They monitor my urine here. The total cost of my stay to the insurance company will be probably well north of a quarter million dollars. But to the people that have to dump my collected urine, that cost is far too low. The nurses here at Karmanos Cancer Center need to know how much my output is keeping pace with my input, so no toilet for me; it’s a series of random jugs, some of them placed bedside in the middle of the night, some elsewhere. I’m the Easter Bunny of pee.
The nurses find my hidden treasures, measure them, then dump them. There’s a special spot — or pot — in Valhalla, for the ones that have to do it most often.
Amazing Nurse Melissa was attending to my daily medications and IV drips when she stepped into the bathroom only to find a few empty jugs. “Hmmm,” she thought. “Has Rodney slowed down his output?” And here’s what she asked . . . I promise you this is true . . .
“Did somebody dump urine on you today already?”
Now, I’man opportunist. I know I sometimes make inappropriate jokes or laugh in the face of cancer. A “golden” opportunity like that just screams for a comeback. But I whiffed. I think my response was, “Oh, I didn’t realize we were in one of those relationships, you and I.”
Yeah, it was lame. But you have to give me one or two style points for the double entendre. She immediately exploded with laughter. So did her nurse helper. Me too; I was actually clutching my infected belly. It hurt to laugh like that.
“And there we have it,” Nurse Melissa said. “We’ve now degraded our professional medical relationship to the point of Golden Showers.”
Is laughter the best medicine? For me it is. So much of cancer recovery, and indeed any type of healing is how you look at it. I’ve been told by doctors, nurses and former patients that attitude counts for everything, when it comes to the difference between success and failure. That’s an enormous wake up call. If attitude is everything, why in the name of everything would I be negative or grumpy or pessimistic or glum?
Oh, I know why, because it’s freaking cancer we’re talking about here and cancer is by it’s very definition negative. You don’t hear people talking about a gorgeous sunset or a fantastic meal by saying, “Man, that baked ziti was so creamy and delicious, it’s downright cancerous.”
I’m not trying to tell you that all it takes is to smile and ignore the scary stuff. Nor am I saying people who succumb to the disease somehow failed. Definitely not; far from it. What I am saying, is nurses, medical professionals and even the cleaning folks can tell, when someone checks into a ward, which patient is most likely to whip the disease and which one is likely to have a significantly more difficult time. I’ve spewed a lot of crazy stuff since I was diagnosed. And let’s face it, I was even crazier beforehand. But the one takeaway I’ve gleaned is to simply push the positive.
It’s like calisthenics sometimes, making yourself cross over to the sunny side of the street. But studies have actually shown how new neuron pathways get re-routed by thinking about something differently. If your response to a boss, an illness, your in-laws or the Kardashians is a continual, predictable, negative path, then simply thinking differently about them can re-wire your brain.
That’s some heady stuff, (literally). Thinking makes it so? Attitude is everything? When the people around me in the hospital say much of healing is mental, it almost sounds like magical thinking. But I’ll try anything, so I force the desperation out of my disposition.
But then, nighttime shows up.
Along with nighttime, arrives an insane gut disease which is so contagious, visitors have to wear paper gowns and rubber gloves when they enter my room.
Night also brings Neupogen. These shots explode my bones so the stem cells can settle into my body and bring along their furniture, a couple friends and even a cardboard box or two of old 8-track tapes they couldn’t eBay.
And finally, Mucositis sneaks on in. It’s a mouth and throat disease so painful, it feels like I sleptwalked down to an industrial metal foundry, grabbed a Dixie cup full of molten steel and swallowed it on a bar bet.
Through this all, do I remain positive and upbeat? No, man, hellno!Remember the part about the exploding bones? No, this is beyond pain. But as I reach over and grab the weird device that sucks spit out of my mouth, I realize this too shall pass. It’s only for now. And that’s the key. It will all be over, eventually.
Of that, I am positive.