Thai Thoughts and Anecdotes Part 318
A LITTLE RED WAGON HELL
Twenty years ago, when I was forty-two years old; my doctor told me I had a poison growing in me and I should do something about it. The 'do somethings' offered by mainstream medicine were so horrific they sounded like witchcraft. I did nothing. I got away with it for nineteen years. This year my 'numbers' spiked, unappealing symptoms moved into my body, and I started to hear things like:
Oncologist: we can't cure you, but we can get you some extra time.
Primary Care Physician: Dana, up to now the Devil has been walking behind you; now you are on his unfinished business list and he is running.
Urologist: I stopped the biopsy procedure at ten samples rather than twelve samples because you could not have tolerated two more.
MRI tech: now Dana, the rubber ball connected to a wire that I am placing in your hand is a panic button. Try not to jack-knife, just squeeze the ball.
CT chest and pelvic scan technician: you have to drink two big paper cups of this. Don't think about it and keep your eyes closed.
Idiot: my 'father, brother, son, friend' had what you have. He died.
Nuclear full body scan technician: there is nothing to worry about but if something happens call the number on this card. And . . . show this other card to anybody at a security checkpoint over the next ten days. While you are nuclear you may set off the security machines, but don't worry.
Incompetent MRI technician: oops, sorry; I forgot to put in your ear plugs before I slid you in. Good thing you had the panic button.
Cat scan technician: you need to drink ten glasses of water to flush the contrast fluid through your kidneys.
Me: does anybody around here ever listen to what they are saying? Look at my body size. How am I supposed to drink ten glasses of water?
Cat scan technician: it's what they tell us to say.
Incompetent nuclear scan technician: I can't find your vein. I guess I'll have to try your other arm. I may have to get some help on this.
Another talkative idiot: did you hear about the Famous Celebrity and the Famous Musician and the Famous Well Known Actor? They all had what you have. They all died. They died really quickly.
Me to nurse as I exit the toilet after my prostate biopsy: when I empty my bladder is it supposed to come out as a solid stream of blood?
Nurse: I'll ask the doctor.
Radiologist: there has been a mistake. You have been scheduled for two CT scans ten days apart. You have lots of doctors. It is hard to coordinate it all. Sometimes mistakes happen.
Lady Doctor: you have a cyst on your pancreatic duct. It's not a good thing but we will wait for it to get bigger before we do anything.
Me: would you say the same thing to a woman with a breast cancer issue?
Urologist: two of the side effects of this antibiotic are death and spontaneous tendon tearing. Don't worry about it.
What it wouldn't surprise me to hear from my oncologist 'team': Don't worry Dana, we have been lying to patients and billing insurance companies for years. We know what we are doing.
Imagined conversation from hospice counselor: Dana, here at the We Don't Really Care Hospice Facility (WDRCHF) you will end your days hooked up to a morphine drip and lying on soiled sheets. Because everything about your life was a failure nobody will come to visit you. You won't receive any love from us, not even elementary species bonding. This is your last pit stop. Don't romanticize it. We will neglect to notify the Federal government of your demise and continue to have your social security checks deposited in our bank account until we get caught. Your four shoeboxes full of ideas and writing for four separate books will be sent to the furnace room. My name is Shaniqua LaVonda Jones and I hate white people. Sign here.
Sometimes you wonder if you are only imagining your life once you get swallowed up by the medical world as a patient. Below are some things I have heard myself say:
You want me to run on a treadmill? I was admitted out of the back of an ambulance because I could not breathe and you want me to run on a treadmill? And I shouldn't worry because you will have someone posted on each side of the treadmill in case I fall, collapse, faint, black out, or have a heart attack? WHAT?
The prostate biopsy gun will shoot a needle through my rectum wall and into my prostate gland over and over while cutting out some prostate gland tissue each time? What?
I'm being transferred to the sealed rooms of the Phillips House here at Mass General Hospital because I may have a communicable lung disease? What?
There are dark spots on my spinal column in the nuclear bone scan image but I shouldn't worry? What?
Rectal bleeding, and ejaculating blood, and urinating blood after the prostate biopsy is normal? What?
Making ten to twelve holes through my rectum wall is possibly the greatest opportunity for infection and I shouldn't worry? What?
The intravenous antibiotics for my pneumonia can have side effects that go on for months? What?
The antibiotic for my prostate biopsy can have side effects that go on for months? What?
The recovery of my lungs can go on for months? What?
You're the doctor and you are telling me you don't know? What?
You, Dr. Sarno; are in charge of hormone therapy: and you, Dr. Gilbert; are in charge of radiation therapy. So basically you guys are Plan A and Plan B. What's Plan C?
I have a specific liver disease with scarification but I seem stable? What?
The label on the bottle specifically stated in big black letters: Shake Well Before Using. The nurse did not do that before giving me my shot and I shouldn't worry? What?
Some of the sickest patients in Mass General Hospital can be in the Phillips House facility. My room had a double door airlock design and it's own ventilation system. The doctor comes in doing rounds and shakes my hand. Germ theory doctor? What? What? What?
I notice the nurses in the Phillips House manage to perform all their duties without touching me. Is there something I should know?
Me: Dr. Sarno and Dr. Gilbert, I understand your recommendations for hormonal therapy and for radiation therapy; but if I had ten million dollars what plane would you put me on? Where would you send me to get better?
Dr. Sarno: We'd keep you here and build a new oncology facility.
and some conversations with doctors can drift in and out of your mind for life. Examples:
Me: I hope they still have model trains then.
Dr. Sarno: Excuse me?
Me: Your hormonal therapy is going to take away my manhood and turn me into some kind of 'woman' monster. All I will be good for is playing with model trains in the basement.
Dr. Sarno: We prefer to think of it as giving you extra time.
Me: You are practicing witchcraft.
Dr. Sarno: You will come to us when you are ready. Here is my card.
Me: Castration? What?
Dr. Brown: I assure you, it is quite routine.
Me: Dr. Brown, I am not assured and it is not routine.
Dr. Brown: You have abnormalities in each testicle. A different abnormality in each testicle.
Me: Good for me, and I have still got them.
Dr. Brown: Here is my card.
Sometimes in the morning I have trouble making my legs and feet and knees work. I look as if I have sticks shoved in my pant legs and my feet never seem to be pointed in the right direction. One morning I was staggering around in the lobby of the public library here in Boston and I suddenly had a flashback to my happy days patrolling the boardwalk in Pattaya. Many miles logged each day looking for love. Well, that wasn't going to work anymore. I needed a Plan B.
Then it hit me. With the penetrating ability of a fire hardened bamboo spear I had an idea epiphany. Korski. Professor Korski. Professor Korski and his little red wagon. As you all know, and thousands of you from all over the world have seen: Professor Korski (PK) pulls a little red wagon behind his bicycle as he makes the 'interviewing' rounds of Walking Street and the Pattaya boardwalk. A shy man by temperament and a professor by trade, he has hit on 'interviewing' girls as a way to meet them. Sure, it's totally bogus; but it is also sort of charming and he gets away with it. The girls have fun and every once in a while the professor gets lucky. The little red wagon is PK's traveling office and is full of clear Lucite clipboards and questionnaire forms, metal file drawer holding green hanging pendaflex folders and beige manila folders, rolodex, pencils, pens, Thai-English dictionary, video camera, tripod camera, bottle of cologne, and free gifts to reward cooperative Thai ladies of the commercial kind. All the little trinket free gifts have Korski's phone number and address on them. Thought was given to having these give-away gifts have his face on them but cooler heads prevailed.
My idea? Well, Professor Korski does most of this 'interviewing' at night and I favor the days for my boardwalk patrolling. So . . . during the days ( 9-11 and 4-6 ) I will ride in Professor Korski's little ride wagon. He will pedal me up and down the boardwalk and I will smile and wave to likely ladies. For stops a horn on his handlebars will notify him. I simply press a button in the wagon. For emergency stops I will throw out an anchor attached to fifty feet of line. As the anchor hooks on a palm tree, or a pile of construction debris; the shock may launch Korski over his handlebars. All part of the equation. One door shuts and another door opens. I can hardly make my legs work but I've got Korski and his little red wagon.
So . . . how has this been going? Me riding around in Korski's little red wagon because my legs and feet do not work so well anymore? How did things go at the start? Well, it hasn't been all cookies and cream: no Plan B ever is. Korski's goddamned metal file drawer for the hanging pendaflex folders kept trying to dig a hole in my back, I spilled his cheap Chang beer cologne in my crotch, and I had to hold my legs up like an Essan smiler to keep from damaging his stupid camera stuff. If I didn't have a walnut sized gland trying to make a move on my bones I'd have been pounding the pavement looking for love instead of being jammed in his stupidass little red wagon. But illness is just another way to spell compromise and it still seems like a good idea.
And why did PK agree to pedal me around? After all, this guy has been blocked and deleted from my email site more times than there are particles of sand on the beach at Pattaya. We are not exactly blood brothers and his contempt for me equals my contempt for him. Why was Korski pedaling and gasping like a water buffalo with flies in his nose? Corruption. No different than the doctors that check off procedures to be billed to the insurance company that were not necessary or not used in the first place. Example: years ago I had appendix surgery. The hospital bill to my company charged $40.00 for 'use of crutches'. I never used crutches. They just slam that line item on every bill. Anyway and to wit: Korski was hoping to steal any girls that smiled at me with his fancy clipboards and his goddamned fancy questionnaires. That is the main event here. This 'no internal moral compass' humanoid was using me to chum for him. As soon as a girl came over to smile at me he would be in her face showing her a Photoshopped picture of him in cap and gown in front of the cathedral of St. Peter in Rome. He would tell her the building was his office at school where he was a teacher. She would believe him. I'd be in the wagon on my rear with my legs up having to listen to this crap. My favorite line of his was:
"If you do well on this questionnaire you may qualify to come to my room for further psychological testing and inclusion in my next book titled: Thailand's Greatest Women."
His further psychological testing was a cardboard box full of the blocks and toys to be found in any children's library for her to rearrange and puzzle over. Makes me want to hurl just thinking about it. How could I compete with that? My next photo illustrated book based on my sixth floor ocean facing suite relationships at the A.A. Hotel is titled: Women with Wide Brown Feet and the Mongers Who Love Them. Anyway, Korski; thought I would puke. Pedaling and gasping and wheezing and farting out ahead of me and nothing I could do about it. Academia reduced to bare faced need and a T-shirt that says:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Dana saw her first,
But I saw her too.
How pathetic the mind that believes rhyme gives a license to steal.
And myself? Dignity and pride exchanged for a little red wagon world. My whole life and being in waning days reduced to the word Next. The Next girl. The Next smile. The Next touch. If you see us do not bother to approach us. We are too diminished and too involved in cobra competitive embrace to make good conversationalists. Korski's eyes dart like a meerkat's at an African dog party, and I am measuring every possible dark skinned possibility against draining reserves. What strange bedfellows life can dish up. Korski and I locked in reptilian embrace: myself too ill to do the boardwalk miles, and he with the fourteen year old's giggling fascination with women. Two cobras looking for love.
Physical impairment gives you time to speculate. All patients become philosophers. To wit: How much can a human endure? On the plains of Serengeti ten thousand years ago blowing pollen or a bird in the sky met your eyes. Now I have to visually and mentally digest Korski's license plate on the back of his bicycle that says:
I'M STILL AHEAD OF YOU
Sweet sufferin' Jesus on a cracker how much do I have to endure? It is a constant juvenile reminder that I am parasitically attached to him like a papoose on an Indian mother's back. A living example of the Devil's cruelest three words to humanity:
NEVER SAY NEVER
Nothing gives the Devil more pleasure than to revisit his banishment from heaven with Never Say Never napalmed upon humans over and over. What sweeter taste than revenge? And we happily line up on the station platform and flag down the train. When has the Devil had to work hard? We make it easy. Oh, what price we pay for the addictive pleasure. The bill always comes due. Why am I all crippled up in this goddamned little red wagon being squired by the doofus ahead of me? Was it some nutritional excess or foolishness ten or twenty or thirty years ago? The bill always comes due. God hands out the treats but the Devil sends the bills.
Years ago my mother died of what was called General Systemic Breakdown. At the time I was critical of the medical establishment for this. It seemed a coward's way of weaseling out of the charges of indifferent and incompetent medical care. Surely my mother must have died of something? But now that I sit ass down and feet up in this wagon I wonder. So many things seem to be going wrong with my body that I sometimes imagine that I detect quiet despair on the part of the doctors. Is that my fate–the lameass General Systemic Breakdown? And, god forbid; will it be prefaced by General Systemic Breakdown with this nightmare bicycle and wagon contraption? Will I spot the most perfect woman in the universe one day and just as I am about to wave at her and smile at her one of the wheels will fall off of this wagon? Or, will Korski be delivering myself and one of these boardwalk angels to the A.A. Hotel one day and one of the wheels will just fall off of his bike? Don't laugh. This is my life now. A life where General Systemic Breakdown is the emotional background radiation of my life. How much can a human endure?
Conclusion? More than one but I'll just leave you with one. Maybe the smart human always sleeps in a single bed, that way he is never surprised in the morning to find out who else he is sleeping with. Dana and Korski: locked in little red wagon hell. Never Say Never.
Many of us are thinking of you and wishing you all the best.