I had this naïve hope that with the bone marrow biopsy and a PET CT Scan I had last Friday, I’d be reporting definitive news. To quote some Frenchman named Alphonse Karr, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” To that, I should add that the glass is still either half empty or half full. And since I’m on the subject of clichés, I feel the need to kvetch once more about the puerile phrase craze: “Cancer survivor.” It is like those of us with cancer have this need to be talked down to. The minute you get your diagnosis you have qualified as a survivor. Want proof?
I’ve taken to reading the obits (To see whom I have beaten, or who has beaten me, depending on how you look at it.) The proof is right there. The actual survivors, the ones who get to send in the obits, persist in using the term cancer survivor to describe their dearly departed, even in the damn obituaries. I’m waiting for my friend and neighbor, Ellen Rosenthal, to take a photo of some headstone in some obscure cemetery, possibly a French one, bearing an epitaph that says: “Here lies Mssr.’X’ cancer survivor.”
But wait! I’ve got more proof. I’ve been perusing magazines looking for a place to dump my journals from the transplant ordeal. I thought that one of those cancer mags that they virtually force on patients might be a good choice, given the topic. But ever-contrarian me, I ran right into a stone wall. Their criteria for submissions include the admonition that the story must be “upbeat.” Can you imagine? No one can ever die in their wonderful, glossy world of cancer. No one can ever have life altering complications. Everyone gets back on the golf course and shoots below par. What a bunch of namby pambies they think we must all be that we can’t just read and learn real shit. We have to live in la la happy-ending land according to the editors of those rags. Glass half-full ain’t good enough for them. Oh no!
That brings me back to Alphonse Karr. How so? You may well ask. The answer, in a word, is: immortality. He coined that little homily quoted above and was dubbed a philosopher. What an easy way to gain eternal recognition! Just one good quote is all it takes. So, I’ve decided, given my circumstances, to corner the philosopher market in gallows humor. After sixty-two years and three different species of cancer, I have convinced myself that I have both the temperament and qualifications suited for this task. (Not to mention the time, since my doctor has told me to stay away from courtrooms — effectively disbarring me.) So, I’ll try this one on you. “The only good cancer survivor is a dead cancer survivor.” Send in your cards and letters, kids. Let me know how you like it.
Actually, my circumstances currently are not all that bad. The PET/CT Scan and some other stuff they do to all that blood I give them could not locate any CLL. But just because their fancy shmancy equipment can’t find it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Sort of like Osama bin Laden. Chimerism was not that hot. Seems to be heading south, like a pod of gray whales in Autumn. Doc isn’t worried though. But hell, he isn’t the cancer survivor. I’ll leave the details to my resident, glass-half-full expert, Bonnie. Anyway, I’m feeling pretty darn good and enjoying my negativity a whole lot.
Some of you have asked for another song. Okay, already. This is sung in thirties’ style mellow blues, not a lot of bass, think Ella or Nat. Very mellow. Jazz chords. Try a piano or at least a Les Paul. You’re in one of those dinner clubs with Nick and Nora Charles. You know, the ones with the tiny shaded lamps on the white, cloth covered, little round tables. Bone china. Silverware. A maitre d’ who knows your name and gives you a “good” seating. Evening dress. Everything in black and white. Noir. You must remember this. A kiss is just a kiss….
I got me them bone marrow biopsy blues,
‘Cause they never seem to bring me good news,
And then them PET Scanners,
Start to drive me bananas
So come on folks, walk a mile in my shoes.
(Chorus) (Everybody sing!)
Cause we got us chimerism.
We got us graphs an’ charts
As much fun as communism
For us old farts.
They stick that big needle in your hip,
Let their syringe take a sip
Of that marrow in your bones,
Checking X and Y chromosomes,
To give them doctors a tip
So pal kindly fill my glass
But not so full it’ll kick my ass
An’ not so empty I’ll want more
‘Cause we each get us but one pour
Before it’s time to pass.
(Chorus and fade, fade, fade.)
Happy trails to you!