cancer diary

Home again

Since discussions of ugly words like "metastases" and "radiation oncologists" had kept me a bit later at Mom and Dad's than I'd originally expected, I arrived at Colter's apartment late enough that it was pointless to consider attempting to go out for dinner.

Given that, we reverted back to the old college standbys: pizza and beer. Except that these days, our pocketbooks finally allow us to indulge our slightly esoteric tastes; the beer wasn't American and the pizza didn't have a drop of tomato sauce on it. We ate it, piled up on the couch in his living room, watching Robin Williams and talking about music.

In other words, normal life.

Haven't had much of that lately.

For days like these, victories get measured in the smallest of things. Today's victory was realizing that Dad could take an eight-dollar kitchen gadget and use it to make his life a bit more bearable. The random gadget: a digital timer.

Why, you ask?

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Here to there and back again

So here we go, eh? Take a weekend away, a momentary breath from it all, and take a day or so to stand up straight and let your bones and brain cells settle back into their proper places.

It was the right thing to do, despite the boredom and tedium of driving from here to there and back again. A weekend at the Geek Farm, out east of Atlanta, will do just about anyone good.

D.J. Jazzy Jess and the Fresh Priest

Jess sat at my computer. She and Jeremy and I had been in the computer room for at least an hour, talking about movies and families and life and cats and anything else that came to mind. We'd gotten past the important things and onto things that matter, like recommending new music to friends. Somewhere along the line, Geof had wandered in and joined us.

"Should I queue up anything else while I'm sitting here?" she asked.

I gave a recommendation, and Geof laughed. "Get to it, DJ Jazzy Jess." We all rolled our eyes, and then I muttered, "And what are you, the Fresh Priest?" For that I got a high-five from Jess and a "That's 'Fresh Pastor' to you, Ames!"

So, yes, I had everyone over tonight. Call it my own strange, instinctual reaction to dealing with the news about Dad. I knew that Jess was coming in tonight, and it seemed like it would be a nice idea to see if any of the other local folk would be interested in having dinner with the three of us.

Be there on Monday

I've been staring at the phone for the past few days, knowing that I should probably get up the bravery to call home and find out how things were going. But sometimes there is comfort in deliberately knowing nothing for a few days, in believing that while you're going on, blithely living your life, that just because everything is calm and quiet in your life everything is calm and quiet in everyone else's lives as well.

It's more deliberate than that, really. I didn't call home because I wasn't sure I wanted to hear what Mom had to say.

I decided to wait until last night to call. From the last time I talked with Mom, she'd said that the trips back and forth to take radiation treatments were pretty painful on Dad, and exhausted both of them. The first course of radiation ended on Monday, and I thought waiting until the next day to call might mean she'd had a chance to rest up a bit.

In terms of the Bitser

When Dad answered the phone, I was surprised.

"I didn't expect to get you. I figured I'd get Mom. So, you been doin' okay?"

"Yeah, mostly. Glad to be—"


"Thank you, Little Bit, I'm just fine." Dad laughed; a dry, raspy chuckle. It told me everything I needed to know—that there were still things worth laughing about, but that even with the constant morphine IV, belly laughs still weren't pain-free.

Marking calendars

Andrew, last year: "Oh, you should come up here for this! You'd love every minute of it. You could come stay with us, and we'd love to have you visit. Why don't you try to arrange to come up here?" In the end, I didn't do it, and had good reasons for not doing so, but I spent the rest of 2001 doing two things: kicking myself for not going, and promising myself that I would go in 2002.

The event: Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. Location: Champaign, Illinois. Date: late April, 2002.In 2001, I was too ill to attend. Realistically, I knew that I was capable of driving to Illinois, but that once I got there, I would be too exhausted to actually attend the event. So I bowed to the dry, spinsterish voice of reason, and stayed home.