Communique August, 8th 2020
By Philip Drucker
In August of 2017 I was first diagnosed with Colon Cancer, Stage 3B (and then some!) I had five infected lymph nodes (also not so good). Today, I begin my fourth year of recovery. I have also discovered I have the Chek2 gene mutation that makes me prone to, you guessed it, colon cancer and just for kicks breast cancer as well. I am back in chemo and my prognosis is good. I will live to fight and write about it for another day.
Being back on the chemo cocktail isn’t as much fun as it may sound like. My first infusion brought back quite a few side effects I could really do without as well as a bunch of bad memories, mostly fear and anxiety from my first cancer rodeo. For me, the treatments always start with heat, as in my body temperature elevates and I begin to sweat. When I say sweat, I mean a fine mist that covers my entire body. When was the last time you thought about how much your ankles sweat? Followed by an air conditioning fueled cooling process that leaves me covered in, you guessed it a cold sweat.
Blanket on blanket off, repeat as often and as many times as necessary. Then, comes the second layer of side effects. The twitching. I never know quite where or when, but the best way to describe the physicality of it would be if you were to experience several small, quick cramps that turn into involuntary chemical/motor reactions and after which there is usually a lingering trembling in the hands and feet. If/when you decide to stand up, you can’t. Your legs collapse beneath you, you fall back into your seat and, if it’s time to go, you try again until you find your equilibrium, and leave. There are nurses with wheelchair available, but so far, I have not found their assistance necessary.
Chemo Lounge Etiquette Rule: Never try to help a fellow patient with anything unless you ask first. You will be surprised how many of us want to go it alone for as long as we can and in no way, will we (I’m one of them) consider your assistance, no matter how well intended, as anything but intrusive and unwanted. Trust me on this one. You’ll be glad you did.
My weekly infusions take about three hours of hospital time. I go home with a fanny pack filled with enough chemo for a 24-hour slow drip. The next day, I go back for an additional 24 hours of treatment for a total of roughly two and one-fourth days of consecutive of chemotherapy. Good to the last drop and them some.
By the end of the roughly 54 hours of treatment the fatigue sets in. It is a funny type of feeling. Sometimes the fatigue is so severe there is nothing to do but lie down under what I can best describe as a purple haze of chemicals, chemicals and more chemicals. Pills for all symptoms, whatever they may be. You take them all at once. Why guess? They will all come a knocking sooner or later.
Occasionally, the fatigue is not so bad. However, the ability to concentrate can be elusive. No reading almost for sure, with television an option, but even then, story lines and plots are almost impossible to follow with any accuracy. There have been many times I have completely forgotten that I am even watching the boob tube and am surprised to find the TV is still on, much less what’s on and how little or much of this show did I see? I imagine this is what is meant by short-term memory loss, or perhaps Attention Deficit Disorder Not Without Hyperactivity, but no activity at all. This is the part where I usually find myself staring at the ceiling looking for fresh new faces within the clouds of cottage cheese and cotton candy swirls floating above me hidden in the ceilings of my mind. I haven’t named any of them yet, but it might be coming. Nothing quite like having a familiar face looking down at you from above I always say. At least the friendly looking ones anyway.
On my “days off” and with a little luck, I can maintain a constant, but far more slowly than usual schedule of events. Feed the dogs come to mind. Sometimes I can write, like now, and sometimes I cannot, like yesterday. Tomorrow? Who knows. Did I mention that during my session yesterday I sat “next”, as in the social distancing sense to a guy who sounded exactly like Boomhauer from King of the Hill? Texas drawl and all. Did you know he is employed in law enforcement as a Texas Ranger? Do you even know what King of the Hill is? Do you want to know? If you scan your television guide, I am under the impression there is an episode of the popular Fox/Cartoon Network show on somewhere 24/7. Test me and see if I am not right.
At this point you might be wondering if I am looking forward to the weekend. The answer is yes. For whatever reason, I always seem to know when it is Sunday. For the record, Sundays have never been terribly special to me, or at least not since I was between the ages of five and say fourteen. If the Dodgers were at home there was a good chance I might end up at the stadium watching an afternoon baseball game. Maybe even a double-header, if you can remember that far back. You know, to a time where athletes were supposed to or at least be perceived as working for a living? And not the prancing and dancing show horses they for the most part have become?
Call me a traditionalist, but I’ll take a Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and my all-time favorite player Roberto Clemente, hell, I’ll even take a Pete Rose over any of the lima beans currently on display but under glass available on the diamond today. Sorry, just my take. Hey! I have cancer and that means I can say whatever I want and if I get in trouble later blame it on my chemo brain and you, yes you become the evil one.
Speaking of evil, anyone watching the news these days? Can somebody please explain how Trump is now trying to kill our children in a completely misguided and utterly dangerous attempt to send them back to school, with little or no Covid-19 protection to essentially restart our free falling economy? You don’t really think Trump cares if our children, out future, receive a proper education, do you? That’s laughable. What is left of his tiny little lizard brain has figured out that a great deal of potential working parents will not be able to return to the workplace while their children are home. That’s it, nothing more. Everything else is just more of him trying to look like he is capable of anything even resembling empathy. That ship is lying at the bottom of the sea right next to Davey Jones’ Gym (Jordan) Locker. Don’t believe me? Then riddle me this: How does a sentient, caring individual dangle the promise of a Covid-19 vaccine deliverable to the general-public, or I image for anyone who wants one, on of all days, November, third of this year? He calls it project “Warp Speed” I just call it warped. To even suggest such a time frame is irresponsible and will in-all-likelihood end up in additional, unnecessary infections and dying. For guess what? The virus is not going to simply go away and yes, he is nuts for even suggesting it.
A false cure and timeline from a false fat prophet. In fact, if the far from adequately tested drug did hit the market this year it would entail the possibility a large part of our population could face the possibility of unknown factors including a false sense of security, try to go back to normal and…well you get the picture. At least you do. Trump either doesn’t see it, or most likely doesn’t care. He wants to be re-elected for it is truly his last get out of jail, for at least a bit longer, card. And in the meantime? Remember you, the citizen, you the consumer, you, the true backbone of our economy will not be collecting $600 a week in emergency, benevolent unemployment benefits for not passing go, even though you did nothing wrong.
Apparently, it is more important to keep empty planes flying to the remaining countries that have no travel restriction on AMERICANS from entering their country. It is more important that Kodak start manufacturing pharmaceuticals despite having virtually no actual experience in doing so. Fast food chains, the auto industry, fossil fuels, have all received PPP funds with no strings attached meaning, there is no way to guarantee the funds will be used for payroll or even on workers at all. With the stock market already under artificial life support through the tireless efforts of the Federal Reserve and no end to the Corona Virus in sight, what is going to happen when the mortgage payment, the rent, the price tag on all of Trump and his merry band of plunderers wrongdoings needs to be paid? By who? And with what?
How bad could it get? Very bad. Let’s look at a highly possible scenario. Assuming manufacturing jobs are not coming back to the USA, the Midwest while waiting for a miracle that will never come, goes into serious default on mortgages and rent, with assistance for necessities, food, clean drinking water, either too little, too late or not at all coming from Washington DC, the center of our country would by fiat become a non-economic zone. A place where while unemployment rises higher and higher, and with no capital investment of any kind on the horizon, well, there’s your recipe for anarchy, lawlessness and disaster.
Street gangs, militias, all armed with nothing to lose. The police powerless to help, and Trump unwilling to send in the troops (most of these folks are freedom loving patriots fighting for their rights, or white, take your pick) and there you have it. Among all the fighting and chaos, the perfect place to try and start an Aryan nation within a nation, with beloved leader at the helm wouldn’t you say? Anything and I mean anything is possible. You say it can’t happen? It’s already happening. Have a nice day. I’m going back to the foggy land of chemo for now. Rather be infused than embalmed I always say. Catch you later, hopefully on one of my good days.