Chapter 4: Media Madness
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Eventually everyone had to get back to his or her job (or in my brother’s case: high school), and the fervor died down. It was back to my Mom and Stepdad for the most part, as it was the majority of the weekdays. At any rate, it was amazing to consistently have family there when able, for their company made the harder days just that much easier.
A few days into my chemo, I had expected my hair to hop off of my head like rats off of a sinking ship, but surprisingly these follicles were holding strong. Every morning I’d take a shower, and every morning there was maybe a few, but nothing more than a normal Monday. Will I even lose my hair? Maybe I have some rare resistance to the popular side effect– a key within my DNA! Perhaps not.
When I wasn’t organizing a hair loss pool, I’d often look out of the lone window in the room 851. My view consisted entirely of the front entrance to the hospital, so regarding excitement, it was surely lacking. But I would often fixate on the smaller things. Every individual visitor would saunter in with shorts or summer dresses; sun hats and sunglasses, and lots of sweat. The weather was still sweltering hot in late August, and as much as I’m not a heat person, I missed it dearly. Especially swimming. Oh God, did I miss swimming.
I frequently wondered what these folks would miss if they were in my position. Would they miss mundane chores like grocery shopping, or (heaven forbid) paying bills? Maybe they would yearn to be behind the wheel of a sports car. Or would they miss smoking and try to sneak a cigarette out of this window right now like my uncle did once in the hospital up north?
What I found that I missed the most was nature. I’d stare at the center partition of which incoming cars would circle, each full of people eager to give their keys to a stranger commonly referred to as a “valet.” No, past them, there in the middle, lied a patch of bright green grass and a beautiful tree that every single person would ignore. So what, it’s just grass and another tree? We are in Maine after all… To me, it was all I could think about. I would love to rip out the tubes from my IV and Port, leave a trail of blood and saline, run out there, and literally hug that tree.
Then, of course, I’d often wonder what these people would long for in my position. Would they crave conversation with a stranger? Ice cream cones? Swimming? Wait, didn’t I already think of this? Oh hey, am I high again?
Yes. Then ice cream it is. I hit the nurse button.
The days that followed began to hit me harder– my energy levels were depleting exponentially. I slept quite often, napping several times a day.
But there were exceptions. I’d always be awake for lunch and supper. And no, not for breakfast because why get up early when you have nothing to do but sleep? I would, however, be up for the daily dose of The Price is Right, because it was ritualistic. Every time I’d be home at eleven A.M. on a weekday, this would be on (broken wrist or not). And similarly, for every evening, I’d make a point to be awake for another of the family’s favorite game shows: Wheel of Fortune. My Mom and I would constantly battle against one another, each trying to solve that puzzle first. She would always lose. Well okay, I’d say that, but it wouldn’t be honest. She was a tough one to beat.
I began to create some security on a schedule. These touch points throughout the day allowed me some control over my situation and in those early days, any control over anything gave me some confidence that I’d be able to beat the unbeatable. No, I’m not talking Cancer. I’m talking boredom. Yes, boredom. Look, I knew I had my cancer in the bag; all I had to do was do exactly what I was told for treatments, let the chemo beat me within an inch of my life, and this whole thing would blow over.
As part of that schedule, I’d try to play pool as often as I could, yet my Mom wasn’t that interested in the sport, so my Stepdad Gary would play a mean game from time to time. But when they weren’t able to, I’d coerce every visitor I had into playing by challenging them to a game. I would shit-talk until they couldn’t say no. I mean, no one would say no to a cancer patient anyway, right? Especially if it made them happy.
Boy, that sounds wrong– I would never use my misfortune for personal gain– …Well not drastically.
Television was my best option on most days so naturally, I spent way too much time watching the blasted picture box. But there was a massive issue with this: at the time, EMMC only had about fifteen channels. The cable channels- NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and PBS; CNN, Fox News, The Weather Channel, ABC Family Channel, QVC, and little else. It was unbearable. I did find some things on TV that excited me though. Strangely enough, I did get into the daily news circuit for a while. I’d spend most of my meals watching CNN.
What’s more, the biggest television “event” that really excited me for some bizarre reason was the fact that the local CBS affiliate, WABI TV 5, was all that I wanted to watch for local news. Growing up in Northern Maine, we had WAGM TV 8 for our CBS offshoot. But the other two, WLBZ 2 NBC and WVII 7 ABC were old hat to me, as we too carried them up home. It was as though I was sneaking a forbidden channel that no other Northern Mainer could watch and it was in those few days that had I become a die-hard WABI TV 5 fan and faithfully watched their news every day.
Still, even if I had the best television imaginable, the afternoon options were the lightest. As a rare upside, I would be able to get a few episodes of Becker in though right after The Price is Right. Any sort of comedy show helped brighten my mood, even if most of the time I didn’t feel terrible. But I wasn’t feeling bad enough to get into Soap Operas…
As for my other childhood activity, video games, well let’s just say that for the first week, I was in heaven. I’m able to play video games all day! How cool is that?! Earlier that past weekend I had my brother bring our copy of Dark Cloud 2 for the Playstation 2, and since I was able to borrow Grant 8’s system, it was all I could ever need. Or so I thought.
Prior to the admittance, I had spent hundreds of hours playing both games in the Dark Cloud series. More time than I should have on the second installment for while my Brother and I each had a save file of our own, he would occasionally save over mine causing me to lose hours of progress in each session. I would get insanely mad, more so than a reasonable person should. Needless to say, I ended up restarting that game over and over, maybe around six times.
The most recent attempt had been this time in the hospital, and I grew extremely bored of it. Video games weren’t cutting it anymore and that was a bittersweet realization. Maybe I’m growing out of them.
Sadly, I never kept a journal or got into reading. Normally for me to read a book and to truly immerse myself in it, it would have to have been of the sci-fi ilk, and the thought of trying new books (beginning a long read, only to find that I didn’t like it), was frightening as I was an excruciatingly slow reader.
If I had been interested in reading, then what happened next could have been a major life changer at that moment; only I had no clue by how much.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.
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