Friday, February 20, 2015

The Snake Eaters' School Dilemma

A guy walks past a mental hospital and from behind the walls hears a moaning voice "... 13 ... 13 ... 13 ..."

The man spots a hole in the wall. Curious, he looks through the hole. A big fat finger pokes him in the eye. The moaning voice then groans "... 14 ... 14 ... 14 ..."


Thursday, Feb. 12 - 2:15 p.m.

Six and a wakeup.

Thanks to some arm twisting and finagling by Kathryn, they did blood testing early at the doctor’s office instead of waiting until Monday. 

She’s hoping that if levels of red and white blood cells and platelets prove to be too low that there will still be time to get the necessary transfusions without delaying my last chemo session.


Kathryn’s instincts were right. Everything was in the cellar. Transfusions set for tomorrow. With luck, the final poisoning of yours truly will begin on time next week.

Friday, Feb. 13 – 6:13 p.m.

Five and a wakeup.

Kathryn and I hit the IV Center at 10:30 a.m, clutching a basket of Valentine’s Day flowers for the staff. It had a little dog made of white flowers set in the center and was a big hit. Spent the rest of the day getting transfusions of red blood cells, platelets and a shot to boost production of white blood cells.

Exhausted by the time I got home, which is ridiculous. After all, the only thing I did was sit in a lazy-boy type chair all day watching episodes of Breaking Bad while they pumped me full of good stuff.

Saturday, Feb. 14 – 9:48 a.m.

Four and a wakeup.

The day did not begin well. Woke up with a nose bleed that wouldn’t quit. I’m wondering if maybe blood levels are still too low, despite yesterday’s treatment. After checking with the doctor, I skipped taking my daily dose of Ecotin and Plavix – both blood thinners. It seemed to help and after a time the nose bleed subsided.

Very tired and listless, despite a self-administered injection of B-12. Sick in the afternoon, but felt a little better in the evening.

Sunday, Feb. 15 – 9:17 a.m.

Three and a wakeup.

No nose bleeding, although the weariness and sickness persists. The doctor has ordered more tests for Monday in advance of the scheduled start of the final three-day chemo treatment on Tuesday.

Monday, Feb. 16 – 7:58 a.m.

Two and a wakeup.

Groan… Blood tests showed that all the levels were still dangerously low. Dr. Tomeski ordered more transfusions of red blood cells and platelets, plus the white blood cell injection. It didn’t end until well after 5 p.m.

Exhausted, but of good cheer. Tuesday, after six really loooonnnngggg months, they’ll start pumping me full of Adriatic Carpet Cleaner for the last time.

Tuesday, Feb. 17 – 8:15 a.m.

One and a wake up.

Rise and shine, baby. The end is in sight.

LATER: 4:59 p.m.

Well, shit, you hear me? Shit.

All the blood levels were still in the toilet. Multiple transfusions commenced. Chemo has been rescheduled for next week to give my body time to replenish the fluids naturally.

So, in one swell foop, I went from one and a wake up to eight and a wake up.


Double bummer: Stricken with severe pain in my lower back and legs Apparently it is one of the possible side effects from platelet transfusions – something I hadn’t experienced before. They dosed me with Tylenol plus an injection of Darvon.

Eventually, the pain diminished, but not the low spirits brought on by the delay.

Wednesday, Feb. 18 – 9:14 a.m.

Seven and a wakeup.

Back and leg pains returned about 3 a.m. Hurt enough to keep me awake most of the night. Finally pain medication and exhaustion took over and I fell asleep.


Sick all day and still bummed out.

Thursday, Feb. 19 – 10:22 a.m.

Another bad night with little sleep.

Woke up feeling down again. Geesh, man, what the clot’s the point? Okay, I knew very well that even after the last chemo session the fight was far from over and that the danger of cancer would still be hanging over my head. Plus there’s months of tests and rehab ahead. The doctor says it’ll be a year before the last of the poisons are cleared out of my system.

But after I drank a hot cup of chocolate protein and soy milk, my energy levels started to pick up.

And then I remembered a story Chris Bunch – my late writing partner – used to tell. Before he was sent to Vietnam (Chris was in Special Forces) he went through jungle warfare training at Fort Sherman in Panama. The guys called it Snake Eaters’ School.

The training was brutal. The final exam – so to speak – was a mock escape mission through enemy territory in some of the nastiest jungles and swamps of Panama. It was grueling trek that lasted many days. They were given limited supplies and were forced to live off the land, catching, killing and then eating – raw and cold – whatever they could find. (In real life, cooking fires would be a sure giveaway.)

Chris and the others were told that the mission would end at a beach, where rubber boats would be waiting to take them to a ship just offshore where they’d enjoy hot showers, hot chow, clean clothes and cold beer.

“We all kind of fixated on that beer,” Chris said. “Talking about just how cold and thirst killing it’d be. And we all told tall tales about double throw down beer busts we had enjoyed and took bets on just how fast each of us could down that first bottle of brew.”

Finally, they fought their way out of the jungle and found themselves on the promised beach. White sand stretching to the blue waters of Limon Bay.

“But guess what,” Chris said. “There wasn’t a boat in sight, rubber or otherwise.”

The sergeant in charge looked puzzled. Shaking his head, he glassed the empty ocean, then got on the radio to see what was what. Then he turned to the ragged, filthy, group assembled on the beach and informed everyone that ship wouldn’t be coming. Something urgent had come up and it was no longer available for the mission.

But then he smiled and pointed along the shoreline. And he explained that things weren’t that bad after all. About ten miles down that nice soft beach was a great little tourist town, where they could get temporary quarters, and food and beer while transportation was arranged to take them back to Fort Sherman.

“Right there and then,” Chris said, “a number of guys just gave the fuck up. They threw down their packs and said that’s it. Even after all they’d been through and even though this was the final test, they were done. They quit. And fuck a bunch of Snake Eaters’ School.”

Chris added, that of course, that was whole point of the exercise. It was teach them that things were always apt to go wrong in war and even after you pushed yourself to the extremes, you never knew when you would be called on to push some more.

“What’d you do?” I asked, knowing the answer but wanting to hear him tell it.

Chris shrugged and said, “Well, I figured the beer in that little town would be just as cold, the food just as hot and with a little luck we might even run into some pretty little girls.

“So, I picked up my pack and commenced walking.”

… And so, after remembering that story and reliving the telling in detail, I shouldered my mental pack and determined to keep on, keep onin’ and on Monday I’ll be back to two and a wake up.

Wish me luck.


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  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
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  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke,


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. 

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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. 


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