Chapter 81: “Six Months of Self-Loathing”
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This was a nightmare.
As construction began on the new dish room, we were relocated to a small section on the main floor of the kitchen in a makeshift “dish box.” There was a drain added to the flat-as-a-pancake floor beneath us, and therefore, the water just sat there. During the first week, the machine spat out gallons of water onto the floor daily, causing a mini-flood outward into the chemical/ mop bucket room.
Sure, that’s where our floor sink resided, but the problem was that the water flooded around the foot high walls of the sink and down onto the Emergency Department below us. Yeah, not a pretty sight.
Travis and I came home with drenched shoes every night, our backs aching, and minds clouded. Our spirits were lower than ever at work, but I wasn’t even happy when I would spend my free time with Veronica.
I remember spending most of my weeknights with Veronica at her apartment. We occupied our nights placating her son by watching the same two movies ad nauseam. Fortunately, the Gods smiled down upon us and gifted those two films in the form of Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Before the little guy crashed we would watch one or both of these a night. Even my suffering memory couldn’t forget each and every line after these daily viewings and soon; I began to pick apart the complexities of the computer-generated effects and the solid storytelling.
When we weren’t watching two modern classics, Veronica shared her favorite films with me. I had never seen a Hayao Miyazaki film ever in my life and she began my education with Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke. These two post-apocalyptic pieces unveiled the beauty of the human spirit and of Miyazaki’s brilliant vision. I was incredibly grateful for that.
The other film that was her new favorite was the Darren Lynn Bousman’s Rock Opera, Repo! The Genetic Opera. This was yet another post-apocalyptic tale of a world where human organ harvesting is the only way to stay prominent, and if you can’t repay, then they come for your organs. It was one of those twin movies because it came out the same year as Repo Men, which had a similar plot. But the films couldn’t be further from one another.
But if she wasn’t sharing these films or others like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, then we were playing video games and watching local television. We spent so much time sitting in front of the television, ordering out our meals almost every night together, and smoking a lot of pot.
It was just as I had feared. I was becoming more lazy and complacent in my free time, and I shuddered to think that it was all I was ever going to become. So much for my Survivor’s Guilt; I’m just going to sit on my ass all day and pay my respects to the glow of a LED light panel.
The first year I began at Eastern Maine Medical Center, my hardened boss, Phil, hosted a routine meeting for us dish room staff. He uttered one of the most poignant phrases that – while nothing original – was salient, and stuck in my mind ever since. “We spend a third of our time working, a third sleeping, and a third on whatever we want.” And with Veronica, I wasn’t giving my free time the due diligence it had truly deserved.
I was sinking into a shell of a life that I thought I eschewed in the hospital. The majority of my years on Earth were spent sitting in front of a television waiting to die. I thought of that time I was stuck in a hospital room for forty-eight days, rejoicing when I was able to touch the bark of the tree in the very same park behind my now damp prison.
The following night, I walked outside to that park and found the tree with which I shared a moment and perused for the spot of missing bark. I couldn’t find it and worse, myself anymore. The rejuvenated youth with his entire life ahead of him had taken the second seat to this lethargic lump of a human being. I tried to fight this burrowing feeling, but it began to creep into physical ailments.
My “member” had grown disinterested in Veronica’s “club” and what’s worse is he stopped paying his dues. He was dangerously close to being cut off for good. Whew, that last part of the metaphor does NOT translate well.
Veronica and I went to the Urologist, and there I was treated for this issue. I feared that I would never be properly excited again. I was prescribed some Viagra, but it wasn’t working. And yet, that voice in the back of my mind knew why and he was right, “You aren’t feeling THIS life anymore.
I had just passed five years of being cancer-free life, the benchmark that all of the nurses and doctors told me I would need to cross in order to breathe easy. I had always known I had this disease beaten, but I didn’t think how long it had been until I was reminded from Lori, my foster mother. But was THIS the life I should be leading in this moment? What would have happened if I didn’t make it to five years and this was all I had to show for it? I was profoundly saddened by this reflection.
Maybe Veronica sensed that inner turmoil for she grew distant and had begun spending some nights at her ex’s place “for her son.” Jealousy irradiated through my veins, and it wasn’t long before this whole thing came crashing down.
I had no proof that she had, but I couldn’t help but shake the thought that she had cheated on me with her baby daddy. I pushed that thought out of my mind because I knew that she loved me. Right? Shortly after our six-month anniversary, she came to see me at my apartment. She handed over her badge and broke up with me. She asked me to give it to the hospital and tell them that she had quit. She wasn’t coming back to work, either.
Even in my lowest of lows, I was still hurt by this decision. I pleaded for Veronica to reconsider, but her mind was made up. She was set to move back with her Baby Daddy to be a “family” for her son.
I walked the half-mile to work – which had felt like five miles – and approached Deirdre as she checked the supper line. With tears in my eyes, I slid the badge over to her and said “Veronica quit. And broke up with me.” Deirdre couldn’t believe it either. In fact, Veronica cut ties with everyone at work and stopped talking to anyone connected to the hospital or me. It’s like all of her friendships that she had made over the past year had meant nothing.
Later that night, Mike, Petra, Matt, and Deirdre along with her on again, off again boyfriend from work, Stan, took me out for drinks at Paddy Murphy’s to help me cope. It was an amazing gesture that made me felt loved again. They bought me a Guinness and as we talked (and I vented), I didn’t realize that as my beer emptied another full stout took its place. Before too long, I caught on, and we were five pints deep. As my inebriation strengthened, I began to reveal some very-delayed deductions to Deirdre as her boyfriend got another pint. “When I first started, you liked me, didn’t you?”
Her mouth opened in shock. “So you did know!”
“Well, I’m afraid that it admittedly, took me a while. And you liked me when we all danced that night, too, didn’t you?”
She looked back again to her boyfriend, who was dangerously close. “Yes, but that was when Stan and I weren’t together. Can you please shut up now?”
I relished in her playful agony; I was, after all, getting pretty drunk and had nothing to lose now. Later that night we all hung out at Matt and Petra’s and then, I was driven home.
I didn’t expect heartbreak this severe in the breakup, but love has a funny way of toying with the mind. In hindsight, they weren’t the best months of my life– in fact, they were some of the worst –but I had learned a great deal about how I perceived “love.” I needed to take a step back and reassess my perspective on things. No longer was I going to be the one to chase girls in the schoolyard or write love letters.
One of the most inspiring things to come out of this was when a few weeks later, I was arranging a pick up of the rest of my stuff at Veronica’s apartment. She was packing up and moving back into her ex’s house. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was walking back from work on my cell phone walking past Papa Gambino’s and she told me what I had needed to hear in that moment: “I wish nothing but the best for you. I hope to see your name in the credits of a movie one day.”
I had decided right then and there to achieve that feat, at first to spite her, then later, to prove it to myself.
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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