Who I used to be

The provinces of his body revolted,/ The squares of his mind were empty, / Silence invaded the suburbs, / The current of his feeling failed: he became his admirers. -W.H. Auden

April, 2013

“Who did you used to be?”  a technician asked me while drawing my blood at the Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College, PA.

Before calling 911, I had been practicing before my home mirror trying not to be the usual pain in the ass I repeatedly became whenever I was admitted to a hospital. I had resolved to be gracious no matter what and yet my answer to the technician’s question was swift and angry’ “I am not dead yet.” As it turns out yet is the operative word.

Since Wednesday, I have been looking out the window of my hospital room at the 100,000 seat Beaver Stadium where Penn State plays football at home–musing cosmic thoughts between tests.

Beaver stadium from the air

By Friday afternoon (yesterday), I had racked up one echocardiogram, two CT scans, a chemical stress test, swallowed a camera while under sedation, and drank a lot of barium. Whatever I was expecting, it was not the arrival of Jeniffer Simon, M.D., urologist at 4. PM with the news that I have renal cancer and unless I take timely action, I will be dead in 10 years.

So, how should I begin?

What do you need to know before you know what I am thinking now, what I am preparing to do next and what frightens me the most?–

The organic route to telling this story follows the following malleable outline:

I. My personal experience with cancer

II. My fear of the future

III. Checking into the hospital for symptoms unrelated to renal cancer

IV. Not all I must learn. but enough for starters

V. Optimism

VI. Pessimism

VII. “Thou shall teach it diligently to your children.”

VIII. Orson Welles, an adult and new-to-me definition of “rosebud” (by way of PBS) and the thin tangential relationship to the subject at hand

(More to come with photos.)

— Joel Solkoff who dislikes being asked what I used to be since the question implies I am dead when I am a heartwarming  story in the making

Copyright 2013 by Joel Solkoff, all rights reserved.


One reply on “Who I used to be”

Joel, Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Sounds like your “not dead yet” commentary is an excellent way of handling this news. My response 24 years ago when I got my leukemia diagnosis was similar.

“I’m not dead yet and if I only last one week (the initial time they expected me to live if the immediate chemo didn’t work) or one year (the time the said I was likely to live without a bone marrow transplant), then I’ll make the best of it. If my father made it, so could I. And if I don’t, then being depressed won’t help anyone – me or my family.”

Positive thoughts coming your way.

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