April 1, 2012
Well, it’s my time of the month. I’ll stop the analogy there.
Day one. Last night’s chemo is finding its traction in my bloodstream and disseminating its treason—its “Murder most foul . . . strange, and unnatural.” *
And this time, I will not regret its ostensible slowness on this first day. Last month, I was brash, taunting the chemicals to do their worst. By the end of the day, I would have eaten my words but for my appetite being wracked.
No, today I will tiptoe. I will navigate by periscope. I will take my Zofran preemptively.
Because I know too well this Temodar “whose effect holds such an enmity with blood of man that swift as quicksilver it courses through the natural gates and alleys of the body, and with a sudden vigour it doth posset and curd, like eager droppings into milk, the thin and wholesome blood.”
April 8, 2012
Would that the passage of time in misery was as fleet as the passage of time in this journal. At last entry, my yarky week was just beginning; at this entry, the yarky week is petering out. And good riddance.
What gems from nausea have I mined since our last meeting? What new depths of discomfort have I plumbed for your general amusement?
From the outset of my decision (believe it or not, I chose this road) to give chemo a go at my tumor, I considered it a blessing that I could ingest my therapy in the relative comfort of my own home as opposed to the intravenous injection administered in a gelid room of some clinical ward. The downside is comparatively minor—that I have to take the poison in my own hands, place the inimical capsules on my own tongue, and, against all mandates of nature, swallow. It sounds pretty rough when I put it that way but the alternative is far less appealing—drip, drip, drip, drip: the monotone litany of a slow demise.
This past week, however, I thought of one advantage to the outpatient or inpatient administration of chemo—namely, therapy animals. It was a random thought, probably elicited by the near constant plotting toward achieving a modicum of comfort. No doubt we are all quite proficient at such exercises. [editor’s note: Jonathan cannot for the life of him spell exersizes [sp] correctly on his first attempt—never ever ever.] The cold rag on the forehead to allay the clangorous headache. The honeyed herbal tea to soothe the throat afire. The masochistic re-reading of your Amnesty International newsletters to squelch an exaggerated self-pity.
So entered the therapy animal thought into my beleaguered brain. Not only have I watched these service animals on middle-tiered channel packages from Direct TV (I cannot speak for Dish Network, though commercials on Direct TV programs have assured me that Dish only offers channels involving the wholesale evisceration of all of God’s innocent creatures and those not even in HD), I have also witnessed the animals first hand.
I most remember the occasion of my first preliminary CAT-scan in preparation for radiation five years ago. I had been sent to the nether of UAB’s oldest cancer treatment facility to have the scan performed. I remember being somewhat insulted what with being a seven year veteran of the shiny Kirklin Clinic with the magnificent fountain out front and the oft attended grand piano in the cathedral-esque narthex.
My wife and I were the sole waiters in the paint-flecked waiting room. After a few minutes, we were joined by a young girl and her mother. The girl wore the tell-tale bandana of the cancer-bald patient. Her face was fraught with worry and fear beyond her years. Sallow and gaunt, she sank into a musty couch.
In a moment, my delusions of abuse were disabused. I went from petulant entitlement-lorn to jerk-faced properly-pegged in one second flat. (Only now and only once a month can I even begin to fathom that young girl’s anguish, her seeming no end in sight.)
Realigned with a more sensible perspective, I awaited my chance to offer the girl a smile. Smiles, I knew, were therapeutic in their own right. Yes, I would give her a smile. But she never looked my way.
Then the door opened. A woman entered. I scanned her for tell tale signs of disease. There were none. Not quite at the lady’s heels, a dog followed. It was obviously old—a hitch in its giddy up, bewildered glances about the room, wiry fur beginning to thin. What breed of dog it was, I can’t remember [editor’s note: rememeber [sp] –never ever ever on the first attempt.]. It was medium sized and cute for being ugly.
“Look at the people, Lady,” the newcomer said. “Say hello to the people.” You’d have thought the four of us were a teeming crowd.
The mother of the sick girl encouraged her daughter to acknowledge the dog. The girl was bashful and probably a little beyond the point of cordiality. Who can blame her? The dog looked at me then looked at the girl. Then me, then the girl. It turned its tail to me and waddled to the girl. Smart dog, sensible perspective. After more encouragement from the mother and the newcomer, the girl finally reached to pet the dog. Both animal and human we’re instantaneously enraptured. The dog nuzzled the girl for additional attention. The girl obliged with a jaw-defying smile.
In all my years at the shiny Kirklin Clinic, I had never been gifted with an event like this. I would never go back to that old building in person, but I have often gone back in memory.
And so the thought entered my beleaguered brain: I wouldn’t mind a cold ward now and then if there was the prospect of an ugly dog to pet. Because smiles are therapeutic. And animals make me smile.