Monday, October 13, 2008

So Far Away (Part II of III)

Read this first: So Far Away (Part I of III)

I had looked down on other patients throughout my first cancer, either thinking they were inferior humans or I was superhuman. For self-serving reasons I had normally chosen the latter. Now, five months after my transplant, 16-year-old Ben could look down on 19-year-old Ben with contempt. I was pathetic, barely able to eat or drink.

It was difficult looking in the mirror after showering. The people I most looked up to were professional athletes, often with large, well-defined muscles, like 6'4", 250-pound Redskins defensive end Andre Carter who supposedly has 4% body fat. I looked closer to a prepubescent girl.

My salivary glands stopped working. I ate slowly before, but now I broke records. I chewed each bite until the food was mush in order to swallow. I tried gum, mouthwash and spray, but none helped. I should’ve gargled with triamcinolone.

At the dental clinic where I expected to receive a lip biopsy, the dentist just looked in my mouth and said I had oral damage due to chemotherapy which “may go away.” My doctor later told me I didn’t get a lip biopsy because I “refused for fear of too much pain.” Hey Doc: How about I saw off your left hip, poison you with chemo and radiation, make you vomit over 100 times, biopsy your bone marrow 13 times, and then see if you’re too scared for a cut lip. He must’ve misheard me.

If I swallowed food or a pill incorrectly, I puked. I would know I erred as soon as it went down and would rush for a bucket. I was too weak and the nausea came on too fast to reach the toilet.

I received a brain MRI, lying motionless with my head secured, trapped in a loud, tight cylinder for 45 minutes. A tiny mirror displayed the room outside the cylinder. If it had been an fMRI then the radiologist would’ve seen significant left-brained activity in the form of “get me the fuck out of here.”

I developed the shingles. At least this time the rash wasn’t down south. I saved the body cavity searches for later.

My brain turned to “mush” as Arrogance called it. I’m just glad my one online class was from community college and not my alma mater, the University of Virginia. I struggled enough at UVA with a working brain.

My eyes watered all day long, pooling in the bottom of my eyelids until overflowing, first saturating my unnaturally long eyelashes until finally streaming down my cheeks. As a non-crier I felt the need to prove the salty discharge was not on my accord, like I was guilty until proven innocent.

I saw an ophthalmologist at the hospital’s eye clinic. After JD and I waited three hours to see him, the rushed doctor said I had pink eye, a cop-out. Days later, Arrogance called and said I needed to come back and see the ophthalmologist again. Instead I chose to see a local ophthalmologist, who gave the same bullshit answer, but saved over four hours of my and JD’s time.

Arrogance lectured me on how big a mistake it was, that my health was not something to screw around with. Well, I was tired of screwing around with her and her colleagues, and left that hospital for a closer cancer clinic.

Keep reading: So Far Away (Part III of III)