With Papa and Mimi continuing to climb in years, I knew that we were eventually going to have deal with geriatric problems, and I was prepared… for something like Dementia, Pickled Liver, Ingrown Toenail, Acute Cantankerousness, Tennis Elbow.
I was not prepared for Papa’s news—Papa who rides his bike all over town and who eats three square meals of antioxidants a day and who pickets in front of fast food row on New Year’s Day with a sign that reads, “You Bastards are killing America.”
It came in the form of an e-blast to about 200 people right before Thanksgiving:
I’ve been diagnosed B-cell Lymphoma that was discovered after a visit to the doc for swelling in lower abdomen. Still have not had any real pain from the tumor. Saw oncologist yesterday. He is a bike rider. I’ve got treatments for 18 weeks. Doc say I have an 80 percent chance of dying from something else. . . kind of like playing Russian roulette with a 5-shot revolver.
So do NOT send flowers or start looking for a new boyfriend.
This cancer is not genetic or lifestyle related. Apparently, in some people, your blood cells don’t get enough vodka and start building a tumor to make their own brew.
I’m having a martini to keep them happy.
Cancer is not what I thought it would be. I thought maybe Papa would get a script for Wacky Weed and that we would ship the little Beans off for a while and sit around eating brownies or smoke doobies and sing Kumbaya.
Instead we got up last Wednesday and went to a place called an infusion room, and Nurse Brenda hooked Papa up to an IV and started filling him up with a cancer drug that’s made up of proteins, one of which is a mouse protein.
“Mouse,” gentle reader, is a delicate word for rodent or rat, and it must have been a real nasty wharf rat because Papa got the shakes.
Then a couple of nurses plied him with warm blankets and Demerol, and I held his hand and told him knock-knock jokes that I’d heard from Jax. The knock-knock jokes and the Demerol weren’t doing such a hot job, and the nurse added some Ativan.
At that point I started to get the shakes, and asked for Ativan, but I think Nurse Brenda thought I was kidding. Then the poor nurse’s aide who seemed to be a few French fries shy of a Happy Meal and who kept coming around with the blood pressure machine every 20 minutes, took Papa’s blood pressure, and it was something crazy low, like 68/40, and I said, “Isn’t that kind of low?”
And the poor woman just looked at me vacantly, like maybe she’d been doing Demerol and Ativan too. And then I looked at Papa, and his eyes were rolling back in his head, and I went screaming down the corridor for Nurse Brenda, and before you could blink an eye, there were about 20 women and an oxygen tank standing in front of Papa, and then he was awake.
“Where’s the vodka?” he asked. “You can’t have a party without vodka.”
And then he smiled. “Getting old is hell, girls. Don’t do it.”
And then the girls, some of whom were old as dirt, all laughed and flirted with Papa, and Papa, who loves to be the center of attention, preened under his oxygen mask.
It was a long, long day. And there were more drugs after they finished up with the rat proteins and then came the chemo—two monster size-tubes of something that looked like what I would think Agent Orange looks like. Nurse Brenda donned a biohazard suit and sat down beside Papa and shot him up.
Then we went home, and I started slugging wine, and Papa started popping pills. You pop a lot of pills when you get cancer, and the next day Papa puked his guts up.
We’re fine now except that the damn cruise control is stuck on crazy, and I’ve been running around Chloroxing Maison Bean because Papa is supposed to lose all of his white blood cells, and we’ve got 16 more weeks of this shit.