Friday, April 10, 2009

It's Alive!

think I can cram cassoulet down this tube?

(For all of you who have asked for an update on my situation here at MD Anderson in Houston. Thanks for all the "Good Thoughts", 'Sláinte!', and "Hook 'em Horns", - they seem to be working like a charm, so to speak.)

Dear Friends,

I'm out of the hospital recovering at a nearby hotel (the ZaZa, which Kimmie dubbed the "Zaspital") thanks to their special "MD Anderson" rate, and Monday I go back for a last series of tests and pokes and prods, after which I may get to go home. Some observations:

- Surgery is now much easier on the patient than it was thirty years ago. Last time I was in an operating theatre for eight hours the after-effects of the anesthetic were almost as bad as from the surgery itself, and waking up in intensive care was miserable in every way. This time, the after-effects were almost zero. Amazing.

- No more cancer. Brilliant Lady Surgeon removed the cancer tissue and this time a brilliant zen master plastic surgeon took a hunk of unused muscle and tissue from my thigh and used it to fill in the gap. No cancer in the jawbone. None of my fears came true. No bone removal, bone grafts, mutilation, nada. If I can pass the swallowing test on Monday, I can get this plastic feeding tube out of my nose and make a beeline for my favorite Houston restaurants (Feast, Café Rabelais) and start inhaling soup in a serious fashion. And, as a nice present, the plastic surgeon miracle guy gave me a neck-lift!

As for the philosophical stuff, I must confess that one lingering effect of the anesthesia combined with the opiates (for pain) has been a rather dull mind this week, but a few random thoughts straggled to the surface after ten days of post-op recovery with a feeding tube and no food or drink by mouth allowed:

- Never, ever drink a glass of cold ice water again without stopping to enjoy it. I would scalp you and eat your eyeballs raw right now for a glass of ice water.

- Same goes for an ice-cold cerveza frosting the sides of a glass, foam dancing on top. I won't take this for granted again. 

- This is much like my previous epiphany only more basic; a cool glass of water, a spoonful of warm soup, the aroma of red wine as you tip the glass to your mouth. I'm being whipsawed by longing and gratitude in equal measure. Is it possible to regard such mundane things with tenderness? I am now. I bet I continue to, too.

- One of the larger ironies of this whole thing is that had I not had cancer again and come to this hospital for treatment, I might not have learned that I was a candidate for speech after thirty years of not speaking. Not pretty speech, or particularly easy to understand. But what the hell? Am I complaining? Do I look like such a putz?

- It is humbling and touching to be told "we are praying for you" or "we are sending good thoughts your way" or "our prayer group prayed for you today". While I remain a grumpy old skeptic, my heart is made tender by this constant inpouring of sweetness and faith directed into the aether on my behalf. Thank you all. I accept it gratefully.

- this has all happened so fast that it is almost impossible for (my) mind to process. From cancer diagnosis with its plunging primitive fear to "cured and healing" in a few weeks is as mind-blowing as any trip I've been on so far. I'm still way back there trying to deal with the past and already the future is crowding it out. 

- TV news has it's place, and it is valuable, but unless you take the time and mental muscle to read a good newspaper you still won't know what is actually going on in the world. I am now an expert on TV cable news, having just watched it 18 hours a day for the past twenty days or so. There is a lot of repetition of content, bloviation, and a lot of really dumb viewer input. I understand why; it is a matter of economics, ratings, viewer interest. Still doesn't alter the fact that TV is mostly eye-candy in bite-size bits, repeated as necessary to fill time. MSNBC does excellent night-time programming; CNN also, but less skewed towards my biases, and Fox should be hosed off the field into a swamp of their own bilge. Yeesh, what nonsense they peddle. Is there anything more amazing than the self-satisfaction of the know-nothing? Or worse, the professional pretend to know-nothing?

- Nurses rule. Literally. They make the rules on the ground. We need more and the job finally pays good money, so think about it. Thanks to you all for your dedication, knowledge, and aid to the sick and helpless. 

I shall return!

Joe Gracey, Jr.


james said...

so good to hear! cant wait to see you!! love you millions!!!

Route66News said...

I was about to hope that you would be blessed with joy and gratitude during this trying time. But it appears you already are. :)

Jeff Wall said...

That's go9od news indeed. love you and am glad things are looking up for you.

Lynda Jones said...

For a "grumpy old skeptic" you have the tenderest heart of all.

Ed Ward said...

I'm happy that if you can't drink water, you also can't eat my raw eyeballs, but I'm happier to read all this good news. We'll get some of this Cotes du Languedoc down you one of these days!

Addie said...

So glad to hear about your recovery. We cannot be reminded enough to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I needed to read yours today. Thanks.

See you soon! Happy souping!

Joe Gracey said...

thanks, y'all. Can't wait to get home, but this little sojourn has been quite an experience.

Dave P. said...

Hi Joe,
I haven't said hello in forever (and you may not remember me & Amy at this point), but I wanted to say that I'm thrilled to hear that you're doing well. You'll always be in our hearts. Much love...
- Dave Purcell