"Make It Short but Sweet"
I'm sitting here watching a computer screen disintegrate out of the corner of one eye. thedailygrowlerhousepianist just emailed me the sad news that his father had died two days ago of cancer back in Michigan.
I'm surrounded by my friends who have either beaten cancer or who are currently going through treatment. My friend the museum director went to his doctor a month or so ago wondering about why he had had a sore throat for so long. He left his doctor's office with neck cancer, a huge tumor under his tongue, and a scare like an arrow through the heart of his nervous system.
My friends and I have what we call quorums. We meet at an Uptown Irish pub to down some pints and Gibsons and shots of Tequila and catch up on our various affairs as many monthly Friday evenings out of a year as we can manage. We had a quorum two weekends ago. Four of us showed up. Four of the male members of this gathering--myself, thedailygrowlerhousepianist, the museum director, and a sculptor I call the Iron Man--he works in heavy duty iron--like recently several huge flywheels (off of a large ship), so huge, he had to crane them in to his Gowanus studio. In fact, he reported to us at this quorum that the flywheels had already been turned into art.
I'm sitting there sipping at a pint of Harp and enjoying such enhanced interpersonal conversation when it hits me: of the four of us good friends, 3 of us have had cancer. I being the so-called lucky one.
The museum director was already undergoing chemo. He looked thinner--not bad--he's a very striking person in terms of looks anyway. We commented on this notice. Yes, he said, he had lost several pounds. Why? He couldn't eat, he said. The chemo had burnt his taste buds out of his mouth so that he had no taste. When my brother was told he was going both blind and deaf, I imagined what the horror of such a reality would be like by coming up with a pretty close proximity to being that way by shutting my eyes tight and plugging up my ears with earplugs. But trying to imagine having no taste! That's hard to imagine, especially when all the time you're trying to imagine not having any taste you can taste!
So as a result of his chemo, the museum director has no taste for solid food. He says he might as well be putting cardboard in his mouth when he tries to eat, chew, and swallow some solid food. A spoonful of garlicky potatoes makes him gag in a wretching way. So he lives on high-protein chocolate shakes, liquids the only source of food he can tolerate since liquids can slide on past the mouth, the tongue, to zoom on down his saliva-dry throat before taste really has anything to do with the process.
Further, he was forbidden to drink alcohol so he was sipping on ice water. It was also very noticeable that he was having trouble swallowing. He kept having to clear his throat.
He was excited in a "get it over with" way that he had one more chemo session to go--so by the time of this post, he's finished his chemo and is resting up getting ready for the surgery that will hopefully remove the tumor and the cancer that is living in it waiting to metastasize.
The House Pianist had a thyroid cancer back around December. They successfully got it by removing his thyroid.
The Iron Man had the meanest of cancers, pancreatic cancer. He has now been in remission over a year.
I mean I sat there amazed the rest of the evening. I'd just never thought about how many of my closest friends have had cancer--some of them beating it--some of them not. Within the past decade I've lost my dearest pal ever since junior high days to brain cancer; my ex-wife, the Tex-Mex-Choctaw-Welsh raven-haired, dark-eyed, haunting beauty, to breast cancer 5 years ago now. She smoked a pack or two of Salems from the day I met her--she was 16--telling me one time that she'd rather risk getting cancer than giving up her Salems, a statement that bit her in the ass at age 58; my brother to the last and worst of the 3 cancers to attack him, the final a brain cancer; an old New York City good-times girlfriend who had moved to Carolina to get away from the bad air of NYC to lung cancer--she, too, a showy woman who always had a Queen-sized, pink-filter-tipped Nate Sherman cigarette in her slender fingers; and only recently did I find out my very favorite first cousin, the guy who led me into the art of piano playing, had died of brain cancer just before Christmas of last year.
And then today I check into the Independent News NaturalNews page to check up on the latest in natural (holistic) health news and suddenly I faced this shocking headline:
As radioactive fallout skyrockets, NaturalNews advises readers to consider precautionary doses of iodine, bentonite clay and zeolites
Come on, folks, isn't that a SHOCKING headline? Iodine pills by the way do protect you from low levels of isotopic radiation; bentonite clay and zeolites I've never before heard of.
I do not want cancer. When I was a kid, I watched my mother's brother dying of cancer in a VA hospital in McKinney, Texas. He was like my hero uncle--he was an early aviator--he was also an early filmmaker--he was owner of a chain of movie houses--it was like this handsome man--I mean, he was my hero uncle--the dandy in the high-class clothes and the custom-blocked Miller hats and the Packard automobiles and the 3 wives, the second of which died of cancer at 29 years of age--there was this hero of mine laying on a World War II surplus army cot in a tiny little stuffy ground-floor back-alley-like room (this was 1950--there was no air-conditioning much then--certainly no refrigerated air)--my hero uncle now a withered stick-figure thin barely recognizable the cancer having eaten away his high-cheekboned handsomeness and his lustrous deep brown eyes--he was a "brown-eyed handsome man"--now laying a raw wreck of a man on this army cot wearing only a pair of boxer shorts and a Guinea tee-shirt--the room was hot as hell--stuffy--and there lay my handsome Hollywood deboniare airplane-piloting hero uncle a shriveled up man--his bald head now totally hairless--and his face--ARGGGGGGGGGHHH! His face was totally barren of hope...faith...totally barren of even the ability to laugh or smile or even frown...his face hardened into a painful stone face.
The minute Uncle saw us, my mother and dad and my grandmother, his mother, and me, it wasn't that he knew who we were...no, it was more like he knew who we were and he hated us for being where he wished the hell he still was--healthy as horses with tons of life left in us--and the four of us were healthy as horses--and when he saw us he started into cursing us out--the foulest language I had heard until then--though this hero uncle was infamous for his constantly overboiling temper and his use of expletives that would make the most seabound sailor quiver in his Navy-issue shoes and I had heard him say "Damn" a lot--"God-damn" more than once--but never like he was spewing this time, "Oh, God-fuckin'-damn, sonofagoddamnbitch...." My grandmother: "Brother, it's your mother, sweetheart...." "God-damn, you, mother, for having me--and get the hell out of here unless you are here to kill me...please, mother, kill me, kill me...god-damn...." Then the stupid question--ah mothers!--"Brother, does it hurt that bad?"
As a kid cancer was a rare thing. I remember this man from my hometown named Cager--yep, that was his name--Cager--the father of sons: Otho and Elton Dale. And when we lived in Dallas, Cager came to stay with us while he underwent treatment at the Hoxie Clinic, the clinic of Doctor Hoxie who claimed he could cure all kinds of diseases, even cancer, using his special treatments. Dr. Hoxie was considered Dr. Hoaxy by the AMA, but for people with cancer he convinced them that perhaps they were a coffee enema away from eliminating the cancer from their system. It was worth a shot to an otherwise hopeless person and cancer was pretty much a terminal disease in those days.
I remember Cager, who was a notorious chain smoker, had lung cancer. I remember him coughing...lugging coughing...deep coughs that roared up volcanically from his phlegm-packed lungs a rush of green-slime, which Cager hurled into a coffee can he carried around with him. I remember my mother set aside a set of dishes and utensils and a cup and a glass for Cager. In those days the medical info warned that cancer might be contagious and my mother to make sure assigned those several pieces of her everyday chipped and cracked china that she didn't mind losing since as she was informed cancer might be contagious she intended all along to throw Cager's dishes, utensils, cup, and glass in the garbage the minute he left, which she did when Cager finished his treatments at the Hoxie Clinic and headed on back out to far West Texas to end up in his final resting place. She also threw out all the sheets and pillow cases he had used while visiting with us.
I'm thinking of going out and buying me a pistol just in case.
for The Daily Growler