When I was on Tarceva, in the wee hour of one morning, I had an epiphany. As I was traipsing in the dark to the bathroom to take my miracle pill, the glow of the power light of my cell phone on the vanity gripped my attention. I stared at it, and lo and behold, the color of the light changed mysteriously from red to green. My heart pounded.
“Honey,” I whispered in a voice a tad loud for one o’clock in the morning.
“What?!” My startled husband asked. He was now sitting on the edge of the bed, his head buried in his hands.
I described to him the phenomenon that I had just witnessed.
“Oh for crying out loud. You’re an engineer. You know it means the phone’s battery is now completely charged.”
“Yes,” I admitted sheepishly. “But I have been waiting for a signal from the cosmos to proceed with my long-overdue bestseller.”
“So be it.” He flung himself on the bed and covered his head with a pillow.
So be it. Those sweet supportive words from the lips of my loving caregiver gave me the final push to get on with my writing project. But first I had to ensure there are no existing books on cancer and humor. I went to the neighborhood library and researched, and sure enough, I found a book titled “Cancer on $5 a Day* * chemo not included.” Written by comedian Robert Schimmel with Alan Eisenstock, it is about how humor got the comedian through his battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same cancer that claimed Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ life. My discovery of the book filled me with disappointment. Someone’s gotten ahead of me again. Story of my life. Always behind. It all started in grade school when the class would fall in line alphabetically. With the surname starting with “R,” I was always near the end of the line, craning my neck over and around classmates to see what’s going on way out front.
I grudgingly checked the book out. The image of the comedian’s gaunt face covers much of the jacket. The book contains only 189 pages. Good. I figured, even with Adenocarcinoma Stage IV, I’ll live long enough to read it from cover to cover and return it early to avoid a penalty fine. If I intend to straddle my heirs with debt, it will be for a timeshare in Mexico, not for a library penalty fee. I started reading the book. It’s hilarious. Everything rings true – of dreams mercifully cut short, anxieties, denials, etc. The comedian and his writer did a fabulous job. Then, halfway through the book, I stopped. Somehow I felt like I had known the comedian for years. I revisited the image of his haggard face on the jacket and took note of the book’s publication date: 2008. That’s five years ago. Cancer must have already claimed the life of this man who valiantly brought laughter to sufferers as he himself fought the dreaded disease. Cancer be damned, I muttered to myself. To verify my suspicion, I googled his name, and voila, I was right! Robert Schimmel is already dead. He was killed in a car accident in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2010.
So there you have it. Cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. Who knows! I might live long enough to get Alzheimer’s. And that would be scary to my heirs.
What’s your opinion about cancer diagnosis?