24 May 2008

Thank you, Insomnia and Care Packages

It's after 2 am. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping. Mostly tonight is the good kind of wired, a giddy satisfaction at seeing two old friends for the first time in far too long. I revel in company with a shared history. The stories we tell. The stories we don't need to tell. They showed me their wedding rings. I showed them my tattoos. And my scars, tubes etc., of course. Like I need an excuse to drop trou. And now we get a gorgeous long weekend together.

I'm keeping a list of everyone who has given me a hand so far. Gifts, meals, a well timed call, all the things that are supporting me every day of this experience. And I'm starting to realize that it's going to be a challenge to keep track. So bit by bit, I want to thank you.

Your letters. The tales of survival, messages of strength and energy and boundless love. I cannot thank you enough for them. On my darker days I read them and they restore my soul. Ditto the many loving and supportive emails and text messages. It's amazing to me how much love one can capture in just 160 characters.

Tonight I thank you in particular for the choice care packages, delivered in technicolor splendor from multiple West Coast locales. I've cut my sugar intake considerably (cancer actually does love sugar) but a homemade, airmailed cookie every so often is proven to have curative powers. Right?

One package, thoughtfully gathered by a friend whose name starts with an M and ends in ichelle Sargent, included the book Fraud by David Rakoff. "I've heard it's hilarious," the touching letter explained in the author's instantly recognizable script.

There is much humor in this collection from Rakoff, a contributor to This American Life and more. It is dry and delicious and a bit insane, like pounding a bottle of good Sancerre.

The essays are preceded by Rakoff's art, which is quite good. The final frontispiece is of seven sperm in silhouette. In his 20s, Rakoff was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease - lymphatic cancer. The essay is about his sperm bank donations before his chemo and radiation.

Turning over each new page of the story was like exploring another viscous, gray wrinkle inside my brain. All the pressure. The terror. Even the feeling that since my cancer is easily treated and commonly beaten back that I am "at best, a cancer tourist, that my survival means I dabbled. Kinda been there, sorta done that."

Still, there it was, one telling of the vast inevitable life-altering course that is before me. His words were neatly laid out in a gentle serif font, 35 lines to a page, telling with a wry comedic touch of the naming of his viable sperm found in a post-chemo test. They could only find seven. Seven. Radcliffe, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Smith and Vassar.

So thank you, Michelle, for this inadvertently initiated journey deep into my own psyche. I needed that. And will continue to need it.

It's late and I should be asleep.

One last thought crosses my mind before I turn in. Would someone mind writing the Mets and explain to them that I am suffering enough already? Their losing makes my cancer hurt.


  1. So I think Willie may be gone by Monday if they lose the next two. And I'm very happy with that prospect.

    At least the Sox are still winning. Guess I sould have gotten the Extra Innings Package.

    Huh, I said package.

    And baseball has loads of inspirational stories for you this week.


  2. You sound great! Happy Long Weekend! And... once again... thanks for sharing your experience with such insightful and contemplative clarity.