The Naked Comic

I don’t remember when or how I received the results of my July 2017 PET scan, but I’m sure that it was my brother-in-law Paul who provided me with the information. Unfortunately, the news was not encouraging– After completing the Carboplatin and Docetaxil chemotherapy regimen, the follow-up imaging indicated that the mass on the left side of my neck was still cancerous, and had grown larger. The three metastatic lymph nodes in my superior mediastinum (located between the lungs) were also still there, but no new cancer sites were detected. I didn’t have a melt down, I did not panic, and I was not overwhelmed by fear. Was I in pain? Yes. Was I uncomfortable? Very. But as my friend and noted psychiatrist Dr. John Aliapoulios had suggested a few months prior,…

Somebody Spoke and I Went into a Dream

After starting the Carboplatin and Taxotere regimen in early June of 2017, I went into some kind of dissociative psychological state, as if I were in a dream. I had recently started to take generous amounts of pain medication on a daily basis– as well as cannabis oil– and was on autopilot when it came to emotionally dealing with my increasingly alarming health situation and uncertain prognosis. I was overloaded. I checked out, and shut down. My memories of the ensuing eight weeks remain sketchy and scattered at best, but pieces remain. I began to spend much more time at my brother Joe’s house. Joe and his partner Paul lived on Hollywood Boulevard, just north of the Comedy Store club on Sunset Boulevard. I would spend a couple of days at Joe’s,…

When the Tides of Life Turn Against You

It’s late March of 2017, and I had just come back from visiting the folks on the east coast. I’m driving through Anaheim, California, when on a genuine whim I stop off at the nearest salon I can find to have my hair touched up. I had gone rapidly gray following my last chemo treatment and wanted to return to work looking healthier than I actually was. A couple of days later– and, for the second time in a year–  I returned to work following a four-month absence.  There were flowers on my desk, and, a get-well card that was signed by (most) of the residency program staff. One of my co-workers, Kim Romig, who now works at City of Hope, offered to give me her aromatherapy necklace. She always kept it…

The Fool and the Magician

Sometime after my surgery in December of 2016– either right before Christmas Day or maybe right after– my brother Joe called and told me about a Christian faith healer with a reputation for being able to work miracles, quite literally. He was based in Arizona– Joe had been given his contact information by a friend here in L.A.. This guy was supposed to be the real deal, and was apparently quite famous and well known, as far as faith healers go. One thing I am not is closed-minded– at least, not when it comes to God, Jesus, miracles, the supernatural, or realities that may be true but cannot be explained by science or by our current level of human knowledge, understanding, or technology. The world is more than we know. And yet,…

Red Sky at Morning

My chemo and radiation therapy treatments were over. Two weeks later, I was still underweight, undernourished, exhausted, and was experiencing the cognitive impairment known as “chemo brain”.  “Chemo brain” refers to the symptoms brought on by chemotherapy, which include decreased short-term memory, problems finding words, a short attention span, and difficulty concentrating. As challenging as these issues were, it was also essential that I return to work. There are federal and state statutes designed to protect employees who have cancer and other disabilities. Unfortunately, this was no guarantee that I would be allowed to return to my job following my four month medical leave. In the real world, institutions do not make these decisions based on fleeting feelings of compassion. They weigh the costs, benefits, and potential legal risks, and act accordingly.…

Arrival

For 10 hours, I lay in a medically-induced coma. Unconscious, intubated, a black nothingness, unaware of what was happening to my body. And then…  THUD! I was abruptly awakened by what looked like a half dozen eighteen year-old girls. It felt like they were aggressively pulling tubes out of my body, or shaking me, or something like that. “Michael, your surgery’s finished!”, they all appeared to sing in unison. For a millisecond, I had no idea where I was or what was happening. And then I remembered why I was there. I was completely immobilized. My left arm was in a cast, and my legs were wrapped in some sort of compression device. I had a urinary catheter, and all sorts of IVs and monitor cables attached to my body. My face…

2015: The More Things Change

I could well imagine that I might have lived in former centuries and there encountered questions I was not yet able to answer; that I had to be born again because I had not fulfilled the task that was given to me. – Carl Gustav Jung   One postscript about Kathleen. We broke up in 2006. It was painful for both of us, and tears flowed– first Kathleen, then me, but in my case, after I hung up the phone. In our final conversation, I apologized to her for putting her through the fails and tribulations of my illness, as well as the psychodramas and traumas that followed, which she was forced endure. “No,” she said. “Don’t say that. I’m a better person for having known you.” I had not been expecting…

2004: A Trip to the Unknown

Kathleen and I had corresponded almost exclusively by email for several weeks, but since she traveled quite a bit for work, we had to wait a while before actually getting together for our first date. We planned to meet at a restaurant on First Avenue, somewhere between 51st and 53rd Street in Manhattan. Tonight would be the Big Night. I was wearing jeans, an oxford shirt, and a navy blazer, and arrived about 5 minutes before she did, waiting outside the front door of the restaurant. As she appeared from around the corner, I noticed that her long, blond hair fell all the way down below her waist. She wore a casual, dark outfit, and had an athletic look about her. I thought she was beautiful. I approached her with the intention…