Monday, December 12, 2011

In celebration of ordinary things

It's hard to complain anymore, in spite of the torment I've waded through these past 3 years.I've tried everyday to express the magnitude of the assault that has been brought upon me in some profound way, but my words fall short. There is conceit in my glibness and foolishness in my aspiration. My efforts are genuine, though. I only intended to illuminate that which is so obscured in shadowy misconception and darkness.

I've been humbled by cancer, chastened by it's impunity, and now grateful for it's remission. I don't lament loss nor do I revel in triumph. Mine is a solitary pursuit of ordinary things and the comfort and solace of ordinary people.

I am finally starting to heal. Disassociating cells have shattered everything I have known, and yet, my humanity is still intact and empathic with sublime persistence. What is left of me is thankful for the man I've become and all of those who have helped me find contentment in that.

I am closer now to all of you, and like many of you, I find myself without words. Perhaps there are none, or needn't be, or , like me, we fear the words we fumble for; are they imbued with the right sentiment? do they convey how I really feel? must I say anything?

I celebrate my life everyday and I genuflect to the constellation of those who flicker radiantly in my consciousness with out whose endurance I would not find the stamina that I must. For that alone, I will not squander my gratitude in self-indulgence, I can't take the credit. Instead I will praise all of those seemingly ordinary people,with myriad personalities, uniformly committed to life. Their dedication is sacrosanct and in their open arms they embrace my fear as their own. It is my sanctuary, my home away from home.

I survive because I must, a gift ordained by providence, bestowed upon us at birth. And yet, it is ordinary men and women who protected my dignity when I was not strong enough to consider the implications of it's loss. And then there are the soldiers for humanity who trudge through viscera and fecal matter with selfless perseverance that is annealed in the flames of purgatory, where battles are won and lost, or postponed, if only for a little while, preserving time when it doesn't matter to you anymore, forever conscious that it does and how precious it is. It is with steady gaze their vigilance portends life, an ironical smile instills faith when momentarily there was none.

I believe with all that I know that God indeed exists... He lives in all of us, but He vacations in Chapel Hill.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I'm not afraid today. It's been a year now since I was diagnosed with AML. In that time and with some prospective apathy has evolved to familiar depression and the reality that if tomorrow can't promise a better day, then damn it! I'm determined to make the best of it whether I feel like it or not!

And so with ambivalence still, I will celebrate, but that's my nature isn't it; chemo didn't touch that. I haven't given in to the apprehension of uncertainty that is the cause of so much anxiety, but rather learned to seize its ambiguity and accept its consequence with spontaneity and resolve. It doesn't get any better than that by any definition or standard. Contentment has come with that understanding.

My physiology is what it will be for now. Perhaps with conditioning this body I feel like I'm borrowing while mine, betrayed by medication, improves and repairs itself. Only time and work will tell now. The waiting is more difficult than the pain I feel, but I've gotten used to it. It's always been part of the treatment plan; something to do with fortitude I think.

My state of mind is circumspect but determined and focused nonetheless. I'm ready to work again, but only when my legs say it's OK and I can get my compression socks on by myself. I'm more confident now than I have been, sanctioned with the unwavering support of my closest friends and family. I hope someday I can reciprocate with the same devotion and kindness you've given me, none more so than Jenel without whom I would not have survived.

Very rarely are any of us tested to the extent that requires sacrifice. Many of you have demonstrated selfless character and given me encouragement and attention I never imagined I deserved. I feel more relief knowing people care about me than being in remission! I'm humbled by your generosity and inspired by your loyalty that throughout this past year has always made me feel better than I really did.

Disease has only informed me the treachery and betrayal that exists, and that no amount of anticipation or optimism can subvert its reign or prepare you for its devastation. Clearly, our health belongs to chance and the whims of uncertanty.

But chance has also surrounded me with people, either by serendipity or providence, with whom my survival was secure, if only for a little while. We share life, we rejoice, we live, we survive adversity and disappointment. We love and find comfort. In each others incandescence we learn and grow.

It is true that so many things are of little consequence without your health, and yet without your friends and family and people to love you, life would truly be unbearable, no matter what condition your in. Thank you for not leaving me alone.

with love Tom

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

--- T.S. Elliot

Monday, November 2, 2009

Biopsy blues

I went to Chapel Hill the other day and got poked and prodded, then anesthetized and stabbed; the bone marrow biopsy is not one of your more elegant procedures. We've been waiting several days for the results; in itself painful cruelty to the insult of the examination. As of yet I haven't thought beyond this commentary, but my apprehension is increasingly dreaded.

It's harder and harder to get up for the game, as they say, after getting beat up for so long scrimmaging with cancer and now GVH with its attendant side effects. None of us have the training for it, certainly not the endurance; no matter what attitude you come up with from one day to the next. Resignation I think. The realization I had today that I'm going to have to go through this re-enactment for the next 5 years...

I really don't have anything inspiring to say about that. Maybe when the results come back I'll be a better cheerleader.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Trilogy;"Please Forgive my Trespass..III"

A Poets Advice (by ee cuumings)

"A real human is somebody who feels and who expresses his or her feelings. This may sound easy. It isn't.

A lot of people think or believe or know what they feel---but that's thinking or believing or knowing: not feeling. And being real is feeling---not just knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but it's very difficult to learn to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know , you're a lot of other people: but the moment you feel you're nobody -but-yourself

To be nobody -but-yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day, to make you everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight; and never stop fighting."

I woke this morning with my usual exuberance and zeal, catapulting from bed with gymnast facility. Purpose and Prednisone torqued with instant abundance, kinetic now with anticipation and efficacy that dismisses sleep; a mere inconvenience of necessity. It feels as though Prometheus himself had handed me the fire of enlightenment in my dreams, elucidating inquiry, now incandescent with resolution, ablaze with certainty; stay out of my way! Caffeine and unpredictability brew urgency and exasperation. And soon innocuous conversation eclipse the promise of contentment that sunrise usually brings me. Suddenly the proximity of my invective and derisive stridency turns aggressive and devolves into animus, becoming malicious and entertaining, cat-like in execution; my prey overwhelmed by intensity and volume.

Once again my humility goes unrestrained. Its indiscretion belongs in the wilderness, howling in the wind with out an audience to placate it. My defiance goes unrewarded there,as it should, unable to wield conceit and acrimonious scorn. I'm always expecting satisfaction for my misguided hubris. Oh! the pathos of ego.What halcyon do I aspire? Is this a Ruse? This adolescents prank, whose sophomoric impulsiveness surges toxicity, its turmoil vexes my sensibilities and threatens my preservation. Reflux with convulsive force, undifferentiated like the corresponding cancer that has taken residency in me. How do I ventilate this caustic accellerant I persecute myself with and everyone else, vilifying the world because of it.

Unfamiliar depression looms somewhere out on a horizon that doesn't beckon the sun, the tide doesn't swell there, only accountability and I fear, dreaded consequence awaits. Is that where I vanquish this discontent? Barter compromise and offer gratitude, where none is to expected? Expectations, always aspiring preeminence and soars so close to its desire, spewing illumination, thrust centrifugally, like magnetic attraction to solar gravity and light. Like Daedalus my newly crafted wings of ascendancy become incinerated in a swirling updraft of my own infatuation and eventually in my descent, dripping melted expectation that burns with frustration. I grow tired of this illusory flight plan.

Sweaty futility leaves me dehydrated, my wings are heavier and burdensome now. I surrender to depression's darkness. It grabs at my ankles with the vengeance of that dreaded consequence, unforeseen, perhaps not. Its unfamiliarity tingles electric on the bottoms of my feet, sharp needles where I no longer feel the ground beneath them. Just air, stagnant with my own breath, crackling with foreboding.

The pressure in my head amplifies indistinct murmuring that intensifies, shouting entreaties for forgiveness. Guilt reveals itself from the cacophony, a shrill voice poised with glowering satisfaction that shatters in my head, erupting with shards of kaleidoscopic glass, freeze-framed in inanimate old bargaining chips worthless now with overuse. I wince at my own memories, indistinguishable now, veiled in diaphanous confusion of past and present. The future no longer exists, I fear. This feeling reverberates with concussive frequency, helpless in hypnotic submission, slack-jawed and limp; impaled with the shrapnel of despair. It crystallizes into sadness and regret shredding what's left of my tenuous confidence and fledgling resolve, only newly commissioned, not yet battle tested for this.

Solitude tastes bitter and metallic. My consciousness slips deeper,I long for sleep and the promise of morning seems so far away now. My ascendancy that was mine gasps under the weight of my own mass, choking in viscera and phlegm. Panic conspires opportunistically with the Chimera who totes fear and the instruments to exact my acquiescence. How much more must I surrender? I've relinquished flesh and bone, my blood eviscerated, and my marrow doesn't belong to me entirely. Haven't I earned it yet? I traded my my dignity for it, must I give up my soul as well?

Free falling I flail about reflexively, a wounded carcinomorphic creature;still incomplete, defensively prostrate, no longer predatory for truth but whimpering for absolution to avoid depressions appointment, attendant by doubt, discharged in darkness, all its abstraction undercover. For all intents and purposes, I've been discarded with barely my instincts intact exsanguinated by apathy.

I look into your eyes always nearby,watching. Vigilance disguises the wreckage your tortured with. The enigma of denial so difficult to verify with the illusion of improvement, that often blood work and pretense belie. Our endurance slips away slowly, not conditioned to scrimmage this struggle indefinitely. The assault too wearisome and bewildering ." How much longer must I be assigned this awful trust?"(...till death do us part) Death by attrition? Even my force of will, stubborn and headstrong as it is isn't strong enough without the buttress of support she braces my determination with. "How can you not know that?" My impatience is only jaded intractability, fearful of losing my supremacy and relevance. Suddenly an old man too soon, effectively useless, with too much time to resent this violation wrought on me, so cruelly inflicted; who do I blame for that? In disenchantment I sip the poison of hope, beguiled by it's seductive possibilities. But whom, may you ask, grants this reconciliation? Isn't a positive attitude enough?

I bludgeon away at delusion when I can, it's tantalizing allure tastes bittersweet though and disappointment isn't that nourishing. I had not intended for the narrative of my experience to be so self-indulgent; full of white noise and disillusionment. But it's hard to be on someones' to do list, harder still to be reminded that I still need to be.

I yearn once again for the insecurity of spontaneity, the blissful callow of my youth and it's incumbent ignorance. Answers that alluded me then, still do. Questions remain as they will with lives not yet lived. I should find contentment in that and rejoice in the adventures still to be had. Unfortunately, all my insight is corrupted by a half century of dispatch and practical stubbornness. Coping skills honed by a lifetime of crisis, myriad experience, and bad luck. Chiseled from my own intransigence and deluded invincibility. Finely burnished with the perspective of time and the wisdom of character, pieced together haphazardly to construct a foundation of principles that with steely grip I clutch to so protectively still. But to live with something is to become oblivious to it. I'm learning to resist that temptation only now. Upheaval will do that. One at a time, I'm abandoning those propensities defined to a large extent by default.

There is no exclusivity to this purpose for anyone. No single path to follow. There is no mandate, but oblivion is yours that relegates themselves to apathy. Evolution is in your grasp. It is not mine alone.

I am but a glimpse into possibility. A representative from cancer's netherworld and the purgatory of self-examination; a soldier of the ghosts of survivors past. Armed with the practical skills that will secure my transformation, gleaned from science, reason, and introspection; not surrender, as it must. I aspire for truth, faith and the certainty in the opportunities that my evolution has brought about. Not passively to be sure (ask my wife!), but with passion and persistence that will not dissipate or wane as long as I have breath. Hey! I'm fighting cancer, what have you done lately? So please.... forgive my trespass.


forgive my tortuous mania and frenzied exuberance, my selfish zeal that trespass on your increasing burden.

And while I accelerate towards some as of yet undisclosed destination, slamming into everything and everyone along the way, I look to you for steady resolve, for guidance I'm unable to give myself.

Everyday I bask in your peace and kindness. You give to me of yourself so completely, so inwaveringly . I could do more if you would only ask!

You are my light afterall. I'm drawn to it as inevitably as a moth to flame. So be still my gentle heart, if for only a little while. I will be strong again to sweep you off your feet, away from this madness that besets us both, with all the love and adulation that I possess.

Always at your side, I believe we will be in a better place for it, in the end, because of you!

With all my love...forever and ever.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Trilogy; " Please Forgive my Trespass...II"

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing . To himself, he always seems to be doing both."


I ride my wife's bike at least every other day, or more if I can, weather permitting. I don't have my own bike yet. I wanted to make sure I could, after all, it's been a long time. Then of course, did I have the requisite discipline to follow a regimen. Isn't that every one's Nemesis? I think I had the resolve, definitely there's necessity, so it wasn't that surprising that it quickly became an activity I looked forward to the most everyday. The exercise is incrementally transforming and empowering, but there's also therapy in the late afternoon revelry I experience like anesthetic, a calming respite in exhausted stupor or maybe that's hyper-ventilation. All very meditative, except for the frenetic "Brownian Motion" that spontaneously combusts with epiphany and revelation mercilessly in my head. It's like the burst of understanding you discover in the shower sometimes, but frequently lose to some other selective priority in your brain; an override that started in my late 40's. I don't think my brain is full any more, it was lobotomy like inactivity, with a memory as ephemeral as the water circling the drain of the shower.

On the road ideas lubricated my mind with the improved circulation of cycling. Resolution become hi-def, I couldn't wait to get home to write it all down. I resisted the temptation, deciding that I would remember the good stuff. NO, I forgot! So I bought a tiny digital recorder to supplement my faulty memory, at least until the chemo damage wears off. Is that going to happen? Now I could breathlessly pant anything that came to mind without interrupting my ride or my reverie. The ride was my muse. I delighted in fanciful exploit. I railed against ideology and dogma and rode with exaggerated vigor gritting my teeth at inaccuracy. My own stridency was sublime. I examined the state of my dysfunction; Why hadn't chemo destroyed some of that? I considered that ten months ago was the genesis of my deconstruction, unraveling piece by piece into undifferentiated parts. Now in Resurrection my twisted tendons uncoil and brittle ligaments loosen still undisciplined without muscle. No longer conditioned with everyday movement.

For months I was devastated by chemo and side effects some both familiar and clandestine still. My extremities engorged with fluid unrelenting without the circulation to abate its swell. What malignancy infiltrates my viscera now? The sprocket of my bike spins with confidence, the sinew of my thighs dictate the rhythm of my ascendancy, measured one breath at a time. I am where I belong I can assert with conviction. My mantra reassures: " be still your beating heart, breath in, breath out, exhale with contented resolve". My presevation is all that matters. I must secure that by whatever means.

My intuition is keener now, my perception acute. My conceit no longer commands my observation, it is uninhibited by oversight. When I first started riding I had difficulty maintaining my wistful musing. I was disconcerted by my relatively new overture into the neighborhood. In ten years I only observed it in passing from the anonymity of my car at 35 mph. I only saw buildings, rarely people; I seldom acknowledged with more than a perfunctory wave.

From the outset I was uncomfortable with the portrayal I advertised. The specter of a man racing by purposely, menacingly in dark glasses, gasping for mouthfuls of air, in training perhaps or escaping or worse still, being pursued, but looking suspiciously like a burgling interloper ( casing the neighborhood ). My salute met trepidation, hard faces and a concerned eye. I would genuflect my contrition at each street, please forgive my trespass. And so it went until eventually came acceptance with regularity and a wave. I knew I would win their hearts with persistence. Their dogs apparently were going to be harder to convince of my benevolence. I'm not sure I frighten them more than they do me. It took awhile to stop thinking about what would happen if I was to be bitten and how deadly that might be. Every so often one would get out. The dog was more curious than it threatened as it approached or maybe it smelled the rot of chemo and determined I was inedible.

My introductory recording came from an incubus reflection I saw on the windshield of a truck. I had stopped at the busiest street I needed to cross. It's always treacherous during after work traffic. They sped by obediently in single file. There was a military urgency about the procession, you only notice from this vantage. I felt exposed and the vehicles seemed more imposing as they hurtled by in a burst of compression, squall like and deafening. Inadvertently, I looked into expressionless faces with scant awareness there, many inattentive with phone conversation. Moving headlong joylessly and blank; snapshots of humanity in slow motion when I turned my head and synchronized their passing. Blink. An instant of distraction. Atmosphere convulsed the miasma of inevitability in the vacuum of backdraft. It's void echos the murmur of pulse, kinetic now with momentum, suddenly chaste and then ethereal with the short breath of recognition; sanguine with the reassurance of prescience, somehow elegant and painless without the sound or the fury of anticipation. Never feeling ,tearless,breathless, lifeless.

I stepped back judiciously after witnessing my own demise with such dramatic violence. When I listened to my recording later I was reminded once again how our lives are always in peril (one way or another). What is the calculus of my longevity, the risks to my mortality? Death has no preeminence, only inevitability. That isn't fatalist recoil. It provides clarity and context. the clarification of self-proclaimed apostasy; fear has been my only apprehension, my Achilles; the arrow has been in my ankle all along, only needing to be excised by me.

I fear at times my language has assumed obsessive rapture, an ecumenical artifice I had not intended. But , is it so unrelatable? I know my occasional invective is fraught with apocalyptic fervor. In my angst to find truth I have discovered a crisis of faith, a loss of meaning. We should all examine our state of being, perhaps we can find improvement there. I do not endeavor to judge. The formidable task of recalibrating the extent of my own relevance, defining my sense of purpose is all I have the strength for. Recreating myself; adapting, coping, harmonizing as evolution dictates we must. And yes, at times with mordant irreverence I'll remind you that "everyday choice is presented to us in a thousand different ways; to live up to the spirit which is in us, or deny it". My spirit is intact, I see that now. I listen closely to the sound of the thinkers own thoughts; " I am the way, the truth and the light". So, please forgive my trespass, I thought you might enjoy my odyssey.

"It takes strength to survive, It takes courage to live! May you find strength and courage in everything you do. And may your life be filled with Friendship and Love!"

inpiration; annonymous

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Trilogy; "Please Forgive My Trespass..."

"Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of sharing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than its worth."

Mary Smich

I was reading someones blog recently from a survivor adorned with gratitude, accoutered as such with trinkets of cliche' glibness. Banner slogans with all too familiar wisdom delivered convincingly with waxing pride and certitude as the piece swelled. The lack of humility was only surpassed by its triteness and questionable intention. Has my cynicism grown so acerbic, that I'm compelled to diminish the experience of others going through the same thing I am? I'm not questioning their sincerity, I have a problem with the tedious language they employ. My glass is neither half full nor half empty, in fact, I don't have a glass, and it did not come in a box.

These metaphors oversimplify the magnitude of misfortune and the crisis that ensues as a result. Maybe I have the wrong disposition for this disease. This Cancer, this disease that isn't a disease, defined by the wreckage and the toll it exacts. I know how hard that is to confront, but increasingly we speak to one another in code. A synthesis of euphamism and idiom, that doesn't express emotion, lacking sensitivity,and bereft of real meaning. I understand its attempt to impart encouragement and optimism, and maybe that's enough? Not for me. When did it our words become so pedestrian in its own banal sanctimony? Next we'll be communicating in grunts and short bursts of mono-syllables, or worse still, remarks condensed and pre-recorded, then numbered 1-? on the key pad of our phones. Isn't that like texting now? digital-phonetics, I hope not! We've all invoked this kind of pithy logic before; I think I was at an AA meeting!

I'm not sure I can abide the sensibilities that only allows for two choices. Life is rarely either/or. Where's the romanticism of a myth with its parable of hope for transcendence. I want to discover meaning and embrace its symbolism and nuanced interpretation I can identify with; exultant in the possibility of retribution, resplendent with fabled sacrifice and august faith, executed with uncompromising determination and force of will against an apocalypse of principle, a struggle that inspires ones conviction and ultimately salvation.

I want my epiphanous moment. A story that comes with door prizes, dolls and talisman, colored beads. I want to rejoice in superstition. Voodoo is more inspirational than the volume of a glass of... What's in the glass? I better not have to climb out of a box to find out! Is there alcohol in it? I'm on a special diet and I'm still undergoing physical therapy.

Why should any of us deny ourselves the luxury to wallow in our own self-absorption and acquiesce to everything that is disconsolate in us, whatever that may be; when the glass is ostensibly half empty? It's therapeutic and why can't I refill the glass later! Fear and loathing is how I measure acceptance. Denial must be characterized first to thwart its pall. Despair and anxiety is the Rubicon we all cross to find sanctuary. I'm searching for unassailable authority for guidance. I don't want my ambivalence besieged, surveyed or measured half full or half empty by amateurs who don't see that these choices require a little more introspection than that.

False contentment in abstraction has been tantalizing to me, to us, jenel and I. Fraught with expectations and hope, we overlooked the obdurate laws of matter for just some microscopic concession that wouldn't involve any apparent sacrifice of principle or physical law. We weren't asking to win the lottery, but hope nonetheless, is for gamblers and fools. We must avail ourselves instead to expose that which constrains us and confront the beguiling violence that threatens our survival. I don't think the tears I've shed over that assault will fit in that glass. I've just had my back against the wall of annihilation, there won't be much reconciliation from me about my propriety and I like my attitude just fine.

For this I've been rebuked that "I must be careful how I project my optimism, there are some who take exception if they don't think you are doing it right". I've become suspicious of those who suborn compromise and extol approbation in a glass, like some all-purpose elixir that never works, but we keep buying it. Well thanks for the prayers, but I don't have much patience for those who proselytize "That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger..." Nietzsche is dead and gone. I don't feel stronger, it's not purifying, it's not enabling. Where's the meaning! It doesn't make me a better human being! Just somehow marginalized and invalidated.

The problem with metaphors; they don't come with directions. So they're misused all the time.

"We shall not cease from exploring, at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started I know the place for the first time."

T.S. Elliot

I almost titled this "vicissitudes", because it describes the manic frequency of my disposition from high to low. I tried to interpret my depression; it was the first time I had experienced it. Each part of the trilogy will be published over several days and will end with an epilogue I thought was appopriate. T.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Make-over by Chemo

"What men mistake for beauty in themselves is usually nothing save a certain hollow gaudiness, a revolting flashiness, the superficial spendor of a prancing animal;...considered in the light of genuine esthetic values, is no more than a study in vulgarity..." H.L. Mencken.

I've grown tired of hearing how good I look. Surprising as that sounds, cancer has distracted me somewhat,it's hard to appreciate the sentiment. And compared to how I looked a mere 10 months ago, it's hard to believe there's no artifice there either. But, more importantly, who doesn't want to hear that? I know I should, especially now that I have this $300,000.00 make-over; the haircut really defines the look, don't you think? It must be generating some buzz, I see people looking at me funny all the time. I thought I saw more concern than envy though.

"Hello,... You look so good", a typical response to introduction really, innocuous even, often said offhandedly! Pretty rare for me to have heard that kind of thing in the past, even from my wife; with coaxing! What gives? Shouldn't I be a little suspicious, wouldn't you? Is it so surprising, how I look? I think we should prepare ourselves for this look for the foreseeable future. Our delinquency is apparent, the trend is accelerating; "cancer, that disease that is not a disease, that wave of undifferentiated function, the orgy of the lost cells." I wouldn't worry about how I look, we're all in peril!

Hey,I'm looking for any validation, even where none is to be had, but superficiality doesn't address my immune system. It needs more help than my vanity. Let's talk about that. I realize it can be vexing, cancer is scary , sometimes scarier looking! But, you won't appease it with compliments, nor me.

Do I look so different? I worry about that you know. A little emaciated maybe, cadaverous to be sure; the chemo was brutal on the metabolism. I've lost 25 lbs, it may look like a lot, but it feels so good, and now I can use words like svelte and lithe to describe myself. The diet doesn't work for everyone though, it can be deadly! Is it what you expected? Expectations can be awkward you know, you really should have an exit strategy in advance to avoid that. Or, you can try cancer awareness; I wasn't prepared either.

I don't know what the etiquette is, genuine would suffice, I should think. There are books on every kind of protocol of diplomacy and decorum since Louis XIV, certainly we could design a pamphlet. It probably should include shaking hands and embracing too. Most of us who've been transplanted are immune suppressed. It's hard to stop someone gracefully, who gets the first step and already has the momentum to grope a cancer survivor. An homage to survival I think, or maybe an act of contrition. I need an exit strategy to avoid that.

Nevertheless, hearing a pleasant refrain from time to time, is after all, comforting and tantalizes my already vainglorious nature (something I really should keep an eye on; without a mirror) But, I must say, it's easy to forget how badly I feel when everyone is always complimenting me on how good I look. I'm afraid I'm getting used to the attention and given the state of my self esteem, I'm not sure it's not therapeutic.

Some days I have this ebullience about me, I'm not sure it's of any notice to anyone else. I look a little anemic perhaps, not quite a sallow glow, but perceptively radiant I think. I asked my wife if that was jaundice, she assured me; no. What does she know, she doesn't even tell me I look good anymore; everyone else does! I am also disappointed that my bald scalp doesn't shine like I've noticed on other men. Is that wax? A rub and shine would sure go a long way to improve my disposition some days.

I admit that I do concern myself with looking good, now more so than ever. My self-confidence is a little worse for wear recently. Affectation of my lost virulence dictates my wardrobe to some extent; my fashion is more subterfuge than necessity. There are only certain colors I'll wear, not everything goes with with my pallor; mostly yellows and greens, black for those days, and I'm experimenting with red; broadcasting my defiance feels empowering sometimes; but I still have to wear a hat. I placate my skin ardently, it needs a lot of rehabilitation; chemo devastated my skin--my face now belongs to Marla; my estetician, and SkinDeep Cosmoceuticals.

And finally, I mustn't forget the accoutrements; the requisite cancer paraphernalia: wristbands, water bottles and such, I'm not that thrilled with the t-shirts though (I'm working on my own) all of which I feel my duty and responsibility to advocate. A testimonial to all those who did not survive. Without whose sacrifice I may not have survived, almost certainly, just a few short years ago; when treatment was more experimental than it is now.

Alas, rapprochement I should think, is the better strategy after all. Reconciliation with a wink and a nod, or better still, some salute, acknowledging that as good as I might look and as bad as you might feel about the treachery of my circumstances, that nevertheless, my survival is a glimpse, that triumph is conceivably at hand. So I thank all those well intentioned, gentle hearts that with their kind words have advantaged my state of mind or perhaps, I should say, my inner beauty. Next time you see me, comment on that.

"I'm tired of all the nonsense about beauty being only skin deep. That's deep enough . What do you want, an adorable pancreas?" Jean Kerr