The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of the Astonishing FartMan chronicles the amusing escapades
of the lovable, stinky, and obnoxious Cape & Tights Super Hero, and his maudlin Alter Ego, W____,
as they learn to cope with Stage IV colon cancer, each other, and their annoying fellow human beings.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Clomping and Slobbering All Over Each Other

From: W______
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Subject: For Your Continuing Entertainment and Edification
Date: Fri, 15 Apr 2011 12:25:11 -0500

Fellas and Fellows,

For your further edification and entertainment, and by way of catching you up on my own saga, and in a foolish and vainglorious attempt to wrench the beautiful and the sublime from the morbid and the mundane, forwarded below is a message, slightly edited, from me this morning to one of the pals I met on my online cancer support group.

I should warn you right off the bat that this stuff is probably pretty hard to read and even harder to think about, but does supply, even for me, an enlightening instance of the old cliché that there’s always someone worse off, so we should all learn to be thankful for just how good we have it.

My support group addressee, V________, is a single woman around my age, apparently pretty much all alone, whose situation just breaks my heart. She’s been coping with colon cancer for five years now, during which time she has had three or four big operations and many rounds of nasty chemo. Recently things took a bad turn, when during a surgery and related procedures to remove new tumors from her bladder, the doctors found additional tumors on her uterus. To make things worse, her bladder surgery incision has become infected with staph, and requires all sorts of constant gross attention, such as draining and packing the surgical wound. When she recovers enough from the bladder surgery, V____ is going back on chemo to try to shrink the tumors.

Now you would think that in her present condition V_______ would be completely bed-ridden, but actually she is up and about, going from doctor to pharmacist to clinic, helping her visitingg nurse with her own wound care, and looking after herself, as I said, pretty much all by herself. V___ is, I think, the bravest person I've ever known, but she won't even let me tell her how courageous she is. In our email exchanges, V______ and I have joked a few times about our misspent youth during the 70’s, so in her message to me this morning, which covered a number of topics of mutual commiseration, she asked me to tell her "something good (old from from the 70's)."

My reply to her is reproduced below, and it sort of involves a few of you.


From: W_____
To: V_________
Sent: Friday, April 15, 2011 9:26 AM
Subject: Re: Arrgghhh !!!! Part 2

Dear V_______,

They say misery loves company, so if you are suffering now, you might enjoy mine. (But I should tell you, there are happier words further below, something about good times in the 70’s, so don’t stop reading.)

Yesterday and last night were in some ways my worst since I got diagnosed. For no apparent reason, my liver and the incisions from my liver resection (which was three months ago) began to hurt like heck, and I began to feel really, really, really puny. I spent all day yesterday in bed, mostly sleeping, and then slept through the night. Yesterday was day four of my 4th post-liver-resection chemo cycle (unhooked from the pump on Wednesday; only 2 cycles more to go), and the 4th day is usually the worst so that might explain my symptoms. Doesn’t help that the peripheral neuropathy from the oxaliplatin is raging worse every day, too. I haven’t been given oxali since Nov 1, but the neuropathy continues to get worse. My feet are two bags of tingling rocks! Hands not much better.

Whiz. Piss. Moan. Whine. Whiz. Piss. Moan. Whine. Whiz. Piss. Moan. Whine. There! I got that out of my system!

And this morning I seem to be better, the liver hurts less and I don’t feel so tired as yesterday.

You said you want me to tell you something good from the 70’s? Hmmm. My old joke is, when it comes to the 70s, I can’t tell the difference between a memory and a flashback. Yes, I can barely remember the 70’s, but I will try to tell you something good from then. So here goes.

I remember back in, I guess it was summer of 1979, but it might have been 1980, I had just moved to Houston and made a lot of new friends. There were at least twenty of us in a group who hung out together all the time, going to clubs to hear folk music, going together on camping trips in the Austin Hill Country, going to music festivals, going on road trips, having big dinners at each other’s places, philosophizing naively about life, staying up all night listening to music together and dancing.

We made a happy fun party wherever we were and wherever we went. Lucinda Williams was a big part of our musical scene, as she was friends with some members of our group and lived for a while in our Montrose neighborhood in Houston.

It was all so happy and innocent. As time passed, our group did produce several marriages (of various persistence), but at the beginning, during our beautiful happy innocent summer of 79, the group wasn’t really paired off into couples. It was just a bunch of silly kids hanging out together. Imagine a pile of fresh 20-year-olds lolling through the days in a platonic scrum of young bodies and you will get the idea. We were like a big litter of puppies, eyes barely open, clomping and slobbering all over each other, and suckling endless joy at mother nature’s seemingly ever-overflowing, seemingly infinitely-numbered, teats.

A memory, or flashback, of the group of us on a baking summer day eating ice cream at a street fair in Austin sticks in my mind. It was one of those rare moments when you realize with serene clarity, “I am happy right now,” and you know you will carry that memory to the grave. (Okay, I guess my life has been pretty boring if eating ice cream on the street on a hot day is one of my most precious memories.)

Yes, we absorbed a few mind-altering substances and drank a bit of alcohol, and I suppose there was some good-spirited, well-meant, clumsy sex going on—which I seem to have missed out on, dern it—but really the experience was being together and sharing our lives in complete good will toward each and every one. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Of course, it couldn’t last.

Within a year or two, life's realities began to separate us, for various reasons, jobs in other towns, personality conflicts, married life; the necessities of maturity can be avoided only so long. But although some of us now only intermittently weave through each other’s lives, most of us have managed to stay in touch. Even today, several of our dearest friends are from that silly group of kids. I’ve managed to stay in especially good touch with one member of the group, my wife of twenty-seven years. On May 7th, we are maybe going to have a little mini-reunion at a Lucinda gig in Austin. It will be fun to see who all shows up.

So that’s my good 70’s story.

By the way, my amaryllis on the back patio have opened and are gorgeous. They’re about three feet tall, the blooms are about eight inches across, and I exaggerate only a little. As promised, here’s a picture, taken just this morning especially for you, V_______.

Thinking of you!


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