My veins are filled, once a week with a Neapolitan carpet cleaner distilled from the Adriatic and I am as bald as an egg. However I still get around and am mean to cats.
- John Cheever
Today my hair started to fall out.
I first noticed when I looked into the mirror wondering if I could skip shaving today (the Chemo Nazis made me switch to an electric razor, which I hate) and I noticed that I had hairy shoulders. I’m thinking, but wait – I’ve never had hairy shoulders, or back or any of those other simian-like attributes. But then it came to me that I was wearing a shirt and the hair wasn’t growing out of, or through my shirt, but was falling in drifts from my head.
Fascinated with this phenomena listed in all the touchy-feelie “you aren’t alone” pamphlets on the after-effects of chemo, I fished a comb from the cabinet and ran it through my hair. Yep. Sure enough, big clumps came away. I did it again. More clumps. Hmm. Interesting.
I told Kathryn. She said, no problem, that whenever I wanted she’d call and make an appointment with my barber to shave my head. But maybe wait a couple of days until it became more pronounced.
I elected to wait. Mainly, because I had just found the lead for this episode of Notes From A Chemo Brain – Today my hair started to fall out – and wanted to hammer this into being. After that, I’m ready for baldieland. I even have this really cool International Spy Museum ball cap Kathryn got me with the motto, “Deny Everything.”
Take that, colon cancer, and stuff it where the sun don’t shine.
When last we spoke, Gentle Reader, I was getting ready for my first chemotherapy treatments. I had an idea of what was going to happen, but if you’ve ever been in a hospital you’ll know that nothing happens exactly the way it was described and everything is going to take a really long time.
If Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman had ever included Hospital Time in their equations, they’d never have entertained any doubts about the reversibility of time but just have declared it to be so and neenered all the naysayers without mercy.
Anyway, we reported to the hospital reception desk at 9 a.m. sharp. They say, but wait, this isn’t where you report. You have to go to Emergency Admissions. Kathryn said this wasn’t an emergency, but the nice lady at reception explained that because of various bureaucratic issues that wouldn’t interest us one bit, admissions for chemotherapy were taken in the emergency wing.
Emergency is at the far end of the hospital – so they wheeled me for two small forevers and then we waited, and waited, then waited some more.
It was a quarter after ten when we were finally escorted to my room. Got into my hospital gown – I was allowed to keep my pants, so was saved the indignity of flashing my butt whenever I got up. Vital signs were measured, pillows were plumped and then there we sat. And sat and sat. We kept asking, when does it start and they kept saying, soon, soon.
Lunch arrived. Something that looked like meatballs heaped on a bed of – I don’t know, I hesitate to describe it. Besides, when you have had two thirds of your colon removed meatballs are not your friend. In fact, few edible things are your friend. They go right through you, and continue doing so until your brow drips with moisture and the cramps get pretty fierce.
I asked for some nice yogurt and it was promptly delivered. Now yogurt and other gentle foodstuffs don’t hang around much more than the meatballs, but it’s easier to bear and they stay long enough for the protein to be extracted.
Then it's 12:30 and – hooray! – the chemo nurse arrives. She gently inserts a needle into the IV port installed in my chest, spends a little bonding time with us then starts to leave. I say, wait, when does the actual chemo begin? She frowns and says, we didn't get the orders yet. Kathryn says, how could that be? The hospital has known for days that the treatments were supposed to start this morning.
I’ll call, the nurse reassures us.
I say, but the treatment is for 44 hours, right? Twenty two the first day and twenty two more the second day. The nurse nods but then adds that actually it’ll be a little longer than that. There are two other medications that are pumped in first. One takes fifteen minutes. The other two hours. Then they wait two hours before the first of the twenty two hours of self-poisoning begins.
We do quick calculations. Originally, I was supposed to go home the day after tomorrow – Friday morning. Now it looks like it’ll be more like late Friday afternoon. Or maybe even Saturday morning. (And Saturday it was to be.)
We look to the nurse for help and she says, “I’ll call somebody.”
Now that the reality of hospital time has really sunk in, I convince Kathryn to go home and have lunch and relax. There is no telling when this is going to start.
Every now and then the nurse pokes her head in to see how I’m holding up and I ask how much longer and she says, “I’ll call them again.”
Time drips on not totally unlike the deadly chemo fluids that will soon be flowing into my veins. I’m thinking that the suspense might work just as well. The cancer cells might get so nervous waiting around for the upcoming battle that maybe they’d just hang it up and leave.
Finally, at 4:30 the bags of evil fluids arrive. I get the first fifteen minute one. Then the two hour one. Then I’m supposed to wait two hours for the next session to begin.
Kathryn is back. Dinner is served and sent away to trade in for some chicken soup and crackers. Kathryn goes home and then it's 9 p.m. The two hours are up.
But wait, now it seems the pharmacy people have gone to dinner, so it’ll be a bit before they can finish mixing up the final batch.
Finally, the nurse arrives with a plastic bag that’s kind of a shiny golden brown in color. For some reason, the color looks spooky and I know right away this is the really bad boy: The (brrr) Fluorouracil.
She hangs the bag, plugs it into the tube leading to the port in my chest, turns a couple of little knobs and a drop begins to form on the tip of the Fluorouracil’s tubing.
I look up at the clock.
It’s 10:25 p.m.
The poisoning of yours truly, Allan Cole, has begun.
LUCKY IN CYPRUS: IT'S A BOOK!
Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide:
Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
- "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
- "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus.
- "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke, Bookloons.com
NEW: THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF
THE HATE PARALLAX
THE HATE PARALLAX: What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:
A new novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan
After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm ravaged night.
BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization.
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Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is "The Blue Meanie," a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.