Looking for dignity in the fight against cancer.
“What do you mean by air?”
“Air. The stuff you breathe,” she says, waving her hand.
“So dead tumor and air. What does this mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Does it mean I can go home?”
“This morning, yes.”
“Wow,” says my roommate. “That’s fantastic.”
He’s a Christian. I really hope he hasn’t been praying for me. I would hate to have to be grateful to a nonexistent God.
I am giddy with joy. It’s a miracle! And suddenly there’s a whole gang of doctors at the bottom of the bed. My little ray of sunshine is at the back of the pack and she’s avoiding my eye. I get the horrible feeling I’m about to disappear down the rabbit hole.
The CT scan shows that the tumor has grown, says one of the doctors. You will not be discharged today.
Wait, what? The tumor has grown? I was just told it was dying.
Yes, well, it’s grown so big it’s necrotic. It’s dying at the edges.
Oh, whoopee. Thanks a bunch, Jesus. My little ray of sunshine—the kid who told me less than an hour ago that everything was tickety boo—shuffles her feet, her face ashen. Poor bugger.
But wait, there’s more.
At 11 a.m., my oncologist arrives and says that the CT scan reveals the threat of an “abdominal catastrophe,” namely a perforated bowel that could at any moment rip apart flooding my thorax with poisoned shit. Holy fuck.
The following morning I’m wheeled into a surgical ward and then into surgery where I have an interesting conversation with a 12-year-old anesthetist about the horse tranquilizer (and top disco drug) Ketamine and especially its relation to the new British dance craze, wonKy (a sort of mutated dub-step).
Then he sticks me with the super-K and a ton of other lovely drugs and my stunningly skillful surgeon slices me open and spends five hours—five hours!—cutting out malignant chunks of my cancered-to-fuck shit-tubes and then stitching the healthy bits back together.
I love anesthetic. It’s like suicide with a round-trip ticket.
“Fuck Cancer” and Other Homilies
By Thurs., Feb. 19, I’m getting crabby. Still feeble as a newborn lamb, a doctor leans in close and shouts: “HOW IS YOUR BREATHING, MR. WELLS?”
A man gets lost in the Philadelphia health system "What is this, fucking Kafka?" and lives to tell about it. By Steven Wells email@example.com Illustrations by Jim Campbell --> I'm writing...
Our friend and colleague Steven Wells died two years ago today of the cancer he had documented so well in two cover stories for Philadelphia Weekly. On June 14, he submitted this column.