Well, I can tell you that her talent doesn’t come from her formal education. She dropped out of that as soon as she could, so she didn’t have many people telling her what she couldn’t do or say, and trying to squeeze her onto some shape she couldn’t fit in, which she wouldn’t have done anyway — but her going her own way saved everyone a lot of hassle. But she was a voracious reader, and a discerning one. And she was always happily juiced up. She would have been outrageous if she weren’t so good natured. That’s what gets her through the tough ones like this. She’s a lot like her mother, come to think of it. As one of my sons said, “I’m not sure I could even be a fraction of that upbeat, but that’s her and I’m me.”

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What does Cancer Feel Like

There's been a lull in my cancer. I didn't really anticipate when I started this blog that there might be times when I wasn't getting into hilarious scrapes or intense dramas to write about. I secretly had sort of a "The Adventures Of" model in my mind.  Cliffhangers! Code Blues, Paddles! Handsome Doctors! Sex and Romance!

That's what happens when your experience of hospitals and medical stories is cobbled together from Dr. Kildare, House, and Grey's Anatomy. In other words, no relationship whatsoever with real life.

Well, there is a  regular avalanche of handsome doctors, that is true, but so far the closest anyone has gotten to a sexual escapade is that time I had to pull the leg of my sensible briefs to one side in order to have the incision at my groin examined. And in my opinion, the minute you say "groin" all hope of sexual adventure flies out the window.

At the moment, the thing that is most likely to kill me is boredom.
 Cancer, if you're lucky, is just pretty boring. But wait a minute...was it just a month ago that I was confined to  that hospital bed, with a tube that felt like a garden hose running through my nose, forbidden to have so much as a sip of water while I was forced to watch vampire movies filmed in a garage in Indiannapolis? That wasn't boring! It was Gitmo!

  I wrote a blog post very early in this endeavor, when I realized that I had the freedom to walk from room to room and to watch as much Judge Judy as I could handle, and that only days before I had solemnly sworn that if only I could do those two things,  I would be good for the rest of my life ( a promise I have worn threadbare recently and resold more times than Florida beachfront.) That post was written on the seventeenth of April. I was released from the hospital on the thirteenth. Four days later I was grumbling about not being allowed to talk.

 A lot happened those first couple of weeks. We had nurses, and Bruno learned how to work the feeding tube, I had a cast on my arm, I couldn't take a shower,  fungus was being discovered in the least likely, or probably the most likely, of places. I seemed to be getting blood tests every other morning. I was full of drains and pipes going here and there and then there was that insatiable feeding tube, 3 times a day, 3 bags each time.

As I write this today, I don't even have a band aid on! Little by little the nurses left, the tubes were removed, the bandages came off, the grafts are supervised and determined by two out of three handsome doctors to be "superb" and by the third to be "perfect, but don't forget the story of the woman who...." In other words in one month I have pretty much recovered. From being in the hospital.

Do you know that my cancer was discovered in November of 2013, and I still don't know if I know what cancer feels like? I'm not sure it feels like anything. I think it just does things.

I know what it feels like to wake up post surgery, and to keep trying to do something with something that isn't there anymore. I know what it feels like to have the shit radiated out of you and the inside of your mouth charred black.  I know what if feels like to wonder if it's possible to die of anxiety, and to believe that it is not possible to survive another hour of stress while waiting for test results. I certainly know what it feels like to feel doped up, and to wish you were more doped up. And I know what bone deep exhaustion feels like, too, which I prefer to insomnia, and it's late night demons, which also makes the list.

I know what it's like to see your husband cry, and to never want to see it again. I know what it's like to cry yourself, because your life is never going to be the fucking same. I was delighted to learn what it feels like for the love that you always knew was there for your family to turn in an instant from a gas to a solid, to take on form and substance and develop the power to hold you up and make you feel like your life had a point.

 I know what it's like to feel happy, I know what it feels like to have faith. I definitely know what it feels like to believe in nothing except for the inevitability of your own misery. That one sucks, let me tell you. When you go there, it is a bad place.

I finally know what it's like to be the same weight as the chart says I'm supposed to be

 I just don't know what Cancer feels like.


  1. I've always known you to be a fighter. So many ups & downs in your life since I first met you. Yes I remember the dance studio in DC. The Birthday Party Ed & I went to for a mutual friend was held there. Your such a great writer and I was in tears before I could finish reading this blog. I think I've read almost all of your blogs over the years and some were read twice. I've got to make another trip to come and visit.. Your in my prayers. Love you.

  2. Elliott - you called it right. I never knew what cancer felt like either. I just knew what the treatment felt like. I think we are both lucky to know the treatment better than the disease. Your attitude is great and I know you will pull this recovery off easy peasy. BTW, I signed up for alerts but have not gotten any. Abrazos y besos a ti

    1. Abrazos and besos back, my friend. You know, one foot in front of the other

  3. Well, Elliott, once again you've nailed it! All those things you stated - that IS what the big C feels like!

  4. And so goes the process of putting Humpty-Dumpty back together again. You won't be the same but perhaps in some ways better than before. While you may have always felt that people love you now you can see their love in the ways they tried to help you. I hope that each day is better than the last. I love you so much!