Day 4: So what’s wrong with you?
Man, talking feels good sometimes. Just blabbering on and on to someone, not even caring if the other person is listening. I used to chalk such behavior up as an early sign of dementia, but after the year I’ve been having, I think I’m starting to get it. When shit’s going wrong in a really big way, it feels good to have someone sit there and take in whatever kind of verbal dribble comes pouring out your mouth. I was kinda in denial of this until today.
Opening up and connecting with people wasn’t on my schedule this morning. Nope. My plan looked something like this:
7:00: Wake up. Shower. Get Dressed.
7:30: Boil some eggs and eat a banana.
8:00: Board the shuttle.
8:50: Get blasted in the dome piece by some heavy dude ray guns.
9:30: Go to the MGH volunteer office and make sure they have all my medical files/proofs of immunization.
10:00: Board the shuttle back to the Lodge, where I’d nap for however long I pleased, wake up, and work out.
Of course, my plans never unfold as they should.
Here’s what actually happened:
7:00: Ignored my alarm.
7:10: Ignored my alarm again.
7:25: Realized that it’s 7:25 and I’m still in bed. Threw myself into a state of panic so I could lie in bed for 10 more minutes without falling back asleep.
7:45: Realized I’ve been lying in a weird half-dream state for 20 minutes and jumped out of bed. Brushed teeth. Pulled up pants 75%.
7:55: Grabbed a handful of peanuts and a banana (and clearly not worrying about the allergy concerns of others) and ran to the hospital shuttle.
8:50: Got protons shot at my face.
Ok. I’m no longer committed to this itinerary format. Also, that was probably boring and weird to read for you, no? Well get pumped! Back to paragraph form!
After treatment, I was loading up the Keurig machine in the Cancer Resource Center at MGH (because Keurig machines aren’t in enough places already) when a booming voice with a heavy Eastern European accent asked me, “So what’s wrong with you?” It was one of my Hope Lodge-mates whom I will call “The Georgian,” (note: Georgia the country, not the state. Don’t worry, everyone makes that mistake. But seriously, look at a map sometime. Also, do not assume he’s Russian. Whoops!). I had met The Georgian briefly once before in the proton center. He’s one of five here in the Lodge in his 20s and, like me, he’s taking protons to the cabeza on a daily basis.
I really, really, really didn’t feel like telling my story these days. I’m just tired of it. When someone asks me, I don’t even know what I say anymore. I probably sound like that sad, sad who spends all his waking hours at the bar (I’ve never actually met such a person, but countless comedy movies have assured me such an archetype exists). “Yeah… so… big tumor in my head. Fucking doctors. AmIright? Blahblahblah. Pffffffffffffffffffft.” (That last part is me making spitty noises with my lips).
I halfheartedly explained my story, but his English wasn’t the best, so I couldn’t really tell how much he understood. Instead saying an awkward goodbye and walking away, I asked him the same question, “So, what’s wrong with you?” Then he told me his whole tale, or as much as he could with his broken English, and man. He told me all about how he just started an exchange program in New York. How in his first week here he experienced an unbearable pain in his neck, and how he was turned away from the ER doctors because they accused him of being a “drug addictor” (his word, not theirs). His blood and urine tests were clean, and the pain was “12 from 10.” X-rays and CT scans didn’t show anything, but finally an MRI revealed a chordoma – the type of tumor I originally feared I had – pressing on the back of his spinal cord.
But then we talked about how funny life can be. As a boy, he read the adventures of Huckleberry Finn (he pronounced it, “hilkenbully”) and dreamed of traveling to Mississippi, a wish that seemed impossible considering the Soviet rule at the time. Then, 20 years later, he found himself in the US, traveling to Alabama, Mississippi, and, yes, Georgia.
He got up, but I decided to stay seated in the Resource Center. I chatted with another Hope Lodger who is blind and back home provides “audio-described theatre for the blind.” A female chaplain from Harvard’s Divinity school asked if anyone wanted to chat about spirituality, but I was the only one around. So she and I just spoke for a while. Well, I spoke a lot. And it felt good. I don’t even know what we talked about. Travel? Canadians? Cancer? It didn’t matter. The act of sharing stories with people felt good in a way that I can’t explain.
On a completely unrelated note, enjoy this funny Boston-themed sketch!
Four treatments down, thirty-one to go.