Monday, January 21, 2008

Cancer Sucks: Part Two

Twenty years ago this week I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system. It was a serious disruption of my fun and games, and for the next few months I would watch my body turn into an un-recognizable mess. My first chemo-therapy treatments came three weeks after diagnosis, and I celebrated with uncontrollable, projectile vomiting all over my hospital room. By my second treatment, I had become used to the nausea, and in fact, the Prednisone I was taking had actually increased my appetite.

One thing my doctor remarked on, is that he had never seen a patient gain weight while on chemo-therapy, I was the first. This was because I had developed a craving for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I would cook up two or three boxes of the Mac and Cheese, then sit down and eat it all. When I was done with that, I'd devour two or three rare steaks.
Prednisone is a weird drug. It can kill you, and it keeps you from sleeping for more than a few hours a day, yet it seems to clear up all sorts of nagging problems. For the first time since I was twelve years old my skin was totally blemish free, and all my allergies and asthma problems went away.

Unfortunately, a side effect of the chemo therapy, was that I lost all of my hair, including my eyebrows, armpits, etcetera, etcetera. With the unexpected weight gain, hair loss, and circles around my eyes from lack of sleep, my best friend Dennis started calling me Uncle Fester. The weirdest thing was, when I'd go down to the bar where I had been drinking for years and everybody knew me, nobody recognized me. I'd say hello to someone I had known for years and the look on their face was, 'who the hell is this fat, hairless, odd looking guy?'.

It was like nature was giving me a peek into my future, because twenty years later I am a fat, odd looking guy. The only thing mother nature left me with is my hair, and that came back nicely.

To be continued....


  1. I beg to differ-you are not an odd fat man now! You look just fine.

  2. Real Dave, not fakey PegJanuary 22, 2008 at 4:28 PM

    I remember flying into Chicago just after Alan's first chemo. I was able to get a plane and arrived without telling Alan I was coming to give him a hand. I remember it was cold as the artic as usual for Chicago. There was snow on the ground and it was dark.I called him from Midway(No cell phones) from a payphone outside the airport. It was so damn cold. All Alan could say, was " I can't entertain anyone, go home" I didn't go home and I believe I did help. That night I met up with Jim Byrne who was just getting to know our family through our sister Lisa. Alan was complaining about everything tasting like metal.Jim and I set out from Alan's apartment to find some distilled water and plastic cups for him. I remember Jim saying, that he "didn't know our family too well, but he liked how we came to Alan's aide".We did find the distilled water and cups after a long tramp through the snow. We didn't know the neighborhood. Jim and I were so proud of ourselves as Alan sipped his water and said, "this tastes like crappy copper".

  3. I do remember Dave coming up, in fact he came up twice I think. One time he made dinner. My brain was really scrambled by the chemo. To this day my memory, which used to be good, is foggy. Dave must have come up the day of or the day after a chemo treatment, because those were the worst, and my taste buds were messed up.

  4. Your just a bigger, better version of yourself. Don't be so hard on yourself. You have been through a lot. considering what your body has been through (both self inflicted and otherwise) you are doing great. You are a wonderful person, Alan.

  5. (Of course Dave would want to take credit for his altruistic behavior and signed his real name to his post!) I remember that time also Alan, do you remember that around Easter I brought my kids to your apartment (over the Chinese restaurant-smell good!)to do some egg decorating, etc.? They were 8 and 12 and really enjoyed your artwork on the sparked lots of discussions!! Laura still has a souvenir of that visit... as we trudged up those wooden stairs, a nail sticking out of a step got her on the shin...still a lovely scar!

  6. Real Dave, not fakey PegJanuary 23, 2008 at 3:31 PM

    Peggy, you should have kept quiet. Alan thought you were some kind of brain(refer: Older post Fecal Regatta). He thought that Peggy listened in on one of dad's telephone conversations with the Village of Tinley Park about their sewer system. Then,as a young girl, you remembered everything you heard and were able to repeat it 60 years later.You spilled the beans, and I became the brain.

  7. Dave, Alan's brain was foggy that day....anyone could tell that comment was written by a plumber! I would have gone on and on about the "human plumbing" that provided us with the river of feces and Trojans.

  8. Not true Ms.Peggy,Alan didn't go out drinking the night before.His mind was clear.