Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Chemotherapy is almost exactly like Gene Wilder

One week from this Friday, I'll take my CT scan. With good results, less than a week after that, the port that I've been receiving my chemo treatments through will be removed, my hair will grow back within six months and this whole "cancer thing" will be over. It's a weird, strange, synonym-describing feeling to nearly have all of this behind me, and that's mainly because it never really started.

Did you ever read a book when you were younger that A.) Hadn't been made into a movie, and B.) If it had been made into a movie, you hadn't yet seen it? If you haven't, I'm surprised you're reading this blog post right now and not arguing with somebody online about which Twilight character is cuter under the the moniker "MrsBieberLOLZ1995." If you have, however, and if that book was fiction, you've likely used your imagination to create something.

I remember reading "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen when I was younger. I'd never seen a movie about the book (I really, really hope they didn't make one because it would undoubtedly be terrible and it wouldn't force kids that were given the book as an assignment to actually read an awesome book), and when it came to creating an image of what the character looked like and the L-shaped lake he was living on in my mind, I was forced to actually conjure up descriptions of each out of thin air. As the narrative went on, I had to add details to the images that I'd created of this story in my mind, ending with a character and location that likely in no way resembled what somebody else may have created while reading this story.

Now, when you read a book and then see a movie based on that book, everything is destroyed. You can't read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and then watch the movie "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and see Willy Wonka in your mind as anybody but Gene Wilder. No matter what crazy person you've created in your mind, and no matter what physical attributes you've made them have that fit with Roahl Dahl's description, when you watch "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," Gene Wilder grabs a candy cane sucked down to a point and stabs your image of Willy Wonka right in the chest, making him evaporate and disappear from your mind forever. Then, if your mind works the way mine does, Gene Wilder looks you in the eye and says, "I'm Willy Wonka. Capiche?" (Why he's suddenly an Italian gangster and why Johnny Depp's character doesn't even play into this equation is completely unknown. This is how my brain works, and I tend not to question its eccentricities.)

This is how cancer and going through chemotherapy has been for me...like reading a book and then watching the movie. As a journalist, stories about people with cancer tend to be like catnip for readers, and so we write a lot of them. Although I'm only 29 and have been in journalism for about 3 years now, I've written probably a dozen stories about people with cancer...whether they're about benefits, a prelude to a cancer walk, etc. While writing all of these, I developed an idea of what having cancer, and going through chemotherapy, would be like. I had no idea what it was like myself, but through interviewing and talking with people that had gone through it, my imagination created this dark, abysmal picture. Then, by some crazy bit of chance, I rode a horse, exacerbated my left testicle and was diagnosed with cancer myself. Who'da thunkit. (Not sure why I correctly used the apostrophe there...that's making a goulash out of several words and a mockery of the English language)

Anyways, after being half-neutered and finding out that I needed chemo, I felt I had a pretty good idea of what to expect: hell. I'd metaphorically "read the book" and had created a nice description of what I was to expect in my head. It wasn't until I started going through it that I realized that everything I had thought about chemo was completely wrong. My idea of chemo had been "Gene Wilder-ed."

For each of my three rounds, the only thing that seemed like legitimate chemo was the first week of each...the week where I was in a chair for five straight hours. First week of round 1 was OK. First week of round 2 was tolerable. First week of round 3 was completely horrible. None of it was how I had imagined chemo to be like, however. Talking with others, I thought it was going to be like having the flu for two straight months. Sometimes I'd feel good, sometimes I'd be throwing up, but it would vary day-to-day. This wasn't the case at all...I was actually able to prepare myself for the worst, and it never got close to being as bad as the scenario I had built up in my head.

Now, being near the end, it feels like I never really even started this whole thing (other than being bald), and I'm really anxious to interview somebody with cancer at this point. I'm interested to see if they've had the same experience...if they went into it with a preconceived notion about what it would be like, and if their idea held any weight whatsoever.

So, now that I've seen the movie, my idea of what treatment would be like for all of this is completely shattered. I guess if I was interviewed about this process, my story would be pretty unremarkable and the journalist that was asking the questions would be sitting there thinking, "Come on, give me something to give this story some oomph" like I have so many times while sitting in that same seat. I supposed that's because there's a huge disconnect between people that have read the book and people that have seen the movie. Once you've seen the movie, your entire perspective on it changes, and there's really not any way to see it any differently, and at this point I'm pretty happy about that.


  1. I am 2 days into your same BEP treatment and feel fine. If you still want to interview someone, you can contact me - Corythegr8@aol.com

    Really enjoyed this blog. Good for my parents to read too.

  2. I'm a week into Bep×3 Thanks for this blog I'm curious how the next 2 are gonna be.