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)


Dr.COOLmac NO P.H.D said...

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