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Round One excerpt from upcoming “Today Cancer, Tomorrow The World”

September 30, 2012

Round One

An oncology nurse stands by the IV-pole and the ringside commentator says, “The challenger’s vital signs are: Blood Pressure 142/93. Pulse: 76. Temperature: 97.2. Respiration 16. Weight 229.”

I’m in my designated corner for my return bout with The Big C. Only the boxing ring is illuminated. Everything else is the arena is dark. There are no spectators. This is a cage match. The only rule: one survives.

“Now, for the evenings main event, in the far corner,” the commentator says. “Undefeated in fifty-five diagnosis, wearing a brown mask, wearing in blood-red trunks, a large mass from the challenger’s pelvic region, the Heavyweight Master of Disaster, The Big C!”

The Big C. He is an eight-feet tall muscular gargantuan mass in blood-red trunks. He dances to the center ring. His face concealed by a brown mask of sticky fabric. He pounds his granite gloves together.

“In the opposite corner, wearing a blue hospital gown that barely covers his butt, the challenger, from Freehold New Jersey, with cancer, Fred Reiss.”

I walk towards my foe, wheeling beside me a durable aluminum five-foot high IV-pole on casters, a chemo bag hanging from its curved hooks, the bag’s tube dangles down to the medical port above my collar bone. I am naked, bare fisted. Catheters in my back connected to full urine depot bags strapped to my calves with Velcro.

The malignant growth struts and flexes his metastasizing muscles before me. His brown burlap-like mask has no eye or mouth holes. His breathing draws the mask’s gauzed cloth into the shape of a concave circle then bellies it out with a moist crinkling sound. The Big C doesn’t speak. He doesn’t have to. He’s a hitter.

I look around. My eyes adjust to the distant darkness enclosing us. In the ringside seats, I squint and can make out hospital robes left by previous opponents knocked out by The Big C. Their knit caps, hospital wristbands and wigs roll down the aisles like tumbleweeds in a reserved-seating wasteland.

The soulless, relentless sub-human mutation shaped by the flawed hands of science lifts it gloves to tap my fists before the bell. I’m too weak to raise my hands. We return to our corners.


“The Big C dances to the center of the ring. He’s mocking the challenger. Whoa! The champ opens with a low blow below the belt. That hurt! No ring referee. No rules here! Reiss is hunched over, groaning like he’s had a steel pipe slammed into my stomach. The Big C relentlessly follows the low blow up with a pair of left-right combinations. Lightning jabs to the face, Terrific rights. Bombarding the midsection. Punching the helpless and hopelessly out-matched challenger all the way across the ring!”

I can’t lift my arms to cover up or block punches. I’ve got nothing. I’m drained by chemo. He slams his gloved fist into my mouth its laces grind my taste buds into sand paper. He follows up with a jab that takes a patch of hair from my scalp, then lands a right hook to my midsection, buckling me over again. I’m nauseous.

“The Big C presses the action. He throws an uppercut to the challenger’s chin. Snapping his head back. Vertigo. Next stop Queer Street. The challenger’s arms limply hang at his side. His gums are bleeding. He’s coughing. Reiss is taking such a beating he’s even lost weight. The Big C closes in and uncorks a brutal body combination: one, two, three, four punches! Lands a solid left hook to the challenger’s jaw. Without a doubt this is the most punishing first round brawl I have ever seen. The ringside seats are spotted with blood. This fight should have been stopped seconds ago. But Reiss refuses to fall. Not only has he refused to fall. The Big C has beaten the challenger’s body without mercy. This return bout is reduced to a one-sided vicious slugfest. Reiss is just simply taking punch after punch. The champ wants to put the challenger away. The Big C snaps out a triple combination. Oh, a solid hook! The Big C stings the slower challenger with jabs at will. The dazed challenger is blocking eighty percent of the blows with his face.”

My face is contorted. I’m in excruciating pain but I take the pounding. The sweat of my soul pours out from the back of my eyes and streaks down my cheeks and glistening with hatred and hope. I cling to the belief that every hit I’m taking is weakening something stronger than me.

“The challenger is still standing. The Big C throws aright, a left, a right, a right and a right again! How can the challenger stay on his feet? No man can take this kind of punishment. Who knows what’s holding him up?”

THE BELL RINGS to end the first cycle of chemo.

The Big C imperiously leans into me, confused. In the past when he connects, his opponents have always gone down.

I’m unfazed. I smile and calmly say, “Is that all you got?”

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