Sunday, November 18, 2012

First Round of Chemotherapy


Around 3 a.m. on the night of my last chemo infusion I woke suddenly and saw a small blue dragon with tiny wings exit my left rib cage and float into the center of the hospital room, where it disappeared. Then I saw that my feet were surrounded by flaming skulls.

It sounds like a Tantric vision—the iconography is about right I think—but in the clear light of day I believe these images were actually the result of bad television choices on my part. Just before I fell asleep I was flipping between Impy’s Island, an animated children’s film about a blue dragon, and Ghost Rider, starring Nicholas Cage. Mr. Cage’s face, hands and feet burst into flame whenever he gets on a motorcycle—don’t ask me why.

This confirms my suspicion that certain vivid visual images hang around our bodies for a period of time after we have consumed them. If you are doing chemotherapy, be careful what you watch.

The staff and doctors at the National Institute of Health were compassionate and professional. I couldn’t have found better care, but after my chemotherapy treatments I was extremely tired. I temporarily lost my sense of taste and my appetite. I was mildly to moderately nauseous and I had tinnitus. And (last but not least) I was constipated. When I got back home in Ann Arbor, I had to lie down for a week.

Of course, it could have been much worse and I am now recovered.

On November 27 I’ll return for a second round of chemotherapy. This time I’m not going to watch any television. I know now it would only further confuse my already chemo-addled brain. I’m going to take along the Modern Library edition of Leaves of Grass (intro by William Carlos Williams). My hope is that Whitman’s bardic songs will act as a charm against the various poisons infused into my body. At the very least, his generosity will cheer me up.

2 comments:

Julie Walden said...

Hey Karl,
I love you Man. You are so poetic and so in the moment. Sharing this with us allows us to enter into your life in a finely tuned way.
Best,
Jerry

Mary White said...

Karl, this is brave and beautiful. Thanks for writing it, thanks for sharing it.
Mary White