One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall
(Grace Slick, Jefferson Airplane)
Now I had five weeks of
external-beam/chemo ahead of me, and I didn't really feel physically
stable enough to start without a break to recover from the
Brachy-treatment, which after all, was harder on me than I expected.
A week would do and I started watching the Zimmerman case on TV, and
when the not guilty verdict came down, I – like many others --
scratched my head and mumbled: “Are they serious???“
A short factoid: White
elderly women are the group most afraid of becoming a victim of
violence, while statistically they are the least likely to experience
such. – Young black males, on the other side, are not that worried
about becoming victims, which statistically of course they are!
The last Sunday-afternoon
before radiation Monday, Robin called from the road and said she
heard on the radio that people were demonstrating at Martin Luther
King Blvd and Crenshaw. That is about two minutes from were we live.
Now I also heard the helicopters above and decided to see with my own
Indeed, the crossing was
blocked and policemen directed traffic. About a hundred to two
hundred people, mostly but not entirely black, some with banners or
with posters marched around in a circle, not quite sure how to go
about it – these were not professional demonstrators. I watched a
while and after some time they got organized and a whole group
started to march North, where they later blocked the 10 Freeway. I
decided to go home and hide from the helicopter noise.
It was suggested that for
the first two days of radiation/chemo I should not drive to the
clinic myself. I was expected to show up by 8 AM to start the adjunct
chemo. Two days of chemo at the beginning and two more after three
The first day everything
took longer than expected, but finally Dr. Lieber, my oncologist, was
happy with everything, and I got my first dose of poison (Cisplatin)
sneaked into my body between two bags of saline and an anti-nausea
medicine. Then we had to rush over to the UCLA-complex for the
administration of the external beam radiation. The process takes
barely 15 minutes, but displayed a bit of Sci-Fi romanticism. In the
middle of the room is a big white machine with different shaped heads
and multiple joints that during the radiation circulate around you,
and they look so big and heavy that before you lie down you just
assume that they have to be safe. Because, if they would not follow
the determined course they could easily squish you! Above the
futuristic arrangement is a large ring of blue (mood)light, and
nested within the blue light in the center, a black sky with
glimmering LED stars that you can stare at while the machine does
it's precise choreography around you and your troubled organ.
When we came home the
helicopters were back and there where demonstrations all over LA,
specifically at Leimert Park – our neighborhood.
Tuesday was very much a
repetition of Monday – chemo and radiation were hitting me
violently. Every part of my body that was not a 100% healthy hurt
where it was the weakest.
I first notice the cancer
poisons when my visual refreshment rate goes down and I almost need
to blink every time I want to receive a new image, and there is this
ringing in my ears and I have trouble listening to higher
frequencies. I will not dwell on more details – it just feels like
I'm poisoned on a deep level where every molecule of the body has a
painful electric halo that feels overloaded, circuits shrieking,
shrill, and ready to explode; like a nuclear plant approaching
And I'm tired...
...and this is how it
goes down the rabbit-hole: If you come out again you might be bigger,
smaller, healthier, or dead. It is, of course, the job of your doctor
to send you to the point where you almost die, and the body realizes
that you can't afford a cancer sharing your resources – and just
when you reach the point of no return – the medicine man brings you
Western medicine is
really good at that!
Dr. Lieber brought me
back the last time, when I had about 300 white blood-cells left. They
have fantastic stuff that brings your white blood-cells count up in
no time – if it is applied in time
So I'm checking my
temperature all the time, not to be caught by surprise, because it's
a good hour's drive to the hospital and one never knows how capable I
am to navigate L.A. traffic.
Meanwhile, I do enjoy
food immensely because I don't know how long my taste-buds will work,
and the memory of a half year of protein drinks (Vanilla, Banana,
Strawberry) is not something I cherish.
Now, Monday-morning, I am
ready to go in for the next round, and I'm enjoying the last hours of
the short recovery that the radiation-less weekend provided.