“Everything will turn out alright if you can just keep your sense of humor,” my dad used to say, and still does, though I might need to remind him (and all of us) at times. So my new healthcare-survival strategy is to make every caregiver laugh at least once.
Cancer care is a full-time job, so I am getting lots of practice while also simplifying the rest of Reality, including withdrawing, sadly, from teaching at MCAD this fall semester—a tragic loss for the students. One upside: This should allow more time for comedy writing.
I’ll now need extra time for other things too. Like, today, my new cancer-care team added another 4-hour chemo treatment to combat a newly-decided small chance of brain or spinal cancer. This procedure, naturally, will flow through the spine (insert Spinal Tap joke here). So scheduling all these appointments: Yet another pain-in-the-back that goes to 11—at night, for all I know.
When working with schedulers at the new clinic today, I asked about the next full-day (not to be confused with 4-hour) treatment and stretched my humor muscle: “Since I’ll be here all day, do I get a private room?” “Yes!,” she replied. So I asked, “Does it have a window?” “No!” she answered. Desperate for that elusive chuckle, I replied, “Well then, I guess I’ll have to bring my own!” It worked.
I’ll call my new oncologist Dr. Zen, as he rather floats into the room and makes you feel, however temporarily, quite comfortable to have cancer and wish you were on whatever he’s on. He had so many wise things to say—not only about lymphoma—that I should have taken notes. I look forward to my time with him.
I later shared special moments with my ENT doctor, Dr. Nostril (he’s okay with that moniker) in another location. I had to drive like a NASCAR stud through construction terror to make it on time. But I was oh-so ready to play some C-card humor to any cop who would dare stop me that I was looking forward to that, too.
Dr. Nostril holds the honor of first telling me about my tumor and showing me the pictures (since I had steadfastly ignored everything they were sending me online) and also doing the biopsy surgery. We also have a fun mutual acquaintance. So we’re not only close, personal friends, but are now getting our comic duo act ready.
When he entered the room wearing an old-fashioned head mirror, I was taken aback—having never seen a real one before. “What is this, some Jimmy Stewart movie?” I blurted. Not missing a beat, he retorted, “Actually, we’re doing a Norman Rockwell painting today.” Me: “I just hope your not planning to stick that thing up my nose, too.” He did not, which was nice of him, though he did again probe a camera (not the 35mm this time).
Happily, he was delighted with what he saw up there. Which is to say: My golf-ball-sized tumor is noticeably smaller than the last time he went sinus spelunking. So you can say what you want about how 5 chemotherapies makes you sick and how that elephant-dose of that effing steroid makes you curse the bald eagles and try to tackle telephone poles. But hey, it seems to be working—already—and I can feel it too. So at this point, if the plan includes my reading War and Peace aloud in the middle of 35W, I’m okay with that.
One hopes their shift in tone can continue. I mean, at those first appointments, it was all doom and gloom and stats and odds that, quite frankly, could ruin an otherwise lovely encounter. “Stop! Stop!” I wanted to scream, and probably did. Now, however, caregivers are sometimes grabbing my arm and cheerleading, “You’re young! You’re strong!” To which I reply “Go on! Go on!”
September lurks. So does dark, stormy, dusty, messy, smelly, poopy autumn. Me? I’m the Summer Guy. So this time of year usually feels like the slow-mo cessation of an awesome party. On a cool boat. With all your best friends. And babes in bikinis and everyone shouting along to music blasting. And Bud Light (check that).
This year, though, I’m singing a different tune. With any luck, this crap might be behind me by 12-21, the shortest day of the year. And I can quit my cancer-comedy shtick and get back to bellyaching about the lack of light.
Not to complain. Hanging out in hospitals and cancer clinics surely makes a person feel grateful for all that is good and right. As Grandma would cheerfully chirp on the South Dakota farm when someone felt the need to carp about something, “It’s not so bad we are off!”
When making late lunch before a blissy-sunny kayak ride with my perfect daughter after today’s appointments, The Current FM played an old favorite, favorite song, Tender. Sweet serendipity. Please watch. My humor was exhausted. A few tears fell from my face onto the carrots. Were they joy? Were they grief? It is such a secret place, the land of emotions.
“Tender is the day…the demons go away,” goes the song. “Come on, come on, come on…get through it,” sings the choir.
I hope you, too, are getting through any obstacles in your path. We got this. Thanks for listening…