A colon cancer surgeon took his car to his local garage for a regular service, where he usually exchanged a little friendly banter with the owner, a skilled but not especially wealthy mechanic.
"So tell me," said the mechanic, "I've been wondering about what we both do for a living, and how much more you get paid than me."
"Yes?" said the surgeon.
"Well, look at this," said the mechanic, as he worked on a big complicated engine, "I check how it's running, open it up, fix the valves, and put it all back together so it works good as new.. We basically do the same job don't we? And yet you are paid ten times what I am - how do you explain that?"
The surgeon thought for a moment, then smiled and said, "Try it with the engine running..."
Saturday, Dec. 20 – 5:25 p.m.
Last Wednesday – the day I had the transfusions of blood and plalets – was the first time in weeks that I felt good. Not relatively good, but damned good – strong and full of energy. I don’t think the fact that the chemo sessions had put off until New Year’s week had anything to do with it.
I’ve had breaks in the every-two-weeks’ schedule before and still felt worse than what resides at the bottom of a septic tank. If you look back at the previous episodes, you’ll note that things have gotten tougher as I went along. After every poisoning session I felt worse than before and it took longer and longer to recover, until there was almost no gap between one treatment and the next. It’s been like wading through mud, with the mud getting thicker and harder to move through than before.
But Wednesday night I had the first normal dinner in many weeks, and – miracle of all miracles – it stayed with me… More or less. Previously food remained inside me for about twenty minutes. Now it was an hour.
And – get this – on Thursday I felt better still. So good that for the first time since last May, when I had the colon cancer surgery, I cooked dinner for Kathryn!
It was simple, to be sure. Broiled chicken breasts, a little Basmati rice simmered in chicken broth and peas. The peas were overcooked – I prefer vegetables to be al dente – steamed in a smidgen of olive oil. But these days they have to have the hell cooked out of them or they make me sick. The doctor who cut me up said I’d have to have “well cooked” vegetables pretty much for the rest of my. It’s a bummer, yeah. But better than the alternative, which is no life at all.
Friday, I still felt fine. That night I broiled two small salmon steaks for the two of us, served along with the ubiquitous rice and peas.
Today I felt better than ever. I even enjoyed a grand outing accompanying Kathryn to the local car wash, where I sat outside in the shade of an umbrella while they washed and waxed the car.
(An aside: One of the side effects of chemo is that you become photo-sensitive and you have to stay out of direct sunlight or nasty things happen to your skin.)
Then we went to the store together. I wiped down the shopping cart bar with antiseptic cloths and we strolled up and down the aisles perusing the offerings. Naturally, if I heard someone sneeze, or sniffle I immediately got the hell out of reach of possible sneezes. At this point my immune system is so out of whack that a common cold would quickly devolve into pneumonia. Also, because of the chemo I had to forgo my annual flu shot, so I’m wide open to that bit of nastiness.
Anyway, I found some lovely little lamb chops that I’m going to broil for my baby tonight. Will have those with rice and green beans. Followed by Ben And Jerry’s Blueberry Vanilla Graham Greek Yogurt.
Ah… Ain’t life wonderful?
Monday, Dec. 22 – 4:32 p.m.
Once again, I spoke too soon. Decent morning followed by an afternoon and night of nastiness.
Tuesday, Dec. 23 – 10:22 a.m.
The sickness continues. Calling in: Too sick to write.
Wednesday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve) – 6:02 p.m.
I am still not a well Allan. Rousted myself in the a.m. to do Santa present wrapping duties, then knocked off. Just woke up and am feeling kind of rocky. If I eat at all tonight, it’ll be a little soup and crackers.
Thursday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day) – 1:05 p.m.
With the winter storm pummeling the Northeast, the day here dawn gray and a little chilly – for Florida, that is.
To me, however, it was if all was bright and sunshine cheery outside. You may know the kind of South Florida morning I mean: colorful tropical birds singing, Iguanas grazing, and fish taking a big chance with the hawk circling overhead to leap out of the canal to snatch a dragonfly out of the air.
In short, I felt like a million bucks and Kathryn – seeing the change in me – led me into the living room where the stockings Santa and his elves had stuffed in the wee hours, were laid by the Sony TV with care. We took these and other presents from under our tiny Christmas tree and piled them on the bed and started ripping and tearing and oohing and ahhing and laughing and tickling like we were little kids.
My favorite Christmas of all time was the first one I spent with Kathryn. It was 1976 – three years before Chris Bunch (Kathryn’s brother) and I broke into Hollywood and the book publishing game. We were both poorer than the ragamuffin family of mice who lived in The Little Brown Church In The Vale.
She was working for a penny-pinching accountant (is there any other kind) and I was working for a newspaper publisher who made the accountant look like a spendthrift. After alimony and child support I was left with fifty bucks a week, so I was crashing at Chris’ house.
Kathryn, of course, had some horrendous expenses of her own. Plus, she had just had her stereo stolen out of her little apartment in Hawthorne – bad for anyone, but a tragedy for a member of the Bunch clan who would rather starve than be without sounds.
A stereo was something I could hardly afford, but I made a deal for a portable model with a Santa Monica pawn shop owner who I had once featured in my daily column about interesting personalities on the Westside. It wasn’t the greatest stereo in the world, but it had damned good speakers, a decent turntable with a new diamond needle that the pawn shop buy threw in.
Meanwhile, Kathryn was conspiring with Chris to get me a custom-made leather motorcycle jacket. And I conspired with Kathryn to get Chris a peanut butter machine and a couple of pounds of peanuts to get started.
On Christmas Eve Chris got a nice fire going in the rec room fireplace and we spread out a feat of cold cuts and cheese Chris had scored from an old German deli over in Inglewood. Washed down with a few bottles of Dos Equis, it was marvelous.
We exchanged presents. Everybody oohed and aahaed their appreciation.
Eventually the little party wound down and sleepiness overtook us. Kathryn and I crashed on this big stack of enormous pillows Chris’ ex had made.
She put a stack of records on the new player and I covered us up with my new motorcycle jacket and it was all very nice and romantic and well… Christmassy!
That was the first really nice Christmas I had enjoyed in my thirty-some years. In times past there were always family members who flipped out at Christmas and dragged everybody down with them.
It was that night that I determined to ask to marry me. I mean, I was not going to allow this woman – who made Christmas a delight – to escape me.
Eventually I had to take her to England to get her to agree. But that’s another story, which I shall tell by and by.
Friday, Dec. 26 – 6:07 p.m.
Went to the IV Clinic for blood tests this morning - in preparation for the next chemo session on Monday. Because of New Year’s day falls on a Thursday, I’m on a Monday through Wednesday schedule for a change.
I lucked out at IV Clinic. At first, a particularly thick-headed and irritating nurse was going to do the job. She’s the one who said she didn’t have time to escort me to the restroom a couple of months back, even though I complained of vertigo brought on by the poisons they were pumping into me. If you recall that ended up with me doing a face-first sky/ground in the bathroom, with nearly disastrous and definitely humiliating results. Anyway, soon as she saw me this morning she started in with a series of sappy questions that no answer I gave could ever satisfy.
A senior nurse must have seen the look on my face – my Irish temper was only a degree or so from overboiling – and politely butted in, sending the B-word nurse off on some errand or other and taking over the rather simple procedure.
Thank the Chemo Deity for small favors.
A little over an hour ago the clinic called and said I had to come in tomorrow – Saturday – for an injection of Neupogen. Its Wikipedia entry says it is “used to treat a lack of certain white blood cells caused by cancer.” Okay, I’m cool with that, although the possible side effects – like most modern medicine – are not pleasant. Fingers crossed that I remain side effects free.
Saturday, Dec. 27 – 11:39 a.m.
Neupogen mission accomplished. No problems, even though I was stuck (literally) with the B-word nurse with no one to rescue me. Besides her other faults she is also ham-handed so that injections administered by her are guaranteed to be painful. I don’t know how she does it. I give myself Vitamin B-12 injections once a week and don’t even feel a “pinch.” But she has a certain talent when it comes to pissing you off, or hurting you, or both.
Sunday, Dec. 28 – 8:55 p.m.
Next round of chemo begins tomorrow at 9:30. Feeling good.
Monday, Dec. 29 – 2:35 p.m.
Back from the first day of poisoning. Of course, my Cadd pump is filled with 22 hours worth of Adriatic Carpet Cleaner, so it will continue. I’m to report back for the second day of chemo at noon tomorrow.
A Little Later:
So far, I’m feeling pretty good. Had peanut butter and blueberry jam on toast for lunch. Going to nap now.
Had a good evening. Hoping all goes well during the night.
Tuesday, Dec. 30 – 11:08 a.m.
Leaving for the clinic in 45 minutes. Had a decent night. Woke up feeling pretty good. Kathryn gave me pumpkin pie for breakfast – she baked it last night. Man, that’s good!
Wednesday, Dec. 31 – 9:54 a.m.
Going in at 1:30 to get the Cadd pump disconnected.
Do you know what that means?
After today, I’ll only have three chemo sessions left. Or, in Short-Timer’s Calendar speak: two and a wakeup.
And you know what that means boys and girls, don’t you?
In six weeks I’ll be free, free, free!
HAPPY NEW YEAR
ONE AND ALL
FROM KATHRYN AND ALLAN
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.
Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:
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.