Getting the News:
In his Thai inflected English, he said, “it looks an feel cancer.” as he pinched the ping pong ball sized growth under my right arm. It hurt and brought tears to my eyes as he squeezed it. Or were they from hearing that word? No it hurt when he touched it too, but that word just made the tears fall out faster.
How did I miss noticing this all this time, I wondered, as I watched his thumb roll back and forth over the unwanted mass. I kept thinking where or how I could have noticed it earlier and why I did not. It consumed all my attention. Basically, I was ignoring his words, trying to erase the ones he had said earlier, that last one mainly.
But as the conversation and exam went on, as hard as I tried I could not push it out of my head. I just could not believe it. Refused to believe it. Even as we scheduled a Cat scan of all my glands and a biopsy, it was just too difficult to believe. Too much.
Was Lupus and Kidney Failure not enough?
I left the clinic dazed. Flabbergasted. I was in no way prepared to have heard what I did. I had an overwhelming need to throw up, but realized the bile I wanted to expel was in my arm, not in my gut. I just wanted, needed, to sit in the “courtyard” of the hospital and cry. but this is Monsoon season in Thailand and the rain was no joke this day. So, I just staggered out, forgetting the rain poncho in my bag, quickly becoming waterlogged.
Ever since I quit smoking 15 years ago, I have done everything to avoid this. And now, as soon as I heard the word, like Thor’s hammer crashing down on an anvil, as much as I simply could not believe it, I knew in my bones there was truth and power behind it. Just like when you slip and fall and those moments right before impact where you think about just how much this will hurt, not because you want to but because you are knowledgeable that it will, I heard this sort of truth in his words.
Up till then I assumed it was something like the ganglion I had on my wrist throughout my early years of high school. In fact, had it not caused pain to lift my hand above my shoulder, I most likely would have accepted it as no big deal.
Yeah, I’m a mess. I need to investigate glandular cancer, as the doc here was hard to understand on the subject. I am pretty sure this was more from my state of shock and utter disbelief than from his English, as it was very good up till this point, even if he did leave off endings from words, it was easy to understand him.
My mind just choose not too.
I know I have heard that word before, but I am not sure I understood it to be cancer. but it seems if I do indeed have the big C ths is most likely my curse. Cancer of the blood, which infects the glandular system. Blood. That corrosive element in my body that is so key to life in most living beings, but seems so intent on shuting me down, diminishing me, making me quit.
First my white blood cells tried to attack and eat my kidneys. Then my kidneys can not filter my blood effectively. Which, well, most likely leads to… well.. unclean blood which bursts forth with “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”.
Yeah, I’d say I have some issues with blood.
I guess I should have seen it all ahead of me when every three out of four times I get my blood drawn I pass out. Yep. That is me. The guy who has to make sure smelling salts are around before the needles come out, as once I see the needle, I start to stop breathing. And when I was a kid, I literally would have to be bound with straps, like Frankenstien’s monster, into a chair or onto a table before a doctor could take my blood. My mother even tried to buy me off with toys or comics if I would conceed without the straps. And as much as I loved toys and comics, well lets just say I paid for all mine.
And now, as I write this I am stuck thinking of a certain Concrete Blonde album, Bloodletting. Well that and I now have an urge to drain all my diseased, rotted blood and replace it with something that functions far better, like pop music.
I am certainly traumatized by all this. It feels as if something in the universe is out to get me. I simply can not divest myself from that idea. I round a corner, escaping one “trap”, only to fall into another. The standard metaphor for autoimune disease is that your body is trying to kill you, trying to commit suicide without your concent. Well, I have to say I now sort of think it is not just my body that wants me dead, but the universe. I just wish there was a purpose or meaning to it all that I understood.
I spent quite sometime last evening trying to understand lymphoma. And frankly, I am not there. Yet. There is Hodskins and non-Hodskins, where there seems to be a sympathy of possiblities, or better yet probalities. There is not easily understood cause and effect here. There is no easy “cure”. Just like Lupus, they try and force it into remission, but with chemo or radiation rather than steroids. Two overwhelmingly destructive forces that I will opt to shy away from. My body is in no state to withstand that blitzkrieg, that onsluaght, again. Will just removing the mass solve the issue? Is it just one mass? Has it spread through out my body? Is it even cancer? These questions explode in the same way the overly conspicuous fireworks danced in the sky, filling it with perhaps more light than the sun, at the hand over of Hong Kong.
And my next course of action, whatever it will be, burrows away through the rest of me. What will be called upon me. Will this diminish my 5 year sentence, the one that a few months ago seemed far, far extended — now nothing but a sick joke to me these days? As soon as I heard the word I choked. Not on the idea of Cancer, but on the notion I have entered the epilogue of my life. Even when given my 5 year sentence I was not overcome in such a way, while the weight of the words in both cases seemed similarly oppressive, I am still on the floor from this one, somewhere between the fetal position and paralysis. And have absolutely no idea how to get up.
Rather than sit around helplessly waiting, I decided to go to the fancy, expensive, private western hospital to see if I could get a biopsy done sooner than Tuesday. Sadly, I just got stuck with a fancier, much larger bill. But I did get a little better understanding of Lymphoma. And while this was indeed somewhat comforting, that a second doctor said the same thing, that where the growth is and how it looks and feels, it is most likely cancerous, did not boost my spirits any.
They could not fit me in till Wednesday and at nearly double the expense. Needless to say, I opted to keep my original appointment at the public hospital.
Again as I left, the rain was not hesitating in the slightest. I stared out the front door and just sighed. I was just too exhausted from the past few days and the rain seemed too much to me. I just wanted to go to Wat Chiang Man and attempt to meditate, but I could not even make it out the door. In my head, I went back over what I had read the night before, that Lupus patients often get Lymphoma, and said to my self, out loud, “I guess it was just a matter of time…”
Once again bending to the will of determinism, but without any capacity, without any energy, to push back.
This time I remembered that my poncho was in my bag, but I just did not care, or I could not bring myself to care enough to put it on. I finally walked out into the rain to find a tuk-tuk back to my guest house. As the rain hit me, and beaded up on my glasses I thought to myself, at least this way I can feel something other than my despair and anger.
Anger. My dear “old friend” that seems attached to me like a shadow. Oh how I thought I had lost you in the crowds of India. Oh how I hoped I had.
On my way back home, my mind was racing and probing for victims it seemed. It wanted to lash out and harm someone. I was aghast by this. The anger permeated me, pickled me, with its corrosiveness. As it was doing this I noticed something quite extraordinary — I had not been angry since sometime in February. Now I am not suggesting that I have not been annoyed or distraught, but I have not been so furious that my body feels bloated with bile and rage. Well until now. And this is something that is 36 times amazing, as there were points in my life I never even realized I was angry because this was my total, all encompassing, way of being. I was never able to shake it off, let alone exist without it cursing and sputtering through my veins.
But as I realized this, my joy of having escaped its grasp for some six months was majorly tempered by the idea that it was eating away at me again. And really the only way I have ever found to expel this is through some sort of violent act. Nothing I am proud of for sure, but this is the way it is.
I am not talking about hurting someone though force. I have not been violent to another being for at least two decades. But I would often bare my teeth and slay someone with my words — making sure to make them feel smaller than I ever have in the process. I essentially would transfer my rage to whomever I could find that would suit my purposes, making sure the teeth and rancor of my words scratched their bones as I shredded through their skin.
Surely one of my least admirable ablities, but I learned that I could scalp someone, filet their being with a few well chosen words and then walk away and leave whatever remained for the vultures to spar over. It always made me feel better. I often felt like I could skip away from these confrontations, as I was much lighter, having transferred the decay and inner disaster to someone else. Then a few hours later, my puffed up sense of import would quickly deflate and I would turn all my remaining anger inward, multiplying it.
Starting the whole cycle all over again…
Talking to friends about my anger and how I needed to expel it, I came to the conclusion I had to force it out before it overtook me. I also acknowledged that before I can forge of new way of dealing with it, I need to rid myself of it. So taking some advice, after a morning of failed meditation, I headed off into the hills and found some forest wilderness where I could express my rage. I decided to toss rocks at trees and yell and scream in the most guttural, primal way possible. I hurled rocks at trees trunks with my left hand, because this damn tumorous growth made using my right arm in anything but the normal resting position hurt like hell. I missed the trees far more than I hit them, but with each throw the weight of my anger decreased. Each heave extracted it like a vial filling with blood when they take your blood.
After nearly an hour of this, I was totally winded, so I sat down to rest on a fallen log, almost content. I then took the time to appreciate and apologize to the trees I might have wounded with rocks hurled at them. Then as I sat there, still, I was finally able to meditate. The first time since I got the news. It was amazing. I was finally able to put the dread of the possible, the future, away and focus on the experience of now.
I am not even sure how long I did this for, but it really took me far into the day. It was beyond excellent. I then started my return to town and touched quite a few trees, again letting them know I harbored no ill will to them and just how thankful for them I was.
When I got to town I took my friend Kim’s advice and got a bunch of short stubby bananas and then proceeded to gorge myself on them. At first, I was a bit guilty, knowing just how bad they are for me. But the bliss of enjoying them soon totally took over. I really can not express how wonderful this turned out. Though after 12 bananas I clearly had had enough. And while I sadly know bananas will never be a regular part of my life, if I ever get into such a profound funk again, I will remember just what a profound mental health lifter they are. Though, to be honest, I do sort of worry just what I must have looked like eating them…. I am sure it was far from pretty.
I was also able to have a restful night’s sleep after my day of treating myself well and siphoning out the anger. And all told, this may have been the most beneficial thing of my entire day. As I had been functioning on 2-3 hours a sleep at a time when ever my body would just quit being awake, as my mind never stopped.
Day 5 – 6
Like a pendulum striking the side of its housing, I kept swinging back and forth from my earlier despair and my newly recharged positivism. Often times the swing would occur in the same minute. I cannot tell if this is a twisted form of equilibrium or the exact opposite, but there is sure nothing calm about it. One thing was for sure, I no longer burned with that red hot iron of anger. It has been effectively transferred out of my system. Now, while I am far from happy, I feel like a pot on a stove that raged through a fantastic vigorous boil only to have had all the liquid (anger) evaporate.
So that takes me though the denial and anger stages and places me firmly within the scared shitless and mass sadness stage. I equally want to run away from my appointment tomorrow and speed up time to get it over with.
- And just this moment, a lovely elderly Thai woman came in from off the street and gave everyone in the cafe, including the workers a banana. It is hard not to view this in any other way than the universe trying to make amends. Crossing my fingers this will be very auspicious of things to come tomorrow. -
If I learn anything tomorrow, it will be of the generally awful variety, as it will be strictly from the cat scan alone. So I am hoping I come back with only a sore arm, still wondering, and nothing else. The tests will occur when most of you are asleep. But if you could spare a nice dreaming thought or two for me, I’d sure appreciate it. No matter what happens it will be an outrageously scary day.
Updates here as the develop.