There’s a lot of misinformation about the treatment of cancer, what to expect, and the aftermath.  Much of it is from movies, television, and those “feel good” charity commercials.  They all want you to believe we’re in this fight together and that a support system will magically appear around you when the shit hits the fan.  I wish that had been the case.

Let’s be honest, there’s no Dr. Wilson from House M.D. coming to shower you with infinite compassion and a crack team of doctors.  What you get is a brutally efficient system of treatment that, in my case, happened so quickly I didn’t even have time to understand what I was undergoing.  Diagnosed on a Monday, surgery the next week, and my 1st chemo the very next day.  You may remember how well that turned out, with a severe reaction to Rituxan and a single nurse keeping her cool while half a dozen others stared at me as I convulsed.  Good times.

Some people were nice, but many were either ignorant of the process or indifferent to it, sometimes cruelly so.  I still vividly remember the nurse who tugged on my power port like it was bolted to my chest with rivets instead of just skin.  The way she jammed a syringe of morphine so quickly into my port, in spite of my protests, that I almost threw up on her shoes.  No blissful euphoria there only a terrible twisting of my stomach and dizzying bout of nausea.  Pumped full of painkillers I still couldn’t sleep as she stomped in and out of my room on her hourly checks, ignoring the fact that me and my wife (cramped in a chair next to me) were trying to get some meager semblance of sleep.  These were just a few lovely moments from the ordeal of my treatment.

Another fallacy I encountered was the idea that there’d be an instant outpouring of support from my friends and family.  My tale played out a little differently.  There was me, rocketed through surgeries and treatments at a breakneck speed.  Then there was my loving wife who watched as her husband deteriorated before her eyes, on several occasions not knowing if I’d survive the night.  And finally there was… no one else.  No family, no friends, nothing.  I received less than a handful of concerned calls while my wife received zero.  The closest I came to a visit was when I hallucinated a friend coming to see me when I was in the neutropenic ward.  A 106 degree fever will do that to you.

I really don’t know why things turned out that way.  Some people told me, after I had already recovered, that they were afraid and didn’t know what to say.  “Hello” would have been nice.  Others got defensive when I called them out on it saying I should have asked them to visit.  Really?  My slow agonizing death wasn’t enough of a clue that you should see me because, quite frankly, I might not be alive tomorrow?

After the turmoil, pain, financial drain, and slow crawl back to normal, all I’m left with is an overriding numbness.  I wasn’t imbued with a new lease on life or a spark in my heart.  That’s for Hollywood endings.  I’m beaten, war-torn, and exhausted.  The little energy I have remaining is focused on climbing out of the abyss that cancer opened up beneath me.  My body is still rebelling against its brush with death.  My power port still sits in my chest as a constant reminder that I’m not done yet.  The broken pieces of my life are not just shattered, but incinerated.  I sit here amongst the smoldering remains with a tone ceaselessly playing in my ears, similar to the aftermath of an explosion, wondering what the FUCK happened.

7 comments… add one
  • Terrie Matsuura May 16, 2013

    Oh, Gabu, I’m so sorry. I wish you guys were closer. A nice all-nighter of Japanese anime and sweet sake would be nice. I know we’re just Internet friends and I am absolutely horrible at keeping up with people and events in real life, not to mention Internet life. But I do adore you two and I wish you (both of you) didn’t have to endure this pain. And, yes, it’s not like it’s magically over. Ever. That part no one tells you.

    • Gabriel Novo
      May 16, 2013

      Terrie, you’re not a horrible friend in any way, shape, or form. Internet or not, I’m extremely happy to have you in my life. I would kill for a night of anime and sake in Japan. One of these days we need to make that happen.
      Gabriel Novo´s latest post ..Cursing as an Art FormMy Profile

  • Lyn May 17, 2013

    Hi Pal,
    Reading “Numb” brought back so many memories and similarities . Although our illnesses were very different the path through it hit home in so many ways. The main memory that hit home is how many people forget that your wife is living every minute of it with you. It would have helped me far more if people had taken the time to ask how she was doing. The only phone calls she had was to ask how I was doing when she got home at night from visiting the hospital. She felt like saying, “Go see him for yourself and ask”, but Jan being Jan sucked it up and told them. This at a time when she just wanted to get our daughter to bed and relax.
    As you said, there are some people who work in hospital that really care but the brutal truth is that many don’t see you as a person but part of the job. I agree that on times you just get carried along with what they pump into you and feel like a third party in your own illness. One thing is common and until you go through anything like this is the fact that when it hits your on your own.
    I will finish by saying find strength in each other. Love to you and Ra xxx

    • Ra
      May 20, 2013

      Lyn I cannot thank you for your response. It made me cry…Not just from bringing back the memories of what has happened, but for knowing the exact way that is was and felt. Jan and I were in the same place. I am still struggling through knowing and feeling what life was like before to try to make it feel that way now and beyond. Don’t know if it will ever happen, but I am now trying to do so.

      Thank you!


  • Diane Carlisle May 20, 2013

    I completely understand what you and your wife are going through and have been through. My husband is in his third year “cancer free”. He had a rare tumor called a soft tissue sarcoma. He had radiation for several weeks before his surgery. He gets CT Scans every four months.

    We didn’t tell anyone about his condition (not even family) with the exception of our employers where I took family medical leave in order to be with him during treatments and surgery.
    Diane Carlisle´s latest post ..Writers Block Instant CureMy Profile

  • Teresa May 21, 2013

    Hey Gabriel,

    I’m sorry that things have been lame because of all of this. In truth, although we’re not extremely the closest friends, I still did think about you. Reached out here and there, and I’m sorry if it wasn’t enough. Unfortunately your battle came around the same time my uncle’s pancreatic cancer battle reared its ugly head towards the dead end a couple of months earlier, and another family death a month before he passed. It’s no excuse, since I lost sight quite often after that of everyone else’s struggles, and it happened more often than not.

    I am happy that, despite how you’re feeling right now, your wife has been there for you. Sucks that no one was there for her, and she’s amazing already for being so strong.

  • Sam Parker May 22, 2013

    Hey Gabriel,

    I am ashamed to say that I am one of those people who were too stunned by your illness to say anything. I’m so so sorry for that. Even now, I feel that anything that I say/do would just be seen as a pathetic excuse to justify my behavior. However, I am going to apologize. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there to message you and your lovely wife (who deserves so much more encouragement than what she got), I’m sorry that I felt that I wasn’t close enough to you to say anything of importance, and I’m very sorry that this is coming so very late.

    That being said, I hope that I can make up for my past mistakes and become a closer friend to you and truly support you and your family when you need it.

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