Cancer: the good times

One of the odd things about some bad experiences is that they do have highlights, and sometimes, as the comedian says, “You just have to laugh.”

The first cancer was the most painful, post-surgery. It was weeks before I could move without severe pain. Getting to the bathroom meant taking painkillers, then getting help to leave the bed. (Oddly, this is the only one where they let me go right home from the hospital.)

My religious institution had scheduled “learning services”  on my birthday. I was looking forward to it.  I made darned sure I was going to that service though it hurt.

smileyWhen the day came, I got out of the house. It hurt like hell, but I got out and I went. I was happy that day — pained but happy (and slightly less ignorant).

The morning after my second cancer was removed, I asked how I could go to the bathroom and the nurse looked at me funny, and said, “Get out of bed and walk to the bathroom.” I was stunned to find out I could do it.

When they fed me for the first time, it was a bowl of soup. I tasted it, declared it to be excellent, and finished the whole thing. Then I found a tea bag and lemon, and realized that was the hot water for tea.

After that, when a spot appeared on the MRI, I was set up with a surgeon. His scheduler asked when I wanted to have surgery, and I said, “I know this afternoon’s probably full, so tomorrow?”

The scheduler looked stunned and went in to talk with the doctor. Helpful hint: I suggested that, rather than doing things in series, as hospitals prefer, I do everything at once while they gathered together their surgical team for the earliest possible time. So I went out and got my EKG and GP clearance and pre-authorization and all that while they scheduled a time, and we cut two weeks out of the schedule. Sometimes a day can be life or death, so two weeks is huge.

Speaking of which, earlier I’d written about turnarounds. In the hospital, between the drugs, lack of sleep (my roommate felt it necessary to watch every Marvel ever made, loudly, every night, until 5 am, and the nurses seemed incapable of doing an IV properly, and I had to be woken up constantly for blood tests nobody looked at), and, well, recovering from eight hours of surgery, I got pretty well separated from reality. And then the day after they finally let me go home, I had a high fever and had to go back.

A turnaround point came when Pete Doll called me about the New York Auto Show, which he and TJ were covering instead of me. As we talked, it was like I was being put back onto the Earth again, out of the haze and fog and nightmare. That one phone call in the hospital was when I started living again after nine days of phoning it in. So thanks, Pete. I needed that.

Post-script: one other good thing was reading your messages of support and commiseration and, well, just connection. So thank you, and thanks to those of you who prayed for me, or shared your stories and your courage, or who were just there. 

And — I really have to thank my long-suffering wife, who was at the hospital for long periods every day, though most of the time I was asleep. My parents came to visit and also got to watch me sleeping. My children visited though I must have been a spooky sight. But my wife was my spokesman and advocate. She did a lot of preparation for me getting home, not realizing that the biggest reason I didn’t walk around the ward was that the nurses did not let me since I was a “fall risk.” (I still don’t know why. As soon as I left the ward I walked as much as I wanted and never fell.)