Thursday, May 26, 2016

A farewell to arms

Regular readers have often been asked, by me, to be arbiters of taste, mine. And here we are again.

Sheri and I were outside with our neighbors Harold and Sue (their real names) contemplating the demise of some groundhogs who had wrought considerable destruction on our gardens. It was twilight and mosquitoes were out in full force. None seemed to be biting me and so I asked, “If I have a cancer of the blood- which I do – and a mosquito bites me... is the joke on it?”

Not only did I think it was funny, I thought it was a valid question. My wife feigned outrage, although it might not have been feigning. Sue laughed and Harold was not around for the conversation. So, that wasn't much of a sample.

My wife said “only you” would say something in such bad taste, but she says that a lot so it doesn't have the impact you think it might. It's funny, right?

Whether or not you find that funny, last week marked another landmark on my journey through recovery. I had my final replacement immunizations which were the last step in the lengthy stem cell transplant process.

The bulk of the work was done in May 2014, but, since the transplant wiped out my entire.... entire immune system, I needed to have all my childhood vaccinations done again, along with some adult ones. Due to necessary time frames between injections, it took 18 months to complete. So, yes, I had the final appointment on my calendar for almost 18 months.

I have said before that I am not always the go-to person around my disease or my treatment. Tell me when, tell me where and I'll be there. A Reader's Digest condensed version of what the treatment will be is nice, but, as anyone who has compared the RD version of a book and the book itself will tell you, much is left out.

Anyway, I showed up the other day to get my final shot, which I knew was for rubella, measles and mumps. I knew that because I read of occasional outbreaks of these diseases and it worries me to have any of those in my golden years. But... Reader's Digest alert... much had been left out. I was actually supposed to get six shots. Six shots. Six. Shots. Oh, man.

When I was first diagnosed, a friend of mine, we'll call her Megs (not her real name), in a completely unrelated Facebook post, wrote that she'd had to have a shot that day and it had completely unnerved her. She hated getting shots and even the thought of them really upset her. Without thinking, I typed, “Geez. Don't get cancer.” Relax, I didn't send it. That would have been bad taste.

But still, it was moments like this I was thinking of. Especially in the beginning, every health professional I saw stuck a needle, or more than one, in me. You do get inured to it, but still... six. Oy.

Anyway, I got my six shots and they were very professionally administered, three in each arm. There was tetanus, rubella etc., pneumonia, and some others. And that was that. Stem cell transplant successfully completed. I did feel bad that my cancer had returned before the entire process was done, but that was an oversimplification of the event. The shots were technically the end, the practical conclusion had come when the last of the restrictions on my lifestyle (eating soft ice cream) was removed, which was after about a year.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the shots began to create some discomfort... My arms hurt, So, I turned for succor to the fountain of succor in the Arnold house, my wife Sheri.

“My arms hurt.”

“Yeah? Well, you better pull your big boy panties on and deal with it.”

She was kinda joking, but she's had Type One diabetes for over 22 years and in the course of that time she has given herself thousands of shots, many of which hurt. So, there was more than just a touch of “get over yourself” in her jest.

So, I didn't say too much more about it, which was fine. Until I was lying in bed that night and realized I really couldn't lift my arms very easily, or quickly. The thought occurred to me that if someone broke in and told me to raise my arms or I was a dead man, my only option would have been to sing a rousing chorus of Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl epic, “Goodbye It's Been Good to Know You” in farewell.

True story.

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