Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Year Of Living Surgically

Chemo getting you down? Thoughts of suicide popping into your head? Well, cheer up, folks. All you have to do is call the Mental Health Hotline. Here are the clear, concise instructions you’ll get from the nice robo-voice when you call:

Hello, and welcome to the mental health hotline. If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5, and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press. If you are manic-depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press, no one will answer. If you are dyslexic, press 969696969696969. If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the dash key until a representative comes on the line. If you have amnesia, press 8 and state your name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, and your mother’s maiden name. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, slowly and carefully press 000. If you have bipolar disorder, please leave a message after the beep or before the beep. Or after the beep. Please wait for the beep. If you have low self-esteem, please hang up. All our operators are too busy to talk to you. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9…

Sunday, Oct. 12 – 4:12 p.m.

Really have to learn to keep my big mouth shut. After all that talk of feeling great in the last episode I got several swift kicks in my chemo butt today. Yech! You hear me, O Gods Of Chemo Side Effects? Yech and double yech. Satisfied now?

Started a new drug at the IV clinic this a.m. – Neulasta. It’s one of those new breed of wonder drugs taken during chemo to help your bones build up your white blood cells. If you’re curious, here’s a link. They say the Neulasta can result in some nasty backaches, but so far, so good.  If my luck doesn't hold, I’ll hit it with some of Alice B.’s remedy. That should do the trick.

Monday, Oct. 13 – 4:23 a.m.

Lousy night. And painful. Hope it relents soon so I can at least get to sleep before dawn.

Monday, Oct. 13 – 9:25 a.m.

It didn’t and I didn’t.

Tuesday, Oct 14 – 5:23 p.m.

Monday was wasted. Today I had a decent morning and early afternoon. But as the day progressed – not so good. The back pain thing they warned me about took a couple of bites out of me. But Alice B. eased things up.

Wed. Oct. 15 -  4:24 a.m.

Another sleepless night. Just downloaded a couple more segments of the the audiobook version of James Clavell’s Shogun – which thankfully weighs in at 48 hours and 26 minutes.

Rocky day – dozing on and off.

Confession: that week off really had me fooled. Silly me. I thought that when the chemo session ended I’d quickly recover and be back just where I left off.

But Chemo has a mind of its own, baby.

A mind of its own.

Thursday – Oct. 16 – 11:18 a.m.

Hallelujah!!! A good night. Slept until 9 a.m. I am woefully behind in my work. Actually, as far as real work goes – like writing – I’m pretty much limited to this blog right now. Gotta expand. Blow myself up like a blowfish. Edgar Alan Blowfish – like that.

Kathryn advises patience, which I am short of. Did I mention that chemo can make you antsy? A zillion things that “must be done” crowd into your head. Then chemo rips the energy rug out from under you.

Ha, ha. Only joking Chemo Guy.

I’m supposed to see Dr. Tomeski at 3:30. She always makes me feel better.

Friday, Oct. 17 – 1:05 p.m.

Slept late, which is a good thing. Got in some exercise: walking the halls, up and down the three flights of stairs, a little work with the rubber bands. The exercise ball I ordered on the advice of my trainer arrived this morning. Thank God it comes with a foot pump! Otherwise – whoo, I’d be on my butt after three minutes of huffing and puffing. Double protein drink for breakfast. Then a little of Allan’s morning gruel after exercising.

Tomato and rice soup on the luncheon menu. With a mess of crackers mushed in.

Learned from Dr. Tomeski yesterday that the next poisoning session has been pushed to Thursday, instead of Wednesday. So this week the skull and crossbones go on the calendar Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Then I’ll be halfway through. Six down and six more to go. (Or, five and a wakeup on my Short Timer’s Calendar.) That should put me on the other side in late January.

They are going to do a CAT scan to see how things are progressing after this next session. Assuming there is positive news, Kathryn asked if maybe the chemo sessions can stop early.

Dr. Tomeski just smiled that gentle smile of hers, gave a sad shake of the head and said, “No.”

Saturday, Oct. 18 – 4:05 p.m.

A good night. Listless, but sick-free day. Don’t have two thoughts in my head that I could rub together. Not complaining. If Chemo leaves me alone, I’ll leave it alone. Of course, what could I threaten it with if it doesn’t agree to the truce?

Stick my fingers in my ears and sing out: “Hit me with your cancer stick. Hit me. Hit me.”

( With apologies to Ian Dury and the Blockheads)

Twelve hours after I wrote that I fell over.


Kathryn found me in the dark. I was on the floor in the living room the walker laying across my legs, a small chair toppled over my head. I hadn’t shouted for help or anything, she’d just heard the crash and came running. I was disoriented. Head a vortex of confusion. Couldn’t quite figure out which way was up and when I got that managed I couldn’t figure out how to get out from under the walker and the chair, then leverage myself to my feet. And then if I got to my feet, how could I manage to remain upright long enough to stagger back to bed?

I wasn’t hurt. Just mortified. Couldn’t even get a glass of frigging water in the middle of the night. Kathryn made everything alright. In a short time the living room lights were on and I was sitting in the chair that had formerly been sitting on top of me. She fetched me some water, then stroked me and kissed me and when I said I was sorry she became very firm, saying I’d done nothing wrong – had taken all precautions, like the use of the walker which I normally don’t need and only use for nighttime trips to the bathroom, or the kitchen to fetch some water.

My wrist hurts a little. And one knee. But otherwise I’d once again escaped unscathed. Took a Tylenol for minor pain and swelling, then fell into a deep sleep.

Sunday, Oct. 19 - ????

Sunday.  Forget Sunday. You know what you did, Sunday and you should be ashamed of yourself.  Go hide your head in the corner and stay there until you agree to come crawling out and play nicely with the other days of the week.

Monday, Oct. 20 - 9:26 a.m.

Laura, the oncology nurse from the IV Center called this morning to confirm the next chemo schedule. I already know all this – Dr. Tomeski had told me earlier. But the official call gets me down a little.
In short – it’s  all about to begin again.
I found myself in one of those peculiar Irish moods. It’s  beautiful Florida morning with plenty to bedazzle the eye. Fish jumping in the canal catching insects for brunch, including a huge, colorful butterfly. One side of me is saying, “Ah, Nature. Beauty in all its glorious cruelty." But the other side - the Irish bipolar side - finds me glaring at the ripple the fish made after his successful butterfly capture. And I’m thinking, “Effing fish! Why didn’t he leave the poor butterfly alone? Catch a mosquito or one of  God’s other stupid mistakes. Spoiled the whole damned morning, you slimy little bastard."
Kathryn must have sensed the mood swing. She sat down beside me and after I delivered a few cranky observations about this and that, she said, “Do you realize that this whole thing actually started over a year ago?”
I frowned. A year? The chemo thing has only been going on a few months.
“Well, sure,” she said. “But that’s just the chemo. In reality it all began a year ago this month – right about the time of our anniversary (Oct. 6) – you collapsed in the gym and I took you to the hospital for a battery of tests and then Dr. Lee showed up with his magic scalpel and you underwent a whole series of operations. You spent your birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and even New Year’s Eve either in the operating room, or Intensive Care, or in bed at home going through rehab so you’d be strong enough for the next round of operations.
“Then last Easter, when you thought everything was over and done with, you collapsed because of what turned out to be internal bleeding, then spent three weeks in the hospital having colon surgery and getting two malignant tumors removed.”
It was then I started getting a glimmer of what she was getting at.
I said “I suppose one way to look at it – the wrong way - is that I’ve had a year’s run of bad luck. Which, when you have just turned 70 and don’t have that many years left in the bank can be kind of depressing.”
“Well, except for one very important thing,” Kathryn said. “You’ve refused to let it get you down. They keep shooting at you and you keep getting up and getting strong again so you can face whatever comes next.”
That made me feel pretty good.  The day was getting a little more positive.
Then I thought, wait a minute, wait a minute, Allan - you are being a selfish thumb-sucking clot.  I mean, what about Kathryn?
She’s spent a entire year talking to doctors with me, then waiting outside operating rooms for untold hours, holding my hand in ICU while I morphine-babbled, afternoons and evening visiting hours, negotiating dark parking lots at night, privately kicking walls at home to let off steam, then she comes and collects me. I’m a mess when I first get home. Can barely make it to the elevator. Can’t lift my own feet up in bed, so she does it for me, then helps me get up and stagger to the John in my walker. Then there is the rehab. In home nurse three times a week, physical trainer three times a week.
And then, by and by, she stands tentatively back and lets me get onto my own two feet. Listening at night for when I get up and occasionally overbalance and topple onto the floor. Then she’ll hurry out, pull the furniture off me, see if I’m hurt, wash my face, shush me and tell me not to worry and that it is a good thing that I worked so hard during rehab or I could have really hurt myself.

She does this not just once, but innumerable times. 
So, I’m thinking all that, and it comes to me – not for the first time – that whatever I’m going through, she’s getting piled on double. When it comes to stress, she’s getting it all – Big Time. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my own doped up little world puttering about in the protective bubble she’s created for me. 
 “You’re the tough one,” I told her. “I married Wonder Woman. No - You're Xena Clottin’ Warrior Princess in the flesh.”
Kathryn laughed. “I’ll bet you say that to all the girls who scrape you off the floor in the middle of the night.”

“That’s true,” I said. “I have a weakness for that sort of woman."

We laughed, then after a minute she said, “So, we’re both okay then, right?”

And I thought about it and she was absolutely spot on.

“Yeah,” I said. “We’re both okay.”

Then – “Baby, I love you.”


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


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.)


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. 

Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:

U.S. .............................................France
United Kingdom ...........................Spain
Canada ........................................ Italy
Germany ..................................... Japan
Brazil .......................................... India


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. 

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