Celebrating a Sickness

Posted: June 8, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’m at the Jackson Correctional Institution (JCI), a facility in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS).

It doesn’t look like it, but I’m celebrating.  My face is puffy, my eyebrows and eyelashes are gone.  I throw up every morning and I’m fatigued throughout the day.  Keeping food down is a struggle.  Anti-Nausea drugs don’t help anymore.  My blood counts are through the floor.  Other inmates see all this and verbalize their concern for me, which really shows another side of them you folks don’t get to see.  I use to, some time ago, tried to convince everyone everyday that I felt fine thinking its the manly thing to do, to not admit I wasn’t well.  I’m so far past that now.  As chemotherapy went on, it had the effect of breaking me down, until in order to get help to handle the effects these poisons had on me, I was forced to be honest with the medical professionals treating me.  It turned out they had already a pretty good idea what was going on based on my blood work.  I wasn’t fooling anyone but they couldn’t do anything to help me until I spoke up.  As a side note, many thanks to Dr. Cook, my oncologist at UW Madison who is a zealous patient advocate and who kept me going toward our goal of curing this cancer!  Again, thanks Doc!  Once I was honest, the medical professionals at UW did what they could to make me comfortable but it was too late here at the end to prevent the cumulative effects of the chemo from taking hold.  But honestly not having to suffer alone, knowing someone else knew, understood and empathized was actually quite helpful.  But after all that, why do you think I’m celebrating?  Well, this past week, I went to UW Madison for my final chemotherapy treatment.  And though I feel horrible just now, the end of this suffering is in sight and for that I am grateful!  I truly can add this as an experience I can relate with others who experience it.  And what do you think I did to celebrate?  Well, JCI had a charity fundraiser selling Pizza Hut Deep Dish pizza to inmates.  I, knowing full well the price to be paid later by my rebelling stomach, bought 2 slices. But for while it lasted, it was a “slice” of heaven!

This whole process of course is familiar.  Real familiar!  You see, I have other kinds of problems.  It took me getting extremely sick just like I did with cancer before something got done about it.  And, it wasn’t really my choice.  Law enforcement saw to that.  I spent the months leading up to that telling everyone I was fine even though I knew the ice was melting under my feet.  Finally, being slapped in the face with reality, facing yourself in a cell stripped of everything (I do mean everything!) left little room for denial.  Even then, I tried to find that little bit of room!  But the more honest I become, the more my path becomes clear and what I must do.  Truth be told, very few were fooled by my act anyway.  It was like running in place and expecting it to take you somewhere.  Now just because I’m being honest doesn’t mean I’ll be free of pain during this process of putting Humpty Dumpty of my life back together.  Probably quite the opposite, but being more honest means I don’t have to be alone anymore.  The lies kept me on an island incapable of being reached or reaching out.  But though the treatment and recovery may be painful, with ups and downs, good days and bad days, if I stay focused and ask for help when I need it, I’ll survive the process of recovery and then learn to thrive.  I couldn’t get better till I admitted how sick I was.

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