ObamaCares

And that is the only reason I have health insurance right now.

The Affordable Care Act is currently in the process of saving my life.  So you can imagine the joy and profound sense of hope that I felt this morning upon hearing that the law was upheld.  I began to cry, in fact (and amazingly) only the second time that has happened since this whole brainchancery began nearly three months ago.

That isn’t to say I’m not a man who cries– I think I cried four separate times during Toy Story 3.  I cry all the time.  I cried when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl.  Not won it, went to it.

Anyway I’ve actually been wanting to mention the other time I was brought to tears from the brain chance, but I hesitate to do so now for fear of distracting from the topic at hand and minimizing the moment itself.  Ah fuck it, here goes anyway:

One of the most amazing moments of my life occurred alone in my hospital bed in Hong Kong, shortly after my surgery.  I’d opened my laptop for the first time and was pummeled by this flood of messages from seemingly everyone I’d ever known, every one of you expressing hope and friendship and confidence and love and so much care that I just totally lost it.  In a good way.  In the best way you could possibly imagine.  I’d never felt less alone in my life, and there I was, thousands of miles from home, with a giant hole in my skull, feeling happy.  As happy as I’ve ever been.  I wept like I’ve rarely wept, the tears streaming down over the biggest smile I’ve probably ever mustered.

And then I wrote this:

“To wake up feeling so loved by all of the people in the world that I love so deeply and so dearly is the best gift I have ever been given in my entire life.  Thank you, my family, my friends… You mean everything to me.  I am overwhelmed with the joy you have brought me.”

I am still overwhelmed.  And it is for this very reason that I’m not sure I’d take back getting brain cancer if I had the choice.  It’s hard to reach a point where you feel the confidence that you really are not alone  in this world– I think a lot of us struggle constantly with that idea.  I know I did.  But I don’t anymore.

Because of all of you, I know I’m not alone.

(Insert 400 foot tall thank you card with live fireworks here for every last one of you.  And my undying affection and devotion, wrapped with a nice crisp ribbon.  But not by me, I’m a crappy wrapping paperer.)

But wait, weren’t we supposed to be talking about politics?

I guess that story kindof dovetails with what I was originally getting at: the idea of care and compassion and the unexpected and utterly overwhelming effect it has had on me in both of these situations.

To feel that kind of care and compassion when you absolutely need it most, when you just can’t do it by yourself, when you really need other people to lift you up, is one of the most profound things I’ve ever experienced.

And this is the point that utterly too often is being missed in this entire debate over what law or system is right and who’s gonna pay what and tax tax fear fear tax:  the point of this law is to help people.  The point of our government is to help us live better lives.  And the best way — I would argue the only way — for that to actually happen is if we actually allow ourselves to believe that it is possible.  And if we take that belief, and allow ourselves to try.

So to hell with cynicism about government, about politics, about the left or the right or the top or the bottom.  To hell with cynicism forever.  Brain cancer to cynicism!  If we don’t believe we can do anything good, if all we focus on is the fact that we’re arguing and divided and that it’s all gone to shit and there’s nothing we can do, then what good is going to come of us?

This law was made to help people, and it’s already helping a lot of people.  Let’s keep trying.  Let’s see if we can make it even better and help even more.

As my BFF BF said:

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I totally wanna hang with every last one of you.

And with Barrack.  Cuz despite the raging clouds of cynicism spiraling and swirling over our heads, I can tell you one thing that I know from experience to be true:

This man actually cares.

Obama cares.

And I can’t thank him enough for that.

How’s the Chemo/Radiation Going Part III: Return to Kowloon

I’m not really returning to Kowloon, I just wanted to follow the crappy movie sequel title format for this post.  Speaking of Kowloon though, I just remembered that most of my original brain tumor is actually still over there, in a freezer somewhere.  I know what you’re thinking: there’s a slab of pink popsicled peacock cancer in some back alley cooler guarded by an elderly Chinese man in a wife beater and a lucky crippled chicken named Xiuen Zo.  But that’s not the case.  In reality, my frozen brain chance is actually sitting in a futuristic biostorage facility, counting the days on an abacus and wondering what went wrong with our relationship (you gave me a headache).  I predict that in the future, it will be used to make iPads.

But anyway, back to the original question– how’s the chemo/radiation going?

Well I’m tired most of the time.

And my hair’s falling out.

And the hair that hasn’t fallen out I’m pulling out while thinking about the big Supreme Court decision tomorrow morning that is very possibly going to rip the health insurance that has truly saved my life right out from under me (more on this, undoubtedly, tomorrow).

Other than that, things are great! (He said with a slight hint of sarcasm.)  I seem to have gotten the nausea down to a tolerable level, which is a big relief.  At the same time, I’m sortof spaced out and have this light flu / hangover feeling all the time.  Which isn’t really all that bad, but I’ve definitely reached the point of really looking forward to this shit being over (two and a half weeks to go, plus a few days on the end to let all this crap seep out of me and create a superfund site at 138 North Wilton Place.  At least the pool will probably start glowing).  Anyway I can’t wait to just have a day where I feel fucking normal again.

As far as the hair, if anything I find it kind of funny.  I don’t know why, the spotty bald look makes me smile.  It looks like somebody cut my hair with a hot dildo.

Or maybe it’s because all these years I thought I’d inherited my grandfather’s hair on my dad’s side (which was shining thick and white like the mane of a two headed unicorn) rather than my maternal grandfather’s hair, which you’re supposed to inherit, and which was for the most part nonexistent.

Compare:

Pop pop and me dannashewer

Pop Pop Peacock and I

Pop Pop Brown

Pop Pop Brown

Ok so Sir Ben Kingsley isn’t really my maternal grandfather, but you get the idea.  He was a bald guy.  (And he died before I got to take a rad picture on the beach with him.)

That Kingsley’s moustache is impressive… I actually have less hair on my head right now than that tiny little bastard has on his face.

Heeeeeyyyy wait a sec, I just thought of something!  Now I can blame my crappy patchy Weird Beard on the whole brain cancer thing!  That’s why I’m enjoying the spotty haircut, because now my head finally matches.

See, I knew there was a good reason for all of this happening.

(speaking of haircuts, I just posted a new/old post showing my post-op StapleHead, so if you’re feeling up for it, click here)

The Most Depressing Thing About Brain Cancer

The most depressing thing about brain cancer is reading about brain cancer, which I just made the mistake of doing despite knowing it was a bad idea, and which you are now doing despite me having previously warned you not to do it both in my first blog post and, more recently (although implicitly), in this very sentence.

Among the soul-crushing websites I came across this afternoon was “The Super Inspirational Blog Written By a Glioblastoma Survivor!” that turns out to not be all that inspirational when you realize that…

… wait for it …

it isn’t being updated anymore.

And there isn’t really any kind of ending.

Gulp.

“Eh, just another lazy blogger who lost interest and went out for a ride on his fixie,” you tell yourself unconvincingly before banging your head on the desk to remind yourself to stop reading “Inspirational Websites About Brain Cancer Survivors Who Totally Died of Brain Cancer!

So now that I’ve depressed you, I’m depressed, which is depressing, but which also conveniently proves my point that the most depressing thing about brain cancer is reading about brain cancer.

What a nifty trick!

I guess the point of all of this is that brain cancer turns out to be exactly as much like brain cancer as you’d expect it to be.  Which is to say, not very awesome.

But then again, neither is getting hit by a bus.  You could be hit by a bus tomorrow (watch out!).  I could have been hit by a bus 7 years ago.  But since neither one of those things probably will or did happen, why would we sit around reading or writing about it?

Clearly, the most depressing thing about brain cancer is letting yourself get depressed about brain cancer.

I’m done.

(For now at least.)

** Editor’s note:  If I do get hit by a bus 47 years from now, somebody please keep posting on this blog so it seems like I’m alive in case some guy with brain cancer comes along wondering what happened to me and gets depressed because he thinks I died of brain cancer.  

** Editor’s note to that guy:  Buddy, what the hell do you have to be depressed about?  It’s 2059 and you can probably get outpatient brain cancer removal at Carl’s Jr.  I had to rip this thing out with my bare hands.

How’s the Chemo/Radiation Going? Part Deux.

Ten days in and things are… well let’s just say that I hope it’s doing something to the brain chance, cuz it’s definitely doing something to the rest of me.

THE RADIATION is fine… if anything it’s nice to be strapped down to a table for 10 minutes every day without any phones ringing and nothing to do but think.  The ozone smell drives me a little bonkers (see this post for an explanation), but I’ve learned to breathe through my mouth right at the moment when the linear accelerator turns on.  Anyway, it’s kindof rad that I’m hooked up every day to something that has a “linear accelerator.”  (thanks to Howard  for digging up an answer to what the weird smell is.)

THE CHEMO is another story.  (I’ve decided to pronounce cheh-mo, rhymes with demo, since keemo just sounds too creepy and makes people think of IVs filled with hydrochloric acid).

It’s not all that bad, but it’s kinda bad.  What it does is basically produce a light but perpetual feeling of nausea.

You know that feeling that you get like waaaaaay in the beginning of getting sick, when you feel a little dizzy and your mouth maybe starts to water and you think “oh, weird, am I going to get sick?”

It’s like that, just all the time.

In addition to the Temodar pills that I take every night (that’s the che-mo), they also gave me Zofran, which is supposed to control the nausea.  I’m not sure it does, but then again I’m not sure it doesn’t because I’m afraid to not take it.

I spoke with my doctor yesterday, and he said there are a few other things we could try to control the nausea, one of which was medical marijuana.  I don’t really feel like being stoned all day to be honest (feeling clear headed and normal is the most wonderful feeling in the world to me right now) but I’m tempted to get a prescription just because I love the idea of having pot prescribed by one of the top Neuro-Oncologists in the country.  Most people who walk into the weed shops have prescriptions from Doctor Nick, but mine would be legit.  You know, from Doctor Who.  (Incidentally, if I haven’t mentioned this, my doc’s name is Dr. Hu.  Pronounced “who.”  Which is so bitchin I can’t even deal.  The ringtone on my phone when he calls is this.  He fights my brain chance with a magical space traveling phone booth.)

So to answer the question, it’s going OK.  Kinda sucks, but could certainly be worse.

We need to talk… It’s about Brandon.

There was some debate last night over whether I should bestow my brain chance with a proper name.

Like Brandon.

As in:  “What do you mean I didn’t bring anything to the party?  I brought Brandon!”  or  “I wouldn’t have invited Brandon if I knew it would cost a quarter of a million dollars to get him to leave.”  or  “I flew to Hong Kong, and all I came back with was Brandon.  At least most of him decided to stay in Kowloon.” or “Mr. Peacock this is Doctor Chan. Call me soon, we need to talk. It’s about Brandon.”

As funny as this is, and as much as I would normally totally be into an idea like calling my brain cancer Brandon, here’s the reason I’m not going to do it:

Cancer isn’t a sentient creature with thoughts and opinions and motives.  It isn’t evil, it isn’t even bad.  It’s just a type of cell that replicates very quickly and doesn’t have a shutoff valve.

And I don’t see any reason to anthropomorphize it.

This is why I’m not into “fuck cancer” slogans, why I’m not angry at or scared of some demon lurking inside my skull.  There is no demon, there’s just this random thing in there that could kill me but would have no idea even if it was succeeding at it.  Cancer doesn’t know anything, doesn’t want anything.  All it does is duplicate.  It’s not even a virus, for godssakes; it’s completely idiotic.

So if I happen to be in the way of these random cells duplicating, which is a distinct possibility, then so be it.  It is what it is.  I’ll try to make it stop, for sure, but I’m not gonna get pissed off about it.  Getting pissed off at cancer doesn’t make any more sense than getting pissed off at your lawn, or dust.  Cuz if you’re pissed off at dust, what are you really pissed off at?  Brandon?

The point is, there’s no reason for this.  For any of this.  There’s no reason for what happened to me, just as there’s no meaning behind it or cause for it.  It’s all just random.  It happened randomly, and it could for all intents and purposes have happened to anybody.  But it happened to me, and all I can do now is just do what I can do, control what I can control, and not worry about what I can’t.

I actually find quite a lot of comfort in the thought that none of this has any meaning.  Not treating cancer like a Brandon, or an enemy, frees the non-Brandonized portions of my mind from being weighed down by things like anger, disappointment, despair, and fear.  And considering the limited overall timeframe that I’m potentially dealing with, the last thing I want to be doing right now is running around being angry or disappointed or despairing or afraid.  Kierkegaard can kysse min røvhul— anxiety is a waste of time.

And so is brain cancer, come to think of it.  Although actually, I take that back.  A lot of pretty amazing things have come out of this whole experience, things that have been far more powerful and affecting than any of the fear or pain that I’ve experienced.  What I’m gonna do is focus my non-Brandonized brain on those things.

Is all this to say that I’m glad I’ve got a little brain chance?  That I’d do it all over again?

It’s hard to say yes to the first question– it is brain cancer, after all.  (I mean, who says hooray for brain cancer, other than the accounting team at the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Brain Tumor Center.)

That said, it’s equally hard to say no to the second question.

I don’t have that option right now anyway, so I think I’m gonna go for a jog and smell some roses.

The Danger of Stopping to Smell the Roses

So this morning (all night in fact) I’m awoken by the car alarm screel of the mockingbirds that have been terrorizing my neighborhood for the last two months.  Really great timing on their part, what with me feeling nauseous 24 hours a day from all the toxic jazz I’m hepped up on and basically only feeling truly comfortable when I’m asleep  (a state that’s becoming increasingly hard to achieve thanks to aforementioned birds).  As far as I’m concerned, Harper Lee can go fuck herself for making me feel guilty about the slingshot that I just bought.

I’m an asshole!

Anyway, I get up and head downtown to the LA courthouse to take care of a ticket from two years ago that I can’t afford to pay and have been assured is being dismissed anyway as long as I make what now appears to be four total trips to the courthouse, each of which takes an average of three to four hours.  Clearly, with my potentially limited time frame, this is exactly what I feel like dealing with right now.

If only I were as smart or (more importantly) as rich as Ryan Gosling, who they called up right before me, but who had a lawyer there in his stead.   It was, after all, 8AM.  Gosling was probably busy resting his amazing celebripecs under a goose down comforter a thousand miles away from the nearest fucking mockingbird.

With that mission successfully incomplete, I decide to go to the Flower District to get some flowers for my house to cheer myself up and hopefully offset the fact that my nose has become so unbearably sensitive from the chemo that random iffy smells like cheap laundry detergent or the overripe red onion in my kitchen make me so queasy that I want to run out of the house and bury my head in either sand or cement or something that doesn’t smell like Gain.

Gain smells to me like the armpit of death, and if any of you use it I beg you to bathe your clothing in baking soda if you plan on even being upwind from me.

So I go into the flower market.  When I arrive, I see some peonies that look pretty and I lean over to smell them.   They smell really lovely.  I continue on, smelling some lilies, and then some roses, and then suddenly get so nauseous I feel like I’m going to barf all over the gladiolas.  I run into the bathroom to be safe, but thankfully the feeling passes.

As I’m walking out of the bathroom, I feel for my phone and it’s not there.  At first I think maybe I dropped it in the bathroom, but then it occurs to me that while I was leaning over smelling flowers, it must have slipped out of my jacket breast pocket where I had it stored into one of the (hundreds) of white buckets they keep the flowers in.  All of which are filled with six inches of water.  I can see it happening even though I didn’t see it happen:  as Chad smiles and sniffs a gorgeous bundle of those mini roses, his iPhone silently and unceremoniously commits suicide by plunging itself into the bucket of blossoms at his feet.

I spend the next half hour picking through all the buckets of flowers that I had sniffed (and some that I hadn’t, since who can really remember every goddamn lilly he stuck his nose in).  As I do so, it occurs to me that this strange hunt just makes me look like a really professional flower buyer who knows his stems so well that he needs to inspect the water they’re being stored in (cuz clearly that’s what’s important, that I don’t look stupid).

A half hour later, no cell phone.  One of the nice accented gentlemen offers to call it, and as he does I walk around eagerly hoping that a rose starts ringing.  No dice.  I give up.  The phone is almost certainly underwater, and if it is it’s worthless anyway.   Plus I gotta get to the hospital in an hour to radiate my brain chance.

As I walk outside I laugh to myself:  “man, how could this day get any worse… watch somebody knocked my motorcycle over with their car.  That would be hilarious.”  But then I see my bike sitting there, good as 39-years-old new, and as I go to strap the flowers on the back I see it…

A parking ticket.

A mockingbirding parking ticket.

Fifty eight bucks!  Hey Peacock, go fuck yourself!

I chase down the parking attendant, and to his utter surprise rather than trying to tear his face off I calmly recount how unspeakably irritating my day has been so far.  He feels really terrible but there’s nothing he can do.  Of course there’s nothing he can do, I knew that.  I just had to tell somebody how hilariously shitboxy this sequence of events has been.  And I wanted him to feel bad.  He felt bad.  Which was nice.

I always thought that smelling roses was one of the best things in life.

Here’s the news: it still is.  I should have just buttoned my pocket.

Off to radiate my brain chance!

 

UPDATE:  The evening turned out to be as nice as the day was shitty, thanks to some good friends and a good laugh about Brandon (see next post).  

I still feel nauseaus all the time though, especially when I try to spell the word nauseaus.

How’s the Chemo/Radiation Going?

Relatively uneventful so far, which is to say: good I guess!  No ill side effects at all (aside from the fact that Kuato has shriveled up and fallen off my chest– I was starting to grow fond of the smelly little bastard.  Plus he gave really good tips on the ponies at Santa Ana).

Hopefully it’s working, but we won’t really know anything about that until after the 6 weeks of treatment are over (more on this later).

For now my days are relatively normal, aside from two things:

1)  I take a pill every night before bed, which so far hasn’t really made me feel weird at all.

2)  A quick drive over to Cedars Sinai every afternoon, where the incredibly sweet technicians hook me up to this thing:

(click on the pic to see full size)

The futuristic space mask is this thing they made a few weeks ago.  It starts out as a flat plastic sheet, which they heat up or boil or braise or something to get it soft, then stretch it out over your face.  It then dries and hardens in the exact shape of your face, and when you go in for treatment you lie down on this emerald encrusted golden TemPurpedic bed (this being Cedars, after all)* and they use the mask to click your head into place so that it doesn’t move at all during the radiation blast.

The green lines you see are these trippy lasers that shoot out of the walls, which I think the machine uses to pinpoint where your head is and where it should be delivering its radiation blast.  They’ve done all sorts of computerized imaging of my brain and the tumor socket, which allows them to beam the radiation specifically (and exclusively) at the place where the cancer is / was.

DO YOU FEEL ANYTHING?
Nope, nothing at all.**  It doesn’t hurt, it only takes about 10 minutes, and you wouldn’t even know anything was happening if the sweet technician ladies didn’t run for their lives out of the room right before the machine turns on.

Which brings me to one final detail…

Someone asked me why I said I would never do radiation again after this 6 week jaunt:  the reason, as I understand it, is that they know how much radiation a person’s body can tolerate safely, so what they do is try to nail the cancer with everything they can right in the beginning, all at once, in an attempt to weaken and kill it as quickly as possible.  This is why I’m doing the 6 week chemo / radiation regimen.  They’re throwing everything they can at it, including the kitchen sink.

And since I’ve already had two brain surgeries, the sight of a 40 pound ceramic American Standard flying at my head isn’t really something that bothers me all that much.

So… it’s going well, thanks for asking!

*The bed isn’t really that ornate — although come to think of it it IS so technologically advanced that I bet it costs more than an emerald-encrusted TempurPedic.  It really just looks like a flat glass bed, as if you were lying down on an electric stovetop.  Which I guess in a way it is.  Oh small side note though:  the patient rooms at Cedars have new beds that actually ARE TempurPedics, and they’re insanely comfy.  Which is the only reason I stayed in the hospital the night after my second brain surgery.  It was just really comfy (Ok, that and the free morphine shots).

**One thing that I have noticed is this faint odor as soon as the machine turns on.  The technician said that only some people can smell it, and I think this officially confirms that I’ve inherited my mother’s nose.  Well at least the insides of it– the outside structure clearly came from my father.  (I need to point out here that the white plastic mask is WAY pointier than CP Senior and CP Junior’s noses.)   Anyway it’s really odd, though not unpleasant at all– the odor clicks on the instant the machine goes on, and it smells a bit like… burnt air or something.  Or ionized air.  As soon as the machine shuts off it disappears instantly.  If anyone has any idea what the hell this is, please let me know and I’ll give you 15 minutes of free radiation therapy using my radioactive nose nipple.

I Feel Fine

“How are you feeling?”
Been getting this question a lot, and this is the best way I can explain it at the moment:

{To the tune of the Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”}

Brainy’s good to me you know,
She’s happy as can be you know,
She said so
I’ve got brain cancer, but I feel fine.

Tumor’s not benign you know,
It tells me all the time though I
Ain’t dead so
I’ve got brain cancer, but I feel fine

I’m so glad they got that little pearl
Don’t be sad, cuz I’m still in the world
Having brain surgery stings although
The second time it swings and I
Ain’t dead so
Cancer’s almost gone and I feel fine, MMM

{sweet George / Ringo breakdown}

Tumor’s not benign you know,
It tells me all the time though I
Ain’t dead so
I’ve got brain cancer, and I feel fine

I’m so glad they got that little pearl
Don’t be sad, cuz I’m still in the world
Having brain surgery stings although
The second time it swings and I
Ain’t dead so
Cancer’s almost gone and I feel fine, MMM
Cancer’s almost gone and I feel fine, MMM

Off to radiation.

Thankfully Cedars Sinai has really good parking for motorcycles.

It’s only a 5 minute brain-blast that I have to do, 5 days a week for the next 6 weeks, so it shouldn’t be too bigadeel.  And I’ve already got this bizarre staplehead punk rock haircut, so if I lose a little hair it’s not like I’m going to look any weirder.

Incidentally, I’ve gotten a bunch of “good luck today” emails.  Thanks for those guys.

After perusing the Cancer Manners Handbook however, I have discovered that in the time-honored LA tradition, the proper thing to say is “Break a brain!”

I’m off to break a brain…!

So far so good

Took the first chemo pills last night and haven’t noticed any unpleasant side effects at all yet, which I’m really hoping continues to be the case.

Well there is one weird thing… a small malodorous man growing out of my belly, who loves Peter Gabriel and calls himself Kuato

I’m assuming my first round of radiation (today at 4:15) will do something about this abdominal Kuatoing.  And if not, Dutch has been eyeballing him lustily for the past few hours.

Until then, if you wanna see Kuato in action, click on the pic above.

Believe me, it’s worth it.