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The Turning Point, an excerpt from my work-in-progress, “Today Cancer, Tomorrow The World.”

August 26, 2012

The Turning Point, another excerpt….


My appointment to get Neulasta was scheduled a week ago, but I was kept waiting for two hours because the hospital still hadn’t called to confirm my medical insurance would cover the under-the-skin injection. How much is the shot to generate my white blood cells? Try $7,000! I bet in England or Canada it’s 49-cents and you get a coupon for a free coffee somewhere. And what sick over-educated talent comes up with a word like Neulasta! Sounds more like a diet drink. And in a way it is, because after I take it, I won’t be able to eat anything and will lose weight. It was a simple under-the-skin injection, just a light prick. But it felt like someone pumped concrete into my veins. Then blam! Just hours after receiving the injection, I’m in my bed, wearing my headphones. listening to sixties top forty songs, and curled in my standard defensive womb position under a pile of blankets. Neulasta won’t let me go. I thought white blood cells were the good guys prortecting me. This is like being mugged by your own body guards. Throughout the day. I feel like a tail-spinning plane, holding onto myself to generate warmth as I jerk and try to untangle myself from the tubes connected to my urine bags and the catheters. I’m all over the place! I’m a netted fish. I swerve away in pain, wondering when this battle for middle earth will let me go. But I quietly endure the pounding, and my eyes narrow, and I get meaner inside, taking it personally. I want to rip out the tubes stuck in my back that are wrapped like brass hooked wires around the bolts of my kidneys, but I shift and bear them, holding onto them like parachute strings, working my way to land in enemy territory to do some damage.

I curled tighter and tighter into a womb position searching for the safety of warmth from the wind-chill of throbbing and pain whirling throughout my body. My reduced life completely encased in a pressurized submarine of claustrophobic misery. My thoughts ran silent and deep to draw strength from the depths within myself. Barrels of chemo charges quietly sink around me and detonated their side effects. The drug’s shock waves compress the delicate joints that hold together the hull of my self-contained presence. I’m aching Will I be crushed? My insides twist and I groan as I bend back and forth. I dive to escape these forces. I have half-filled urine bags strapped to legs, catheters in my back, cancer, chemo attacking every innocent cell in my body, I was as low as I could go… then expectantly, within my abdominal depths, I heard the redemptive uppercutting sound of…a cure.

It was a percolating sound, followed by a gurgling. My organs are shifting in my pelvic region. They’re stretching out because the tumor is getting smaller! Now I had twinges of victorious aches. I smiled. My chemo brain burbles out subtle meaningless fragile and jellied memories that rise to greet me. When I was six-years old, and sitting in the bathtub. A dried-out green washcloth hung stiff on the little soap-dish rack. Without water the washcloth was a light green, but when wet turned a spinach dark green. I pulled the dried washcloth from its soap-dish perch and drag it through the bath water pretending the towel was a monster that came to life in ocean The green creature was going to attack and devour the plastic army soldiers I strategically positioned in the corners above the tub. The saturated green monster slid up porcelain slope, wrapped around the soldiers ate them alive within the towel’s digestive folds. My mother heard me doing screams as I acted out the soldier deaths and the creature’s growls. She’d say, “What are you doing in there?”

Who knew what the hell I was?  The song Concrete and Clay by Unit 4+2 plays and I twist and turn and flop in bed amid the tubes, hearing the growling in my abdomen as the green towel monster has returned to save me. It wraps around the tumor to digest its malignant indifference. 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 and I’m recovering and swaying, curled but doing a weakened dance with my feet and gospel singing a sixties oldie in the church of me that always made me believe in the invincible and inarticulate future, “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…”

Tears are streaking down my face. The damp green monster is drying up the cancer.  The green towel  growls and I imagine the tumor screaming. Go green towel, go green towel. I had forgotten about all about you. Who could possibly know the true powers of a green washcloth?

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