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Surf,agnostics, spandex, and chemo side effects

May 23, 2012

I was sitting down and writing. When I stood up my legs felt heavy. When I tried to walk it was like my feet were pillows. My lower body felt like it was half-asleep. I stamped my legs thinking this would get rid of the sensation. But it stayed within me. I also noticed in the movie theater and felt I was having a difficult time hearing some of the dialogue.

When I met an oncology nurse, I said, “I was wondering if I had a circulatory problem in my legs.”

“That’s from the chemo. It’s an effect.”

“And my hearing?”

“Same thing.”

“But I thought chemo only goes after every reproducing cell in the body. What does that have to do with my hearing?”

SHe simply replied, “Chemo goes after everything.”

I’m thinking why didn’t my doctor tell me about this in the beginning? You can argue she didn’t want to frighten me. But I think it’s easier to know all the approaching street signs and future bumps on the road. It’s easier to handle the known than the unknown.

My surgery is tomorrow. I spent Monday playing golf. My game is very below average due to six months of illness and downtime. I just wanted to get stronger so I could bounce back from the surgery quicker. I was disappointed in hitting bad shots, but accepted the reality. A guy I was playing with missed some shots, screamed “Fuck!” and slammed his club down in the ground. I thought, here’s a guy who knows I have surgery coming up and a future scan to determine if my cancer is gone or doing a second act and he’s getting mad because he didn’t hit a little white ball well on an executive golf course in Boulder Creek, California.

I’m at the stage of just being beaten down while clinging to the star’s edge of hope. But going into a building 60 or 70 times that has written alongside of it “Stanford Cancer Society” has a way of wearing down your tread. It’s exhausting. It makes part of me weary and numb in the hospital, like I’m just dragging this thing of a body onto a slab and they have to work on it.

Today I went to Pleasure Point. My surf spot. I go to what has made me strong: sun and surf. I can paddle but the heaviness in my legs is preventing me from standing up to ride the wave. At first I thought I was just weak, but now I know it’s from the chemo, which has left the furniture, but its charisma hasn’t left the building. The surf is flat and glassy  and it’s sunny and warm. I see a couple bumps out there and just three guys. I come down to the beach, Driveway Dave, a guy in his sixties is hanging in the cover of sand, throwing the ball for Blake, a beach dog who has befriended him. He smiles and comes over to me. He tells me how he read Blind Guys break 80. He first said, “Are you Cloudy? Who is the main character in the book)” I saidf, “Part of me.” ANd Clear was you Dad?” “Yes.” “And that part of being from Freehold, and being in a new place and not fitting in? That was biographical.”  “Yes.” Then Dave said, “The first 90 pages I had a hard time with because it dealt with golf, but when I got to to the part dealing with the family. You had me. There was a part.” His voice caught. “It was a part where the mother says,’Help me’ in the hospital.” He stared crying. “That happened to me too.” He paused. “I was real glad I bought the book.”

I went out in the water and I knew the three guys, Tim, a guy in his sixties with long blonde hair; John Stoner, a fireman and Bill, who taught photography at a school and is retired. Bill said, “Fred, how are you. I’ve been so worried about you.” He had called me twice. Stoney saw me and said, “You look good, Fered. Stronger.” I smiled and said, “I go to the places that gave me love and strength.” I surfed with John and Bill for over 20 years. I said, “You know to stay in touch with surfing you have to make some financial sacrifices, and maybe I could have done better, but I never traded my friendships for money and the ones who did have nothing I want.” He nodded and smiled.

I said, “When they take my last testicle,  I’ll be able to check the box on the application that says “Married.” And then check the next box that says “Registered Democrat.”

I was able to catch one small wave, got to my knees, tried to stand, but couldn’t get up. So I rode the wave on my knees. Driverway Dave and somone else on the beach hooted my ride and applauded.

When I paddled in, I put my board down on the sand and sat on the rocks to get the strength back in my legs. There was no way I could carry my board up the steps. SO Dave and I talked.

“I don’t know if you’re an atheist or an agnostic. I don’t think much about it,” said Dave, sitting beside me as we looked at the calm ocean. “I knew this Christians and they were all crying at someone’s death and I said to them, ‘Why are you crying.  You should be happy because he’s in a better place.’ But my wife says about religion, “Whatever people believe that’s what will happen to them.” I said, “I never spent much time on it, there’s no reason no to be nice to people.”

“Do you need help with your board?” Dave asked. “I’m here.”

“I think I should do it to get stronger…you know, I do need help.”

So he carries my board up the steps from the beach.

“Thanks Dave, you know I don’t think I could do it.”

“Good luck tomorrow.”

“Yeah, who knows.”

“Be happy you’ve got doctors who know what’s wrong with you and are able to do something about it.”

“Yeah. but some people don’t come out of anesthesia.”

When we get to the top of the stairs there a guy with two dogs on a leash. He is dressed in spandex amd wearing a hat and earplugs. Instead of waiting for us, he walks between us on the stairs with his dogs.

I smiled and said, “Hi.”

He grimaced and did a condescending nod.

This infuriated me and I shouted after him, “You can’t return a hello from somebody because you’re wearing your stupid earplugs. You’re an asshole.”

There’s one thing about cancer, I get mad when someone acts like I’m not there. Because that would mean I was dead. A few days ago I had a flash of a dream. There was a curved fuzzy figure that was sitting on a chair in the darkness. It suddenly fell and died. When I woke up, I didn’t know if that meant I was dying or the dream mean the cancer in my body just died. I wasn’t sure. I go through photographs of me going through chemo and suffering and the answer I cling to is the spark in my eyes: my Mom and Dad’s love put that spark in me. And I start tearing up and know there walking around inside me.

I can only reach for the light from this valley of darkness.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Linda Walton permalink
    May 23, 2012 7:03 am

    That was so excellent, Fred. You are such a wonderful writer.
    Thank you for coming to visit today. You helped me in just the right way.
    Tomorrow I will be thinking of you and sending my best thoughts your way.
    I know you are going to be fine one day very soon.
    Love to you and Laurie.
    Anything I can do, please say.
    Lindo

  2. Laureen permalink
    May 23, 2012 4:06 pm

    Thank You Fred…for being you! I can relate to so much that you are saying…but I know that we each have our own battle…but it’s nice to see you put into words all the thoughts and feeling that have swirled around in my head 🙂 Love to you and Laurie..I hope that all goes smoothly today, and soon we will be carrying our own boards again! You know what they say…If your gonna ride it..you gotta carry it! 🙂
    Laureen ~

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