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Conclusion: “NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE”

Posted on: Thursday, March 23rd, 2017
Posted in: SoulTrain | One comment

I had The Tests of a Lifetime on Monday morning—ones that could determine your future and test your innermost commitment to cancer comedy. Did all those months of medical genius work…or not? They had said results might take a few days; the doctors would tell me all during upcoming appointments.

But instead, the call came early that very afternoon. In fact, I’d barely gotten home and hunkered down to start my stare-down with the clock.

So I was startled when the clinic number flashed on my cell. And yet, they never call with bad news, right? So I answered. And sure enough, it was Nurse Parrot. (I call her this because she delivers her statement, and if you ask a question, she repeats your question, and then repeats her statement and little more. That’s her role, and I’m always delighted to chat with her and challenge the protocol.)

Her line this time was, “Great news! No evidence of disease! Braaaaawk!” By now I should know better than to ask for more detail. Yet in my joy, I blurted something irrelevant, like, “Fantastic! But what’s your take on all this Russia hoo-ha?” And so she repeated, “Russia hoo-ha? Squawk. No evidence of disease! Brkaw-tooky-tooky!” We carried on like this for a few minutes—just so I could hear the news again.

When I hung up, I was alone and had no idea how to react. So I stared at the frozen lake and then did what any self-respecting, rugged survivor would do: I sobbed like a baby. Then I trudged to bed and collapsed in a fetal position under the covers and let physical and emotional exhaustion wash over me like a warm stream.

  • Doctors, doctors, give me the news

Over the next days, I met with 3 doctors and sought the information I had resolutely refused before—even when that had meant covering my ears and screaming like a mad monkey. I’m ready now. And as usual, the answers are complicated. They vary. The biggest bet of the week, naturally, was: What are the odds of a crappy sequel?

The first doctor gave one of those answers that makes you bang your head on the wall. She offered, “Good question. But I don’t have the numbers for your specific case.” Fair enough. Then, “Aw, what the heckers. Let’s just say, oh, hmmm, approximately…” And then she rolled some dice and stated a rather enigmatic range.

Dr. Zen, in the next meeting, uncharacteristically shouted a precise answer before I’d finished my question. I liked that number better. So I’m sticking with that one for now. And begging the Fates that Be to skip any sequels to this wretched movie.

  • Cosmic calm and ill winds

These experts are smart. And their body of research and information are staggering. Intimidating. Yet when you go through stuff like this—and we and our loved ones all will—you become at-one with a cosmic calm that C Club comrades often talk about. A peace that passeth all understanding. You also accept that there are moments, even weeks, when peace passeth like gas and turns into ill wind. Just plug your nose and hope, someday, for a sweet call. I get it, and I got that call.

Still, this news will take some time to set in. I half expect the phone to ring and Nurse Parrot to say, “More news: I was kidding! Kirky want a cracker? Kraaaawwwk!

With this rapturous report now in hand, what about the future? Now there’s a question for ya. Do I plan on decades or hold tight to the lessons of “Live for today?” I honestly don’t know. But I have…time…to figure it all out. Inasmuch as such is possible.

So meantime, I say Let’s Party! like it’s 2017 with whatever tomorrows remain. And may they be ridiculously, indulgently, absurdly, inexplicably, shamelessly, redundantly, and profoundly plentiful and pleasant. Yet may we also embrace the shrewd poetry of Professor Seger, “We’ve got tonight; who needs tomorrow?”

  • One page at a time…

Lest I get too cheeky, I must acknowledge the occasional starkness of this journey, which again hit me in clinics this week and reminded me to internalize the compassion lessons. At some point, I’d closed my eyes to the hairlessness. The emaciation. The wheelchairs. The heads in helmets. The families gathered around hating every minute yet praying for more. But for the grace of God…I could only say to myself, as I had from the start.

Truth is, I still need that grace. I’ve still got healing to do. Some numbers aren’t right yet. And my care crew will be monitoring me like a just-freed felon. I’m not sure I know “normal.” (Does anyone?) And this effing boomerang crud-virus comes and goes like the ice on the lake that thawed, refroze, and is now thawing again.

But as a friend said upon hearing my good news, “DUDE! Shut up! Crud? Schmud!?! You just kicked cancer’s ass!

Well, yes, I did. They did. WE did. (Thank you.)

I have a big, blank page that, every day, I’ll write things on with disappearing ink.

The future. I got this.

Thanks for listening…

*kh

About Sickness, Nightmares, and Sleep…

Posted on: Thursday, March 2nd, 2017
Posted in: SoulTrain | Leave a comment

Today my heart is anywhere warm and sunny. My body is stuck in Minnesota. And my ass is on the nearest horizontal surface. Because I’ve been hit with that fatigue everyone’s been warning me about since last August when I got a C on a bunch of tests.

  • What’s there to say about sleep?

What to write about this phase? That’s a tough one. Just looking at the keyboard makes me groggy.

I suppose I could admit that I didn’t much succumb to the lethargy that my care team and other victims warned me about during chemo and radiation. Oh no, I fought through it and got up most mornings and, after getting my daughter off to school, walked a mile or two in subzero temps like some wacko health nut. I rode my torture (bike) machine. I ran errands that could have waited and showed up early for every appointment.

I did the work that crossed my desk, chased the cat, and shoveled snow and chipped away at ice like the characters in Fargo. I ate fruits and vegetables until I wanted to puke. If Dr. Zen told me to take it easy, I made a big project of trying to figure out what that means and then cleaned it up and started all over again. Adrenaline became my addiction.

So maybe it’s just my time. After all, I apparently did catch the flu (or some similarly yucky bug) 3+ weeks ago. And Dr. Walk-in said, “Sorry, but this may drag on for some weeks. Good luck with that!”

  • The full-on, full-body flu, ew!

That first week brought all the usual symptoms: Clogged nose, worsened by the fact that my breathing machinery remains fried by radiation, so my head just explodes rather than, say, make snot. There were chills that sent me to fill the Jacuzzi for hot, hot, hot. Then would come sweats. My appetite got up and left, yet my stomach would growl like a mad dog. Hallucinations happened. So nights became horror movies.

Hello, nightmares! Every teacher, cop, and animal I’ve ever offended stopped by to wish me hell. One long-lost friend—who used to be funny and a great host—would not shut up or go away for one whole night. And his apparition turned him into a puffy blowhard bore-ass. I could read, pee, get Gatorade, and re-arrange my sweaty blankets. But as soon as I got half-asleep, he’d shuffle back in and say, “Really has been a lovely winter, hasn’t it, Old Sport?” and pick away at his new lame-ass goatee. I still fear he’s lurking somewhere.

  • Sleeping anywhere, everywhere

Most days featured 1-3 naps. I slept on my office floor. I slept on my other office floor. One unseasonably warm day, I slept for hours on the deck with a towel over my head while a murder of crows, bald eagles, chain saws, airplanes, neighbors’ kids, and tipsy ice fishermen held court and wondered if they should call me an ambulance. (“Okay, you’re an ambulance!” BUH-DUM-BUM!)

I’d start a book and realize 5 pages in that I was completely lost. I’d channel-surf basketball games for hours and think it was all one game. I’d willingly get ready for bed at 7 and lament that I should stay up for another 3 hours. I’d skip that morning walk and instead fall back into bed as if in college and some ravenous lover awaited.

  • Sleep: literary imagery for: sleep

Speaking of college, a favorite (and long passed) English professor also visited one night and resumed his lectures about the main character in All the King’s Men, a book he adored as he’d worked with author Robert Penn Warren when getting his Ph.D. “The Great Sleep” happened now and then to protagonist Jack. But of course, that “Great Sleep” was symbolism for things. I wish my Big Fat Great Sleep were a metaphor for something profound—but I think it was just symbolism for being pooped.

I’m feeling better now mostly. The strange angels and ghosties have left the building. I’m making my body take walks, picking up the mess that somehow happened, and leaving the house routinely. Feeling so sluggish drove me crazy. But this body’s been though enough to warrant some rest, I guess.

I’d tell you more about all that. But I’m going to nap now.

Sleep: I got this.

Thanks for listening and good night…

*kh

Finally: The BreakAway/Cancer Connection Revealed

Posted on: Monday, February 13th, 2017
Posted in: SoulTrain | 2 comments

Time moseys on, though never fast enough in Minnesota winter. I’ve been “healing” from chemo and radiation for about two months, though the first few weeks were more “hell” than “heal.” I’ve been “home” from my island BreakAway (where locals provide the comedy rather than cancer) for nearly one month. Though “home” in winter can occasionally feel like a cold day in hell. I’ve also been avoiding my blog for one month, which is hell on my devoted followers. I apologize—to both of you.

“These things take patience,” said Dr. Nostril when we gathered recently for our ongoing camera-up-the-nose routine. “Easy for you to say,” I replied, “you’re a doctor; those patients bought your Jag.” He fought back, “Nonsense. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Jag…but I love my convertible in Boca.” I could only nod my agreement. He got back to business, “Now open wide. Geronimo!”

  • “So how do you feel?”

I get asked this question quite often. When I feel good, I say so. When I feel not so good, I sometimes offer alternative facts: “Terrific! Beautiful! Great again!” Because that’s what people want to hear. Many look puzzled if I say, “Not so good today, but thanks for asking.” Perhaps empathy is a dying art. Is there an emoji for that?

Anyway, let’s just call it a good sign; Dude’s got awareness. Attitude. A little sass.You’d have be a blind optometrist, I think, to believe that healing from chemo and radiation is just a chair of bowlies. It’s not. So there. But we march on—in warmie undergarments and big boots and pray that the earth tips to the sunny side someday soon. Like it did, daily, on St. John.

  • “So how was your Caribbean cancer BreakAway?”

This is the question I long to hear. Because, of course, I’ve been blogging and preaching for years about BreakAways—the idea of taking temporary retirement throughout one’s life rather than waiting until the end when you could be decrepit or, worse, dead. (Heck, Americans leave 658 million vacation days unused annually.) Extended breaks ideally include planning and travel, but also could happen spontaneously due to job loss, family breakup, or health issues of your own or a loved one.

Be prepared. Because extraordinary memories are priceless and rare. Just ask your kids. And because if you don’t schedule your own sabbatical, it’s possible the Gods will arrange one for you. Likely less fun, too.

  • Back to dee ie-lunn…

The BreakAway on St. John (USVI) worked wonders. It’s a blur mistier than sea spray now. But a few encounters stand out as proof that vacations are a great way to put your problems in the background and focus on a change of scenery, schedules, and faces.

Sadly, the natives are fading away on St. John. I miss them, but those who remain stand out even more. Like the cab (van) driver at the airport (on St Thomas). There was NOT enough time to make the 5:00 ferry. And that’s a bummer. Because if you miss that ferry, you may miss getting your rental car, and things can get very complicated. Especially since we stay on the other side of the St. John, where Johnnie cabs refuse to go. Just cuz.

  • It’s time to relax…later

Back at the airport, I challenged the driver to make the 5:00 ferry on the other side of St. Thomas, even though some drivers move only on island time and some passengers may turn white(r) twisting through the steep roads and sudden switchbacks. The East Indies patois is beautiful, by the way, and they like to accentuate every syllable of every word. Emphatically.

Our driver was unmoved by the request. “5:00 FEH-REE? HA! 5:00? NONONONONO. DASS NOT TIME E-NUFF. I CAN NOT PRAH-MISS DAT,” she scowled as she packed the endless luggage of three families. But then came the twinkle… “BUT…I…CON…TRY! GEET EEN! LESS GO!”

She drove as if to rescue her mom. When she’d hit a snarl, she’d veer off into narrow side-streets, run down chickens, and honk relentlessly at the omnipresent old men strolling in the middle of road. When a crusty Jeep with a Rasta mon at the wheel got in our way, she rode his ass and beeped at every turn. He loved it, and merely waved his left hand out the window like a beauty queen until he could finally pull over—and then smirked and smoked as he watched us race by.

We got to the ferry dock in record time. But then came the requisite parking lot chaos. “SAY-TUN! SAY-TUN, SA-A-A-AY-TUN!” the driver bellowed out her window with bulging eyes when a fancy hotel van blocked our path. Then another. “SEV-UN-TWEN-TI-WON!” she screamed while laying on the horn as that van (license plate #721) moved slower than a hermit crab. “ACCHHH! STOO-PID HO-TEL VANS TINK DEY OWN DA WORL!”

When she maneuvered us to an unloading spot with one minute to spare, she commanded my (young and strong) son, “GIT OUT AND UNLOAD DA LUGGAGE! GO! GO! GO! CATCH DAT BOAT!” So about 15 people scrambled—and she chased us through the modest terminal to double-check that she’d collected the fares. And, by golly, we made the boat, which is remarkable, since the bored uniforms who run things will sometimes close the velvet rope right in front of you with a semi-evil smirk on their face.

  • Be polite…or else!

Once on St. John, we had to scamper a few blocks while pulling and schlepping much luggage to get our reserved Jeep before that little, local rental shop closed—something they might happily do when they see you coming. In our panic, we walked through a gaggle of women gathered at Nature’s Nook, a (barely) covered stand where you can pick up local produce (when they’re open).

Scurrying through island ladies without stopping to buy a cassava or breadfruit was not the best strategy. As the last in our line, I received their scolding chorus. “I NEVA DID SEE SO MANY NOSES HIT DA ROOF!” … “EESS AT CHORE DOH-TA? LUCKY SHE. SHE GOT YO’ PRITTEE BLUE EYES BUT NOT DA RESS OF YO FACE!” … “I TINK SHE LOOSE A WHEEL OFF HA SUIT CASE. YOU BETTA GIT ON DA DUTT AND FINE EET!”

Unafraid (and even somewhat charmed) and trained from many visits, I stopped and faced my chastening, “Excuse me, did we do something wrong?” This invited more taunting, “WE-E-E-L-L-L, SOME-BUSSY CUUD OT LEES SAY GUUD AFTA-NOON!”

I slapped my forehead. “Right! I’m so sorry.” (Appropriate pause.) “Good afternoon.” I turned to bolt away, but immediately my luggage and I got stuck between two tightly parked cars. This sent all of them into hysterics, some of them into dancing, and a few of them into making exotic bird calls.

Just don’t look back,” I said to myself once I finally found a way out of their tourist trap.

  • Getting cured by the fruit mon

Days later, I definitely had to escape The Fruit Mon in Coral Bay, where we stay. He had a modest but lovely display of fruits and vegetables that, probably, he had grown himself. But he was really selling story. Preaching. And not cheaply. First, he announced that his one and only soursop (a bizarre fruit that tastes like SweeTart and has the texture of cactus) was perfectly ripe. And free! For us! Today!

Delighted, we selected other items, each of which brought a mini-sermon as he’d fondle it, “YOU MUSS NEVVA, EVVA PEEL DA CU-CUM-BAH!” And then came the inevitable bush-tea/eat local /nevva-geet-seek sermon. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it 55 times. Good for them (though I’ve seen a few die from cancer while refusing healthcare). But right about now, it’s more difficult for me to digest.

“I DOAN DREENK WAH-TAH. ONLY BOOSH TEA AND BOOSH WATAH. ALL DAY LONG. EET CLEAN YOU OUT! EET CURE EV-A-RY TING! I HAD DEE CAN-SAH TREE TIME! TREE-E-E-E TIME DEE CAN-SAH! AND LUUK OT ME NOW! PAH-FECK HEALT AND NOT ONCE DO I SEE DA DOCK-TAH!”

Okay, great. Just wait till I tell Dr. Zen, Dr. Ray, and Dr. Nostril. They may quit their practices and move to the islands to make bush tea.

When he stepped back to do “DEE A-DEESH-UN” in his head, the tab was more outrageous than the sky-high grocery stores; stories (and bush-doctor advice) are expensive. As for the soursop? “FO YOU TODAY—BECAUSE YOU BUY SO MINN-EE TING…OWN-LEE WON DOLL-AH. WELCOME TO DEE IE-LUNN!” And he smiled and laughed like the 7-Up man.

  • Gas-station soul seestah

But my favorite, and final, native encounter came at the (one and only) St. John gas station while filling up before returning the rental Jeep and leaving the island. This place is bizz-ee. And you do things their way. Which includes parking at a pump, getting in line at the kiosk, and handing over your credit card and driver’s license before even thinking of touching a gas pump. Two uniformed ladies—one outside and one inside—run the payment kiosk. They’ve been there for years, and, frankly, do a great (if unorthodox) job.

Reminder again: Be polite and don’t be in a hurry. When your turn comes to hand over cards to the lady in the kiosk, for God’s sake, say “Good afternoon.” Wait for her to repeat that. And then ask, “So how are you doin’ today?” Otherwise, you may stand there, ignored, forever, a dozen harried drivers lined up behind you.

Play your part, and the response is worth it. She leans her head back and answers resoundingly, “I…AM…WELL. PAH-RAISE GOD!!!” You suddenly feel quite touched and humbled by her spirit, and wonder how it’s possible to be so elated working at a gas station. Then she’ll study your cards (and occasionally refuse them), note your name, and slowly reply, “AND HOW AH YOU TO-DAY MEESS-TAH COCK!?!” (I’ve gotten used to that name, which is also what they call me in Italy.) And so it goes. Eventually, you are given permission to fill up. Then you get back in line to settle up.

When back at the window to pay, she stood up and started yelling at me, “MEES-TAH COCK! MEESTAH COCK! LUUK OT DEES!” And she handed me her driver’s license. I had no idea what this was about, so simply smiled and said, “Yes! Very nice!” She beamed excitedly, “LUUK! LUUK! WE WAS BONE ONLY 11 DAYS UH-POTT! JUSS 11 DAYS! GOD SEND US TO DEE EART AT ALL-MOSE EGG-ZACK-LEE DA SAME TIME!!!” She was right. What are the odds? She grabbed my hands and laughed from deep down in her soul, as though she’d found a long-lost twin. I was worried about missing the ferry. Yet I bobbed and babbled back and wondered, Why can’t we be more like this in Minnesota?

The echoes of “I…AM…WELL. PAH-RAISE GOD!!!” continued as she scrutinized every new customer and we left that station—and the island—with a head spinning with sun-soaked memories, a heart hurting from immediate withdrawal, and a brain afraid of returning to America.

  • There’s no place like away

Back home, people turn to strange activities—like walking Fido in sweaters and boots, bar bingo, and ice-fishing—to pass the wintertime. The daily news—which doesn’t exist on the island—indeed has literally everyone thinking, I’m Afraid of Americans (watch Bowie shred it, dammit). I stay busy in a purgatory that is part bliss and part stress before follow-up tests and scans.

“That’s perfectly natural, everyone worries some before those tests,” my case manager, Nurse Cosmos, said on the phone today. Then she sent me straight to the clinic because I’m sick. Who ain’t? This crap never hits me. Only when my body’s already been through hell, I guess.

But that’s fine. I am not afraid of bugs; bugs come and go, like flakes of snow. Cancer too, right? Meantime, I look forward to the warm season ahead and my next adventure. And I grin at all my BreakAway photos, stories, and souvenirs.

BreakAway memories. I got this. Hope you do too. PAH-RAISE GOD!

Thanks for listening…

5 Confessions from a Cancer Novice

Posted on: Sunday, January 8th, 2017
Posted in: SoulTrain | 14 comments

Yep, that’s a selfie. One of maybe 5 I’ve taken of myselfie. Ish. But my kids take lousy pics (of their dad) and still don’t do what they’re told, so what’s a guy to do? Anyway, it’s now 4 weeks since that final radiation with bells on. Sometimes, I can even breathe again. Hair is growing back–more salty-dog than I remember. But it’s nice to play with shampoo again.

I’m sure there are some good jokes in all that (a women would dye for this!) once my comedy writers gather and get their snark on. But my own joking has turned rather reflective. Shock and awe. Which is so boring, really. Dude: Could you be almost normal again? (Doubtful.)

The Gods took me to the Virgin Islands to heal. My virgin body says snorkel; my fried head says, “Not yet, idiot.” Still, the vitamin D is jamming like the Mr. Marley don’t-worry-’bout-a-thing songs that still play nonstop down yonder. I try to focus on the sand in my shorts. But as I move on, I’d like to get some things off my unhairy chest.  So may I submit my 5 Confessions…

1. I avoided the C Club. If you haven’t noticed—and if you haven’t, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention—the C Club is one of the most cocky, most exclusive, yet most unfettered cults around. Imagine hopelessly-hooked fishermen swapping tales with terrific time-share sales reptiles at a Trump University reunion mixer at closing time. Let’s just say I quickly felt out of my league and forfeited any and all rights to freedom of speech.

Survivors, when cued, will gleefully chirp about their 55 radiations of the tongue while hosting needles stuck in their belly. Or their seven months of blowing chunks out of various orifices while hallucinating Arianna Grande performing the complete suite of all German opera composers. They tend to offer unequaled encouragement and support, which is priceless, but at a cost.

For me, that cost was often too dear. What would start with ginormous hugs of empathy would sometimes end abruptly with me running for the nearest bathroom. And not because of the usual side effects. It’s possible I’ve passed the initiation (or is it hazing?) and earned my C Club rights. But in this case, W.C Fields may be right: “I wouldn’t want to be in a club that would have me as a member.”

2. I played the C card.

C Club cred aside… People mean well. And no one knows what to say (or write or post). So you get dozens of… “If there’s anything I can do…” “I’m there for you.” And “Just let me know how I can help.” I know I’ve done the same thing, whether or not I ultimately delivered any goods.

In most cases, you really do travel this journey alone. In my case, that turned out to be especially true. I was lucky enough to be able to handle nearly all tasks by myself, although the healthcare professionals didn’t like it and sometimes insisted I have assistance. (They’d even ask for names and numbers, geez…)

Yet I’ll confess to manipulating my way to some things I wanted, some things wicked, and some things lazy more than once—rather like my grandma who thought nothing of shooting unwelcome critters from her farm porch in her 90s but wanted help taking out the trash.

Tickets to shows? Yep, and thanks, old friends in high places. Rides to events? Heck, yeah (and the driving-while-texting crowd is grateful, cuz I was in no mood). But my favorite? Definitely calling the chit on about 20 people with those three words every man longs to bellow: Rake my leaves! And boy, did they, one lovely Sunday afternoon in November. I provided beer, brats, and bossiness, and smiled from root to canopy. “You know, this is almost fun!” said one sweaty friend. For me it was. For me it was!

3. I frittered away my education. Some of the smartest people alive are in the cancer business. And the body of information is morbidly obese. But I wanted nothing of it. How tall is the printed homework they assigned me throughout the process? Kareem would squint. How many people wanted to connect me with someone who’s “been through this?” I could start the next LinkedIn. How many support groups did I fail to show up at? I lost count, but it easily surpasses the number of weddings I’ve managed to miss.

Oh sure, I took on info my way, and at times was a voracious learner. Like, during the otherwise tedious all-day chemo day when my excellent (and cute) nurse asked me, “Has anyone had the sex-during-cancer talk with you?” I’d paid not attention to the hand-outs. Had skipped the group sessions. So, not faking it, I replied, “Uh, no. What’s up?” And we had a long, hard chat. Who knew? When your body is being pumped with poisons… Oh, never mind.

4. I sought the answers I preferred. While I’ll admit to shunning information overload, I did ask a lot of questions. I drove my care team nuts. I made schedules run amok. I made a loquacious and precocious three-year-old look mute.

With healthcare issues, that’s always been my easiest route to understanding. But in this case, it became a little game. Because you rarely get the same answer twice. So the best result, really, came by asking, say, five people the same question—and then running an average. Or when that math was too hard (and it usually was), just going with the answer you liked best.

Case in point: Right away, just for yucks, after finding out I’d be on several chemos for several weeks, I asked the highest (no pun intended) professionals just this: “May I ask you something off the record?” “Yes! Of course,” they’d reply. So then came my one-word query: “Marijuana?” After all, I hear it’s prescribed in some states.

You’d think I’d brought up that whole Don/Hill argument again.

The first very high expert practically cut me off while jumping up and down and grabbing a four-foot bong: “YES! Absolutely! And we can put that on the record!” The next one, obviously from a different party, gripped his forehead painfully and nearly started to weep and share secret Betty Ford stories: “Oh. Umm. Oh. Hmmmm. Well, I don’t think we’ll be needing any…marijuana…for this chemotherapy.”

5. I used my condition as an excuse. Only a few times. Or maybe more. But usually, I’m the go-to guy. I try to show up. I’ll host the party if ain’t party lately and everybody be getting antsy. I endeavor to attend the game, the recital, the funeral (if it comes to that, and it always does eventually).

But in this chapter, I often became the curmudgeon who says, “I don’t feel like it.” Because I could. And in truth, sometimes I didn’t feel like doing much of anything. Which is too bad, because after diagnosis, I had this delusional vision of organizing my 49,555 photos. Of binge-watching those TV shows everyone talks about. And of playing guitar and piano daily.

But as my wise, not-yet-old dad (who practices music daily and performs often) said when we discussed this at Christmas, “Yeah, when you don’t feel good, you don’t really feel like playing music.”

True dat. But not to worry: I’m playing now. Music and otherwise. Could you be getting over this? Could you be comin’ in from the cold?  Could you be jammin’?

Sand. It’s everywhere. Jam: We got this too.

Thanks for listening…

*kh

The Radiation Sessions

Posted on: Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | Leave a comment

Feeling pretty okay mostly! Radiation recovery takes time, but I got this.

Please enjoy this preview of the forthcoming photo exhibition, Behind the Mask/Behind the Mayhem.

The full exhibit and artist statement will appear soon on the BreakAway blog, as will the back-biting backstories, incisive curatorial insights, and early reviews from the rich and fabulous.

PS: The Artist apologizes in advance for any offense taken by the Radiation Graduation Celebration cake and denies any responsibility for its existence…but will concede that said cake was delicious!

How Root Canal Became Cool

Posted on: Friday, December 9th, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | 4 comments

Radiation feels a marathon. Side effects are in full bloom and making breathing an experiment in pharmaceuticals. Yet I’m staggering toward the finish line—sometimes even smug about my endurance. That’s a clue, right on cue, that a stumble lies ahead. Like, perhaps, a gruesome toothache? One hit me like a hammer Friday afternoon.

  • How many healthcare pros does it take…

So on Saturday, I tracked down my dentist, only to hear him say, “I’d love to help, but isn’t that molar right by where your sinus tumor was? I think your cancer team might want to have a look-see.”

I’d been thinking (but denying) the same thing. It’s just that my cancer crew is in absentia on Saturday afternoons. Why, exactly, most healthcare shuts down for the weekend on Friday at 4:55 still baffles me. Yet, for a mere 18% of GDP, I suppose we should be satisfied with bankers’ hours. But I digress.

I called the cancer-care weekend line and (after much muzak and lots of Q&A from lots of people) was told to report to ER ASAP.

Naturally, this news and the whole process riled me up. So when I arrived at ER, I left my belongings in the car. When I raced back to get them, I thwacked my forehead on the door and thus created an instant gash and goose-egg. This prompted a memorable check-in at the front desk: “Did you hit your head?” “Yes, but I’m here for a toothache.” “Maybe you should call your dentist.” “I did. But he sent me here. Because of the cancer.” “Your dentist thinks your tooth has cancer?…” Thank goodness they had no psych wing.

In no time flat (and by that I mean several hours), my BP shot to Venus, various professionals hammered on the aching tooth, I had my millionth scans and tests, and the ER doctor conferred with the on-call oncologist and other -ologists only to determine: What you got there is a toothache! I was to tend to it immediately—or at least after healthcare hibernation ended on Monday morning. After all, this deep-dental infection could quickly turn critical for a guy in my condition.

I’ve never been so happy to have major-league molar pain. And best of all, a favorite restaurant kindly held the reservation for a dear, visiting friend and me. She’d been patiently on-hold while I went through ER drama and trauma, so she thought I’d gone bonkers when I suddenly texted “Dinner in 15!” But it’s amazing how a warmhearted conversation (plus about 16 Advil and a SuperTuscan) can make sense of things.

  • Come Monday

Sunday was painful, dreadful, and endless—nothing a few opioids can’t cure. So come Monday, after another radiation/photo shoot, I visited my dentist, whereupon three (3!) people took turns hammering the bad tooth only to conclude that, Yep, that there’s a toothache! Better get yourself an ER root canal PDQ! So they set me up with an emergency endodontist—a word I didn’t know and refused to believe was real. Nevertheless, I drove like an Earnhardt to an endodontist in friendly, progressive Maplewood.

  • Meet Dr. Hauser

More exams, more x-rays, and heaps o’ hammers later, I was told, yet again, that, Yep, you sure as heckers need a root canal! Now, at a certain age—perhaps exacerbated by when you’ve lost your hair—you begin to notice that many professionals are, oh, young. Quite. But when my endodontist walked in and had less peach-fuzz than my recovering noggin, I just had to comment, “Sir! Are you 13? I’d call you Doogie Hauser but you’re too young to know who that is!”

“Ha ha ha,” he allowed in that endodontist-y way, “So let’s get started,” and then mentioned that they might not be able to finish, since the office closes at 4:30. I’ll be honest: I had a cow. I may have even grabbed a couple hammers when screaming, “Half a root canal? Are you kidding me? Please, Dr. Hauser, have mercy and just finish me off!”

He did. Along with a gracious nurse who was in charge of the music—which I had them turn (way) up. Along with the laughing gas. Did you know that laughing gas is not covered by insurance? This proves that healthcare has no sense of humor. Did you know that root canal is not covered by health insurance—even when seemingly caused by radiation treatments? Ours is not to reason why: I learned about such boundaries back in Sioux City, where kids of a certain age could buy liquor just across the state line to Nebraska or South Dakota, but not in Iowa. (Not that I ever crossed that line!)

  • Root canal gets a bad rap

Most people fear root canal and compare it to unfathomable things. But I maintain it’s more mellow than, for example, spinal taps and bone marrow pulls. And really, if you kick back and get past the first five minutes of horrors and engage your team in Name That Tune (at which I’m an expert) {and sing along}, it’s really quite tolerable. I’ll never forget when I took the game to a higher level by shouting Frank Sinatra’s arranger: “Thih sah is ah-ray by Neh-suh Rih-ro!”

Dr. Hauser, who rarely stopped to chat during our two-hour procedure (since I had threatened, I mean challenged, him to finish in one day), was genuinely impressed. He even stopped the jackhammer and said, “Was the arranger’s name really Nelson Riddle? That’s so funny; ha ha ha” in that endodontist-y way. And I must say, I was impressed by his ability to translate root-canal-speak.

  • Keeping the faith

$1700 later, I was shivering in my frozen car in a dark and empty parking lot in Maplewood wondering, Did that just happen? when Leonard Cohen’s post-mortem hit, You Want It Darker, came on the radio. I love Leonard, and will miss him. But this song couldn’t be…darker. Not even in a Minnesota December.

Laughing gas don’t last. So although I hesitate to admit it, I started feeling, shall we say, dark. Defeated. And sorry for myself. A nearby Menard’s sign glowed like an evil steeple in the distance. I was so delirious I asked myself, Do I need anything at Menard’s? (Some hammers, maybe?) I came to and realized I better get moving before I got kidnapped or something.

I called my pal-since-college and neighbor Dave, who’s been there like an angel through my cancer journey. And in 10 minutes, twinkle lights were aglow and bartender Robyn was serving me all-pains-numbing Summit EPA in Roseville VFW Post 7555 while I told Dave my latest tale. “Dude, I just had root canal.”

Dave toasted our mugs nonchalantly and replied, “Root canal? Cool.” And this time I meant it when I said, “This is the best beer I’ve ever had in my life.”

Root canal. I got this too.

Thanks for listening.

*kh

The Serious Side of Cancer & Comedy

Posted on: Tuesday, November 29th, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | 8 comments

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I’m pleased to report that radiation is now half over. Some caregivers whispered, “You’ll sail right through this,” while Dr. Ray and others warned of breathing difficulties, nasal-sludge discharge, and other side effects too rude for this family blog. So far, everyone’s right. I’m sailing through—in that way that some sailing days go south. And as for EFX? Don’t axe. Meantime, my personal laugh track has gone mostly mute. The gales of November have gone serious. 

To amuse myself—and potentially my legions of readers—I created the photo-comedy concept, “Weird Things to Do During Radiation.” I’m not sure it’s working, but you know what they say about desperate times. At the Radiation Ward, the Rayettes are willing to accommodate and snap the pics. But they, too, are serious. They don’t really get the irony. And then they often tell me about the side-splitting cut-up who always wore a sombrero to his treatments.

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I’m like, “What’s so funny about a sombrero?” But they can’t explain; they just cackle away and high-five each other, leaving me to hold my stupid prop and scratch my now-fuzzy noggin. If only they had humor critiques and scores for me to scrutinize. Their intellectual indifference and this deplorable climate change both make me want to Hit the Road, Jack.

About those critiques and scores: Some time ago, when I was Somebody, a comedy club invited me to judge a contest between 3 up-&-comers. The attention was glamorous; the comedy hilarious; and the drinks bounteous. Genius Joel Hodgson ran away with the match, and then off to a star-studded-enough career that’s included sitting at the right hand of Seinfeld and the cult, satire series MST3K (which, all these years later, recently raised $6 million via Kickstarter for a revival). And to think I discovered him!

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What struck me that night, though, was the intense seriousness of the comedians. When the show was over, we judges got to meet them—and some giggling groupies also gathered around. But the comedians’ obliviousness knew no bounds; they cared only about our critiques and score sheets, which they nabbed and studied as if for a life-or-death engagement.

I know the feeling now. It’s true, I have myriad manic notes and half-witty jokes that await the light of day. But perhaps that’s the problem. There is no light—no day—these days. We’ve entered the Dark Daze. The outlook for as far as weathermavens dare forecast: Cloudy. Even uppity people feel down.

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So be it: All master comedians have ups and downs. Woody Allen. Chelsea Handler. Bill Cosby (bah-dum-PUM!). Now that I think of it, Joel Hodgson’s shtick was quintessential dead-pan. And yet, he made me laugh till I cried. Which sounds like just another day at the Radiation Ward. Or could that be fresh-fried scar tissue squeezing my tear ducts? 

Oh, whatever. Better use radiation for inspiration while I still can. It’s half over. Darkness can’t last forever. MST3K is coming back. And there’s got to be a sombrero around here somewhere.

I got this. Seriously.

Thanks for listening…

*kh

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The Road to Bell

Posted on: Saturday, November 19th, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | 9 comments

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The journey continues, rather like the band Journey’s songs that have everyone—toddlers, stadiums full of sports-fan losers, and the cast in the pilot, epic episode of Glee—singing, “Don’t Stop Believing” for decades now. I’ve finished 5 treatments on my radiation journey, which also feels like decades now. But I haven’t stopped believing that someday this cancer journey will end and my comedy journey can begin in earnest. (5 journeys: Yay!)

At the radiation unit, there’s a golden bell on the wall right inside the entrance. Imagine the jubilation! Hear the hope! Let cancer-freedom ring! Or so I mistakenly thought—assuming that a patient got to ring that thing after every treatment, or at least after the ones that didn’t kill you. That seemed both savvy and fun—affordable care action at its finest!

But, no-o-o-o-o. That bell gets rung only after one’s final radiation. And I’m sorry to note that, although I’ve been spending plenty of time there, I’ve yet to hear that bell ring. Not once. Let us not ponder what that suggests.

Instead, the sound in the waiting room is always smooth jazz, perhaps by Kenny G. It might be the same song, over and over. I happen to LOVE music. ALL music. But I hate THAT music. So when I arrive, I always tell the receptionist, “It’s Kirk. I still haven’t been out of the country in the last 21 days. This music makes me have to go the bathroom.” And so I do.

By the time I finish my business and get those sound waves out of my head to make room for electromagnetic ones, one of the Rayettes awaits outside the door. And away we go, leaving that come-hither but silent bell in the distance.

  • Ever the prankster

Still, when I’m in a jaunty mood, which fortunately isn’t very often, I have taken to hanging out by that bell and threatening to ring it. One day, I announced my intentions loudly enough to catch the attention of my fellow victims in the waiting room. Oh, for the excitement! A few actually got out of their chairs and gathered around!

“Do you get to ring the bell?” “Are you finished?” “Oh, good for you!” they beamed so sincerely I actually felt kinda bad. Then, shyly, I had to fess up, “No, no, not yet. Sorry. But someday, right?” Their smiles fell to half-mast as they shuffled back to their chairs to listen to Kenny G and page through Cancer Today! magazine.

  • Helpful hints for enduring treatment
Radiation therapy isn’t so bad…but it can make you feel pretty close to the Edge.

Radiation therapy isn’t so bad…but it can make you feel pretty close to the Edge.

To be honest, radiation therapy isn’t that bad. (To be more honest, it isn’t that good, either.) It usually is fast, though; I’ll say that for it. The Rayettes don’t mess around—no small talk, no foreplay, just strap onto that hard table and into that bondage mask that, I swear, gets tighter every day, or else my face keeps getting fatter.

Then, ZAP! Let the rays begin! I have developed a nifty routine to guide me through the sessions. First, I panic. Then, I pray. Only for certain things, of course—a guy doesn’t want to appear greedy before God—so the list is limited to 26 and is now alphabetized, with Z standing for zees (sleep). Then, I turn to my mindfulness and meditation training which, with any luck, gets me a peaceful, easy feeling. That tends to get boring, though, so I let my mind wander toward more creative pursuits, like writing my next post. That’s pretty productive—and is actually where I thought of this sentence! And this one! (But I decided against this one, as that would be repetitive and redundant.)

Then, finally, after about three weeks, one of the Rayettes dances back into the room and sings, “Okay! All done!” and sets me free to run like a frightened deer straight back to Kenny G and that bell we’re not allowed to ring.

Real jazz? Composure under facial pressure? Liberty bell?

I so don’t got this.

But someday, right?

Anyhow, thanks for listening…

*kh

A picture of real jazz, composure, and liberty. Someday, right?

A picture of real jazz, composure, and liberty. Someday, right?

Getting Ready to Positively Radiate

Posted on: Monday, November 7th, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | 17 comments
That’s me—fearless if not spineless—as I prepped for my final Spinal Tap + chemo. No encores, please!

That’s me—fearless, not spineless—as I prepped for my final Spinal Tap + chemo. No encores, please!

The C (Cancer? Comedy? Crap-ola?) campaign continues, much like this endless election, with ongoing opportunities for developing new, whimsical material. My newest collaborators? The radiation team. They’re a scream! Actually, they’re pretty straight-faced and –laced. But a guy might prefer such demeanor from folks who will repeatedly be beaming x-rays into one’s inner self.

There IS more positive news. I’ve had a “good response” to the treatments—and thus have graduated from the Chemo Course (insert whooo-ie! here) and entered the radiation phase. FBOW, no cake, no plaques, and no “Pomp and Circumstance” were involved. I was alone, in fact, when the scan-read call came from Nurse Rush, who happily exuded more mirth than usual. So absent any champoo to pop or someone to hug, I allowed myself to break character for a rare emo-breakdown and then danced to a little Ella with my warmest and fuzziest robe.

  • A certain *, a visible “aura”

Med pros choose words carefully. The scan suggests it’s all gone. But there is still a * onboard, as there often seems to be when taking the C Train. This * could be a little lymphoma, although my favorite word I’ve heard is “aura.” It’s no biggie, as the next 2 options that should fix it are either 3 more chemo courses (Urp). Or to zap that * back to the Stone Age with radiation (Ugh). Everyone advises the latter. So let’s burn, baby, burn.

  • Baseball: Better (and bigger) than golf

I’ve now viewed all images—the befores and afters. I had mis-underestimated the tumor; it was NOT, as I originally estimated, a golf ball. It was a baseball, really, which is terrific, as that’s my favorite sport. That’s simplistic, though, as the mass really more resembled a smashed puffer-fish. Or maybe a contortionist octopus. But it has swum away, leaving only a little *aura* in its wake.

  • Facing radiation head-on

Some had whispered that my zap-fest might be only 2-3 weeks. But my new care coach, Dr. Ray, insists on extra innings, and she now calls the game. So we’ll go for 4 weeks. First, though, I get a week off for my evermore miraculous (and did I mention gorgeous?) body to recover. They can’t fool me: It’s actually so I can put summer away and kayak in this God-sent November heat wave—at least in between appointments to work out fresh laugh lines with my electrifying new team.

We’re already warming up. But…Warning: The first sessions with a new crew tend to be laden with dreary data. They must rattle off all risks, cautions, and possible outcomes—rather like those Big-Pharma ads on TV. Only worse.

The conversation didn’t go exactly like this, of course. But please embrace with me the rigorous and strenuous process of crafting new comedy while digesting distressing but requisite fuss. One occasional strategy was to fool ‘em with irrelevant, curve-ball questions…

  • My first tete-a-tete with Dr. Ray and the Rayettes

ME: Nice to see you, Dr. Ray!

DR. RAY: I’m sure it is. Especially since this radiation could destroy your vision. Better see me while you can.

ME: Okay, Jose! By the way, did you check out that Vanity Fair interview with Adele? Girlfriend has total stage fright and depression too. Hey, I’ll take her job!

DR. RAY: Hold off on that, since we have to make sure the radiation doesn’t damage your vocal cords.

ME: Right. Cuz I’ll also be needing them to cheer the Vikings on to the Super Bowl. Offensive coach Norv Turner’s retiring sure made me raise my eyebrows!

DR. RAY: Better hurry. The treatment may delete one eyebrow, an eyelash, and some other hair.

ME: Too late! The chemo already beat you to that punchline! Or should I say hairline!?!

DR. RAY: And you should know that some patients suffer brain damage.

ME: Not a problem. Got plenty of brain to go around.

DR. RAY: It’s the frontal lobes—the part of your brain that deals with emotion, judgment, and personality. You may experience memory loss.

ME: Finally! The perfect excuse. For everything!

DR. RAY: You’ll likely encounter sore throat, dry mouth, and red and itchy eyes.

ME. The standard morning vital signs, you mean.

DR. RAY: Some tear glands may fail.

ME: Excellent. I’m tired of tears.

DR. Ray: Be prepared for headaches, irritated sinuses, hot flashes, and fatigue.

ME: I call it Tuesday!

DR. RAY: You’ll be at high risk for cataracts—and soon.

ME: Don’t it make your blue eyes bluer?

DR. RAY: And of course, radiation is actually x-rays, which have been proven to cause cancer.

ME: Why the hell not? Doesn’t everything cause cancer—including the things that cure it?

DR. RAY: If you experience an erection that lasts more than 4 hours, call your doctor.

ME: I will, thanks, though that may not be my first call. Hey, how come those boner-pill ads always feature bodybuilder dudes with hot, frisky babes? What is wrong with these people?

DR. RAY: Get back to me on that. Good-bye, Kirk.

As Lyle Lovett says, “Life is so uncertain.” So Dr. Ray and I will gather often and continue to cover all the bases and hazards that we Boys of Summer sometimes face. I’ll be taking the field 5 times a week—and hoping for a home-run, while brushing off the risks of the game.

I bid adieu to Dr. Ray, signed a pile of forms about the aforementioned, and fondled a model of the mask they’ll use for screwing my head to the bench. I’ve heard from others that you sometimes smell (and taste) your head frying. I don’t believe it, but then again, I doubted the Cubs would ever win the World Series.

An asterisk to exterminate? X-ray visions? Offal jokes? Bad baseball metaphors?

Yep. I got this.

And my helmet is on.

Thanks for listening…

*kh

What Doesn’t Kill You…

Posted on: Monday, October 24th, 2016
Posted in: SoulTrain | 20 comments
When this war is over, I as SO going back to hang out in the cemeteries of NOLA. (Photo by Baron Baron.)

When this war is over, I as SO going back to hang out in the cemeteries of NOLA. (Photo by Baron Baron.)

It’s been 7 hours and 76 days… And 32 days since my last public posting. Wait/what? Me? Speechless? Yep. Read on. You’ll get this… 

The tally keeps mounting, and so far features 555 tests, 3 all-day chemos, 3 spinal tap/chemos (with 2 to go), waaaaay too many days-without-end on that nervous-breakdown steroid, more pills than a CVS, and still TBD weeks of cranial radiation to head into. Words. Fall. Short.

At of our most recent game of nasal peek-a-boo, Dr. Nostril announced that my sinus cavity is “Perfect! Normal!” I like to dance a crazy jig when anyone calls any part of me “normal.” Yet the C+ Squad keeps searching for (and nuking) any covert enemy cells. So the dance party awaits a more conclusive victory and ceasefire. 

We’re still battling. And cancer IS war, after all. Ask anyone. 

This week, I have medical appointments Monday-Friday—which will pour extra T into TGIF. This schedule offers excellent opportunities for my struggling cancer-victim comedy routine; I’ll get to practice my gags with All the Greats. Which is to say…my sense of humor has never left. Though it has sometimes gone to the bathroom. The wisecracks can turn dark—if not foul—in there. So I sometimes split a gut at things that, in the before-life, weren’t funny at all.

  • About that war on cancer

We can only assume that the Brain Trust that declared war on cancer are the same muckety-mucks that brought us the war on drugs, ISIS, terror, science, religion, cops, the rich, the poor, and now, clowns (who knew?). As good Merkans, when in doubt, we declare war.

So many spirited supporters instruct me to “fight!” “attack!” and “beat!” that cancer! Angry expletives happen, with a fave FB reply to my first announcement stating simply, “Fuck cancer.” I get it. Because I got this.

War scenes? I’ve had a few. And since you asked, a few to mention. Like the toxic chemo spill—when the nurse in the haz-mat regalia spilled the most dangerous poison (the pretty magenta one) all over, well, everything. Picture red seagull flying poop on a windy day. The cleanup was chaotic, dramatic, and stinky. So after several minutes of watching this sick SNL skit, I escaped from my recliner, much to the space crew’s displeasure. The all-day chemo combat then went into overtime—with action that included a tedious two-hour delay of war penalty and several bloody stabs for a new, improved IV.

Some nurses, visibly frustrated, would ask me things like, “Why don’t you have a port?” to which I could only reply, “Why don’t you have a smelly gym sock in your mouth?” So at times, the war-is-hell slogan makes imperfect sense. And I begin to grasp, if not live, the metaphor. In these scenes, my sense of humor def makes like Elvis and leaves the building, and simple survival instincts take over.

Toxic spills happen. Why all the fuss? They are pumping that same contaminant into my body...

Toxic spills happen. Why all the fuss? They are pumping that same contaminant into my body…

Almost as hilarious have been the many people around who have gotten sick with colds, tummy bugs, and other seasonal grotesquerie. When I asked for advice from my care team, they handed me stacks of surgical masks. Naïvely, I stammered, “Um, do I have to wear these all the time? People are hacking on everything and piling up Kleenex like a snowstorm.” “No, silly,” the doctors laughed, “The sick people wear the masks!” So I chuckled back, “Ahhhhh, sure!” “Gesundheit!” they replied. (Not really.)

Well, you can guess how that surgical mask initiative went over. The masks remain neatly stacked and untouched, yet I have somehow remained unsick, even though unwell enough to have vital counts now much lower than what’s left of my IQ. So clearly—somehow—I AM WINNING THIS WAR!

  • Nobody wants to hear about…

But I know, I know. Nobody wants to hear about toxic spills, sickness, and snot-rags. Nobody wants to read about the chemo-brain headache that no opioid can remedy or the head-to-toe backache. Nobody wants to think about numb extremities causing more dropsies than a cheap drunk. Nobody wants to hear about burning pee, tastelessness (not just my jokes), or when the bucket list becomes strategically placed literal things.

  • “It’s so worth it…”

So I won’t go there. Like I said, words fall short. Anyway, in all honesty, it’s not all bad—and I frequently cross paths with suffering souls that make me both choke and buck up. Yes, my cancer BreakAway features an arduous itinerary of daredevil excursions, yet they most always end up in a place with a beautiful view and unshakeable sense of serenity. It might take a Week from Hell to get there. But as one survivor-friend encouraged me early on, “It’s so worth it!”

On this journey (why does everyone insist on calling it a journey?), I’ve worked with some unfathomably compassionate healers. I’ve seen a side of friendship that has changed my definition of kindness. I’ve enjoyed enough high-vita juices and protein smoothies for a lifetime, though I intend to keep imbibing. Even shaving got easy. And though the all these drugs are probably aging me, parts of me look like a Millennial!

  • Declaring a state of peace
A+! This brilliant card from my writing students at MCAD has made me LOL over and over. Thank you!

A+! This brilliant card from my writing students at MCAD has made me LOL over and over. Thank you!

So like the rest of me, the humor perseveres. And despite the fear and writhing—or perhaps because of it?—peace happens. Dependably. Freakishly. I mean, the little sh*t goes out the window, right? And of course, it all becomes little sh*t right about now.

So maybe it’s true: What doesn’t kill you makes you…tougher. You can’t survive a war without toughness. And somewhere inside that tough, needle-pocked, thick skin rests a sense of sage acceptance that no retreat can teach, no poster can preach, no thought leader can think, and no emoji can emote. It’s like the 90-minute spinal tap that strikes nerves of unthinkable pain, but when it’s over sets off a superhuman glow of relief and ease.

All to say…my body is not at war with itself. And we are not “fighting” anything (except the occasional nurse). To be sure: My anatomy made a mistake—not the first, and not the last. But, corny as this sounds, only patience, loving-kindness, and Iowa Stubborn will fix that mistake. Oh yeah, and that pretty magenta chemo (injected not spilled) plus a cornucopia of other miracles in medical arts.

So let’s just save our dang rage for the election. Or the terrorists. Or the Vikings-Packers game. Or whatever.

As they say in church, mercifully, because the service (like this missive) is finally over: Peace be with you.

And also with me.

(I got this.)

Thanks for listening…

Sunrises remain a reminder of daily beauty but pale in comparison to peak fall colors. (Artwork by Elsa Elsa.)

Sunrises remain a reminder of daily beauty but pale in comparison to peak fall colors. (Artwork by Elsa Elsa.)