Wednesday, June 23, 2010

#197: No Time To Waste

Wow. Now that's what I call a side effect. I was sitting here peacefully reading about my chemo drugs when BLAM, the pukes hit me like a bus. out of no where. I was surprised by a couple of things. First, the suddenness of their onset. Second, the emptiness of my stomach. Apparently a liquid diet moves mercifully fast through the stomach. And third, when I was finished I felt as if someone had removed all the muscles from my legs. I was weak as a baby, could barely stand. Wow.

A quick trip to bed was followed by chills, blankets, a hat Mum had crocheted for me, and more heaves throughout the night and into the morning. Thank God for Ambien.

This was kind of a reality check for me. I really can't plan for good days or bad days. Just have to take them as they come. After 40 years of acting, I'm finally learning what "here and now" really means. Cancer doesn't give you the luxury of looking ahead. Especially when you're at the coin-toss level of prognosis. Doc says I have a fifty-fifty change of seeing my 55th birthday. We'll 50% is a lot. But there's a 100% chance that I'm alive, awake, and not throwing up right now. I'll have to settle for that.

I've been working at getting to know the other members of the radiation club, a group of four families who happen to be in the waiting room as the same time every morning. There's the lady from West Virginia who is staying here with her husband while she gets treatment. She doesn't have any teeth either. Gum Cancer. Never smoked. Never drank. She is sweet, but very afraid. There's the middle aged couple who have a farm outside of town. She loves her animals in the way that only a farmer can. They take them to vacation bible school and show kids what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of sheep and goats and pigs and such. Then there's the preacher and his wife. He and I are on just about the same schedule as far as treatment and side effects. We are usually within a few hours of each other with good and bad days. He's a very handsome, fit man. I can just picture them going to church. Him in his big black robe. Her in her colorful Sunday dress and enormous church hat. We sit together and talk with one another. "How was your night?" the patients ask one another. "How is he doing?" the spouses offer. It's a tight little fraternity. We all have life and death in common. I guess that's always true, but you're rarely so aware of the empty chair waiting for him to come in and sit down with you.

We all know we're going to die one day. It just doesn't usually matter quite so much. I find myself driven to lift people up around me. I joke and tease and flirt. I kiss my wife. I insist on telling Mum I love her, even if we're not used to that kind of bluntness. There simply isn't time to waste being stupid any more. There isn't time to waste pretending to be cool or aloof or the smartest guy in the room. I'm just another guy who is going to die. Just like you. We don't have time for anything but loving one another.

Well, and the occasional dry heave. That I make time for.


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