Friday, December 30, 2011

Can't Buy Me Love

There's nothing like cancer for when you're feeling low about yourself. Your body is trying to put you in a shitty mood daily. It's only natural that at some point, you look at your life and say "Well shit, I am almost thirty, totally broke and unsuccessful. And I somehow managed to get cancer. Like I sat on the wrong toilet seat, or smoked the wrong cigarette, or stood too close to the wrong microwave, or drank out of the wrong water bottle, or who even knows what the fuck."

But the odd thing is cancer has made something very clear to me that was not before. I have not completely fucked up my life. If I had, I would be like "Shit, I have cancer" and literally no one would care. Instead, all kinds of people are trying to help me and letting me know they give a damn. In terms of investment and return, it sort of seems like I've been making some good choices.

Like, metaphorically.

Obviously not with real money.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

D. B. Sweeney

So when they tell you your hair is going to thin, what they mean is that you are lucky: rather than have all your hair fall out at once, you are just going to shed like a husky in the springtime. If you are blessed with locks as thick and luscious as mine, you can keep up the appearance of health for a while, maybe even for the entirety of your treatment. Watching my hair fall out a little every day: another piece of cancer good news. Fortunately my friends understand actual good news, so I have some. With my awesome new iPad I can read Buffy comics or play games or do crosswords, not to mention chat and update my blog, all from the waiting room! On one device. I would absolutely shave my head for nice things so I call it a win. Merry Christmas, however: my washing machine just broke. My awesome new iPad doesn't wash underpants! There is no app for that. My life is a circus of strange luck lately.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Burying the Lead

Like clockwork I got really bad muscle pains a week after my infusion in the arm where the chemo was injected -- THE FIRST TIME. Obviously not the last time, they used the port! Half the reason for getting that thing was so I wouldn't have arm pains but apparently my arm remembers and is STILL MAD.

My oncologist's proposed solution: an Oxycodone prescription. Yeeeaaap. Now I do hard drugs.

The strips are off my port surgery incisions and that area of my chest is looking mighty manly. Not in terms of muscles, obv, but like I went through some tough shit. The stories scars tell excludes the part where they give you nice happy sleepy drugs the entire time real shit is going down. All they say is "Where are your chest scars, pussy?"

I had a beer and I did not explode. The weird alcohol pain is gone, so drinking is on. Phew, now I'm interesting enough to be a character from Mad Men.

Though I can't drink often and never a whole lot. So thankfully I baked some brownies that are MAGIC! Get it? With the cancer?

Pop culture tells me that me and my cancer are much more interesting if I'm drinking and doing drugs.

The brownies' secret ingredient is TLC. Yes, first I steeped and simmered both tender love and care into some butter until all the TLC was extracted. Then I used that butter to make the brownies.

You really feel the love working on you, and the care. But it takes like an hour.

It's a mellow, subtle feeling that's not too crazy. To quote Raymond Carver, these are brownies you can reason with.

Oh, it would be nice to get a little of that Chinese Food Effect: food that makes you want more food.

In other news, my hair is starting to fall out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Hey, I got the results of my sperm test back!

Only problems are that 1, I don't know what any of these numbers mean and I currently have no doctor to explain them to me, and 2, thanks to the medical community's innovating use of fax technologies, there is a key spec on this report that might or might not be a decimal point.

My concentration (commonly referred to incorrectly as the "sperm count") is either 7.3 million per cubic centimeter (which is equal to a milliliter, turns out) or 73 million. Average is apparently somewhere between 20-40 million.

It's a small spec. I might have A LOT OF SPERMS.

Average motility is 60%. Mine is 59%, but estimated at closer to 35% after unfreezing.

Dr. Wikipedia helped me make sense of these results, so the fact that I have lots of super sperm is now confirmed with absolutely no doubt.

At least, I think the long and short of it is that if I need some sperm at some point, I got some. Also if you need some, let me know.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In-Between Days

I spent the last night of my In-Between Days (yep, there it is, title of my cancer memoir, nailed it!) taking second place with my awesome pub trivia team. Tied for first then lost the tie-breaker, but hey, at least dinner (Last Supper) was free.

Cheeseburgers, see you in a week. Although this smoothy I made is phenomenal. Sorry cancer advisers! I am eating foods that taste good. I know that's against the rules.

The in-between days sort of made me forget how much it sucks to feel full and a little nauseated and tired and like lights are really bright. Now I'm back in it, chemo round 2, what is there to say? Nothing.

So I will just post some pictures of the journey thus far. Many were snapped hastily in hospitals with cheap cell phone cameras, so as photojournalism goes, probably not going to blow your socks off.

Ultrasound of the neck lump, back when no one knew what was wrong with me. Correction: back when no one knew what was wrong with me except all my doctors, who were like "shit, this kid totally has cancer but I can't actually tell him that until we get decent biopsy results."

Biopsy #2 when it was still stripped and purple from the surgeon's pen. Now it's a neat scar, I like to tell people I got into a knife fight. With cancer.

Two days after the port placement surgery. Suture stripped and still plenty of bruising -- see how the blood followed the line of the bandage that was on it? Science! You can see the port poking out like a third, evil nipple.

Chemo round 2, through the port. That bib matches the intense butcher's apron thing the oncology nurse wears, in case of any unlikely spill. Chemo drugs are super toxic! Wouldn't want to get them on your shirt or skin or you know COURSING THROUGH YOUR BODY.

That second-to-last shot has Facebook profile pic written all over it.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Another conscious sedation surgery. There's a metaphor there somewhere: sleeping while awake. Or maybe in the new device that lives so close to my heart: an easier way in that seems to make me more fragile than ever.

The surgeon who put it in told me to manage any minor discomfort with over-the-counter acetaminophen. He didn't expect that I would spend the weekend worrying something was wrong, feeling like I got shot with a stupid little plastic bullet.

Friday after the surgery I slept for a few hours, and while I was dreaming some dreams my girlfriend slipped out to meet up with some friends. I was invited to this party, too, but naturally didn't feel up to going. I woke up and moped around the apartment in my pajamas until almost midnight, when I received a text:

"Heading to Banshee. Everyone would love to see you if you're feeling up to it."

I guess I'm proud to say I spent the morning on an operating table with my chest cut open, but at midnight, sore and bandaged, I winced my way to my favorite local pub and danced a jig with some drunk friends who did, in fact, seem very happy to see me.

I think we all felt the same: there's still dancing with cancer. You cut some losses but you don't let anything stop you.

I don't always go to bed early and sick. I don't always lie on the sofa nursing my wounds.

Positivity ranks low in my list of traits (seriously, I took a personality test that confirmed this), but stubbornness ranks really fucking high. So I won't beat cancer with happy thoughts. But I refuse to stop jigging until I am dead.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Talked it over with the doc, and have decided (because of arm soreness in addition to trouble getting a good IV going) to get the port.

The surgery is scheduled for Black Friday. Won't all the oncology nurses be so thankful!

Or: just want I wanted for Christmas! To be part bionic. This stupid thing doesn't even let me know kung fu or haxs0r ATMs or turn invisible. Laaaame.

Have a great holiday everybody. I'm thankful for all of you and your pretty faces.

Monday, November 21, 2011

60 Days

5 days of feeling like shit times 12 chemo treatments. By my math it's going to be a long winter.

That's not even accounting for the in-between days, which I don't know much about yet. Technically today is one, but here I am home from work with an upset stomach after a night of no sleep. Math was never my strong suit.

The meds manage the nausea, but I need to manage the meds better. Anti-nausea meds aren't going to get me to eat. I've lost ten pounds already, which is pretty sweet, but I'm sort of at my target weight now and we've only just begun.

The docs told me that both the chemo drugs and the anti-nausea meds would make me constipated. Man they were not lying. They weren't even cautiously suggesting a possibility. I need to get out in front of that better next time with more fluids and laxatives.

I need medicine to help with the side effects of the the medicine I need to help with the side effects of the medicine I need.

Days of forcing down small amounts of food with no appetite followed by days of trying way too hard to get it out again. Chemo has shrunk my world down to worrying about eating and shitting, eating and shitting.

I dream about food. I want to be hungry. I want to want a cheeseburger.

Really it's more like 168 days left. I'm glad I already don't like thinking about the future.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Hm, what to say about chemo?

I had to be at the hospital by 7:15, which is at least 45 minutes before my bare minimum get-out-of-bed time. Hopefully won't have to do this schedule every time, because it is worse than cancer.

They draw blood and then I see my doctor (only not today, I saw some other doctor because he wasn't in.)

Infusion is scheduled at 9. Probably got going by like 11. It doesn't take THAT long to get the infusion (almost 2 hours), but there's just a lot of down time unfortunately, which doubled the time I was actually in the chair. I get my own little TV with its own DVD player, so that's good. I brought Steppenwolf which I've been reading and some games we didn't get to this time.

My chemo drugs are ABVD. If you want to know more about that, I hear that google website is pretty good.

Literally every oncology nurse I spoke to recommended I get a port-a-cath, a device that is surgically implanted into my chest with vein access to make needling into me super easy. I think they have a deal with the manufacturer or something. It took three of them to get a good IV going (that means 4 needle sticks yesterday -- you see what I mean? It's a conspiracy.) I might well do it, too, because I have at least 11 more infusions (and they draw blood before each one).

I've been prescribed three meds for nausea, the most potent being this stuff called Zofran. It's the A-level 'get out in front of the nausea' drug. They made me take a bunch of it before the infusion (with  a bunch of another one, Decadron or something like that).

Nausea during infusion = none. In the middle of it I had a chicken salad sandwich and soup. All good. My pee turned primrose. No, more of a salmon.

The nurse told me "take another Zofran before you go to bed, and then when you wake up and then stick to the schedule of one every 8 hours for the next two days." This is the plan my oncologist has devised to minimalize the possibility of ever even feeling nauseated. Hey, doc, how do you make God laugh?

By 6pm I am queasy. 7:30pm it is Pukey McZofrantime. (Maybe they just thought I go to bed at 6:45). No actual vomiting, but a feeling I would like to avoid ever again.

I popped one of the B-nausea meds (Compazine) with it to be on the safe side, and took a C before bed (because C is Ativan, also good for chilling out and for sleepies). The meds do help a lot. They also are supposed to make me like debilitatingly constipated. Hooray for modern medicine!

Took a Zofran when I woke up and actually I am feeling ok. Not hungry but ok. I might need a Class D anti-nausea medication. Winky face.

So that's what chemo is like everybody! After almost 6 hours in the hospital you come home to sit around in your pajamas watching TV, feeling kind of tired, waiting for intense nausea to set in with a pile of drugs never far from you in desperate hopes to keep it at bay! In a month, I can add 'watching my hair closely to see how much falls out' to that list.

This is one of those reassuring 'it could be worse' moments, I can just feel it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A lot of people have been asking me (literally no one), so due to popular demand (seriously, you should probably stop reading) I thought I would let you all know that I did bank my sperm, and (relative of course to only my experience at the one place where I went) here's what I have to say about it:

1. You get 8 magazines and a TV playing a porno that has no sound. You can't choose or change it, rewind or fast forward.

2. "The cup is larger for you convenience. We do not need you to fill it." Expected this, still could have used a bigger cup. What can I say, I'm a well-endowed man with terrible, terrible aim.

2.5. "Most samples barely cover the bottom of the cup." It's pretty intense, the expectations management these assistants have to go through to make sure we're not all utterly emasculated by this process. The crazy thing about it is that it probably IS necessary for many men, who define the norm not by what their body regularly does but by what porn star freaks (and sometimes special effects) can achieve. I would like to state, for the record, that barely covering the bottom of the cup is still somehow in my case "11 vials." My fee covers storage of up to 36. I have no idea what any of that means. Whatever! *chest pound* 11 vials bitches!

3. The facility consists of a reception area and then the lab. Off of the lab are two rooms for "producing specimens." There is no sound-proofing of any kind. The entire time I 'produced my specimen' I listened to two young lady nurses (better? worse?) talk about the TV show Ever After (or something like that, if that is in fact a TV show). Thankfully I do not require primal grunts or triumphant yells of "SHHHHhhhia LaBeouf!" to conduct this business, as that may have increased the awkwardness.

4. If any of this sounds sexy, it is not. It is mostly creepy and uncomfortable. Perfectly sexy to fantasize about LATER, after the fact, but while actually doing it in what is essentially a doctor's office in a room where other, strange men masturbate all day long listening to strangers listening to you is, for me at the very least, about as unsexy as things can get without old men and/or family members being present.

5. I was told that if I did miss the cup at all, I should let them know. Thankfully I did not.*

6. Lubricants (even saliva) interfere with the sample, so to put this in gentleman's terms, I had to raw dog it. Which I never do, FOR A GOOD REASON.

7. I have been to doctors' offices where there is a little cubby for you to leave a urine sample that is picked up by someone soon after so you don't have to walk around a busy waiting room with your pee or something. No such policy here. I handed a cup full of my semen (cup full is an extreme overstatement) directly to a nurse who, thanks to my having been raised right, I probably thanked.

8. It cost me $800, but I think my insurance is going to cover it. Anyway I am ready to yell at a lot of people until they do. And my friend is a lawyer whose specialty is not, but probably should be, cases involving sperm.

9. If they didn't get what they needed, that sucks, because I start chemo tomorrow first thing in the AM.

Finally I would like to say that my interest in sex in the last few weeks has been on par with my interest in everything else, which is to say it does not exist. Cancer funk, I assume. I feel like it's on its way out, but today's trauma might have set me back, and chemo probably comes with its own funk. I should probably get some action tonight despite, since chemo sperms are like pretty toxic and I need to keep them away from my lady.

In conclusion, thanks cancer, for making even sex and masturbation kind of suck.

*Let them know.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Diagnosis Day!

Friday I met with my oncologist, who is pretty awesome and named after a character on Chuck, and he told me two things: 1.) the results of my pulmonary test and echocardiogram are great despite the fact that I am so lazy and out-of-shape I have actually come down with cancer, and 2.) the biopsy and PET scan confirm that I have Stage 2 "classic" Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer infecting some lymph nodes in my neck and chest (classic Hodgkin's! man, that is so Hodgkin's, that is just what Hodgkin's would do).

My primary care physician, who is not named after any TV show characters, was impressed with the job my surgeon did at digging past the tricky, perfectly healthy lymph node that popped up as soon as he cut me open to get to the juicy cancer center. It's the reason we have this diagnosis and the reason I don't need another surgery. Also the reason I can poke some parts without feeling it, but that is getting better.

My oncologist likes to tell me statistics, many of which are helpful perspective-wise. But the weird thing is he quoted my cure stat twice as 92%. That is probably the overall stat for Stage 2 lymphoma -- if you factored for age group and maybe some other things, probably that number for me would be higher. What a weird idea, to personalize statistics.

Math is weird to think about. I'm in the less than 1% of people of who get Hodgkin's. I stand in defiance of odds, so math feels pretty meaningless to me. Will I be in that 8%? I'm not even sure what that would mean. Anyway it is a rhetorical question. I am not really thinking about statistics. I guess I am wondering about fate.

There aren't really numbers for me, just eventualities. I will get better (likely), or I won't. 8% is unlikely until it happens. Then it is still statistically normal. Not even surprising. Like flipping coins. You don't expect long runs of only heads or tails, but if you flip the fucker infinity times, it's perfectly normal when that happens and somewhere it all balances out.

It's expected that some cases go south despite a hopeful prognosis. It's built into the system. So I can say "my chances are very good" because they are. But it is just as easy to say "his chances were very good" at my funeral and math won't be broken, math won't shed a tear. Doctors and loved ones will say "some times these things happen" and maybe "God works in mysterious ways" and take comfort in the likelihood that I am in heaven (though internet tests I've taken tell me these chances are less than 50%).

Reading this you would find it hard to believe that I assume I will be fine. I do! More or less. I just have a peculiar relationship to how things happen. Become, unfold. Cancer has sort of aggravated that tendency. And I have to process being told things like "92%" somehow.

After my appointment, I met up with my folks and my mom gave me a silver cross she had blessed by her priest. For her, I think numbers offer as much strength as her belief that there are blessings and prayers around me, a divine force watching out for me. But they mean as much to me as math.

The future hasn't happened yet. When it does I'm sure we'll all have plenty to say about it. I'm working within a smaller scale of time: tomorrow I bank some sperm, and Wednesday I start chemo. Everything after that is like a tree falling in the forest, and I think it's silly to concern yourself with falling trees unless you are standing under them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Redefining Normal

Sleep's taking different shapes, tough to get a handle on it. I get tired easier but I don't sleep as well. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and change all of my clothes. Then at 5am I am itchy and restless. In the middle of the day I could easily take a nap -- unusual for me but I guess that makes me more like everyone else.

My surgeon's assistant calls in the morning to ask me if feeling has returned to the area of skin around my left clavicle. I tell her no and she repeats that I should not be concerned before asking "Are you having any trouble breathing?" Only every time the phone rings.

At work I realize I've found myself talking to someone who Doesn't Know Yet. Isn't this what gossip is for? They're wondering where I've been the last two weeks so I tell them. Free hugs is one of the best things about cancer.

Also, you know what? Never doubt yourself if you should find yourself saying "Let me know if there's anything I can do." It may feel like that meaningless thing you have to say because what else is there to say, but I do actually like to hear it. Probably because if I believe there is something you could do to help me, I would so totally ask you to do it.

I will eat up all your crackers and your licorice.

I've set up a fan at my desk to help keep my fever down. It doesn't usually climb north of 99.5.

The people I work with tell me my attitude is really great. My attitude toward cancer is pretty positive. My attitude toward working is not. Eventually I feel like they are going to notice that.

The really great people I work with ask me how the other people I work with are taking the news. One lady says to me "some people must be treating you like you've become a completely different person." Another says "you should come to work high and tell everyone you smoke to manage the nausea. Of thinking about chemo."

A lady from HR had me fill out some Leave of Absence paperwork and I started looking for that sperm bank brochure. Just another day.

No sense moping over new scars and dead skin.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Redefining Good

In my last post I mentioned 'good news' was I thing I'm getting bored of, cancerwise. Downright annoyed. And even though there is probably no way to express this without sounding whiny or ungrateful, let me try to explain what I mean. This is going to be a long post.

Good is not absolute for me anymore. It's always relative.

I mean I guess you could argue that the concept 'good' is always relative, but I think practically speaking there's plenty of stuff we can agree is good in a more 'Absolute' sense, like when someone gives you money or orgasms or free beer. Other things are only good relative to less good things. Like for example if you are seeing a doctor for cancer, that is bad. You have cancer. If the doctor is a really good one, that is good, but only due to the fact that it would be EVEN WORSE if your bad cancer was in the hands of a bad doctor.

And relative good news can actually get frustrating. Is saying "remember, it could be worse" some kind of wisdom I am supposed to be thankful for 100% of the time? Other people (let's call them Non-Cancers, or NCs) seem to have a need higher than my own to latch on to the relative good. Maybe it's because they don't know what to say (which is fair). Maybe they are scared. Maybe they think that's what "staying positive" means (it isn't). Maybe it's just awkward when someone goes "Hey, what's up, I have cancer." (Sorry 'bout that, everybody!)

[Not that anyone should feel bad for being happy to hear I'm not dying, and expressing that. There is a place for the relative good. It is, in fact, good in its own way. None of this really applies to my friends, who have been great. It's more about how for me lately 'good' is always of this relative kind -- gets to feel a bit unfair. ::shakes fist at cancer::]

I have processed the relative good news and I want to be clear: I am grateful for it. I was told I have cancer, you know? That's some pretty stomach-knotting, ball-tightening, life-changing fucking news. Then I was told: "It is treatable. Curable. You will be fine." I think at that point I was in a unique position to see how that is A GOOD THING. And feel grateful for it.

But NCs are gonna keep saying stuff like "you have the best doctors in the world, that is good news" and "your cancer is one that you can handle" and "your chemo shouldn't be as bad as it might have been because you caught your cancer early, this is wonderful!" I feel somewhat obliged to smile and say "Yes, praise Jesus!" because to do otherwise would be like saying "I do not appreciate the value of my life" or "I fail to understand the plight of the many worse off than I."

But actually, I know the value of these relative goods more than anybody! It's still my life we're talking about, and sometimes I feel like reminding people that less chemo is still chemo, you know? There's a spectrum here! Treatable cancer is better than incurable cancer, but still worse than NO CANCER (which is what you have, tradesies?). If you cling so hard to the 'good' news, you don't necessarily help me stay positive, you deny me the right to be negative. Leave a space open for the bad, a space for me to bitch about what sucks about cancer. Sometimes that's what I need.

Listen for a few minutes while I kvetch about being sweaty! And validate that it sounds craptastic. For me, venting about the bad is a part of staying positive.

In conclusion, and I can't speak for everyone, if someone tells you "I have cancer" you may think the right answer is something affirming like "I know you will be fine," but if it's me or someone as crazy as I that you're talking to, consider something more along the lines of "Eeesh, that blows a pork sausage." May put you more on the same page.

PS: I would LOVE some good news. I would straight up stab a baby seal for like one piece of honest-to-goodness news that is, for me personally, awesome. Not "good news, this excruciating surgery is over" good, not "there should be minimal scarring" good, not even "there are funds that will help you pay for all these hospital co-pays" good. Yes, all good things that have their place. But to balance the bad, I need like a real tally in the win column -- like scratch-ticket winning good, publication in a poetry journal good, snow day good.

PPS: To balance the emo quality of this post, I should point out that I do have one daily win that I am grateful for. My girlfriend putting up with my moodiness, coming to the hospital five thousand times, cooking all kinds of deliciousness, giving me backrubs and fetching me Tylenol -- she is a fierce force of awesome pretty much single-handedly kicking cancer's ass. She was good before cancer, she's great now, and she will still be good when this is in the rear-view. I'd call that a win.

Still, wouldn't mind finding a treasure map or something.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Ok the novelty has worn off. I am getting pretty bored of cancer. Here is a short list of things I am specifically bored of:

not drinking
waking up drenched in my own sweat
hospital waiting rooms
good news (this deserves its own post)
low-grade feeling like shit 24/7
manically telling everyone I have cancer
the lack of alcohol
medical examinations
back issues of Redbook
warm blankets
wet sheets
chemo anticipation


I felt particularly done with all this shit yesterday during my second biopsy, a surgical procedure for which I was wide awake. Ever lain awake on an OR table with one of your parts flapping open? Unpleasant. Also, in a repeat of Wednesday's PET scan SNAFU, ENOUGH WITH THE OVEN-WARM BLANKETS ALREADY. I run hot, especially since I usually have a small fever, and I'm super sweaty thanks to cancer. Kind nurses need to stop projecting their always-coldness on to me and creating extreme discomfort for me during these trying times.

Love to Carol, the lady who gave me the mellow surgery drugs and the cool facecloth during the procedure. Kept me in the game. Also love to codeine, since I am in an awful lot of pain. That rhymed NOM NOM PILLS

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cancering Out

My oncologist appreciated the phrase I coined (he works with cancer patients all day, can't believe no one else ever said it): cancering out. It can be good or bad, like "I am totally cancering out of work today" or "I don't want to get cancered out of my Mexican resort vacation!"

Anyway. One of the benefits of cancer is that everyone gets that it sucks, but most people (who have never had it) aren't really sure how much. So they sort of let you be like "Sorry I was late to work, I have cancer." Could be total BS, but it sounds really serious and true.

In my case it is unfortunately true and fair. Because thanks to a cancer of the immune system (which lymphoma is) and some other sciencey crap I don't care about, most days at like 9:30pm I basically come down with the flu. Aches, pains, sore throat. I start running a fever. All night I am hot and cold simultaneously and I wake up drenched in my own sweat. But it's clammy and I'm still cold. I sleep terribly.

Or else I am covered in an itchiness that comes from the inside that no amount of scratching can help. Or itchiness + flu, for laughs. Oh, and joint pain? My hands and feet and knees hurt. Sometimes I have trouble with stairs, like an oldie.

The cure? Poison for my body. Awesome.

So yea, I'm not coming in to work on time. I'm cancering out of all kinds of shit. Like whatever I can get away with! Because on the flip side I am getting cancered out of good stuff. Halloween partying? Cancered out for the most part. My favorite holiday and I couldn't even have a beer, and I was super excited that Cinderella flu didn't kick in so I could even stay until 11:30(!) although I was SO ITCHY THE WHOLE TIME.

The trips I had planned to visit friends? Nope, cancer. Plus I really *do* have a Mexican resort vacation planned for March and the threat of being cancered out of it is REAL. (Although my oncologist says I can totally go. So we'll see.)

And I can't exactly cancer out of surgery tomorrow, now can I?

Pity, party of one.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cancer Jokes

I'm all about laughter in the face of death. Or even just sickness, sadness, loneliness, whatever. It's death lurking behind all those things, isn't it? Didn't take cancer to teach me that.

I'm glad not too many people seem put off by my cancer jokes, because if I can't make light of my own shit, then fuck my 99% survival chance, I'd rather just curl up and die. Haha!

You can take my hair, but you can never take my sense of humorrrrrr. I told my girlfriend when the diagnosis was up in the air "If it's cancer I will make it the funniest cancer ever." So I'm on the hook. That's probably the worst part. I'm not very funny.

Some great cancer jokes have already helped me cope with this kind of shitty change in my life. Example: "They should make a movie about your story like 50/50, but call it 99/1."

I also got off a "Knock knock" joke:
"Who's there?"

Simple. Classic. Hilarious. All of my knock knock endings are based on the ole "Orange you glad I didn't say banana?" gem, so for good measure throw in a:
"Cancer who?"
"Cancer you glad I didn't say [worse disease]?"

Bad jokes have always been my favorite:
"Why did the lymphoma cross the node?"
"To get you to DIE."

I did also claim cancer was part of my plan to start an Occupy Heaven movement. Topical!

Or just blame a fart on cancer. Cancer farts. It could be a thing. Science!

Darnell gets the prize for offering me "a sympathy bang, only cash it in before you get all bald and cancery." That's the level I sort of need people to be at right now.

So leave me some love and maybe some cancer-related humor, it's all good. It will help with the fact that actual cancer symptoms have started kicking in so I'm feeling more like shit. And it will help Wednesday when I am at the hospital for a pulminary exam (breathing into a tube so they can make sure the chemo doesn't fuck up my lungs), a PET scan (let's really find ALL the cancer), and again Thursday for my second biopsy (this one with IV sedation and actual incision, to remove a chunk of the infected lymph node; the first was a core biopsy with a needle that just took slivers).

Wooo! Yea! Cancer dance!

Friday, October 28, 2011


Alright, enough fancy talk. LET'S GET DOWN TO BRASS TACKS.

One of the first decisions I need to make in terms of my cancer treatment is what to do with my sperm. This is not even a joke. Turns out modern day chemo still comes with a small (in my case, likely very small -- like less than 1%) chance of causing infertility.

So since I am youngish and likely to live a happy, healthy life post-cancer, and might want to make some babies in the future (girlfriend says: YES), then I might want to consider taking out some baby insurance. Which is to say: freeze some sperm now before chemo maybe kills them all forever.

This would mean jerking off into a cup at a sperm banking facility, probably twice, definitely soon. This sounds worse than chemo, and possibly grosser than dying.

Unfortunately tupperware in the back of my own freezer is not really an option. I may just roll the dice despite the fact that, as I've already tried to demonstrate, if something happens to a small percentage of people I AM PROBABLY IN THAT GROUP.

Wait, why aren't I playing the lottery?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Uncommon, Addendum

Apparently in a minority of lymphoma cases (like 5%), drinking alcohol causes pain in the lymphatic system. First: remember, something like .00003% of Americans get Hodgkin's in the first place. I don't have all the stats, if you're so damn curious google it.

Anyway, it's a rare and unusual and totally unexplained phenomenon. Really, my oncologist's face LIT UP when he found out I was one of the lucky few of the lucky few. Literally within minutes of consuming even the smallest amount of alcohol, I get pretty serious pain all up and down my back.

Turns out, hindsight being hilarious, this was actually my first symptom. Naturally I thought it was like anxiety and stress and bad posture (I have plenty of all those things and September is a rough month to work for a major university). And I only once humorously connected the pain to alcohol. At the end of the day when I am unwinding, I am also cracking open a beer -- and I figured the pain was more about stress and muscle tension and the beer was just a McGuffin or a red herring or whatever is the appropriate term. Nope, it was cancer!

Last night I tested this with some alcohol and not only did I experience the pain, but I also got a fever and felt generally cancery. Probably I should stop drinking for a while. Screw you, cancer! ::shakes fist at cancer::

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"If you've got something uncommon, best to go where the uncommon is common."

That's what the weirdly supportive stranger on the phone -- Dianne from Mass General's Lymphoma Center -- said to me before hanging up. I doubt she knew that I found the sentiment so inspiring not because I need to know I am in good hands treatment-wise -- though thank the baby Jesus I am -- but because all my life I have sought out the corners where the uncommon lurks. Where else would I belong? "Go where the uncommon is common" -- now there's a motto to live by.

And I do plan on living.

Let me back up a bit. I've just today received confirmation of a tentative diagnosis that's been beating around my head for 48 hours now: Hodgkin's lymphoma. Asterix: they aren't 100% sure it's Hodgkin's, but it probably is and anyway it's definitely cancer. So that sucks.

My friend Dr. Dave sent me a link to a blog that he said might be helpful to read: the account of a girl he knows who, like me, though young and in the bloom of health, suddenly got lymphoma. And beat it, and is fine, etc. The doctors tell me that I, too, will be fine, after some shitty (but not as shitty as you hear) rounds of chemo. And while I couldn't read this other blog (yet) because knowing too much at one time overloads my anxiety, I think writing about it myself might be a good way to process. That's what I do. I write poems, mostly, which I will maayyyyvbe post here, along with some sad cancer stories that frankly I can't imagine who would want to read.

But I have been looking for something uncommon to blog about. Howsat old Chinese curse go? "May you have an interesting life." Interesting is bad enough. Uncommon is downright scary business.