Meanwhile, back at and beyond my new internal hubbubs, I've just remembered (and we do forget these things) that I'm not simply a man with lung cancer, but a man beset with and without a host of other functions and dysfunctions.
I have thinning hair, spinal disk outpouchings, brittling toenails, a few age spots (now that I'm qualified), a squeezy prostate, a penchant for any curried dish, capricious semi-erections happening way too soon for nostalgia, and a false sense of security about everything, though I prefer to say a true sense of insecurity.
In short, I'm augmenting my diminishing gains, and diminishing my augmented losses (my blog, my wordplay).
But, what I am NOT, standalone, is my illness. I'm a multifaceted organism boasting untold sets of sub-facets, which is now hosting a serious illness.
Yes, if I were a newspaper, the front page story would be “Nurse Humorist Names His Cancer ‘Rad Chemo’”, and I must now remember to always also open it to the editorials, columns, classifieds and comics inside the rest of me.
Right about here, it’s time for a truncated truth from D. H Lawrence, lifted from his poem “What Is He?”
--Would you say a thrush was a professional flautist,
or just an amateur?
I'd say it was just a bird.
--And, I say he is just a man.
All right! You always did quibble.
* * * * *
Entering the chemotherapy infusion room:
A roundhouse array of center-facing comfy loungers, each with a more utilitarian chair set alongside it for our riding shotgun caregivers. Diane and I assumed our positions. We were greeted by pleasant, deliberate and tuned-in nurses who welcomed us to "the family. " I looked around at my new family members and they were sizing me up with all obviousness, but sneakily sizing up my cancer and prognosis to hold against their own. I’ve been a nurse a long time. Humans do this.
I can also tell, after a so-far lifetime of providing bedside care, when I'm being observed hiding in plain sight on low, open ground.
After a nurse made an unsuccessful attempt at starting an IV, she said "Sorry, El, your veins are rolling." Ah! Blaming the victim (and I confess to committing this sin at times in my career). She said it tongue-in-cheek, but it still made me feel like a self-saboteur.
Her cohort stepped in and assumed the vein reins, managing the insertion first try. Attempting to smooth the waters, I tried to ease the suffering of unstickable nurse by explaining that historically I'm a difficult venipuncture, probably worsened by some dehydration of late, and not to fret over it. It’s the nurse in me, though I am trying to let go and be a good patient. Really.
My chemo “family” is an eclectic bunch (I want to say my pathological family, but I’m trying to avoid the macabre): some looked old, some looked old and sick, some looked old and very sick, and some looked as if they were ten years older or younger, they’d look the same.
I supposed we all looked self-absorbed. I tried not to use them as mirrors.
The med infusions were uneventful. The lunch was superb. Only one sidetrack: a curious recorded discrepancy discovered occurring in my height over time, shorter AND taller, and it was briefly a busied topic of staff confab because my chemo doses are partially determined by that measure.
For all of us to move forward, it was acknowledged and accepted that I’m somehow capable of alternately portraying The Attack of the Incredible Shrinking and/or Amazing Colossal Man without ill effects.
* * * * *
Lots to talk about here, but these treatments will be daily for the next six weeks, so I’ll keep it to one first memorable mention, with much more to follow:
During my first radiation treatment, at my request, they played The Allman Brothers. Far freakin’ out.
It was Rock-humbling and Roll-satisfying to hear “I’m not gonna let ‘em catch me, no, not gonna let ‘em catch the Midnight rider” in true surround sound, as I laid snugged inside my table mold like a flesh & bone kabob on a stationary spit, flashing back up ahead as my linear accelerator world lit up and hummed and rotated around ME.
More as we go. Let’s ride!