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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cancer Hates Oxygen: Kids in the Hall

Cancer Hates Oxygen: Kids in the Hall: "Today was a long walk down a short hall. Today, I visited the long-term survivor’s clinic called The Tomorrow Fund. Don’t ask ..."

Kids in the Hall

Today was a long walk down a short hall. Today, I visited the long-term survivor’s clinic called The Tomorrow Fund. Don’t ask me what the ‘fund’ part stands for in clinical terms.

There I was standing in the new clinic. I propped myself against a wooden railing and waited my turn at the front desk. I expected a long process. What I wasn’t expecting was the sudden rush of memories.

Gone were the soft yellows and taped tigers that dotted the walls surrounding me. Pictures of sea turtles, and birds, along with supple chairs set to a soft green hue all vanished. The hardwood flooring evaporated and moldy, gray patterned Formica took its place. Carefully laid dropped ceilings twisted into asbestos covered rusted piping and the yielding warm glow of nested CFLs transformed into laser-bright incandescence tubes.

Off-blue vinyl with fake wooden legs took up more room than needed. The Playstation mirage faded into a stack of aged Highlights with all of the workbook sections answered. Worst of all, the sweet smell of cut flowers was supplanted by the acrid perfume of sinus burning alcohol that often announced the arrival of pain.

I was back in the original clinic. Back where the nightmares began. Dank and cold even in the summer. Dusty and rank with sickness in the winter.

One thing didn’t change at all however. The children were the same.

Three, five, seven years of age. All struggling to sustain their childhood energy, taken for granted by millions of non-afflicted children. One little girl played with a Justin Bieber doll that kept snagging on the IV that protruded from her tiny arm. In a fit of dark comedy, the doll’s hair was thicker and fuller than her Raggedy Ann tresses that fought to regain what once was a full head of hair. Her father watched on but I could tell he was elsewhere. Hell, I wanted to be elsewhere. He woke from his stupor only when the little girl demanded it.

A mother, followed by a doting father and a grandmother who made herself up no matter what the destination, carried another bald boy in. His large blew eyes and simple blond strands took in the whole room and rested on me – the oddity in a room of oddities. I harkened back to my parents and wondered if they had the same countenance as those sitting beside me. It’s the look of worry. The look of sleepless nights. The look of hating everything about their situation. The endless search for hope. I don’t remember what my parent’s state of mind was back in those early years but I suspect it was the same visage of desperation.

I was back in the present. The warm hues surrounded me once again. There was no smell of alcohol permeating the air. The children still hustled about with shouts of Iron Man beating the tar out of Spiderman.

A nurse came in and picked me out of the crowd. I got up and waded through the marbles and paper. All eyes were on me fore I didn’t have a toddler in tow. My son was heavy on my mind. He is perfectly healthy and strong. The exhausted faces trailed after me as I left the room. Even the boy playing with the hospital DS Nintendo stopped for a moment to look up. No hair overhung from under his ball cap and his eyes were naked of their brows.

The nurse practitioner took me into a private room and begged forgiveness at being late. She sorted through the mess of paperwork and I took in the photo collage on the wall of children who have passed through this place. I didn’t want to think it but I did. How many of them were still alive?

Here it is - My new routine. More questions. More historical answers. The message being Long Term. The NP judiciously jotted down everything from my supplements, to long-term meds and workout routines to finally “what’s next”.

Still, as I coursed through my banter with my new NP mentor, my mind remained with the kids in the hall. I wanted to stab a flag in the Earth for them all simply stated – I am still here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cancer Hates Oxygen: Forever is my time....

Cancer Hates Oxygen: Forever is my time....: "This is an excerpt from my second bout with what I call 'nuclear fallout'. Some have asked what was it like during the diagnosis period. The..."

Forever is my time....

This is an excerpt from my second bout with what I call 'nuclear fallout'. Some have asked what was it like during the diagnosis period. There was no editing. There was no grammar check. This was 'as is'. This is an attempt to encapsulate those very moments when mortality is in full question. *Note - this site that this excerpt was extracted polices harsh language. I am that way so any *** you see, I'll give you license to ad-lib. Here is the beginning... Day 1 Posted May 5, 2009 10:26am For those of you who know me, I've been under medical inspection for over a month or so. Well, today marks the first day of my journey. It's a journey I didn't think I would ever have to do again. As a 6-year-old, I suffered from Hodgkin's Disease. Thirty-six years later a new battle has unfolded. On May 5th, 2009, the preliminary results have been turned in and I have been diagnosed with a sarcoma (cancer) of which my liver is the second place of origin. That is, the liver is not where it has originated from. Where? Good question. Evidence points to gastric or colon cancer as the origin. More tests will prove this out. They, doctors that is, haven't ruled out my previous treatments as a child as the culprit either. Time will tell. I hope I have the patience and mental edge to get through this. This will be my forum of communication to the world. I am a better writer than orator. I wanted to set a few rules before I continue. In no particular order: 1. I am not out to make other people feel good. This is harsh, I know. I should qualify this. You may cry. You may feel bad for me. You may have pity on me. I am not going to go into a stage act to make it better or easier for you. I am pissed. I am beyond angry. The Universe, God, Satan, Mother Earth, whatever, didn't think my family had enough to go through with Pam being a survivor herself. I have a 5 year old I want to see graduate high school, ask for my car, and think of me as a superhero. **** the higher(?) being who wants to rob me of that. So if I appear recluse, angry, sad, or whatever adjective you need to describe my moment, I offer no apologies save this thought - I need you. I need you to understand that I am in a war. It's a personal one and sometimes citizens get hurt. None of the fallout is intentional. 2. I do need you. I am strong. I am sharp. I feel very good actually. I'm probably one of the few cancer patients who can run a 5k, bench 200lbs, get a shut out in hockey (I'm a goalie) and write a **** good story. But I still need you. I need you to make me laugh and see that tears in the rain are just that - invisible. I have enough resolve to go it alone but I don't prefer that. I am asking you, actually begging you, to stick with me. I have wonderful friends, both old and new, and my family is battle tested. The only deal I ask is that you be real with me because I am sure as hell going to give you all of me when I can. Life is too short not to do that. 3. Be normal. Normal is a question of knowing what the moment requires. If I am at work, I expect that we will all go about our duties. If anything I want to be a creature of duty because it is comforting to be in routine. I expect to judge and be judged in my work. I am also an author and I want to be viewed like one. The only way to do that is to write and be heard as an author - not a writer who has cancer. I'm a writer. I'm an author. I won't accept second descriptions. 4. No pity. Don't want it. Don't need it. 5. Prayers, Universal discussions, incantations, good thoughts...do what you need to do. I accept all and travelers cheques as well. I am sure there are more rants coming from me but I am tired. Here's is my promise to my family, friends, enemies and people who walk by me at the mall. - I have many more Christmases (someone help me with a spell check will ya)and Halloweens left in me. Don't you dare count me out. - I'd pit my will against anyone's - any time, any day, any where. I've been told forever that I can't do this or that. I won't be told anymore. - I love you. I might not say it all of the time but I do. More than that, I appreciate you. Always. Never forget it or I'll be forced to remind you. - I look **** good in a t-shirt :) - I had to put that out there, come on, it's funny. This site is simple enough. Sign up if you need to. Share the link with who you feel can benefit. If not, I will talk to you or see you very soon.