I feel I should write something. Here's why.
Cancer absolutely destroyed my creativity. When I was well my mind was an overstuffed closet. Like something you'd see in one of these hoarder reality shows. Who knows what was in there. Stuff. It wasn't the culmination of several decades of living. It was the result of my mind's machinations on all that life. There were things in there that should have never come out, but did. That's what people liked to read. I would sit at the computer and write and it would flow effortlessly from that closet.
Chemo and cancer, and now COVID, emptied that closet.
I have leukemia. The thought of it is more terrifying than the actual thing. I was brought into remission by the barbaric practice of chemotherapy. Chemo wrecked my body, but obliterated the cancer. I have lots of remaining side effects. Two days ago I saw my oncologist. I told him about all the pains and weaknesses. I asked him how to eliminate them and return to normal.
He just shrugged. He didn't answer me. Literally - went silent.
Clearly this is doctor-speak for "Dude, your feet are still on THIS side of the ground. Can't do much about the side effects. Be happy."
Enough has been said on this, our beloved forum. We have lost many to cancer. As I wrote decades ago - I am not special. I will die here, too. So I won't complain about chemo. Many from our group have gone through worse. And I have studied death ad nauseum. I have held my own death in my mind for over a year now. I am no longer afraid of it. I know that's easy to say while I am sitting here in total remission, with blood parameters all back to normal, no more tumors. But when you stare at something for months, it becomes familiar. I would bet death row inmates go through the same thought process.
In fact, I said to my GP - "I feel like I have a gun to my head at all times."
His reply: "So, what makes you different from every other person on this planet?"
True enough. We are all sentenced to death. It's the cover charge to Earth. Mine has just been brought into focus.
So I sit down to write something and find my head blank. Except for reciting past actual events, I have no creativity. That once full closet is dark and empty. There isn't even any dust in there. It's been sterilized by Bendeka.
So I got COVID. Again.
First time I got COVID there was no vaccine. It was 10 days of fever, chills, weakness, and overall sickness.
Then it went away.
The second time I got COVID, I got it from my wife, who got it from her office. She still goes into the office. The most interesting thing about her catching COVID is that she was arranging an "impromptu" concert by YoYo Ma at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Yeah, I know. You don't arrange impromptu things.
But it is what it is.
She got everything arranged with his advanced crew, and then right before meeting the artist she got tested. And the test came back positive. So she could not be near Yoyo Ma and she never saw the concert she set up for cello and native artists performing on traditional instruments (even though she contacted and arranged all the local native performers.)
The county started tracking her via text messages daily.
Now my wife has a husband who is immune compromised. But he is a husband who had, to that point, three COVID vaccinations.
And was he/I worried? Not a bit. My chemo had been done for 2 months and I was on the mend. Bad white blood cells killed. Good ones taking their place.
The wife had minor symptoms for 5 days. Then she went back to normal.
I came down with full blown COVID about a week later. Interestingly, as I had just come through chemo that had many of the same symptoms, COVID was a breeze. The 10 days of COVID symptoms were hardly a match for the effects of chemo. Chemo had actually made me more resiliant to sickness pain. (Oddly, my oncologist says that is true of nearly all his patients. Cancer patients, who have survived chemo, statistically do better than normal people when it comes to succumbing to COVID. Maybe you can make lemonaid out of lemons.)
It was the pneumonia that just about killed me. And indeed, there were two days of post-COVID pneumonia that made me honestly believe all that meditation on death had paid off. I didn't think I'd get out of that bed, even to get to a hospital.
But things turned around. I would have refused going to the hospital anyway and after a week of tempting the grim reaper, I was released from his grip.
Doc says I would have died had I not been vaccinated. As a human, I agree. The vaccination saved my life.
But as an engineer I am not so sure. There is no way to know if I would have lived if not vaccinated. It is not science to say that. There are only statistics that suggest the ones who die under the care of my neighbor (a respiratory specialist) are unvaccinated. But not all. Some vaccinated people die too.
Medicine is statistics. It's unknowable with certainty by humans.
I came out of the COVID pneumonia with some minor lung damage and an ever present chest pain that could be a cardiac inflammation.
Nobody knows what will happen and to be honest, 62-year old men die every day and nobody bats an eye.
I am not unready. But I do ask if there are solutions that can help.
Thus my oncologist shrugs when I ask him when this brain fog will lift.
He doesn't know. None of them do.
But they do their best to get us through this forest of biological trials.
Lets not allow this interesting fact to go unnoticed.
People who have survived chemotherapy do better recovering from and enduring COVID than people who have not.
This is a verifiable statistic from my oncologist (Arizona Blood and Cancer Specialists).
By the way, in case someone misunderstands my comment about not knowing with certainty if the vaccination saved my life:
I don't care about that.
Even if there's a modicum of chance it's true, it's worth it.
Get vaccinated. Don't die.
Seriously. As a person who has done nothing but contemplating death for the past 18 months - I say as earnestly as I can:
get vaccinated. Don't die.
Yes, the statics are on your side. But don't be blinded by the math.
My doc said to me: "You are vaccinated. You have a 95% chance of not winding up on a ventilator."
I nearly fell on the floor in apopleptic fits.
He thought he was saying something positive to me. It was more likely I would come out of COVID alive. Even with my leukemia. 95 percent.
Holy mother. Do you understand what that means?
That means there's a one in twenty chance you WILL wind up dead on a ventillator. 1:20
These days betting on sports via the internet is everywhere. Would you take those odds? How much would you wager? Your life?
Do you know 20 people? If you have 20 friends, and you all get COVID, one of you is very likely to wind up dead with a ventilator pipe shoved down your windpipe. It's not definite. That's where people lose their minds. That's where political pundits make their cases. It's not definite.
Well, nothing having to do with healthcare is definite. It's all statistics. One-in-twenty. That means it might never happen. But then again, there's a chance it will.
As an engineer, 95% probability scares the crap out of me.
By the way, that's one-in-twenty if you do get vaccinated.
You can do the numbers yourself. It's an exercise to the reader to calculate the odds on being unvaccinated. I don't have the energy for any of this anymore.
Smell practice is the reason I'm writing today. All of this.
There are a gazillion symptoms and I think I have had all of them. Chemo. Cancer. COVID. Each has symptoms. I know them all very well.
Think about it. Lots of symptoms come with cancer. Lots. Stuff nobody tells you about.
For instance, when my leukemia was in full force my liver was greatly compromised. One effect of this was the way my body dealt with alcohol. If I drank 1/2 a beer I would get a hangover immediately, and it would last for 2 days.
No kidding. It was as if I had gone on a weekend bender in Vegas.
When I was enduring chemo I had all the classic symptoms you read about.
But nobody told me I would lose my sense of taste. Nobody told me that 10 days after every infusion I would become the amazing Hulk and attempt to destroy everything around me.
Nobody says those things because they're unmeasurable. The internal rage that comes from being full of steroids isn't something you can aim your phone cam at and post on line.
The fact every thing you put in your mouth tastes like fresh seaweed is something you can be told, and you might even sympathize with. But that experience doesn't make for good video.
And so with COVID - one of the symptoms is loss of sense of smell.
When I say "loss" I mean - gone.
I could stick my nose in a bottle of bleach and smell nothing (sinuses complained, though). I went into the garage and held a gas can to my nose. Nothing.
Now - if someone was to insist you needed to lose one of your 5 senses, you'd probably give up smell in a heartbeat.
But here's what happens when you can't smell anything.
Something catches fire - you don't know unless you see smoke.
Gas leak from the oven? No way to know until your house explodes.
In addition, the sense of smell is linked tightly with the sense of taste. When you can't smell anything, taste doesn't know where to go.
Nothing tastes like you think it should.
Worst of all - my morning cup of coffee tasted like brake fluid. (I had just gone through this with chemo. It turned out the only coffee that tasted even remotely like coffee to me was McDonalds McCafe. The worst coffee in the American diet was the only coffee palatable during chemo. Two months after chemo ended, and my sense of taste came back, I realized how awful McCafe actually was and went back to my single source Sumatra.)
My sense of smell stayed gone through the November and December holidays. My XMAS dinner tasted like bland bread. Everything.
In January after months of "olfactory blindness" I got really worried my sense of smell would never return.
That's when my doc suggested smell practice.
He told me to go to the spice rack and open each jar in turn and imagine the smell, and then try to smell it.
Ok, some spices I couldn't remember the smell. Like tumeric. And coriander.
But basil, sure. Oregano, hell, I'm a boy from New Jersey and all east coast pizza tastes of oregano.
Literally one day after doing this the most amazing thing happened.
I remember sniffing an open jar of dried basil - and suddenly there it was. The smell of basil.
And then I could smell all the other spices. And I could smell the Clorox and the Shell regular gasoline in the gascan in the garage.
The next morning upon waking up I could smell nothing again.
But I went to the jar of basil and imagined it - and then sniffed - and there it was. And there was all the other smells in the world.
Amazing. You can reboot your sense of smell. And it happens so fast, it seems like a sort of joke - like you could smell all along but you just refused to do it. This is probably the way people with hysterical blindness feel when they regain their eyesight.
Thus I am writing. I return here to E2, site of much of my creative outbursts, to try to reboot my writing. Refill that closet in my mind.
I don't know if it will work.
But I'm trying.