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Post-chemo runaway: getting the cancer bully’s knees off my chest

May 9, 2012

“My husband wouldn’t have the strength to go through what you did. He would have taken his life,” said the wife of a friend of mine who died recetnly asnd quickly from a sudden heart attack.

It’s hard for me to listen to that. No one knows another person’s will to live. Cancer is like a bully who knocks you down, has you on your back. And there is cancer, its knees on your chest. I has one shoulder of your down, it’s trying to pin your second shoulder and it’s saying, “Give. You give. You give up.” And your second shoulder could be an eight of an inch away from being pinned but that’s enough leverage for you to growl inside to yourself: “There’s no way you’re ever going to take me down. And I’m going to push you down, and I will just pummel you and pummel you and take you out.” No one knows about that spark in another person, you cannot put it there. They have to value that. They have to have love in their life and value it. I’ve never believed I was in this world all by myself, there was always someone I cared about who cares for me, there was always something I wanted to accomplish that I haven’t done.

In the post-chemo world, with some of the drugs’ tendrils still in my system You have to understand these are drugs that HAZMAT comes to the hospital dispose of its bottles. This going into you. So you have to0 rally amid the toxic poisons while you within  cancer’s lair, and then you have to drive it out after your treatments.I try to think of my health cells as the beautiful insides of a ripe peach. And I want to get at that damn peach. I want to ripen. I paddled out to the ocean, and my arms are getting stronger, but getting up on the board with my legs to catch a wave–well, the legs aren’t. But I paddle hard and push off my board to get my chest muscles stronger and I try to stand, and when I get home I do deep-knee bends on wobbly legs. And I work on this novel called  “Slow Pitch” about a last-place team in an adult softball league. I read Chekov.I can taste wine again. What can I taste? What more can I taste? Gimme, thank you very much, excuse me, pardon me, but gimme gimme gimme. I talked to a girl in a video store who is a literature major and she got me to read Willa Cather (“Death Comes To The Archbishop,” which was excellent but never touched on the priests battle with celibacy, which was so well done in a great AUstralian film, ‘The Devil’s Playground,” and has a superb and poetic ending by the director Frank Schepsi). Then I watched a DVD of “The Doctor” with WIlliam Hurt, which is based on a book “A Taste of My Own Medicine,” about an insensitive doctor who gets cancer and learns what he lacks, which I have to say disturbed me because he’s a surgeon it has some scenes where a guy is operated on and that’s where I will be, and sometimes patients don’t get up from those tables. But I have to get strong, I have to ripen. I came out to California running on fumes without a job to pursue stand-up comedy and it treated me well, I found my voice, learned things about my own shortcomings, and took what it gave me and moved on. One of the lessons I learned was never to compare myself to anyone. In comedy it’s an easy thing to do: “How did that guy get the gig…I’m funnier than him…etc.” But who is the real enemy? The person you stare at in the mirror. That’s your main competitor. Are you better today than the person you saw in the mirror yesterday. Did you read a book? Were you nice to somebody? Did you live up to yourself? And here I am post-chemo, awaiting my carving date with a surgeon, and I’m broke and running on the fumes of the dream again without a job but my shoulders aren’t pinned, I’m standing up to my knees in the ashen debris of cancer, and inside me there is a solid brick wall that can’t be knocked down, and my fists are clenched and I’m laughing as the humbling tears of struggle dribble inside and tickle me to unclench and reach forward as I dance to the beat of a tune that I can’t make out just over the horizon.

Never apologize for your passions to the people who have none. They dropped their second shoulder and pinned themselves and lost the dream of life, which it most certainly is, believe me. There is a quiet triumph that you can hear in the beating of your summoning heart. Don’t lose that beat. Never become a critic to the music you love. Cast off the friends who come up short and never came to see you in the hospital. Cast off the people who stole money from you or deceived you. Cast off the people at work who screwed you. Cast the doctors who don’t return your calls. Cast some of your own disappointments and flaw. Cast off those thousand natural shocks that the flesh is err to.You do it right. And life will be like being on the edge of your seat in the stands of your own natural refuge and waiting for that geyser to go off and spray the shit out of the grayness and mingle it with the light you never knew was inside you.

I go back, riding a bike down Stonehurst Boulevard in Freehold, New Jersey. I’m just a teenager. It’s summer. And I shoot up the driveway ram and onto the sidewalk and catch the cooling spray of a lawn sprinkler, filled with nothing but everything that’s forward in front of me.

And I’m back, post-chemo and broke and recovering and gospel singing in the church of me, arms, swaying, doing a little dance and singing a sixties oldie that always made me believe in the inarticulate future of the Fredness by parents handed off to my soul, “The sidewalk in the street, the concrete and the clay beneath my feet begins to crumble, but love will never die, because we’ll see the mountains stumble before we say goodbye…”

Let the dreamless sleep when you’re dancing your way past them and beyond their gravity of false responsibilities, just don’t learn to close your eyes like they did.

Isn’t it wonderful living up to being you?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Laureen permalink
    May 11, 2012 5:52 pm

    Wise words Fred 🙂

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