around.

Let the discussion begin. As a Type 1 diabetic, Sheri works really hard to avoid any kind of bug going around because when she gets something, it is always much worse than the average person. So, she was pulling for food poisoning. We had eaten different things, so she was sure she wouldn't get sick.

I, on the other hand, didn't want my wife to feel bad that she had brought me this wonderful dinner as such a kind act and ended up poisoning me. I was pulling for gastrointestinal.

We may never know, and it doesn't matter in the end. I was much sicker physically than when I had the flu. It's funny that I had just written about fatigue and the negative impact that it has on me, because suffering from nausea with severe body aches takes my defenses and tosses them aside like Tokyo buildings in a Godzilla rampage.

It left me flat with absolutely nothing to do but think. Yeah. Think. With my big brain. Hmmmm. Raise your right hand if you think that could possibly have had a happy ending.

For unknown reasons, I spent what seemed like an eternity reviewing how I had hurt people and other living things I cared for 40 years ago; and 40 years was just the starting point. Eyes open, eyes closed; the images kept coming. As I write that now, it probably seems like a bad enough thing to you, but in the middle of the night, with hot and cold flashes coming like a poor relation when they hear loose change clinking in your pocket, it was horrible. Not to be pretentious, but it felt like being in a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, with horrible scenes being played out everywhere I looked. I know. I know. Melodramatic, right? Not at three o'clock in the morning; not with some unknown crud using your body as a Foosball table.

(Arnold note: If you've never been exposed to the art of Hieronymus Bosch, I sincerely suggest you don't Google it. It's wonderful, but... I realize by saying that there's probably no way you're not going to look now. At least my conscience is clear. Enjoy,)

Probably the craziest feeling, though, was this: I, and those around me, are involved in a fight for my life against multiple myeloma and a damned chromosome disorder. I can't even count the medical staff who have become involved in my care. My family, friends, strangers who, one way or another, show their support for our fight... Just before I got sick, for example, we were in the grocery store. I was wearing a mask and this lovely woman came right up to me and asked, “How are you feeling today?” And she meant it! I have no idea if I knew her, or if she knew why I was wearing the mask. It was such a kind thing to do. We chatted for a little bit, about the weather and such, and then she went into the dairy I aisle, and I resumed my search for orange juice.

And yet at three o'clock in the morning with my stomach roiling and my mental state... well you already had a glimpse at my mental state... The words “Take me now Lord,” may have escaped my lips May have. I'm not sayin' they did and I'm not sayin' they didn't. But, I wouldn't have been surprised if they did..

I actually started feeling better when I went for my newest chemo treatment on Thursday, part of which is an IV of fluids. Between that, and an anti-nausea medicine they gave me, the worst of it seems to have passed, leaving me to think, and not for the first time, “Jim's thinking..Why you no work so good when you're sick?"


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.”