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 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

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