Thursday, May 28, 2009

Girls of Cancer: Miss May

Suzanne Somers

Is she best known for being on Three’s Company, Step by Step, or as the Thighmaster spokeswoman?

Step by Step was one of the sitcoms on ABC’s fantastic TGIF Friday night lineup. As a kid, TGIF was as good as it got; so long as I could stay awake until the end of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper at 10:00 pm. Family Matters was the warm-up for Boy Meets World, the best of the bunch. So what if the nearly two-minute-long opening credits were the best part of Step by Step? That, and every scene with Patrick Duffy.

Admittedly, I used to watch* syndicated episodes of Step by Step on ABC Family while eating lunch.
*last year

Suzanne Somers was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. Following surgery and radiation, Suzanne forewent chemotherapy, part of the conventional regimen, and instead chose an alternative treatment consisting of injections of Iscador, an extract of mistletoe. I was getting chemotherapy for my first cancer at the time, and thought, Suzanne Somers is committing suicide. I somewhat understood that chemotherapy can cause late effects, but at seventeen I couldn’t fathom diverging from the traditional, doctor-recommended approach to treatment, and considered anyone who did so to be quitting on life.

Fairly or not, much like sports where only the final scoreboard ultimately matters, those who choose nontraditional cancer treatment are judged by whether they survive. Fortunately for Suzanne and her millions…and millions of fans, she was right.

At age 62, Suzanne Somers’ thighs are still the masters.Suzanne Somers advertising Thighmaster

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Enough is Enough

PepperoniNip first spotted the snake next to the sidewalk. He recorded the snake slithering away, from an elevated position with an easy escape route, of course. I saw the footage. It was the largest snake I've seen not in a zoo or fucking with Samuel L. Jackson.

Around this same time we heard baby birds near the oven in the kitchen. The oven fan vent leads to a hole on the side of the house, which used to be covered. The covering was gone and a bird's nest was in its place.

One day I stopped hearing the baby birds.

The next day I sat on the deck to read The Economist. I looked up at the hole in the wall and saw a dark, coiled, glistening figure protruding out of the hole. I couldn't see a head or tail, and wasn't sure what it was until it moved.

The snake stayed there for a while. And then I checked and he was gone. I assumed he went to the grass where he could basque in the sun. PepperoniNip got up on a chair and peered in with a flashlight. The snake looked at him, his entire body inside the vent. The only thing between the snake and the house was the mesh on the oven fan above the stove.

PepperoniNip called animal control. The woman he spoke to was uncertain whether this fell in their jurisdiction. Only if the snake is inside the house, she said. "You're seriously going to wait until he falls through the mesh?" PepperoniNip said.

Somebody was sent. A female police officer showed up in an animal control van. What a great way for the county to save money. "This is just a rat snake, he's harmless," she said, holding the snake with those tong things.

"Easy for you to say—you're the one with the gun," PepperoniNip said. The officer took the snake to the woods.

A day later PepperoniNip saw the snake in the same spot as before, next to the sidewalk. Enough was enough. PepperoniNip had had it with the snake on the sidewalk. PepperoniNip drove to his favorite store, Lowe's, and bought shovels. As they say, the rest is history. Notice the baby birds digesting.

Giant rat snakeGiant rat snakeCutting head off giant rat snakeSevered head of giant rat snake

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What If

I won’t give too much away in case any of my readers hasn't been keeping up with Lost and plans to in the future. In the season finale this Wednesday, some Losties will try to change the course of time; erase the last three years like they never happened. Star Trek and Deja Vu can explain it better than I can, but I believe this phenomenon is known as a wormhole, or a tunnel in spacetime.

What if I could travel in time from one point in spacetime to another, specifically to a point over nine years ago, before cancer?

Before getting a chest Xray became instinctual: remove shirt, face white board and press chest against it, arms out to the sides, hold breath. Turn ninety degrees and raise arms above head, grab bar, press side against white board, hold breath.

Before I memorized a hospital room in Minneapolis, the odd, concave wall to the left of the bathroom door, the long window with the deep sill that stored all of JD’s DVDs, the giant HEPA filter in the right corner of the ceiling that kept me safe from germs, alive, the sound like the low hum of a distant jet engine which helped me fall asleep.

Before TerribleAtHoops, a friend who I had always played football and basketball with, would pass me in the hall and not say much, because he didn’t know what to say, and because I never allowed myself to talk about it, so we just became awkward around each other.

Before I could tell you exactly what I did on a given date eight years ago, based on cancer associations. October 31, 2000, was on a Tuesday because I was released from the hospital following neutropenia from Cycle 2. February 14, 2001, was on a Wednesday because that was my first day of Cycle 6. I began Cycle 8 on Tuesday, March 27, 2001, one day earlier than was planned because I wanted to be home to watch WrestleMania. I began Cycle 14 on Thursday, August 2, 2001, two days later than was planned because of how fucked up I got from Cycle 13.

Before I wrote the best book ever.

Before I knew never to touch hospital food ever again, except for the red Jell-O, unless the red Jell-O has those hard fruit-like things in it.

Before I respected so much what nurses do, how after all I’ve been through it was a doctor and a blood bank that made major errors but not a nurse, before I could remember most of their faces but not their names, and now wonder what they’re doing, are they still taking care of cancer people, playing their part in saving others’ lives, while the cancer people quickly forget their names?

Before the 2003 NBA Playoffs diminished each night’s struggle by several hours, before an NBA on NBC tripleheader felt like a vacation, before I read an article on Dirk Nowitzki in ESPN The Magazine while waiting for a heart scan, just weeks before I saw him get his tooth knocked out in a game while lying on my hospital bed, how I saw it fall to the court live, but was shown it over and over again in super slow motion.

Before I watched dozens of movies in a semi-conscious state, after chemo or Benadryl or who knows what the fuck else, some of my favorites like Armageddon and Happy Gilmore, some I’d never seen before like Copland and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, how I remember how sad and brilliant Stallone’s performance was, and how hilarious Chevy Chase was, but can’t tell you much more than that.

Before I thought about the concept of wormholes though I’d never heard the term, how sometimes I wanted to warp forward, sometimes backward, sometimes just to stay in that vacuum of time forever without a single tick of the clock.

Before there were five unsuccessful attempts at putting an IV into my arm from three different people, first being sent to different “experts” before finally being sent down to the ICU because those nurses can do everything, and as soon as the ordeal was over I stopped feeling angry and realized how fucking hilarious it was.

Before my family trip to Israel where JD and I hung out with the brothers from Kansas City, Kansas, not Missouri, one of whom would play goalkeeper for the Junior Olympic soccer team, and later for Major League Soccer’s Colombus Crew, how just having looked him up I noticed we share the same birthday, how their goofy dad reminded everyone of the dad from American Pie, how we started and ended every sentence with “dude” or “man.” And the beautiful girl from Colombus, Ohio, who’s psychotic father screamed at a hotel employee because there was no watermelon at the breakfast buffet, how she recorded us doing random, stupid shit with her video camera, sometimes us just searching for stray cats because cats were everywhere, how I really wanted a copy of that video but then was diagnosed with cancer and forgot to ask.

Before the tennis match where I beat Froddy despite a throbbing pain in my hip.

Before the bone bruise in the back of my hip, before I felt any pain whatsoever, before any uncontrolled growth occurred, likely putting me between 15.5 to 16 years old. What if I could do this without a guarantee things wouldn’t turn out the same way, or even a similar way, but the probability of my life taking that path so infinitesimally tiny.

Would I travel through spacetime? Would you?

Related story:
What If: The Beginning

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