Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Booger

Cyclist blowing snot rocketThere were four of us playing Texas Hold 'em in C-Smoke's basement. I could feel a wet mass in my left nostril, but we just started playing and I didn't want to get up to blow my nose. There's a very cool way some athletes shoot boogers out of their noses, which are then called snot rockets. I've seen it on TV and decided I'd try it out. Usually, the rocket is shot from the nostril onto the ground, but we were indoors, so I had to shoot it in my palm.

While C-Smoke was shuffling the deck, I closed off my right nostril and blew hard into my left hand. The process would have been a success—except the booger missed my left hand and flew through the air like a missile. I couldn't see where it landed and hoped nobody saw what happened.

Then, everyone started laughing because they knew exactly what happened. It was gross—I knew it, they knew it. I continued searching for my booger, but I was laughing so hard I could barely focus. Suddenly, I found the slimy creature.

"You know, this is funny and everything," C-Smoke said, "but could you please take this thing off me?"

The huge booger landed on his blue shirt.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Teeter Totter of Life (Part II of II)

Read this first: Teeter Totter of Life (Part I of II)

When I finished my first chemo cycle I called a friend from my hospital room. She was having people over and I wanted to share my joy that chemo wasn’t all that bad. The superhotty, Orange, answered the phone and asked how I was.

“I’m doing fine,” I said.

“That’s great. Do you want to talk to Zeke?”


I spoke to Zeke and a few others. They were just living their normal lives and I was living what had become mine. Getting out of the gossip loop was inevitable, considering I missed so many days of school. One of my best friends, HollaAtYoBoy, got a new girlfriend and I didn’t meet her for a month. I was spending much more time with my new "friends": my doctors, nurses and other patients. My primary nurse, Laughy, was one of my favorites. She enjoyed teasing me for being so quiet and always greeting her with a simple “hey” in my deepest voice.

I refused to hold my old friends back or complain about anything. I never said, “I’m not feeling well, come over to my house,” or “I just need someone to talk to.” Simply bringing up the subject of my troubles, mentioning it, was an act of complaining, to me. That’s a philosophy I continue to live by.

Looking back, I don’t know if I was fooling myself into thinking that certain normal human emotions and behaviors didn’t apply to me. I also don’t know that my never mentioning cancer allowed others to misinterpret what my days were like, how important milestones were, or cancer itself. But certainly that outlook aided in my feeling of invincibility. All those other cancer pussies complained about how hard it was, but I never once did, and often didn’t even think cancer was that difficult. I was better than the other patients, better than everyone, better than humankind. I was Superman.

My boycott on complaining didn’t diminish when cancer ended—actually, it became stricter. I created the ill-worded “no pussy rule” in which complaining was a sin.

My school status changed. Whereas in the past I went relatively unnoticed, now people sought me out to discuss the Redskins or wrestling. I even got asked out to homecoming. Are you asking out of pity?

Sports kept my life steady. I watched every televised NFL game and critiqued all the Redskins games, just like normal. The NFL season kept life moving, like each NFL week equaled one more cancer week I could cross off the list. No matter what went into or happened to me, I could count on football weekends.

I watched a great playoff baseball game between the New York Mets and the San Francisco Giants. In 13 innings the Mets won 3-2. After watching that game I realized everything was going to be okay; I was going to be alright. Even the stress-induced acne that had broken out across my upper body disappeared. Who would’ve thought a baseball game between two teams I don’t care about would have such an impact?

I was restricted physically, and substituted television and video games for playing backyard football. When I was aware of a neighborhood football game being played I almost didn’t want to hear about it.

I had my restaging scans after several weeks to gauge my tumor. It shrunk, as I expected. My teeter totter of life tipped back to my side a little bit, which unfortunately doesn’t happen for everybody. I had trouble understanding how some people could receive chemotherapy and it didn’t kill the cancer. I also struggled with the idea that not everybody expects perfect results. Do they actually acknowledge the possibility of death?

Continue reading "My Cancer Story": Welcome to the Good Life (Part I of II)

Leia Mais…

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Teeter Totter of Life (Part I of II)

Continued from "My Cancer Story": The Golden Age (Part III of III)
Read "My Cancer Story" from the beginning: The Golden Age (Part I of III)

I climbed on the table in front of the large CT scanner. That three-minute scan of my lungs would shift my teeter totter of life. No spot, I’d probably live. A spot and I’d probably die. Simple statistical probability. I’d later learn of the anxiety my parents and close relatives felt before the excellent results. At the time I didn’t even know what a CT scan was, let alone the significance of those three minutes.

The CT scan was just one of the 18 tests I underwent before treatment began—measuring everything except the size of my dick. There were two reasons for all those tests: to make sure I was healthy enough for what was to come, and to set a baseline for the rest of my life. It was expected that the future results of those tests would worsen from the treatment, some of them immediately. I was only sixteen and my health had supposedly climaxed.

I was barraged with information from so many doctors that I couldn’t remember all their names. I retained the important stuff: time before starting treatment, time before ending treatment, time between cycles, time I’d be fucked-up, time I’d miss school. What it really came down to was the time I’d lose my old life, and the time it would take to get it back. What they couldn’t tell me was how slow time would go, and how I could speed it up.

Another teenage cancer patient remarked that I was good-looking, which made me wonder if those days were over. I didn’t want to look like her or any of the other sick kids. But according to Cancer, it was inevitable.

At school everyone was overly kind, including friends who had always poked fun at me for my lack of common sense, among other things. I missed bearing the brunt of their jokes. I didn’t want to be treated differently.

The day before treatment began I was drowning, alone and helpless. I sat in the back of the car with my parents, listening on my headphones to a mix CD my brother had burned for me. I heard what immediately became one of my all-time favorite songs: "Until We Rich" by Ice Cube & Krayzie Bone. I’ll never forget two verses: “The best thing in life is health,” and, “Don’t talk about death, I got too much life to live.”

I started treatment as soon as possible because each day that passed without getting chemotherapy reduced my probability of survival. As if there was a percentage timer continuously ticking down, ten-thousandths of a percent at a time. The teeter totter of life levels off at the 50% mark, and then tips over to the other side until eventually there’s a 500-pound wrestler named Yokozuna sitting across from you.

Beginning treatment quickly was for the best, though, because one of the worst aspects cancer is fearing what’s next. Fearing the unknown. Once I’d experienced each part of the routine, I was no longer scared. It’s similar to a painful injury—once you’re used to the pain, you’re no longer bothered by it. I can live with this so long as it doesn’t worsen, you convince yourself. And when the pain does get worse, you acclimate to that and say the same thing. I suspect there’s a pain threshold that acts as a breaking point. Similarly, I suspect there’s a cancer threshold that becomes intolerable. I’ve never reached those points.

Just as I didn’t worry myself with making decisions such as which hospital to be treated at, I  didn’t agonize about exactly what was going into me. I trusted my doctors and nurses with my infusions the same way I trusted my parents to make the best hospital choice. In fact, it was my parents who constantly checked the bags of chemo to ensure all the information was correct. I was laid-back before treatment and would remain that way. Cancer isn’t going to change me.

Keep reading: Teeter Totter of Life (Part II of II)

Leia Mais…

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For a Good Year, 5768

Seven years ago this Friday afternoon, I learned of my tumor. I have a difficult time believing it has been that long. I remember the day, the whole year for that matter, like it was yesterday. Time has gone by so quickly that in some respects I still see it as the year 2000, still see myself as 16.

Exactly one year later, give or take 20 minutes, I finished treatment and became cancer-free. As I wrote in Happy Birthday, Bone Marrow, some cancer survivors celebrate the diagnosis, but I celebrate the freedom. And even though last year was my fifth anniversary of being cancer-free from my first cancer, or what is commonly known as CURED, I will always celebrate.

Coincidentally, the holiday Rosh Hashanah, which marks the Jewish New Year, occurs around the same time. Because of that, this time of year marks new beginnings for me. A new football season has arrived. A new autumn is approaching. A new year is marked on the Jewish calendar. And a new year of cancer freedom will begin.

I toast this New Year with continued freedom for myself and others, as well as new freedom for some. After all, the best thing in life is health.

Leia Mais…

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hail to the Redskins

Washington Redskins symbolTonight kicks off the 2007 NFL season, and I couldn't be more thrilled. I've been a huge fan my entire life. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch next to my dad watching a game.

In honor of tonight I'd like to make my Super Bowl picks. Anyone who has ever been around Redskins Nation knows two things: we have the best fans in all of American sports, and we always pick the Redskins to win the Super Bowl. Generally speaking, they've sucked for about 15 years, so usually it's a joke when we pick them. However, last year they were coming off a solid playoff season, and I legitimately picked them. But, they let us all down, going back to their stinky ways with a 5-11 record.

As a joke, like most seasons, I will pick the Redskins to win the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots.

Super Bowl pick #2: Patriots over the New Orleans Saints

Leia Mais…

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Top Secret Classified

When I finished writing I've Still Got Both My Nuts: A True Cancer Story, I printed it out and gave it to my friend, PingPongGirl, to edit. I also printed a cover page that read, "For PingPongGirl's Eyes Only." It was meant to be a joke, but she thought it was serious. Whenever another student walked by while she was editing at one of UVA's libraries, she would quickly cover it up like it was Level 3 Top Secret. "I wouldn't even let people see the title," she told me.

After my book gets published, I told PingPongGirl if she ever wanted a real job as an editor then I would write her a letter of recommendation. Of course, she'd still have to edit it.

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