Friday, October 17, 2008

So Far Away (Part III of III)

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

The hospital I left behind had successfully treated me for my first cancer, and without hesitation, took me in when I got home from Minnesota. The hospital was directly associated with my cancer, one of the most important events of my life, making it an equally important location to me, both materially and ideally. It consumed my time, and not just hours or days, but months. And not just a dot on the life span of the universe, or on one of the life spans of one of the universes, but the aging of my self. The hospital brought me closer to life in the form of cancer freedom and closer to death by taking a portion of my aggregate heartbeats. The hospital was like a living organism, not a friend or enemy, but a life-form containing elements of each.

The hospital’s friendly employees welcomed me, whereas its dreadful food turned me away. So many cancer people spent their time at the hospital. They were Sick unlike me even though we shared the same kind of illness and appearance. The hospital made them that way, or at least that’s how it seemed. The hallways and elevators escorted us from one inhuman place to another with the ultimate intention of freeing us from disease, all the while mercilessly punishing us. The machines beeped and buzzed in a foreign language I grew to understand. The rooms, structures, and some of the staff lacked human traits like empathy and transposed them onto some of us cancer people. That helped me feel like Superman, or be Superman, or which is it again?

The hospital helped make me that way by fostering an atmosphere where that feeling could grow, which created a code that I lived by, like “the Code of Harry” in one of my favorite shows, Dexter:

  • Survive
  • Don’t cry
  • Don’t complain
  • Don’t show pain
  • Don’t question your ability to survive
  • Don’t question your superiority
  • Think of cancer as normal
  • Don’t let cancer make you sad or jealous
Few other places or entities were as critical to my growth as that hospital. My faith in the code, like Dexter and his, was shaken, which was the reason I permitted myself to leave the hospital. I was so broken that I had to question some of the rules.

I didn’t leave on bad terms. Some of the people there are special to me. Favorable or not, I will always remember the hospital as vividly as anything else. Of course, Arrogance I can do without.

Leaving the hospital didn’t make me well because it wasn’t the hospital that broke me. While lying on the couch I felt acute pain in my abdomen, near my liver. The pain spread to my back, pulsing. If nothing else it gave me good reason to take my favorite medicine, oxycodone.

The pain was from my gallbladder, which was full of stones and sludge. Gallstone attacks like I had commonly occur about 12 hours after eating fatty food. If I ate a Cinnabon I’d probably die. Cinnabon can kill a healthy person in less than a day.

My doctor from the new cancer clinic, Dr. P, remembers well the first day we met. She insisted I lie down while my parents and I spoke to her for about an hour. “We should’ve taken a picture of you to compare,” Dr. P says whenever I see her nowadays. “You looked like a different person.” Now, I’m somewhere between a prepubescent girl and Andre Carter.

When every organ seemed to be deteriorating, and every muscle atrophying, and my life generally slipping away, I got well. It wasn’t oxycodone or valium, or an experimental treatment, or an invasive procedure, but the simple steroid, prednisone, that gave me my life force back.

I wasn’t supposed to get into that much trouble. Sixteen-year-old Ben would’ve gotten well after his transplant months before nineteen-year-old Ben did. It would seem that Superman was dead and gone, leaving simple Ben, capeless. That thought was as sad as my physical appearance.

I didn’t use the term “Superman” as a joke or to brag or describe my strengths. It was my strengths that led me to believe I was Superman because there was no other term worthy. I used it to describe what was extraordinary about me, the superhuman Ben, or maybe the inhuman Ben. Unlike my cancer-ridden left ilium, Superman was my one thing that couldn’t be taken away.

Like the code I continue to uphold, my faith in Superman remained. My invisible cape is still tied around my neck. Until I die, no matter how it seems I should feel about Superman, it will be a part of me, if nothing other than a remnant, like a single cancer cell that can’t be killed, waiting for its time to flourish again.

Continue reading "My Cancer Story": I Am a Cancer Survivor (Part I of IV)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dexter is the Shit!!!
Great comparison of the Code of Harry

PSI Staff said...

You are one tough individual! Cancer has got nothing on you!

Anonymous said...

I wish they had internet in 1990 when I battled leukemia for the first time. I've been ill again lately and scared as hell that it's going to hit me again. You are very brave and scared at the same time when you battle cancer. Best wishes you you always!

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Al Gore invented the internet...at least according to Al Gore.

Anonymous said...

al gore never claimed to invent the internet. he invented internet porn. that kiss with tipper still haunts my dreams, by the way.