A little over a month ago I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Apparently losing a ball wasn't hard enough, so my body decided to splurge and require chemotherapy.
You give up so many things when you get cancer. Some obvious things: in my case a testicle, my hair, my tooth (we'll get to that). Some not so obvious things: control over your daily life, your schedule, your independence. You hold on to the things you do have control over, and make the smartest decisions based on your own circumstances.
But the one thing the doctor doesn't tell you when you get cancer is how often you'll ask yourself, "But what if I die?" This question and this cancer are not normal yet -- I don't feel normal, and I don't want this to feel normal.
So as I sat and contemplated the amount of sheer energy it would take to contemplate all of this shit and all of these questions, I thought back to my favorite cancer resources: TV movies and episodes of NBC's Sisters. Well, all of this taught me how to feel but ultimately I already know how to feel, but I know NOTHING ABOUT HAVING CANCER. TV movies and shows about people dealing with cancer don't show all the preparation that's required before you start treatment. But damnit, I, H. Alan Scott, am going to show it.
Start the showin'. Below is all the stuff I had to get in line before I started this "#Chemocation" -- before I even started chemo. (I haven't started yet. Been busy healing scars and being emotionally traumatized and whatnot.)
I had to...
Bond with my oncologist:
My oncologist's office is in Beverly Hills. The waiting room is comprised of 50+ women with pulled faces and beautiful wigs. For a moment I'm convinced I'm sitting in a taping for The Real Housewives of Chemotherapy.
I told that to my oncologist, let's call him Dr. Cancer Man, leading to his discovering that, guess what? I'm a comedian! Knock knock! Waka Waka! He took me on a trip down his own comedy walk of recognition. He'd name this or that comic, waiting for my professional opinion. "Richard Pryor?... Carlin?... Adam Carolla?"
I tried to list two iconic oncologists and a shitty one, but I drew a blank.
Find a sperm bank.
I found one close to my mother's house. I figured she'd want to be near the grand kids.
Q: "In the event of your death, whom would you like to retain control of your sperm?" the nurse at the sperm bank.
A: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are receiving my sperm. Congratulations guys!
Visit the dentist!
He told me I was going to need to lose a tooth out of risk of greater infection during chemo. It's like my body is having its own going out of business sale.
Set up disability payments.
At $170 a week, the state of New York is too generous... for 1932.
Be the main character in my very own LIVE Chemotherapy JEOPARDY EPISODE (What are terrifying side effects of a life saving treatment? ding!):
Chemo side effects include: frightening James Carville-esque levels of baldness, tingly feeling in my fingers and toes, barfiness, annoying to really really annoying constant feeling of sleepiness, toxic pulmonaries (!) (Good GOD) (is this at all like Iron Man?), chance of getting Leukemia (BLOOD CANCER), my immune system SUCKING, possible infertility (this one sucks and there are no jokes to be made really), depression/anxiety (see everything above), Weight loss -- well...
AND... Great material for a memoir*
* actual symptom
In case you're a chemist or you like words that chemists like, my chemotherapy is a series of three drugs called BEP (bleomycin, etopside, platinum). And it goes in CYCLES. Like history, it has a tendency to repeat itself! My first cycle is from a needle in my arm for five to six hours a day for five days in a row. Then it's two to three more visits over the course of the following weeks. Then more cycles of similar needles and poisonous juice that cancer hates!
Learn about chemotherapy in chemo class!
Yes, there's a class for that! -- and it was led by a woman with a feather in her hair. A FEATHER. She's adding things to her hair while working with people about to lose theirs. Hair, not their feathers. Unless feathers are a metaphor for sanity. To protect her anonymity, I'll call her Crazy Feather Lady.
Crazy Feather Lady has been doing this 40 years. Crazy Feather Lady has seen it all. Crazy Feather Lady is all about "no judgment." After I made a joke about booze and then asked what nausea feels like, her response? "Funny, most alcoholics don't experience nausea." So much for "no judgment."
She's the type of woman you meet and instantly think, "Your husband hates you." Crazy Feather Lady *really* BELIEVES AND KNOWS TRULY what I am going through. She has never had cancer before.
Deal with people who know you have cancer!
If the logistics of preparing for chemo weren't enough, you also have to deal with other people. There's a strange indigenous dance people do... it's a frown-face-hug dance. Have you HEARD tootsie roll, people? Gangnam style? DO THOSE DANCES INSTEAD.
But I get it. Like all cancery people, I posses a magnanimousness. It's "hard" for you to see me now that I have cancer. I "understand" your "dilemma." What I don't understand is why you're telling me now and always and constantly about all the people in your life that have had cancer...
... and died.
So casually do you slip it in, "So my friend had cancer and never lost his hair. He died, but with a full head of hair!" Hahaha frown-face-hug. I can't take the new "Death" subtext I have, it's a never-ending cancer parade. No one's throwing candy. Oh, and I hate parades.
I've reached a point now where everyone knows I have cancer. And everyone who knows and who is in my life is affected in one way or another. And they're doing things.
Case in point: When I woke up from my surgery a British nurse greeted me. For a moment I pondered, "How long have I been asleep? Am I in England? ADELE, CAN YOU HEAR ME????"
Then I heard the voice of a man with a slight New Orleans accent say, "Gurl, you did real good." That man was Bryan Wilson (you were probably thinking it was James Carville, right?). Bryan is my writing partner, best friend, guy who's at ALL my doctor's visits and who, despite my being like, "Dude, no," shaved his head in solidarity with me. I hope, that every person diagnosed with cancer has that one person, like Bryan, to offer you more than just a frown-face-hug dance. Who does things. Awesome, genuine, this-is-real-life things with you. And for you.
I have many wonderful people in my life, family and friends, that have done and offered to do many amazing things like shaving their head in solidarity. Honestly, I'd much rather they check out my Amazon Wish List.
Follow H. Alan Scott on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HAlanScott