Saturday, January 19, 2013

When You Think About It, a Hangover is Just Karma

...most of them anyway. If you mixed brown ale and gin last night, you kind of deserve to feel poorly today. On the other hand, if you had a chemotherapy infusion yesterday, you prolly deserve a little more sympathy from your'higher power'. The above image graces my latest Tee-Shirt creation on Zazzle. The Royalties, meager as they are, help with the costs of my treatments.


Thursday, January 17, 2013


Last night I dreamed that I killed a guy in a knife fight. I didn't just dream that I had done this in some nebulous past. I dreamed the actual fight in all its gory detail. What I didn't dream is why we were fighting in the first place. That is, I don't know why the guy I killed was fighting me. I was fighting him for my life.
You need to know that I never dream stuff like this. I don't as a rule have scary dreams, or violent ones, and if ever I dream something that seems like it's going to tip the scale in that direction, I wake up before anything serious happens. Not last night.
My opponent was relentless. He cut me several times. I cut him back. Neither of us was doing a lot of damage, but the intent was obvious. At some point my mind-set changed from merely trying to stay alive to a joyful determination to end the guy's life. I quit looking for opportunities to escape and started looking for openings in his defenses.
We were both dancing around. Our moves were punctuated by stabbing thrusts and whirling slashes. Blood was evident, but not quite flowing. I had cuts on my arms and shoulders, and one on my right side. I tried to slice his neck open, but missed. He tried the same move on me.
By this time in the fight, I knew how he moved. I took a chance. I was not afraid...either to fail or succeed. I grabbed his right wrist with my left hand as his blade flashed forward and stepped inside his swing. I got right up in his face where I could smell his spittle and his determination. I shoved my knife up under his rib cage and into his heart. He went down like a sack of potatoes.
That was the end of the dream. Short on philosophy and long on action...pretty much the exact opposite of me.
The most disturbing thing about it was that it wasn't very disturbing. I wasn't shocked or unnerved by my capacity for violence, nor did I have any remorse over the dead guy. I really had no feelings whatsoever beyond the understandable relief that it had been him rather than me and that things had turned out much better than I could have imagined beforehand.
I think it may have been the first dramatic dream I ever had from which I couldn't draw a lesson. If you know me, you know I like a good lesson. With no known motive for the dead guy's attack and no obvious reason for my response other that self preservation, there's not much about anything to be gleaned from this dream. A guy wanted to kill me. I don't know why. I killed him instead, drawing on resources I didn't know I had. End of story.
The only thing that makes this dream make sense to me is if the dead guy, the guy who was trying to kill me for no apparent reason, was cancer. Now that sumbitch I could stab without compunction.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Researching the Hangover

A good hangover deserves a name. I call this one Glenn 'Stinger' Fiddich.

I posted Sunday that the chemotherapy induced headache and nausea of last week was probably the worst I'd ever felt. After a little reflection, I realized that is not true. The worst I ever felt was the day after an office Christmas party in 1991.
Nearly everyone who drinks with any frequency has been occasionally persuaded by circumstances and convivial friends to abandon reason in order to hold on to the fleeting sense of belonging that accompanies a range of intoxication. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that the same range of intoxication often serves to undo many of its own perceived benefits. Amnesia is just part of the equation.
In their cups, for example, many people are unable to distinguish the lethal among their various verbal armaments, so they might, in haste, launch a photon torpedo when the occasion would have been better served by activating a tractor beam. Conversely, these same people, thinking they are safely under the tender protection of mother alcohol, also have a habit of dropping their shields. Then every stray volley, no matter how well intentioned it may have been when it was fired, has the potential to breach their hulls and send them tumbling into deep space. The implications are clear. Fans of the science fiction genre should not drink at office parties.
Unintended verbal skirmishes are tales for another time, however. I'm a reticent soul, and thick skinned, so verbal assaults and their aftermath are not usually a problem for me. My problem is forgetting what I did, what I said, and the order and proportions in which things may have happened. This particular party is a case in point.
I may have been that drunk before—and possibly since—but I have never been that hungover. The throbbing in my head was as relentless and compelling as the piston slap of a giant coal-fired steam engine in a tramp freighter. The nausea as debilitating as could be attributed to the roll and pitch of the self-same freighter in a quartering sea and gale force winds.
I only remember bits and pieces of the manner in which I arrived at this pitiful state, but I remember every excruciating second of the hangover. I remember the individual atoms crashing into my forehead. I remember each balmy zephyr that bestirred my aching hair follicles until I had to take a seat from the exhaustion of it. I remember every chirruping bird and buzzing insect who had the temerity to disturb an otherwise peaceful day in the tropics with their callous, raucous indifference to my suffering.
At one point we set out in the car from Tampa to Deland to celebrate Boxing Day with my wife's sister. My wife drove. I was incapable of either navigation or remembering to keep the accelerator pedal depressed between stops. I rode in the back seat on a pile of ad hoc padding with my eyes shut against the admission of any stray rays of sunlight and prayed for a deliverance that was not forthcoming. I knew it wasn't forthcoming principally because I also knew that I didn't deserve it. I lasted twelve minutes until I begged my wife to turn the car around and take me home where the bed was at least proceeding at something less than the speed limit.
Sometimes, when I am busy pondering life's imponderables, I consider that I might actually have expired that day, and that my current iteration exists in an alternate parallel universe where I do not have to pay for the sins I toted up prior to that fateful party. If that's the case, my wife saved a bundle on my cremation as I'm sure I was not only combustible but volatile for several days thereafter.
The party itself was no more or less memorable than I would have expected. We started off in a lovely community room attached to a well-heeled golf course community. I had a few scotch whiskeys with a splash of water. I danced with my wife. I danced with my boss's wife since he was holding court and couldn't be bothered. I visited with co-workers, trading shop tales and office hijinks. I tied with the boss's son by correctly guessing the number of Hershey's candy kisses in a big jar. The prize was the jar and the candy. I thought the boss's kid ought to step aside in favor of the hired help. He didn't see it that way. We both loved milk chocolate more than justice.
When the party finally wound down we found ourselves trooping to a local country bar in a gaggle comprised of the company inner circle and assorted hangers on. The boss, now well into the holiday spirit, opened a tab. We got the band to join us at our table. He bought their drinks as well. It was shaping up to be the best party I had ever attended.
I danced a bunch of country waltzes with my wife. Neither of us had ever done that before, nor have we since. We don't know how. I did that night though. I was the Baryshnikov of boot scootin', the Fred Astaire of country hoofing. In short, I was a marvel in an area where accountants rarely excel...certainly not I.
Back at our table I noticed that the band had not touched their drinks. 'No sense letting those go to waste,' I thought. I can drink those and save the boss having to buy me another.
If you are paying close attention, you will recognize this as the moment when I began to take leave of my senses. If you have not been paying close attention, you will still recognize this moment anyway when I tell you that the band had left on the table for my personal enjoyment and gratification some combination of Stingers, Brandy Alexanders, and nameless but colorful concoctions of fruit and unpronounceable liqueurs.
Not only that, they came back to our table and ordered another round after their next set. They left those sitting there as well. I doubt that I have ever been so spiritually edified in a barroom setting, nor so enthralled with the generosity and fellowship of musicians.
To my everlasting credit, I decided sometime during the next stinger that I ought to switch back to my more staid and usual scotch and water before I did something foolish. Of course that ship had already sailed and it had taken me the better part of an hour to realize that the mooring lines were coiled on the wharf and the quay was empty of vessels.
Still I managed, by marshaling my focus and slowing my pace, not to do or say anything that would be historically noteworthy. I was a model of decorum and restraint, but while I was concentrating on escaping the rushing tide of foolish behavior, I failed to realize that I had already done as much damage to my physical self as I could likely tolerate. I was just playing games with my own head until the toxic chickens I had already hatched came home to roost in it.
When the bar closed down for the night, the boss decided that we should all go over to his house to continue the revelry. My wife, designated driver on this as well as most revelry-suffused nights of my life, thought this was ill-advised. I disagreed, demonstrating, in stark hindsight, the effectiveness of the designated driver process. I was very persuasive, so we went.
Things took an odd turn at the boss's house. When we arrived, my wife and me, the rest of the group was already there. They had arranged themselves on the floor in various states of dishevelment and repose, and they were, some of them at least, draped over one another in odd parings that bore little resemblance to those that I had observed at the beginning of the party. I knew, by hearsay and anecdote, that random odd couplings in the aftermath of a party do not lend themselves to continuing good relations among the participants. I won't say this development was particularly sobering, but it was enlightening enough that my wife and I beat a hasty retreat. The rest, as they say, is history.
I don't know what happened after we left. I don't want to know. What I do know is that all those oddly draped souls from the boss's living room floor made it to work the next day, and not one of them seemed the worse for wear...except me. They were all somehow capable of functioning in a work-a-day milieu while I was challenged by the effort of remaining upright and gripping a coffee.
When I was a youngster, and my mother made me take some medicine, she would invariably point out that, if it was disagreeable to swallow or painful on its application to my sundry hurts, that meant it was working. The worse the medicine, the more powerful its restorative effects. My current oncologist told me much the same thing. One of the more unpleasant side-effects of the Erbitux is a painful rash. Getting the rash, she assured me, is a sign the drug is working. Better to get the rash than not, in other words, but I have to say the jury is out on that one as far as I'm concerned.
I never thought to apply this adage to the hangover, but in retrospect, I have to wonder whether a truly formidable one is a sign that one has had a healthy amount to drink, and so done oneself a good turn. To carry this thought a little further, a truly bad hangover and the effects of my first Erbitux infusion have a lot in common. I would say that they feel nearly identical. I could not differentiate one from the other except I know what I did or didn't do to get them.
It follows then, in some perverse bit of logic, that my hangover of 1991 and the more recent one caused by chemotherapy are both good for me. They are curing what ails me—no matter how much I might wish that they were not. The feelings and sensations engendered by that fateful concoction of random adult beverages was identical in every respect to the sensations caused by my initial loading dose of Erbitux.
What I mean to say is that I may easily have invented a cure for cancer all those many years ago, one as effective as the most modern of chemotherapy drugs and certainly cheaper, but, given the transience and ambivalence of an alcohol fueled thought process, I have no earthly idea how to repeat it.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A New Balance in Cross Purposes

Balancing life between survival and usefulness, malaise and creativity.

 I've had a ton of creative ideas in the past couple of days. Some to do with art I'd like to make and some to do with stories I want to write. This little spate of inspiration has done a lot to dispel some of the darker thoughts that come with battling cancer. That is a good thing.
Unfortunately, I have also been rendered nearly senseless over the past couple of days by my reaction to Erbitux, the 'mild' chemotherapy drug that is supposed to tread lightly with the side effects. I got the IV infusion on Thursday afternoon. By Thursday evening I had a headache that would fell an elephant. Then came the nausea.
The nausea wasn't actually that bad. If it had entered my consciousness unaccompanied, I would have taken some sodium bicarbonate and been done with it. No the nausea only served to remind me that the headache was born of a chemical toxicity, and it wasn't going to go away with Excedrin. Well, maybe it would have, but I can't take anything with aspirin in it because I'm having surgery to install a port on Monday, and I couldn't take anything with caffeine in it because I was having a PET scan on Friday.
I didn't sleep a wink Thursday night. I tossed and turned all night trying to find a section of pillow that did not jar my brain with its hard edges and incessant noise. I think it may be the worst I ever felt in my life.
It's Sunday afternoon now, and I still have vestiges of that headache. I don't know how long it's going to take to get entirely shed of it, but it better hurry up because I have another chemo session on Wednesday and then I have to drive to Miami on Thursday for a follow up visit with one of my surgeons. Oh, joy!
I have learned that it's no use to try executing a creative impulse when you feel like a Panzer division is rumbling through the fissures of your brain while your stomach keeps trying, unsuccessfully, to throw up a horseshoe. I just have to write stuff down and hope I can make sense of it when I feel better.
One good thing is that I'm more determined than ever to survive this disease. I'm telling you, I've come up with some good stuff, and it would be a crime against nature and a sin against all I hold sacred not to make the visions reality.