Tomorrow morning San and I will arrive at The Four Winds Cancer Clinic a little before 8 a.m. We will greet our friends/caregivers, my blood and vitals will be taken and tested, and our appointment with Dr. Sud will pronounce me fit enough for one final poisoning. Although I have felt so good since recovering from Round 11 two weeks ago that I have threatened not to complete Round 12, it was an idle threat and everyone knew it. Twelve rounds are what the clinical trials say we should do, it’s what our doc and the oncology nurses agree we should do, and who knows? If it buys me a little more time next year it will be worth it. I am feeling optimistic. And I still have a lot of things I want to do, and stories to tell.
That said, the next three days – one of the intensive all-day treatment and the next two of the chemo fanny pack punctuated by steroids and fluids – plus the recovery period afterward, spell out in no uncertain terms a week or so of not feeling particularly good. But even this upcoming week of The Things That Come With Chemo is not going to be all bad. After all, on Wednesday when the fanny pack is removed for the final time, San, Nic, and I get treated to the full-dog version of the Happy Dance! And with it, six months of chemo will be behind us …
Last night in the city of New Orleans a community of dear friends – colleagues, former students who are now colleagues, and current students who are well along the path to becoming colleagues – gathered together to honor my life and work at the National Communication Association convention. I joined in via Skype. For two hours I listened to this amazingly talented, accomplished, and caring group provide answers to a question I had posted in this blog weeks ago. The question was given in the context of how we measure the value of our lives and I wrote it, honestly, without thinking about this event. It was intended as a question for all of us to ponder. Specifically, the question was: what had we meant, and what had our work meant, to others?
I am reading a NY Times Book Review of a new cancer memoir called [Sic] authored by one Joshua Cody. Toward the end of this review my eyes cross this paragraph:
Cancer memoirs pose singular hazards for authors and reviewers: for the author, there’s the looming threat of maudlin sentimentality, and for the reviewer, the question of how to criticize someone’s pain and suffering. Cody sidesteps the sentimentality issue by mocking it. “Pale pastel book after book,” he says of the memoirs he read when he first fell ill, “each one the same, the three-act structure of (I) diagnosis, and (II) the discovery of how beautiful life actually is and how there’s more to it than my hedge fund job ever told me it was and look at how lovely this flower is and this butterfly and this herbal tea, and (III) recovery and a book deal and getting a little place in Vermont maybe.”
Cody is, according to this reviewer, a talented young composer who was pursuing a Ph.D. at Columbia University until his diagnosis. He is also apparently an interesting writer and talented person who has composed a most unusual cancer story, one that the reviewer, Gregory Cowles, describes thusly: “[A] G-force of sex and death and insanity — and also, improbably, of music and math and modernist poetry — [it] is the only evidence you need that for all its seeming formlessness, ‘[Sic]’ is in fact as artfully constructed as a Tarantino film.”
What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.
I get by with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,
Going to try with a little help from my friends.
Charlie brought homemade Baklava. He roasts the almonds himself, adds the walnuts, grinds them down, adds honey, and layers the phyllo dough, tops with more honey and one single clove. Oh my. Delicious! Everyone in the Room of Orange Chairs agrees – this is the best Baklava any of us have ever tasted.
Jan makes me a cup of hot chocolate. It, too, is delicious. I savor it. Let the chemo begin! I know these two treats will be the last food items that taste good to me for at least a week. Maybe more. After that I won’t be able to taste some foods (and no red wine) but I will be able to taste others. Dr. Sud promises me that my taste buds should return about a month or so after my last treatment. I hope he’s right. Just in time for Christmas!
I finish the Baklava and hot chocolate. Lauren sets the IV machine for a fast drip of the pre-chemo liquids, anti-nausea medicine, and whatever else is in this concoction that is designed to prevent the negative side effects. I get these for about an hour and a half, then begin the real poisoning, which runs for five hours, during which time I also am pumped full of Decadron (a glucocorticosteroid), which, in addition to whatever magic it does to those nasty side effects, also produces on my face a healthy-looking tan.
Round Eleven has begun. Strike up the band and let the song begin …
It’s Sunday, a gorgeous day here in Arizona, with cool autumn temperatures in the mid-60s and lots of blue skies and sunshine. I feel good. I am alive and well.
This morning I got up early to work on Final Draft, a book – probably my last one – which is one part memoir and two parts meditation on what has meant to live my life by the power of stories. With the help of my pal Hugh Downs (himself a lifelong amateur scientist and a member in good standing of our Beyond Institute of advanced theoretical physics) I completed a section on quantum theory and human mortality, which sounds larger and far more daunting than it is. But a life such as mine – and, I venture, such as yours – lived between the imaginative/explanatory powers of the Cosmos defined by science and the explanatory/imaginative powers of our lives defined by stories would hardly be complete without it, with a narrative merging the two storylines into a plausible afterlife.
I do love to write in the morning! And my good day was just beginning.
Nic came home from Tucson and after some grocery shopping he made us a beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips lunch. Tonight San and I will enjoy the company and conversation of our friends Sarah, Brad, Belle, and Dan, and dine on chicken enchiladas accompanied by maybe a glass or two of fine white wine. On the way home we will stop by Jeff and Angela’s to pick up some of young Anna’s amazing homemade cookies.
All in all, it’s a wonderful day as far as I can see. And I am grateful for it.