Archive for September, 2007

Rocket Science

Posted in Cancer Life on September 28, 2007 by lawler

*Please Note: Today this blog is not about cancer.

What is it about? Normalcy. That’s what today felt like, and I never thought I’d be so happy to realize it.

It seemed like today was the first day since I was diagnosed nearly a month ago that I felt like I had my old life back. It’s times like this that you realize that despite all the bitching and hoping we do every day, things can always be worse. I simply cherished the day today, and decided I’d even go see a movie — by myself. In fact, there was only one other guy sitting in the old movie house at the Orpheum watching Rocket Science with me.

The movie was nothing amazing, but it was quite good. It was entertaining and fun. It was funny, and there were parts where yes, practically alone in the the theater, I laughed outloud. Heartily outloud. I enjoyed so many banal things today. I took the bus. Loved it. Taking the bus is something that I’ve always enjoyed in a way, and I’ve been a regular city bus/train rider for many years now — but today it was one more thing contributing to normalcy and I relished it. When I got downtown, I crossed State Street and walked into Paul’s Books (not Borders!). I bought three well-used books (shhh, don’t tell Dawn, I spent too much money!): the Revised and Enlarged According to Hoyle circa 1970 because it has great rules for Mahjong, a game that Dawn and I learned to play, of all places, in Berlin this summer. I bought Dawn a set for our anniversary, but we still haven’t used them. I also bought this amazing book called Illustrated…Game Manual by some old codger named Frank H. Geri, Director of Summer Playgrounds, Bellingham, Washington. I almost didn’t mention this book, because I think it was a real find, and it has potential as a reissue, or revised and updated version (I didn’t want anyone to steal my idea!). It looks like I’ve got the third printing from 1951. Here’s what it looks like to give you an idea of the thing. It seems quite rare, plus it’s full of really great games for kids. Very cool.


Here’s an example of the kind of artwork that accompanies the book’s game descriptions…


The third book I bought is for my House collection, Building Fences of Wood, Stone, Metal & Plants. Okay, so some of you might think I should be buying books called Building Bridges at a time like this, but never you mind — you haven’t met the lady that bought the property next to ours out in the country. Let’s just say she has eleven grandchildren and she’s got some sort of ATV mentorship program going on with each of them. I’ve already had one discussion with her about not running thr vile machines on our property. So, I see fences in our future. Besides, it’s a very cool book, and I’m a sucker for those.

After the movie, I decided to walk home rather than take the bus. It’s not a long walk, maybe half hour, and I enjoyed every step of that too. I took my camera along today, and even snapped a couple of photos along the way. Nothing came out good though, so I won’t bore you with them.

So, there you have it: a normal, non-cancer-feeling day for the first time since I was diagnosed. Oh yeah, I even had some Jamba Juice today (very rare, because I hate that they use styrofoam cups — I mean, come on). Does it get any better than that?

Ah, normalcy.


self portrait — september

Posted in Cancer Life on September 27, 2007 by lawler

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror today, and I thought, you have a strange look these days, Lawler. It wasn’t that I looked awful to myself, as though it was so obvious that I’m sick — which harkens back to the comments I made yesterday about how everyone thinks I look great — but there seemed to be something missing in my face, in the way I looked back at myself.

So, since I have the day to myself, and have been enjoying a bit more energy I decided to try to take a self portrait that might capture how I saw myself in the mirror this morning. I took ten shots around the house, trying to find the sunlight, trying to find a spot that wasn’t too messy, or that looked too affected. I’m not sure I succeeded, but here’s my choice. It was shot number eight.

self no. 8


Like my house slippers? 🙂

Cain and Beesh and Friends

Posted in Cancer Life on September 27, 2007 by lawler

Yesterday, I received some interesting mail. There was the bill for cryopreservation from UW Hospital. There was the brand new web cam from Aurelia, who I seem to recall wants Dawn and I to have one so that we can talk to her preschoolers and we can see each other. There was yet another card from Rachel and John — I think this is the fifth or sixth. What else? Oh yeah, and then there was this package:


Apparently from Sweden, it had no return address, and contained one brand new CD by a band called The Cain and Beesh Band, called One Side of Two Stories… The band hails itself on its web site as the world’s most laid back band, so perhaps they just randomly send out new CDs around the world from their cozy Swedish home. Hmmm….not quite an iPod.


Each day that I don’t have a treatment, I feel a little better. The overwhelming issue at this point is an outrageous sense of restlessness, and an inability to get comfortable in any sort of position. This means, I can’t sit at the computer for long, or in a comfortable chair with a book or crossword, it means I can’t take naps much, or fall asleep easily — and mostly it means I jump from task to task, room to room (in fact, I have to get up now, I’ll be back)…

I don’t know what it is, and it seems like an odd side effect, now that the nausea and other physical side effects seem to be at least manageable if not completely dissipated. I’m wondering if this restlessness is not just a side effect of one of the drugs I’m taking in order to curb the side effects of the chemo. It’s an awful cycle of drugs and side effects around here. Tara suggested yesterday that I’m just trying to get another prescription for something with this claim, but really, I’m not. I don’t want any more drugs in my body. The other night our friend Abby mentioned the irony that someone like me, always so hell bent on keeping chemicals and toxins out of my body, was now forced to consume them en masse. No kidding. The irony is not lost on me.

Anyway, I’ve now listened to One Side of Two Stories… and I can honestly say that it sucks. I hope that if someone out there did send it to me as a gift, they did it with the best of intentions. If someone thought to send it to me in case I might review it (I used to review music for Austin Music Magazine when we lived in Austin), they should be relieved I no longer review music. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Anyway, I’m going to post this for now…but I reserve the right to come back later today and revise and update it. I think I’ll go for a walk.

Side Effects

Posted in Cancer Life with tags , on September 25, 2007 by lawler

When people who know I’m going through chemotherapy see me lately, they inevitably tell me that I look “great.” I’m sure this has something to do with their expectations of what someone going through chemo should look like, or looks like on television. All I can tell them is that doctors must be experts at hiding the side effects of torture — at least at first glance. I also tell them that its the steroids, since they do give me steroids with the first cycle of my treatments, and the nurses told me I would get some color in my face from them. So, it seems plausible that the steroids do help me look healthier than I feel.

But last night, as I lie in bed on my side with my shirt off, Dawn walked in the room and let out a minor gasp, and said something like, “What’s going on with your back?” Since I had no idea what was going on, Dawn described the scene for me and later took a photo so that I could see that my back was breaking out severely. This too, Dawn reminded me, was from the steroids. There seems to be so much going on with my body right now, primarily on the inside, that it seems silly to refer to it all as “side effects.” If these are merely side effects, I dread imagining what the primary effects are — aside, of course, from killing the cancer.

Today, I am pleased to report, that I am feeling better. I won’t go so far as to say that I’m feeling well — but better. I even managed to convince myself to go for a short walk, once around our block. It tired me out, but it was nice to be out in the cool fall morning a little. I’m not feeling as uncomfortable in my own skin as I was the past three or so days. Things are looking up, and I don’t have another treatment until next Monday.


More Thank Yous…

Abby & Alan for your company and all of the food you prepared for us; Aurelia & Tim for the card and the ridiculous flash cards; Rachel & John for even more cards; Rick for the card; and Phoebe for the great hat (did I already mention that?). Thanks again to everyone for your support, phone calls and emails — forgive me if I don’t always return them, it just takes more energy than I have sometimes….


Posted in Cancer Life on September 22, 2007 by lawler

So far, today has been the worst of the chemo phase — even though I have no actual treatment today or tomorrow.

I feel a sort of malaise, a sickness that has wrapped itself around me and taken root inside my guts somewhere. Dawn said before she went off to work for the day that she likes to imagine the little chemo drugs inside me karate chopping the tumors. Hi-Ya! That’s certainly what it feels like is going on — a bad action-adventure movie, with horrendus acting but plenty of violence, where the bad guys get what’s coming to them and the good guys get laid. But where does that leave me? Where does that leave my body? Have you ever imagined what it’s like to be the movie screen upon which such drivel is enacted? That’s me. I’m the movie screen. And it feels like hell, with a bunch of half-talented assholes hopping around trying to get noticed, kicking the shit (we hope) out of the cancer.

Does that make any sense? I find it hard these days to really explain to people what this feels like. “I feel sick,” I say, and everyone has their own perception of what that means, but I’m not sure it ever matches up with the reality of what I feel. It’s difficult to articulate. I reach for the right words, but only come up with vague nonsense. “I feel nauseous, fatigued, I feel sick, like I have the flu, my head hurts, I have no energy…” What can I say? I feel like shit.

If any of you out there, my devoted blog readers, come here looking for signs of hope and inspiration, I’m sorry to say I’ve got none to give today. My brightest thought is that this will be the lowest point, that this weekend will be the bottom — but I fear that’s not the case. I haven’t begun to lose my hair yet. And I say that not because I give a damn about losing my hair (I’ll just shave it, no big deal), but because it will signify yet another major cell break down in my body, which is bound to mean more sickness.

So, let’s hope this is the bottom. I’ll write more when I feel better….

You can’t play the cancer card with cats

Posted in Cancer Life on September 21, 2007 by lawler

My friend Natalie in Austin provided me with this link to a fantastic video cartoon that demonstrates quite nicely my ongoing battles with the cats in the morning — especially that fat ball of fur, Sophie.

Bricks from Heaven & Bye Bye Borders

Posted in Cancer Life on September 20, 2007 by lawler

When I first told my sister Lisa that I had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, she told me how it seems so strange that so many people seem to have cancer these days. “Well, Lisa, ” I told her, “we’re killing ourselves.” She agreed relunctantly, and then talked about how we’ve just traded diseases — instead of dying from Polio and other historical epidemics, we now have cancer.

I thought about this conversation from a few weeks ago this morning because of a letter that Tara sent me recently, in which she wrote about the cancer as evidence that “we are fucking up our world, and it is rebelling by giving us cancer and other illnesses.” The idea, she wrote, struck her as a “brick from heaven” as she tried to understand my cancer, and her cancer, since she too was diagnosed, and went through rounds of chemo. She knows what it’s all about, and she has expressed that seeing me “join the chemo club” has put a new perspective on it. The letter she wrote about this is eloquent and I won’t pretend to convey its articulate nature, but the question she has been asking herself and her god lately is “Why?” The most apt answer to be found? “Why not?” We can’t expect to trample the universe without it kicking us back a bit, can we?

Each day I go through chemo I feel slightly weaker. The morning nausea (and the whining cat) have become a regular early morning ritual around here, and each day I look at Dawn and tell her that I don’t want to go to chemo anymore. Her answer never wavers, because the alternative to not going is being really sick and letting this cursed disease get the better of me — and that’s not an option. So, we trudge through a quick breakfast, I pop a Lorazepam, and we set off for the Dean Oncology Clinic in the (this isn’t a joke) Thompson Plumb building on John Q. Hammons Drive, up to the fourth floor and wait to be called back to the Chemo Ward. I try to remember the narcotic haze I’ve dipped into and I squeeze just one of Dawn’s fingers when they place the IV (Nettie advised I hold only one finger in case I squeezed to hard and injured Dawn) — today I put a death grip on her thumb until she finally asked for it back. I’m not going to pretend any of this is fun, regardless of my often relaxed and jokey attitude. It isn’t fun. In fact, it sucks. But we have to keep our chins up, eh?

Okay, to lighten the mood, here is a shot of Pee Guy — an “action” figure enclosed with Tara’s letter…


I’ll tell you, it sure helped my mood when I quit my job at Borders today. I told them I would do my best to work a limited week next week, and that’s it. It is such a relief. I see the job with CTM as a sign of the positive things to come after all this chemo is over and done with. It is an amazing thing when something like that just falls in your lap. And I am so grateful for the opportunity. Bye Bye Borders!



For those of you still jonesing for more shots of that collection room, here’s a couple:

The helpful aids

the helpful aids


The rules of collection

“the rules of collection”



make yourself comfortable