“You look different.”
That’s what my friend said to me last night as we were enjoying soup and sandwiches at Atlanta Bread Company. The last time I saw him I was coming home from the hospital. Since that time I’ve gained 30 pounds, I was told I had stage four cancer, I’ve had 11 infusions of chemo, my grandmother died, I’ve started a blog, and I packed up an apartment and moved. That’s a lot to happen since March.
I also just happened to get a haircut so that could have factored into the equation.
“Not in a bad way,” he clarified. “I’m jealous actually. You look like a man.”
I’ve spent most of my life in and around the theatre. Acting in plays, writing plays, teaching plays. If I had to describe theatre in one sentence, if aliens came down to earth and forced me to summarize this great art form in five seconds or less, this is what I would say:
Life was normal, then it wasn’t.
That’s it. That’s theatre.
What we see on stage is the “not normal” part. Because that’s what’s interesting. We want to see the chaos. We want to see the struggle. We want to see life out of balance. While we long to see the world put back together, it never goes back to how it was. The people have been changed irreparably. Sure some semblance of order will be restored, but it will be a new order, even if all the players are the same.
I’ve got one more big treatment left to go. This time next Wednesday I’ll be getting hooked up to the last of the oxaliplatin. That’s the drug that makes my hands numb. That’s the drug that makes me unable to have cold drinks. That’s the medicine that makes me sick. And next week will be the end of it. I’ll get maintenance treatments for the next couple of months, but things will start to resemble how they were before. No more fanny pack. No more 8 hour days at the hospital. It will be a great relief and I’m desperately looking forward to it.
But this thing has taken a toll. How could it not have? The oxaliplatin goes after the DNA of my cells. That’s right. The D N fucking A. The only problem is that it can’t tell the difference between the good cells and the bad cells so it just takes out all of them. And yes the good ones grow back but still, they’ve got to be in a bit of a shock. They’ve got to be like, “Yes, thank you for getting rid of the intruder, but you also tried to kill all of us so forgive me if I need a minute.”
The truth is things had to change. My body was attacking itself and if there wasn’t a radical reordering I wasn’t going to be here much longer. I’m interested to see how those changes manifest themselves. Which ones are permanent? Which ones will go by the wayside? Which ones have already occurred? Because apparently cancer did something that nothing else in my life seemed to be able to do. Not a marriage, not a divorce, not degrees, not jobs, not even living in New York.
Cancer made me look like a man
So maybe change isn’t all bad after all.