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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

And Who's Gonna Stop Me?

From: The Astonishing FartMan
To: W______
Date: May 28, 2011 7:05 AM
Subject: Re: The Quality, Composition, and Tone of Your Blog Posts

Dear W______,

Before you get all cocky and sanctimonious with your prissy-boy threats to ban me from posting here, please pause and scroll up for a moment to remind yourself what is the title of this 5FU'd blog, a title which, for your everlasting convenience and irritation, always appears in extra-large bold type at the top of each and every single page.

Please nota bene that this blog ain't called "The Boring Smaltzy Sentimentalized Adventures of The Sissy-Prissy W____Man."

Nope. It's called "The Absurd Epistolary Adventures of The Astonishing FartMan," for a very good and obvious reason, which is that Yours Truly, The Astonishing One, is the marquee star of this two-bit operation. So I plan to keep things absurd and vague, vaporous and gaseous, just the way I likes it.

If you've got a problem with the present arrangement, then you'll just have to find yourself some other Super Hero who's desperate to hook up with a sissy-prissy alter ego like you. Word is that The Amazing SpiderMan has been having personnel problems lately, and might have an alter ego position opening up on his bloated staff, if you can put up with that gayish, wrist-twisted pose he always strikes when he's shooting off his spider-web stuff.

But you bettter hurry, because from what I'm hearing from the folks at the clinic, you don't have much time left to be farting around. (Yes, that's another stupid joke. So sue me.)

And, seriously, before I sign off, let me just say, "5FU to you, too."

Notwithstanding your efforts to ruin me, I remain  . . . .

The One and Only,
Melodious and Malodorous,
Super Pooper Hero,
T. A. FartMan

This Has Gotta Stop

From: W_____
To: T. A. FartMan
Date: May 28, 2011 6:20 AM
Subject: The Quality, Composition, and Tone of Your Blog Posts

Dear FartMan,

People are starting to complain.

This stuff has got to stop. Nobody is going to read past your first ten lines, and even if they tried to read further, your prose is just too over-inflated, pompous, and confusing for any halfway normal person to make heads or tails out of it.

Your "humor," such as it is, has already gotten us banned from posting comments on several other cancer blogs, including ZoomberGirl's. And now our own readers have begun complaining to me that your off-the-wall posts are "distracting" the focus away from me and the good vibe I'm trying to create. I think the absurd length of your posts is part of the problem. Yes, I know you've had an issue with flatulence because of the bowel surgery and the chemo side-effects, but do all your posts have to be so long-winded, too?

To put things in a suitable and pithy metaphor that an excessively literary guy like you should appreciate: Your writing is really stinking things up around here.

I would also appreciate it if you would cool it with the snide postings, like this one and this one, ranting about the health care we're receiving. The folks caring for us are doing their best under difficult circumstances, and now some people at the Infusion Center are starting to take your stupid jokes personally. Speaking of which, please stop calling the Infusion Center the Confusion Center. I might have used that line once or twice myself, but you are wearing it out.

Please understand, FartMan, I don't want to kick you off this blog, because I know there's probably no place else left for you to go, but really, my patience does have limits. So please think hard about what I'm telling you, before you ruin this blog just like you've ruined practically everything else in our life.


Friday, May 27, 2011

A Boatload!

From: W_____
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 4:05 PM
To: T___ and S_____
Subject: Vino

Hi T____ and S____,

No, I didn’t lose (permanently) the wine suggestion T___ gave me. It was on the same piece of paper as his email address so I found them both at the same time. And I’ve lost and found that same piece of paper at least three times! The chemo definitely affects the brain!

Right now that piece of paper is secure in my left hand, and I am looking at the image T___ printed for the Braida Il Baciale (Super Barbera) blend of 60% barbera, 20% pinot noir (pinot nero in Italian), 10% merlot, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. The inclusion of pinot noir, a variety that is not that commonly grown in Piedmont and even more rarely blended with other grapes, makes that a very unusual bottling. Indeed, I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted a wine that blends barbera and pinot noir, so I’m looking forward to getting a bottle next time we are at Specs.

I’m so sorry that S_____ has been having such a tough time with the chemo. My heart goes out to her. I hope things have improved, but the reality is, the dern bad effects of the chemo accumulate, so the last cycles are always the worst.

I've had a little taste of what S___ is going through, but I know hers is a much tougher regimen than mine. I do know fristhand about the risk of passing out, and am also personally familiar with a chemo patient’s little trick of grabbing onto furniture to steady oneself while walking around the house. The fatigue can be unbelievable; until I had a few rounds of chemo, I had no idea just how dog-tired a body can feel.

Sometimes I’m so wiped out that I actually fall half-asleep while walking. No kidding! My wife has to tell me, “Keep your eyes open while you’re walking,” but sometimes I am so tired that I just can’t keep my eyes open, and then I walk around in a sort of a dreamy daze, half asleep, with my eyes closed, navigating through the house by memory, feeling my way from one piece of furniture to the next. I've almost fallen down several times.

One time I dozed off while sitting on the commode and almost tumbled off my throne!

Well, as you know, I am done with chemo (at least for now). This morning was actually the first time that I have begun to feel halfway normal since my last email to you (and that is one reason why you are only now receiving this reply). Other good news: my post-chemo CT scan did not show anything clearly identifiable as cancer. (But of course we all know the stats say some cancer cells could be, and probably are, still lurking in there somewhere).

The CT also showed I have a softball sized “subcapsular fluid collection” between my liver and the “capsular” tissue encasing the liver.

So I have a water balloon in my gut.

Maybe the operating room team left it in there after they had one of their intramural water balloon fights. But it actually feels less like a water balloon and more like a small piece of hard-sided American Tourister Luggage. Or maybe a lady’s small handbag. (I begin to wonder whether I could get the dern thing through TSA airport security’s fancy new whole-body scanners.) It’s been four months since the surgery that removed the mets from my liver, along with 3/4 of the liver itself, so any fluid pockets (which aren’t that unusual after surgery) probably should have been reabsorbed by now. I’ll be meeting with my onc (who is not my uncle) and my liver surgeon soon to see if anything needs to be done about that water balloon.

And although the water balloon causes me some “discomfort,” (the medical profession’s favorite euphemism to describe any pain that falls short of inducing a throbbing burning screaming misery), my inclination is to leave the dern thing alone for a little while longer to wait and see if it will start to reabsorb on its own now that I’m off chemo. I know it’s easy to get fluid accumulations if you lay around all the time, and—because of the chemo fatigue—laying around most of the time is what I’ve been doing for the last month. I’m hoping they won’t want to poke another hole in me to drain the dern thing, as I believe I have had just about enough cutting and hole-poking for a while, thank you very much!

Well, that’s enough fussing and fuming, and whizzing and moaning from me, doncha think!?!?!

A cruise with you guys sounds great to me, but to tell you the truth, it’s probably impossible to talk my wife into setting foot on a cruise ship. She's pretty much terrified of the water, and although we both know her fear is not entirely rational, that doesn’t make her any less scared. She also doesn’t like flying, but a valium is usually sufficient to get her through a domestic flight. To maintain her sanity for a full ocean cruise, you can probably guess how much valium she would require:

A boatload!

However, dinner together, when S___ is done with chemo and recovered a little, would be absolutely great. I would love for you two to meet my wife, S______. Please let us know when your S____ feels like a dinner date.

Is S____ getting chemo this Monday, the 30th? My reason for asking is that I was thinking of stopping by the confusion clinic, ooops, I mean the infusion clinic, one day soon to deliver a little thank you present for my infusion nurse (M______, who is absolutely terrific), and I thought if you guys were going to be there at the clinic Monday, it might be a good time to drop by to say hi.

I think of you guys a lot, and am . . .

Sending Love, Hope, and Prayers,


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pass the Body Around and Have a Party!

From: The Astonishing FartMan
Sent: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 8:05 AM
To: R____________
Subject: Re: Pass the Body Around and Have a Party

Hey R_____,

Thanks for your amusing email. "Pass the Body Around and Have a Party!" You sure got that right. The Med Biz exactly!

And boy, do I know what that’s like, from the supine perspective of The Body Being Passed Around.  It turns out that the supposedly sublime experience of gazing into the eternal abyss ends up these days being nothing more poetic than a rolling view of the water-stained ceiling of a hospital hallway. Or has it always been thus?

Good luck finding any purdy and ennobling death poetry in the halls of a modern hospital.

And even if there were any poetry in those sick-smelling stale sterile corridors, nobody would have time to find it because we'd rather occupy ourselves filling out and collecting those endlessly banal forms that nobody else will ever read. Maybe there is some poetry there somewhere, but good luck finding it.

How well we wear our cynicism on our sleeves this day!

Will they stop passing me around when I croak? Or will they ding my health insurance for an autopsy and a thorough postpartum disembowelment, before handing me off to the mortician to arrange the final deposit?

Yes, R____, you are getting to be an ornery, and cynical, old 5FUer, and you might as well get used to it, ‘cause it’s all downhill from here.

The trick seems to be to arrange for the Body and the Mind to poop out at approximately the same rate, so that a bliss of mental decline closely accompanies and ameliorates the misery of creeping physical decrepitude.

From what I’ve seen, it looks like it’s usually no fun for The Body to outlast The Brain, although I’ve seen some interesting exceptions in a few friends and former bosses.

And it might be even less fun for The Brain to outlast The Body, a circumstance which, unless mets grow in my head, I will probably get to find out about first hand before too long.

Morbid as it is, since you are in the hospice biz, maybe sometime we can talk more seriously about this topic so that I can pick your expert brain about the way to do such things properly.

And once we get a good buzz going, maybe we could have a little philosophical chat about how the breadth of meaning in the word "hospice" has in modernity lost its religious connotations almost entirely to the medical. That tells something: Probably a big historical mistake for religion to involve itself so deeply in medicine. The nurses are all mostly Catholic, the doctors are all mostly Jewish, all of which is fine by me. But the ostensibly Baptist Hospitals, Catholic Hospitals, Methodist Hospitals, Presbyterian Hospitals, and probably also the Pentacostal Hospitals if there are any, well nowadays they are all mostly atheist. And the sadder fact is, the Jewish docs and the Catholic nurses mostly think that is just fine. I think these days you gotta decide whether you want to specialize in messing around with the body or messing around with the soul, 'cause it's hard to handle both at the same time.

Good thing they haven't figured out a way to pass my soul around, too!

Hope to see you and V____ sometime soon.

Meanwhile, I remain . . . ,
Your Friend,
The One and Only
Melodious and Malodorous Super Hero,
The Astonishing FartMan

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Persistent Postoperative Changes? What the 5FU Does That Mean?

From: The Astonishing FartMan
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 9:07 PM
To: ZoomberGirl
Subject: Re: I Started a Blog

Hey ZoomberGirl,

You are such a good sport for so graciously and for so long tolerating the all the nonsense I had posted in the comments section of your blog. I guess I needed an outlet, but me and my alter ego doing our own blog probably makes more sense (or more nonsense), doncha think?

I will hoist a large glass when they disconnect you permanently from that port-o-pump.

I’m doing okay (thanks for asking) and hope you are, too. Got myself CT Scanned Friday, and this morning my onc (who is not my uncle) sent me a vague email describing the results. Man, I thought we lawyers were the ones who were supposed to be purposefully vague, but when it comes to conjuring up a dark cloud of disconcerting obscurity, my onc’s email surpassed anything I could ever achieve. In case you don’t believe me, here’s the reply, verbatim, he emailed me when I asked him what was in my CT scan report:

From: Dr. B___________
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 8:08 AM
To: The Astonishing FartMan
Cc: M__________

The CT looks pretty good. There are some (what looks like) persistent postoperative changes around the liver and some tiny, stable, indeterminate lung nodules. Nothing else to do to evaluate these. We should check another CEA and CT in 3 months. Please call [my assistant] M____ to schedule these.

M____: can you please order a CBC, CMP, CEA, and CT C/A/P for Mr. W____ to be done at the end of August, with an appt with me the Monday after these tests?

Dr. B_________

Pretty good???? Persistent postoperative changes???? Indeterminate lung nodules???? What the 5FU am I supposed to make of that?!?!?!

So I spent several hours this morning frantically googling “persistent post-operative changes” and “stable, indeterminate lung nodules.” Finally, I gave up and emailed my onc (who is not my uncle) a list of stupid layman questions, the first of which was: “Based on what’s in the CT scan, does it look like there is 'probably' or 'certainly' cancer still in me? Or does it look like there is 'probably not' or 'certainly not' cancer still in me?”

Three email exchanges later, the good Dr. B______ finally got around to writing, in a rather offhand manner, there is “no evidence of cancer by CT” scan. Geez, doc, couldn’t you please have just told me that three heart attacks ago!?!?!

If you are curious, my first reply to my onc's email is reproduced below my signature. As you might surmise from the slightly snarky tone of that reply, I’m sometimes a difficult patient, but at least I keep it interesting, which is good, I guess, because, as you well know, cancer can be awfully boring . . . unless you happen to have it yourself.

BTW: You had mentioned on your blog something about getting your port-o-cath removed once you are done with chemo. My onc (who is not my uncle) told me today that he wants me and my alter ego to leave ours in for at least a year, in case we have a recurrence. The thing is, now that I’m off chemo, I’d like to feel normal for at least a little while, but can’t feel normal with that dern port bulging under my collarbone. I might have them take it out anyway, ‘cause I don’t want no more chemo!

To avoid closing on a sour note, let me tell you that I’m really enjoying your blog. I think you are cutting deeper and deeper every day, and I know how that can hurt . . . but it’s worth it.

And to close on a humorous, obnoxious, and inapposite note, here’s a picture of a binfull of Teddy Bears, which my alter ego shot with his phone cam when he and his wife and daughter and I were at a super kitschy souvenir shop in Las Vegas last summer. (Please note the silly, clever, obnoxious, and perfect title I’ve given it.)

From the smiles on all their faces, it sure looks like they’re having a good time. (I am soooooo bad!)

You Go ZoomberGirl!

Yours truly,
The Astonishing FartMan

P.S. Here's my email replying to my onc's vague report about my CT Scan. Doncha like the snarky tone?

From: The Astonishing FartMan
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 12:17 PM
To: Dr. B______
Cc: M_____
Subject: Re: What Is the Plan for W_____ Going Forward?

Dear Dr. B______,

Could you ask M___ to please post the CT Scan report in my online records so I can read it for myself?

As a lawyer (fond of equivocating parentheticals), I appreciate the vagueness of the words “(what looks like) persistent post-operative changes” and “some tiny, stable, inderterminate lung nodules.”

But as an ordinary human being, I’m stymied.

And I would rather not wait until the end of August to understand all this better.

While I can accept uncertainties so far as they really are uncertain, and can understand that no further evaluation is possible right now, can’t someone explain better what is meant by “persistent post-operative changes around the liver” and “indeterminate lung nodules?” (I hope you know that I want to know the boundaries of the uncertainties as well as all the facts.)

Some questions, ranked in order of stupidity, with my stupidest question first:

1. Based on what’s in the scan, does it look like there is “probably” or" “certainly” cancer still in me? Or does it look like there is “probably not” or “certainly not” cancer still in me? (I know this is a stupid question, but if I could get you on the witness stand under oath, I would not let you go until you answered “probably,” “certainly,” “probably not,” or “certainly not.”)

2. What kind of “persistent post-operative changes?” My smarty-pants wife is wondering aloud whether you might be leaving open even the possibility that a tiny fairyland giraffe has grown up and established its permanent residence around my liver? When we say “persistent post-operative changes,” are we talking about cancer, or something else? I can telll you that, four months after the liver surgery and two weeks after my last-scheduled chemo, the area around the liver still hurts most of the time, and I still tire very, very easily. Are those symptoms, perhaps, probably, or certainly, the result of “persistent postoperative changes,” such that I will have to learn to live with persistent pain and the fatigue? Should I be doing something (diet, exercise?) to ameliorate the “persistent postoperative changes,” whatever the heck they are?

3. What about the lung nodules? Were they discernable in previous scans or are they something new in this scan? If the nodules were apparent in previous scans (as seems to be the case from what is reported in those older scan reports), why had you not mentioned them before, or is there something different now that makes you mention them now?

4. Is it reasonable for me to get my port removed now? If not, why not?

5. Should we explore taking me off the blood-pressure meds (Amlodipine 5 mg) now that I’m not on the Avastin?

Thanks, Dr. B____, for taking such good care of me these many months. I think you are a very fine doctor, and otherwise a very good man. Sorry for being such a PitA, and sorry for the stupid questions, but those are the only kind I know how to ask.

Yours truly,
The Astonishing FartMan
So, do you think my onc (who is not my uncle) is gonna wanna ditch me?

T.A. FartMan

Monday, May 16, 2011

Our Favorite Household Appliance

A comment The Astonishing FartMan recently posted to ZoomberGirl's cancer blog:

TheAstonishingFartman wrote:

Hey ZoomberGirl,

I hope you are doing okay, and have not gotten yourself into a fistfight with Mickey or Goofy during your visit to Disneyland, as I recollect in some earlier post you said something about regretting never having had the experience of being in a good fistfight. Well, I can tell you, in my misspent youth I participated in a few good fistfights, even one that took place in the street outside a bar and another one that, until the police showed up, required fervent tussling in the dirt with an ex-wife's naked boyfriend for possession of a serrated kitchen knife. Athough the physical interaction can be invigorating, I think such entertainment is best left to the youngsters, who are more likely to recover from the effects of stray bullets.

Apropos of nothing particular, but perhaps useful to give your blog readers some further insight into the tres chic chemo lifestyle, reproduced below is another typically maudlin schmaltzy email my alter ego, W___, sent today to his chemo clinic "next door neighbor," one of those nice bald ladies who, with her husband T____ at her side, sits in a LAY-Z-BOY next to him in the "Confusion Center":

Hi S___ and T____,

Well, FINALLY I found that piece of paper with y'alls' email address on it!

Every time I went through all the mass of disorganized papers in my man-purse, my chemo brain couldn’t spot the one with y’alls’ email address, and I was afraid to throw away anything before finding the one with your address.

I sure hope S____ had a “good” week. Of course, for someone getting dosed weekly with chemo cocktails as brutal as hers, “good” is a relative term and usually means “not as bad as it could be” or “not as bad as last time.” I don’t think there are any really “good” weeks on chemo. My regimen is a walk in the park compared to hers, so I think that S____ is one tough cookie, tougher than me, to put up with that stuff she gets every week for 18 straight weeks.

I also hope today was a tolerable day at the clinic for S____. It has been a real pleasure for me having you two as my infusion center “next door neighbors” these last few weeks. It made my time in the confusion center, oops, I mean the infusion center fly by. I hope all my yakking and goofing around wasn’t too annoying. We could blame it on the dexamethasone, but the truth is, I probably talk too much even when not being poisoned!

Speaking of the effects of being carefully poisoned, my week was a little rougher than normal. I guess after 12 cycles the cumulative effects of the chemo have finally caught up with me a little, because fatigue has been a problem lately. Even today, on Day 8 of my last cycle, I’ve slept away most of the day, propped up in my “nest” of pillows on the love seat. Yes, the fatigue and the constant, worsening peripheral neuropathy are no fun, as S____ can surely testify, but I’m not going to complain too much because lots of people are going through things a whole lot worse.

And, lucky me, I’m done with chemo for now, and if I’m really, really, really, really, really lucky, maybe I’m done with chemo forever. (Of course, the “odds” say I’ve got something like an 80 percent chance of recurrence, so I’m not going to get too cocky.) I declined the infusion center ceremony to “ring the bell” signifying my “last” dose, because it might not really be my last dose, and I don’t want to tempt fate or to risk that noisy bell awakening some evil spirit that might have had it in for me! (You know, I'm Native American, so perhaps that's why I'm a little nervous about thumbing my nose at any evil spirit that might have had a grudge against me.) Instead of ringing the bell, I just gave our infusion nurse, M_______, a big hug and slipped out that side door as quietly and humbly as possible. I gotta tell you though, it was pretty emotional. I had to give M______ an extra-long hug to gain time to choke back some tears before anyone could see a tough guy like me getting all mushy.

I just googled T___, found your family web page, and looked at some of the pictures and videos of your family and your celebrations and travel adventures. What a good and happy family, especially those sweet grand kiddies! (If you google me, you won’t find much, and I will have to deny all knowledge of and responsibility for anything that might be associated with my name!) Just so you’ll know what my dear sweet wife looks like, I'm sending this picture of us taken just last New Year’s Eve.

You’ll note that we are posing in front of our favorite household appliance—the refrigerator—as is appropriate. But please resist the temptation to make any clever, funny, rude observations about what my left hand might be doing. (I think the smile on my wife's face tells all!)

Even with this dern cancer, we are happy and feel blessed. I can’t hardly imagine how happy we’d be if we didn’t have this stupid cancer messing with our lives! But I do worry about how we’ll deal with the more difficult times that might be headed our way before long. I suppose, when it comes to coping with cancer, we all do what we have to do—mostly because we don’t have that much choice about it.

When you have the time, please keep me posted on how things are going with you two.
Sending love, hope, and prayers!
Just between you and me, ZoomberGirl , I think my alter ego, W____, is spending way too much time hanging out with the bald ladies, and I would welcome your suggestions for finding him a more stylish social circle. Please let me know what you think. Meanwhile, I remain . . .

Your Loyal and Still Astonishing FartMan

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Dubious, Shifty, and Complicated Provenance

A comment T.A. FartMan recently posted to ZoomberGirl's cancer blog:

Hey ZoomberGirl,
Okay, I admit it.
I lie.
A lot.
But sometimes, halfway by accident, I happen to tell the truth. The trick is to figure out which is which. But don't fret too much about it, 'cause it's all in good fun.
So anyway, ZoomberGirl, you should be informed that your cancer blog posts have often been the initial inspiration for philosophical musings shared with my dearest friends.
For example, reproduced below is an email, lately sent to some of those dear friends (the ones too simple-minded to figure out how to set their email to block my messages), thanking them in my strange way for indulging me so kindly during our mini-reunion to see Lucinda Williams perform in Austin last weekend, and forwarding, in the middle thereof, a comment, much revised to the point of being ersatz, that I had posted in its original form to your blog around that same time.
(The dubious, shifty, and complicated provenance of the writing below seems especially fitting, since this whole stupid cancer business is dubious, shifty, and complicated.)

From: TheAstonishingFartMan
Sent: Tuesday, May 10, 2011
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Subject: What a Great Attitude You Have, Grandma!

Hey fellas and fellows,
            For your continuing edification, entertainment, irritation, or ignorement (whichever you please), reproduced and forwarded below is a comment (now heavily edited and revised) I wrote yesterday in response to an unsuspecting cancer blogger's post about her chemo experience.
            My comment was posted to ZoomberGirl's blog under my most pompous Stage IV colon cancer chemo week pseudonym ever, The Astonishing FartMan (“able to leap tall buildings with a single poot”), written in a style emulating the ethereal effusions of that one and only Melodious and Malodorous Super Hero, and stunk up with past-participle passive voice. (Passive-aggressive that is: So you don’t wanna slog through this impenetrable prose? Well, too bad for you, ‘cause I can guilt-smack you into reading it.)
            And it doesn’t really matter whether you’ve read half this shtick eleven times already. My shtick is just like chemo. You gotta sit through it again and again and again and again, week after week after week after week, to absorb fully its salutary effects.
            So it seems that ZoomberGirl, the cancer blogger, and I, the blog-squatter/commenter known as The Astonishing FartMan, are getting the same colon cancer chemo regimen every other Monday, the very same Mondays. But I'm one cycle ahead of ZoomberGirl in that sublimely educational process. (She's on cycle 11 of 12, and I'm on cycle 12 of 12.) Our common travail seemed to authorize me to report to her my own chemo clinic adventures. Thus, my comment below, posted to ZoomberGirl's inspiring blog, begins modestly enough, with esoteric details of our très chic alternative chemo lifestyle, and then crescendoes into a cosmic comic dialectical masterwork.
            So, dear friends, suck it up and read it through, but you don't have to read it all at once, 'cause I know how hard it is for you healthy people to cope with cancer.

On 5/9/2011 at 3:39 PM  [or thereabouts], TheAstonishingFartMan wrote [approximately]:
            You go, ZoomberGirl!
            But you can't catch up to me because I'm one cycle ahead of you and right at the finish line. Yes, I'm ahead of you by one whole go-round, getting my last-scheduled infusion (cycle 12 of 12) right this very minute.
            Through my port-a-cath (a medical device, surgically implanted below my left collar bone, and connecting my circulatory system to the outside world via my superior vena cava), I've already gotten today’s dose of the helper drug levoleucovorin. And I've also already gotten my dose of the steroid, dexamethasone, AKA decadron, which will help prevent some bad allergic reactions, but, like bad speed, will also keep me pumped up for a couple of days and stop me from sleeping much at all today—thus this tome. But then the decadron will crash me down hard into the pavement Wednesday or Thursday. I used to get 12 mg of the decadron, but it wired me up too much, so I talked to my onc (who is NOT my uncle) about cutting the dex dose to 6 mg, which doesn't launch me so high and, therefore, doesn’t end in such a brutal crash landing when it wears off. Right at this moment I'm getting infused with my palonosetron, the "pre-drug" to control nausea. But no oxaliplatin or Avastin for me this round because the peripheral neuropathy and those two drugs’ other side effects had gotten too bad to justify continued use.
            So now all that remains to complete today's in-clinic devil juice cocktail is my “bolus” of the strong stuff, the 5FU (technically called fluorouracil, but medically abbreviated as 5FU, presumably to indicate the number of times it can F-U-up during a typical treatment cycle).  Even as we speak, my infusion nurse, the charming and beautiful M____, has begun shooting me up with my bolus of 5FU (pardonnez moi le francais).

            After shooting me up in clinic with that bolus of 5FU (pardonnez moi le francais encore), the charming and beautiful M____ will hook me up to a stylish "ass-bag," oops, I mean "butt-bag," ooops, I mean "fanny-pack," oooooops, I mean "personal portable chemotherapy pump transportation device” (insurance code number 584938-954394-938434) full of another dose of 5FU (pardonnez moi le francais encore), with its accompanying semi-silent portable pump. ("Grish, grish, grish" is the eerie spooky sound that pump makes every few minutes.) Then the charming and beautiful M____ will send me home to enjoy privately my next 46 hours of "continuous infusion."
            (Note to self: Have a chat soon with psychotherapist about this weird nurse-torture-mistress fetish I seem lately to be acquiring. Might be fun, but the outfits could get expensive and probably aren't covered by health plan.)
            Grish  . . .  grish  . . .  grish . . .  grish . . .  grish . . .  grish . . .  grish . . .  grish . . .  grish . . .  grish.
            Every five minutes.
            For 46 hours.
            And people wonder why I act bat crap crazy?
            But then when the pump runs out of devil juice, it starts beeping and blinking non-stop, like a kitschy terrorist bomb in some over-budget Bruce Willis flick. A few cycles ago, when my empty pump went to bleep, bleep, bleeping, blinking in a crowded elevator, I felt a mighty temptation to yell a few "Allahu Akbars" to see if any poor fools would gang-tackle the sweaty pudgy brown-skinned guy strapped to the bleeping, blinking, beeping butt-bag with tubes poking out. (I'm still here, so you can probably assume I was able to repress my natural inclinations just that one time.)
            So it’s 12 of 12, and after I come back to the clinic on Wednesday to get untethered from the port-o-pump, I will be done, done, done, done, done, 5FU done with chemo, at least for a while, and with lots of luck, maybe FOREVER!
            But for now I'm still sitting here in the "Infusion Center," which I call the "Confusion Center," trying to keep everybody laughing, and not letting anyone get any rest.
            Funny as I am--and I am painfully funny--the nice bald lady sprawled in the high-tech LAY-Z-BOY next to mine has me beat hands down today when it comes to black humor. She and I were laughing together a little while ago about how silly it is that healthy people can almost unfailingly be counted upon to say the following two things, the first thing being what they almost always say the moment they encounter us, and the second thing being what they almost always say when they are trying desperately to extricate themselves from our discomfiting company:
First: "You really look good."

Second: "You have a really great attitude."
            The nice bald lady and I laughingly agreed that, even when these two statements are demonstrably false, healthy people can still be relied upon confidently to assert them, presumably as their attempt to contribute a much-needed variety to our cancer-filled day. And, honestly, in my case, both statements always are demonstrably false, because:             

First off, I have never looked good a single day in my entire life. Until I got cancer, NOBODY had EVER told me I look good—EXCEPT my wife just that one time several light years ago when she was pass-out-horny-drunk and the pool guy was on vacation. (And I somehow doubt that the cancer or the chemo has improved my appearance.)

Second off, I have always tried to fulfill my constitutional duty to preserve, protect, and defend my obnoxious attitude, extant by nature, perfected by training, and allowing no wobbly exception for this stupid cancer thing.

               Me and the nice bald lady at the chemo clinic further commiserated that the second cliché is the more ticklesome, as it suggests that a spiffy attitude is going to cure our cancer, and inversely suggests that, if we do die of cancer, it must needs will have been because we didn't have a good enough attitude. (Please note with admiration the new verb tense invented in that last sentence. I shall call it the future conditional obligative tense, a very intense tense, and one with which I hope to addle your brain throughout the remainder of this comment.) By that implied logic, if I croak out from cancer, it's gonna be my silly fault because I didn't think positive enough????? To quote the immortal dialectical philosopher, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha the Third:
"E dun thin so, Lucy."
Nope. I ain't worried about dying of a bad attitude, because if a bad attitude were ever fatal, I wouda been outahere a long time ago. But I will confess to being a leetle teeny tiny itsy bitsy eentsy teensy itty bitty smidgen worried about dying of cancer.

             To be fully honest about it, the whole attitude-enforcement phenomenon pisses me off, and not only with regard to a cancer patient’s mens rea mental state, but also about all sorts of unrelated subject matters, the specifics of which I will leave you to guess for yourself. (Suffice it to say that I think the implicit requirement that a cancer patient must maintain a “positive” mental attitude should qualify as a Federal Hate Crime.)
            So anyway, like I said, the very nice bald lady—the one who sits in the LAY-Z-BOY next to mine in the Confusion Center, oops, I mean the Infusion Center, the lady who has a damn aggressive ovarian cancer that has spread to her omentum, and spread here and there and elsewhere all around her peritoneum, and is inoperable—she has me topped when it comes to fine upper class gallows humor.
            With a happy mischievous-innocent grin on her face and a beautiful light in her eyes, she explained to me that, when healthy people say to her, as they all apparently must do, "You have such a great attitude," she replies, monotone, deadpan, "Yeah, I'm what they call an incurable optimist."
            Now that IS funny. AND sadly true.
            Funny, sad, and true.
            So me and the bald lady, we laughed our little donkeys off. Then we smudged the tears from our respective cheeky cheeks, and blew some big holy globs of bloody snot right out of our respective noses. (Yes, our chemo regimens do make the snot bloody.)
            After all that, the nice bald lady and I sadly conceded that, over the heads of our intended victims, our deadliest discharges of flat black humor fly unobserved, mostly harmless, and certainly without leaving any lasting detrimental impression. Healthy people just can’t snap to a good cancer joke, unless we esplangs it to ‘em, Lucy. And even the ones who might sorta “get it” usually won't have the balls to laugh. Bet you didn’t realize that, metaphorically speaking, one needs large balls to laugh at this stuff. Well, mine, the metaphorical ones, are HUGE, especially when the decadron  swells them up to twice their normal volume.

Laughing balls. Giggling balls! How they jiggle!

Even healthy people, lucky fools that they are, would have to admit that the thought of laughing balls is pretty dern funny.
            So tell me, ZoomberGirl, doncha think people who don't have cancer can be soooooooooo boooor-rrrrriiiiing and predictable?

            In some such way, so ended my comment today on the site of the inspiring yet unsuspecting cancer-blogger whom I call ZoomberGirl.
            And to complete this nonsense, the next time any of you, my dear friends, happens to see me (if I live that long!), you are instructed to greet me with a wet sloppy bolus-kiss of oral adulation: "Man, you look really great!" And you are further instructed to win your extrication with a continuous infusion of portable flattery: "You sure do have a  great attitude! Man, I just wanna tell you what a great attitude you have. With your great attitude, you are sure to beat this stuff!"
            Maybe so, maybe no. But I will deal with either, come what may, and that’s no joke.
Meanwhile, I remain . . .

Your Melodious, Malodorous, Ever Faithful Super Hero,
The Astonishing FartMan
P.S. to M___y and L____, D____, C___ and M____, K____, et al: All kidding aside, but not to get too mushy about it, the Austin Lucinda get-together thingy, with all its associated imbibementations, gustamentations, visitations, peripatetications, boogiefications, and dialecticalations, kinda made my day, or week, or year. (Okay, either I lost my thesaurus, or I need to lose my thesaurus, or I love to show off my fat-assed vocabulary, or maybe I’m just totally full of it, or maybe the decadron is majorly messing with my head. Whichever it is, thank you, dear friends, for indulging me so well and kindly last weekend, today, and always!)
P.P.S. especially to C____ and M____: Sorry you two had to leave the Lucinda Williams concert early to meet those bothersome in-laws. You probably missed the amusing sideshow of me being unceremoniously bounced and booted from the special reserved handi-crapped section, on the pretext of my purportedly over-emphatic dancing, but probably to free up space for some straw-sucking wheelchair guy. What?!?!? After bowel surgery, liver surgery for mets, and 11 rounds of chemo, all in the last eight months, we cancer-disabled people aren’t allowed to dance our butts off? Anybody who has made it through that gauntlet oughta be dancing his butt off. And we’ll see all about that, ‘cause I’ve got my ADA lawsuit drawn up and ready to file against the nightclub, as soon as I can figure out which ones of you guys to sue as co-defendants.

So, ZoomberGirl, that's how it went, more or less.
Rooting for you, ZoomberGirl, I remain . . .
Your Loyal Melodious and Malodorous Super Hero,
The Astonishing FartMan

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Some Crazy People

From: The Astonishing FartMan
To: B______
Subject: Crazy People at Lucinda Concert
Date: Sun, 8 May 2011 10:54 PM

Hey B_______,

To start with, here’s a picture of some crazy people at a Lucinda concert.  In the background, above M____y’s left ear, you can see a very, very small image of Lucinda, performing. In the foreground, below M____y’s right ear, you can see a very, very large image of a tongue, performing:

S____ and I just got back from Austin a couple of hours ago and have only just now received your email.

The weekend was a blast! We’re exhausted, but happy.

I think everyone had a good time, but it would have been way better if you had been there with us.

D_____ and M___y and C____ and K____ are all still crazy. M____y’s good wife, L____, was the only halfway sane person in the group.

Lucinda was good. She played a long set and two encores, mostly older stuff (even sang “Sylvia” and “I Lost It”). She did a few acoustic songs, and then rocked everything out for the rest of the night. (I danced for the first time since my big liver surgery! And it felt good!)

We were too busy having fun to take many pics, but I think we have just a couple more and will try to get them to you with a later email.

S____ sends love, and so do I.

The Astonishing FartMan

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Hapless Tragi-Comic Fiasco of a Farce

Posted recently as a comment on ZoomberGirl's cancer blog.
TheAstonishingFartMan) wrote:

Hey ZoomberGirl,

I used to think that when the chemo side effects were wreaking havoc on my body, it meant the chemo was really working. But I've learned that "the studies show" that there's no correlation between how well the chemo is working and how badly it makes us feel.

So you really are a lucky one to be dancing and b-balling your way through this stuff without too much of the usual chemo misery. I'm jealous.

But now that I have listened to you brag about how impervious you are to the devil juice known as
FOLFOX, to earn my absolution you will have to indulge me as I philosophize a little in my silly ever-so-grandiloquent way:

We smart lawyers recollect the schoolboy’s quintessential syllogism, with its major premise, minor premise, and conclusion:
“All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”

But now I want to plead with fate: Is it really necessary that, into that bone dry logic, I must someday , perhaps someday soon, substitute my very own dear self to take the place of Socrates?
“All men are mortal. I am a man. Therefore, I am mortal.”

The dry logic is irrefutable, but I don’t have to accept it, do I?

Well, yes, I do have to accept it. We all have to accept it, whether we like it or not. We are human, and that means we are mortal—by definition.

But, notwithstanding the power of that inexorable piece of logic, perhaps we should think about these things just as “poetically” and “spiritually,” as we do “logically.”
Whatever might be our preferred thinking process, whether poetical or logical, I think the effort of trying to live as fully as possible (whatever that means) while at the same time trying to accept that universal human characteristic—our mortality—is something we all, both the sick and the supposedly healthy, should spend some good time thinking about.

Yet, unless we are one of the few who are fortunate enough to be looking the wrong way while crossing the street in front of a dump truck, I expect that however much we might try, emotionally and otherwise, to prepare ourselves in advance, when our time seems near (whenever that might be), we each will probably find that there are still plenty of emotional, spiritual, and simply mundane practical matters to deal with, many, many, things that we just cannot anticipate or understand until we are facing the actual hard-pressing reality.
Isn’t that just the way life is? That we can’t quite know precisely in advance what any experience will be like until we actually have that experience. Although at times I had thought about what things must be like for someone with a life-threatening illness, I surely had no idea what living with a serious illness was like until I actually had to live with this serious illness, this Stage IV Colon Cancer with Liver Mets.

So now, with my serious illness, I want to try to find a way to live each day as fully, yet normally, as possible for as long as that seems to be possible. But then I also have to expect, and try to accept, that even near the end of my days, whenever that might be, the rest of the world will not pause long to favor me with the full-time white glove concierge treatment I deserve. Even at the end of my days, I will probably have to muddle and struggle through some difficult, confusing, or frustrating, but mundane, issues (money issues, scheduling issues, insurance issues, medical bureaucracy issues, transportation issues, nutrition issues, crazy brother-in-law issues, bathroom issues) that will sometimes transform my bold attempt to “live each day fully” into a hapless tragi-comic fiasco of a farce.

So I expect it to be the usual business, the business of trying clumsily or gracefully, gratefully or grudgingly, to gather from the tangled vines of the painful, the banal, and the mundane, into the spindly wicker-basket of my soul, a little harvest of the beautiful, the sublime, and the meaningful, or if not that, at least a modest serving of the humorous, the hilarious, and the downright silly.
For us puny humans, if you see things the way I do, all of life seems to be pretty much a hapless fiasco of a farce. Yet it is, according to my ridiculous poetical beliefs, a fiasco of a farce that is every moment presenting possibilities of love and beauty and goodness that are oftentimes right there in front of us, free for the taking, and even better, free for the giving.

For us humans, so fragile and finite in this earthly form, it seems there’s nothing ever perfect, neither a perfect life nor a perfect death. Still we should give ourselves good credit, because we deserve good credit, for trying to do the best we can.