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, then go back to my apartment for a few days. I’m not sure what prompted this arrangement– maybe it was because it would give Chalon more convenient access to visit me during the week. I simply can’t remember.
The state of California sent me a disabled person parking placard, but I soon stopped driving anyway due a persistent state of exhaustion. Instead, I was going everywhere via Uber. I was also ingesting lots of cannabis edibles for pain and nausea. I remember coming home from City of Hope one day when, while riding in the back of an Uber, realized that I had taken one THC candy too many, and would be pretty much cognitively wrecked for the remainder of the day.
When my folks came to visit me in early June, they stayed at the Beverly Hilton. On one of those days I met them at their hotel and we sat in the shade by the pool. It was very pleasant, but I was extremely fatigued and the food was difficult for me to eat, which was very frustrating. But it was nice just to be with Mom and Dad– their presence was very calming. After the folks’ visit, if I wasn’t at City of Hope for a doctor’s appointment or resting at Joe’s house, I was at my place, in bed, zoning out, trying as best I could to maintain my nutritional intake. What was going through my head as I lay in bed? Reincarnation, the purpose of my life, and yes, my anima.
For years I repeated the mantra that the purpose of life is to have our unconscious content make it’s way into the ego where it can be understood. And although it served as useful cocktail party or dinner conversation, often conveyed with the hope and intention that in certain cases it would help me get laid, it had no practical value for me up until that point. But now I was in psychic anguish, and trying to make sense of my life before my possible impending death.
During one of my psych courses at Tufts, I was introduced to the concept of the “anima”– the unconscious, anthropomorphic feminine archetype present in the male Self, or as Carl Jung put it, “the inner figure of a woman held by a man”. When a young man meets a woman who genuinely reflects his anima, it can strike his unconscious with great intensity. He may not be able to eat or sleep, and can even experience tachycardia when he’s in the woman’s presence. He may be in a persistent state of euphoria, higher than the best strain of cannabis could ever induce. This, according to Jung, is the proverbial “love at first sight” the poets wrote about. If a woman’s animus (the male archetype present in every female) causes her to feel the same way and seek a physical or psychological union, it can be quite wonderful. However, if it’s a one-way thing, get ready to suffer.
From a male’s point of view, the anima influences how we react to every female we meet during our lifetime. It’s quality is formed, at first, in our DNA (as the collective archetypal mother). Ideally, our individual anima evolves spiritually as we engage in more adult “romantic” relationships throughout our life. The more a woman expresses characteristics that match our own anima, the more likely we are to respond to her as being the “Magical Other” who will act as our savior and heal every previous wound we’ve ever suffered. It’s a lot to ask of a person, and these expectations rarely come to fruition. Some Jungian scholars have suggested that if the woman is truly a reflection of our anima, we can use that reflection to help us develop these archetypically feminine characteristics (among them, patience, gentle persistence, tenderness, commitment, friendship, compassion, empathy, creativity, intuition, imagination, etc.) on our own, rather than relying on the woman to fill these psychological needs for us. But in real life, 95% of us take the latter path, rather than the former. And that may not be such a bad thing. Think of all the art, poetry, and great works of literature over the past 800 years that would have been lost if that were not the case.
As noted above, there is also the animus– the unconscious male archetype present in every female, that women experience in a similar, although not identical, way. You can see this represented in the Tao (yin-yang) symbol below. The white fish is male, with the black dot representing the anima. The black fish is female, with the white dot representing the animus.
One afternoon in particular, as I lay in bed experiencing the relaxing effects of CBD oil, I thought about my own anima, and how it had influenced my relationships with women throughout my life. Maybe that was one of the lessons I was supposed to learn in my current incarnation. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, I heard the song “The Last TIme” by the Rolling Stones. Where was it coming from? My cell phone, most likely. Was it synchronicity? Absolutely. The song was telling me to strike while the iron was hot.
Visitors came to see me for what many of them must have thought might be the last time, including My brother Matt. We spent most of that time at Joe’s house reminiscing and playing Yahtzee, one of our favorite games from years passed. (Matt and I used to spend hours at Christmastime playing that game, singing Christmas carols at the piano, and drinking eggnog.) During Matt’s stay we also got quite a bit of takeout from the many excellent delicatessens in the area (Greenblatt’s, Nate ‘n Al’s, Canter’s). One day we went to Fred Segal, a clothing store in West Hollywood. I was trying on shirts in the dressing room upstairs when I started to feel very dehydrated, tired, and dizzy. “I really need some water,” I thought to myself. I sat down on the bench, wondering how I could get some. Then, I heard a voice.
“Sir, would you like some water?” It was the salesgirl.
Was this a miracle? Another example of synchronicity? Or did they always ask customers if they wanted water?
There was this movie they showed us in elementary school–an Air Force guy was forced to jump from his airplane, and had to survive for days in the desert. There are only two scenes I remember– one in which he caught a snake and and cooked it over a fire– and the other, at the end of the film, when he is rescued. They give him a canteen filled with water and he frantically gulps it down– we see the water running down the sides of his mouth, and that’s the end of the film. At that moment I felt like the Air Force guy.
I drank the water, purchased three t-shirts, and made my way downstairs. I sat down at a table outside the cafe. I was so exhausted I could hardly move. I didn’t know it at the time, but the repeated radiation treatments had fried my thyroid. I was suffering from hypothyroidism, which was to get progressively worse.
After Matt left, I went back to my apartment for a couple of days. Then I returned to Joe’s house, where I met Chalon. Paul’s mom was staying there, and we worked on some jigsaw puzzles. One of Joe’s college friends, Lori, came to visit, and we spent some time with her as well. Again, I’m not sure why Chalon and I were spending so much time there and staying overnight. Was I that close to keeling over? I simply can’t remember.
Then my cousin Patti came to visit. She gave me a very nice present– a copy of the Ron Howard Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week, which I had been intending to see for the past year.
At one point I ordered a ukulele from Amazon, presumably to make a musical comeback as the next Tiny Tim following my full recovery. I also started to have to coughing spells during which I would feel lightheaded and dizzy, as if I were about to pass out. Maybe I could incorporate that into my new act.
During this time– June and July, 2017– I would periodically see the wound care team at City of Hope. The cancer had become ulcerating, meaning that it had broken through my neck and created a wound that needed to be treated. I was receiving Carboplatin and Taxotere, but the fungating tumor kept growing at an exponential rate, much like the amorphous, amoeba-like organism that devours and dissolves anything in its path in the movie The Blob. I was so “out of it” during that period– a survival mechanism, perhaps? I only remember sitting on the examining table and having the staff look at the wound and bandage it up every few days. I never processed their comments– part of me didn’t want to listen.
I also started to feel nauseous whenever I would take an Uber ride, so they gave me a prescription for Compazine, as well as a scopolamine patch that I would affix to the back of my ear. Scopolamine. The same drug the Nazis used as “truth serum” in The Guns of Navarone, but which is also used to prevent people from vomiting maliciously.
Following my third round of chemo in mid-July, my capacity for clear and complex thought declined. I was in a cognitive and emotional fog. I just didn’t have the juice, the ability or the energy to process what was going on around me.
One night when I was alone at my place I awoke with a start. I couldn’t breath. I tried to suck in air but I couldn’t. Panic set in. I grabbed my cell phone and started to call 911. But my airway cleared and I was able to start breathing again. I thought that some secretions in my throat or lungs had temporarily blocked my airway. But that wasn’t the case. I didn’t know it at the time, but the tumor in my neck was growing into my trachea. I went back to sleep.
For some inexplicable reason I did not report this episode to any of my doctors. It never dawned on me that it was the tumor that had impeded by breathing, or that I could choke to death at any second.
I had another follow-up PET/CT and anxiously waited to see if if the Carboplatin and Taxotere had killed off any of the cancer.
If this post seems somewhat disorganized or jumbled, that’s intentional. It conveys my psychological state at the time.