Blue Monday

I hope ya'll had a great holiday weekend. We celebrated with my brother-in-law and two nephews who flew down from New York. Friday, after walking eighteen holes I joined them and the rest of the extended family for dinner. Afterwards, the boys went outside for some hoops. Despite the fact that I was tired and wearing flip-flops, I could not resist the siren song of the bouncing ball. Per usual, I got buckets. Am I proud that I dunked* on my sixteen year old, yankee nephew? No…yes. Cancer or not, stop looking at my lemonade!

I wouldn’t say that I lived a sheltered life as a young man, but I had a singular focus that kept me away from the social scene. Basketball was my jealous mistress. While my peers were sneaking beers, partying, and dating, I was in the gym or on the playground. When my serious balling days were over, I (erroneously) felt like I had some catching up to do.  

During the mid-90’s, clubbing was my favorite pastime I enjoyed the odd trip to the club. Nightlife was a microcosm of the elements I thought I missed. Of course, I would eventually find that there is more to life than alcohol, girls, and music. Needless to say, a club is not a great place to learn the responsible consumption of alcohol. Similarly, it is not an ideal place to find a healthy or long-term relationship with a member of the opposite sex. Those lessons on booze and girls were hard learned, but at least the music was good.

The 90’s also saw the rise of ecstasy as the drug of choice for the club-goer. While the drug was never really my thing, I knew a lot of folks who did partake. One of the side effects of the drug is the so-called “Blue Monday”. Two or three days after taking the drug, some users experience a period of depression- a drug hangover if you will. If Friday and Saturday are the typical party nights, then they are followed by Blue Monday and Suicide Tuesday. (Worthy of note: Blue Monday, a club classic by New Order, is one of my top five favorite songs of all time).

Speaking of Mondays and drugs that make you feel bad, let's talk chemo. (Whew. All of that for a segue.) Before all this went down, I didn’t know very much about chemotherapy.  In fact, I knew nothing other than it was used to treat cancer, it caused nausea, and it caused ones hair to fall out. A couple of months later, I know a bit more, but I’m still no expert. I now know that they mix different cocktails (mmm, cocktails) to treat different forms of cancer. I know that different chemicals have different side effects and that these can change depending on dosage and on the patient. I’ve also discovered that the severity of a prescribed cocktail and the severity of a cancer are not necessarily related to one another. Lastly, I have learned that it doesn’t always make you lose your appetite or your hair.

My first two chemo cycles are in the books. Each three-week cycle consists of two weeks of treatment followed by a week off. The treatment takes the form a six-hour IV session. I got differing opinions from the various doctors and nurses about how my particular cocktail would affect me. Everyone seemed to agree that I would be very fatigued. Opinions were split on whether or not I would lose my hair. In a perverse way, the treatment room is like my new club (I've taken to calling it Club Christian). I roll in (fashionably late), get pumped full of liquid drugs, put my headphones on and listen to music. I even have young ladies hitting on me (ok, the nurses checking on me probably doesn’t qualify, but humor me). 

Over the past six-weeks I’ve gone back to work full-time and resumed my typical household duties. I’ve played basketball a few times, played golf many times, and ventured to the gym sporadically. The treatment hasn't really slowed me down at all. The effects of the chemo, however, are cumulative. The doctors told that me that I would feel the side effects a little bit more each week. This has indeed proven to be the case. Of late I have felt myself flagging a bit in the afternoons. The chemo makes me tired, and when I’m tired I get pissy. Accordingly, I have a favor to ask: if you ever hear me complain about the effects of my chemo, please slap the ever-loving mess out of me.

On the Mondays that I have treatment, I share the room with around a dozen other patients. To generalize, my comrades appear to be a bit weaker and most of them have lost their hair. Clearly, some of them are undergoing very harsh treatments. Seeing these folks getting wrecked by these chemicals makes me feel incredibly small for uttering the words “I’m tired”. While I don’t know everyone’s story, it’s appears that as far as the chemo goes, I have it easier than anyone in there. This makes me feel guilty- and if not guilty, a least a bit awkward. Every Monday morning I bee-bop into the treatment room, the picture of health- chipper, robust, and with a head full** of hair (and while we’re at it: tall, handsome, and charming…or something like that). That doesn't seem fair. But of course, none of this is fair.

This is yet another example of just how well life has treated me. Even when diagnosed with an advanced cancer, I feel great, look great, and my treatment is tolerable. When I say I'm living the dream, this is what I'm talking about.

*On a 9.5’ rim, don’t get excited.

**Of course, it’s not a full as it used to be, but in this context it’s close enough.

For this weeks chemo soundtrack, I'm all over the club tracks I loved in the 90's. I can't possibly list all of my favorite songs, but here is a representative sample by Saint Ettienne, Utah Saints, Faithless, and New Order. Is it a coincidence that they're all English? Probably not.

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