It was Wednesday. We had just returned from our outing du jour—a drizzly excursion to 7-11 and the grocery store—and Annie and I were laying in bed watching Forgetting Sarah Marshall when I had the sinking feeling my fever was creeping up. (Living with an ongoing fever of 99-100.5 for several weeks, you get pretty good at sensing when things are going out of range.)
Sure enough, 101.7. And then, thirty minutes later, 102.2. Sigh. The parents had to be alerted, and they were of course alarmed, and before Jason Segel could charm Mila Kunis back into his arms with his Dracula puppet rock opera, I was on my way back to the hospital. Sigh again.
*What could have caused that fever spike? Worst case scenario: bacterial infection. Best case scenario that I kept clinging to: maybe the hot Neti Pot water I poured into my face right before I laid down just caused a simple spike in body temperature? Seems possible, no?
Anyway, the big concern is that since the cancer has caused my white blood cell count to drop so drastically, my immune system is so inept at this point that the simplest little grubby germ could totally wipe me out. Or at least render me too sick to begin chemotherapy. I kind of realized this before—see the mention in the last blog post—but now it's gone to a whole new level.
And so it's back to the sardine room, the tv on the ceiling, and an even uglier view of an even uglier pole. (See photo. As far as Annie knows, this is what California looks like). But of course it is the safest measure, and it must be taken.
As soon as I arrived they did a blood culture to see if I had any infection in my blood. Novelty here: instead of the normal little vials they usually put your blood in, the nurse showed up with four mini hot-sauce bottles. Seriously, double the size of a Nip. Maybe three Nips large. They had a little fluid in them already (to mix with the blood and see what bacteria showed up) but the volume of blood they could fit in them was shocking. Also, sorry to the squeamish, but I have to say that when mixed with the bacteria culture, it looked exactly like Tabasco.
The bummers started rolling in when the nurse announced very early on that, again because of my susceptibility to infection, I was to be put on what they call neutropenic protocol. This means excessive measures must be taken so I don't ingest or otherwise receive any bacteria. The first thing to go was fresh fruits and vegetables. (?!?!?@**#%!!!) Bye-bye, Superfood Green Smoothie I'd been drinking for breakfast every morning. Bye bye, avocado-a-day regime (?@*&^!!*!) Bye bye cilantro, parsley, or any other friggin living thing that could have been touched by a pesticide or bacteria-ridden human hand.
The next day I had two visitors. They didn't realize I was going to be hospitalized when they rented a car and drove down from San Francisco, and I was quite relieved when they were able to scoot right past the giant STOP sign on my door and weren't even forced to wear masks and plastic gowns while we all hung out in my cell. I mean, room.
They were kind enough to take Annie out for her first trip down Main Street for some Mexican-food-and-margarita action, and as they planned their outing my stomach started thinking about refried beans. Mmmm....mushy, salty, lardy refried beans, it said, in Cookie Monster's voice. You could probably eat an enchilada, too, Stomach Monster added greedily. Yes, I thought, I probably could. A veggie enchilada, I reasoned, not all cheese. But with a little cheese in there, said Stomach Monster, and a little more melted on top of the beans...
YES! I took over. A veggie enchilada with green sauce and refried beans! My first taste of real Mexican food in the whole time I've been back home! It will all be cooked and I will tell them not to put fresh salsa in it so I'll be safe, and I will eat every bite and love it and eat like I haven't eaten since my spleen took over my insides!
And then, of course, I was neutropenically cock-blocked. The nurses did not have any faith at all in the hygienic protocol of our fine local Mexican eateries (perhaps rightfully so, I can now grudgingly admit) and so my sweet friends were banned from bringing me back any edible contraband. Off they went, with Annie in tow, to feast on the only kind of local cuisine in Visalia worth eating, and I was sent a styrofoam cup of undercooked baked beans from the cafeteria. Sigh again. Stomach Monster was pissed.
"Where," some may at this point be wondering, "have all those blessings gone? And so quickly too?" Don't worry. I know they're still there, and I'm lucky to be in such a safe place with all these people looking after my welfare and making sure I don't tank before I even get started.
But I reserve the right to mention that safe isn't always very fun. And what fun is a cancer blog without some relatively good humored complaints?
As Larry David would say, "No Good?"