H. Alan Scott (@HAlanScott) has cancer and can’t stop thinking about it. It’s like cancer is a house guest that won’t get the hint to leave. Enter Cancer (@wonderfulbryan). “Cancer House Guest” is a short written by and starring H. Alan Scott and Bryan Wilson, directed by Ned Ehrbar (@nedrick). Follow Scott’s #Chemocation on Twitter.
When people comment on my bald head, assuming that I’ve shaved it, I correct them. As soon as they hear the word “chemo” they have an incredible “deer caught in headlights” moment. It’s a similar look to when a kid is told that instead of a tooth fairy, it’s really just your Dad sneaking into your room in the middle of the night. I, personally, was very glad when I learned that my Dad was actually the tooth fairy. For years I thought the tooth fairy was a middle aged hairy man who wore ill fitting white briefs.
MIND DUMP – December 5th, 2012
- The last Chinese President’s wife had a guy killed while the new one covered up his son’s death. Prime examples of leaders with strong family family values!
- Reagan and Obama would agree on raising taxes for the richest Americans, this guys shows us how (though he really should change his shirt if anybody is to take him seriously).
- Brad Pitt on the New York Times, “All the news that’s fit to… fit to…. why am I here?”
- Fox News is scaling back Karl Rove’s air time. I would love to see what he’s stress eating.
- Senate Democrats love Bob Dole and his pen, while most Republicans think he’s a gimp and was not afraid to say it to his face.
- Netflix is going to stream Disney movies. Finally, I don’t have to feel ashamed of buying the DVD’s in person!
- Oh, and before you Instagram that sandwich you’re eating, watch this…
I just wanted to reach for the sandwich I got before I boarded my United Airlines flight. I reached, but the sandwich wouldn’t budge. I’m keeping a close eye on the coffee sitting on my tray. It’s in my grip, I pulled harder, knocking the coffee and spilling it on my lap.
Normally this would be an annoying accident. Right now, in this moment in my life, this “accident” makes me panic, I start to shake, feel embarrassed, a single tear may or may not have surfaced. Why such a response? Because ever since finding out the course of chemotherapy that’s required to cure my cancer, everything from a spilled cup of coffee to a lackluster Wi-Fi signal ignites an emotional breakdown.
My course of chemotherapy is called BEP (bleomycin, etopside, platinum). I will have at least two cycles, with the possibility of more. Side effects include…
- Hair loss
- Neuropathy (a tingly feeling in my fingers and toes)
- A constant ringing in my ear
- Chronic fatigue
- Pulmonary toxicity
- Loss of white blood cell and their creation, resulting in a suppressed immune system
- Weight loss
- Great material for a memoir
Sitting in the Beverly Hills office of my Oncologist, I’m surrounded by middle-aged women with pulled faces and very expensive wigs. I’m easily 30 years younger then anybody in the room. On their cell phones, they talk as if they aren’t being pumped full of poison. Yelling at their husbands, bitching about their ungrateful kid, for a moment I’m convinced I’m sitting in the middle of a “Real Housewives of Chemotherapy” taping.
My doctor tells me the bad news. Well, he did it when he wasn’t name-dropping celebrities he’s treated and comedians he likes, waiting for my professional opinion of them. “Richard Pryor? Carlin? Adam Carrola?” I tried to list two iconic Oncologists and a shitty one to match the three comedians he just referenced, but my mind drew a blank.
After getting my prescription for medical marijuana (thank you California), three Filipino nurses entered. Their statements, for they never gave me a chance to respond and make it a conversation, went like this….
Filipino Nurse 1, “You have such nice veins! Doesn’t he have nice veins? You like your veins?”
Filipino Nurse 2, “Very nice veins. You work out. You’re strong!”
Filipino Nurse 3, “Very strong. Beautiful hair. I wish I had your hair. So thick! So much hair!”
Filipino Nurse 2, “Amazing hair. Amazing veins. You’re going to be great at this!”
Filipino Nurse 3, “Just great!”
Filipino Nurse 1, “Beautiful veins.”
I didn’t know getting cancer entered me into a competition to be “great” at.
I sat there, half pissed at their praise of hair that I shortly won’t have and half exhausted from being poked for the 100th time to draw even more blood.
Then it was over. They all left. That’s it? A douche but well regarded Beverly Hills doctor tells you bad news (but of which will potentially save your life), while name dropping and introducing a chorus of Filipino nurses to admire your hair and veins? Is this really how it’s supposed to be? Just go about my life as if it’s totally normal for the next month until my chemo starts?
It’s not normal. I don’t feel normal. I’m scared, but not worried. I know this is for the best, but I don’t want to do it. It never will feel normal. I don’t want it to ever feel normal. I want it to be over.
So I spilled some coffee. I wrapped my black jacket around my waist to conceal the stain. That’s normal! Or at least that’s the only kind of normal that I can deal with right now. Eventually I won’t be able to wrap a black jacket around it and move on. It, what’s about to happen to me, will just be real.
Til then, let’s be clear on one thing, I do have great hair.
“So I knew this kid in high school who got cancer. He died within the year. He was so great!”
“My Uncle had prostate cancer. He died.”
“Did you know that an estimated 360 people will die from testicular cancer in 2012?”
These are all statements I’ve heard from people since I’ve slowly began to return to normal life. I’ve always found getting the worst possible news from the people that I love most so much more reassuring that affirmations of love and support.
It’s amazing how certain words have totally different meaning now. Like “Death” of course, but also “Cancer,” “Patient,” “Tumor,” and the phrase “Hang in there!” I’m a fairly rational and levelheaded guy, but hearing “Hang in there!” ignites a defensive reaction that even I’m surprised by. It goes something like, “Oh, funny guy making a slight reference to my one testicle! Reeeeaaaaallllll FUNNY!”
Cancer is an uncomfortable topic for anyone, probably more uncomfortable for people that don’t have it. When you’re diagnosed, you’re thrust into a community you never chose to be apart of, but are nonetheless always going to be apart of. Reading countless survivor stories is nice, but they do nothing for me! In fact they just set up expectations that cannot be met. My cancer is nothing like your cancer, or worse, why am I so upset by my little testicular cancer when you’re dealing with ______(Insert More Serious Cancer Here_______?
My cancer was caught early, but I still need to go through chemotherapy. Nothing says “sick” like losing all your hair! I used to see people with no hair on the subway, and I’d feel sorry for them. Now I know different. They are people dealing with something they have no control over. Their bodies, like mine, are trying to kill them, and the only control they have is the decisions they make and their attitudes. I choose to be smart and happy.
I don’t know how I’m going to handle chemo. I’m prepared to feel very sick, and to be in a lot of discomfort. But I’m also prepared to know that I’m doing everything I can to kill this cancer inside me.
And please, avoid using the “D” word or feeling sorry for me. That being said, if looking at my bald head inspires you to….
- Buy me lunch
- Have sex with me
- Give me rides
- Offer an all expense paid trip to a country of my choosing
…. well, then maybe we can talk about a subtle form of pity.
They play Adele at my urologist. Every time I’ve been there she’s on. Clearly the office manager is going through some things.
I don’t think she realizes that Adele at the urologist office is the last thing these men need. Most of them already feel inadequate, they don’t need Adele yelling about how he did her wrong to make them feel more inadequate. I’m sure they’re thinking, “Listen, I’m trying, but it’s a medical condition!”
I decided to pull a “Norma Rae” for my brothers and confront one of the nurses. I waited for the moment when my pants were down, it’s no longer awkward for me, in fact I’m doing all that I can to make it awkward for them.
“My pants are down, I’m vulnerable, and my masculinity is incredible low right now. So why in the world are you playing Adele?”
She laughed and then proceeded to tell me about a break up one of the nurses went through, very nasty.
“Well, you tell this nurse that I have cancer, and that I may need a procedure that will render it impossible for me to ejaculate. No orgasm. No rolling in the deep. None of the guys here need Adele reminding us how bad it can get. We know!”
Haven’t heard Adele in days!
There are moments that happen that are markers in the timeline of your life; a wedding, a birth, etc. I haven’t had too many of these in my 30 years. Being single with no children, the most I’ve got is a graduation here, a loss of virginity there, possibly the discovery of Fresca. But now I’ve finally got something of significance to add to the timeline: cancer.
Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 – Get diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Last Wednesday my doctor discovered a cancerous mass on my left testicle, resulting in my having surgery two days later to remove the testicle.
I asked if I could keep it. I couldn’t. Life is hard.
So now I may or may not still have cancer. Normally you have a surgery and that fixes your problem. You go home, recover, then go back for a follow up. Not the case with testicular cancer. You become lighter downstairs, then you wait a few days to find out if you’re going to be lighter upstairs (aka bald).
At first you don’t notice the anxiety of the uncertainty, mainly because you’re in pain from the surgery. Apparently, as I was wheeled into the operation room, I quoted “The Golden Girls.” Let this go to show you who really is the number 1 fan! You’re lying there for a day just hoping not to cough, laugh, fart, push anything really, just you, on your back, no movement (sounds hotter than it is).
By the second day you start to think about it…
“Maybe I’ll need further treatment. Maybe I won’t.”
“I feel fine! Well, I still can’t pull up my own pants, but I could be creative and find a way.”
“So what if I can’t poop, it’s the medication, there’s no way I still have cancer!”
“Okay, so I might still have some cancer, nothing a little chemo can’t help!”
Then you’re shocked that you’re even thinking these thoughts. How could in a week’s time you go from being totally fine to having cancer? You’re thinking about people hugging you after you’ve lost your hair. Will you shave your head before you go bald? Do you lose all of your hair (like, down there)? Should I freeze some sperm? AND can I do it at home to avoid the costs?
Now you can move and your head is clear to think all the really terrifying thoughts…
“Well, even if the doctor says he got it all, I’m going to demand chemo just to be 100% sure it’s gone.”
“Should I get a second opinion? Will he be offended? I mean, we’re already so close!”
“How can I turn this into a successful one man show?”
So I wait. Just wait. Wait for a doctor to tell me something that will change people’s perceptions of me in the short term, but will alter my own perception of the fragility of my own life in the long term.
I removed my bandages and saw the scar for the first time. It’s at the very top of my groin, about an inch and a half slit. Sure, it will heal. My hair will grow back. A year from now this will be past me. But Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 will be the day that I realized that I probably should take a picture of my junk, because shit is about to change! Change for the better. I am changing.
Not to be confused with transitioning. Still a man! Thank you very much.
With the state of my sex life being as it is, I just assumed the pain in my groin was a manifestation of my unappreciated libido. It was a numb pain, as longing for love can be, but as time went on it became more intense. Then I couldn’t get out of bed. Time to call the doctor (and not Dr. Drew).
After ruling out a pulled groin or hernia, my well equipped (and gay) doctor assumed it must be an STD, even as I explained that my sex life is almost as active as Lindsay Lohan’s career. Convinced otherwise, he treated me for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, and took a blood/urine test. As I waited for the results (a staggering 5 days), I assumed I likely contracted the HIV virus in a way never before known, the news of which would rocket through the medical community and thus make me a celebrity in a way I never wanted. A day later I learned I didn’t have HIV. Scratch that off the paranoia list.
I waited; creating a very short list of everybody I had intimate moments with in the past year or so. The list became a doodle like entry from a United Nations Ambassador:
- Mexican guy
- Todd (black guy)
- Berlin guy
- Australian Asian
- Japanese guy Greg?
- Random NY white guy thrown in for good measure
Of course, it could also be testicular cancer. Cancer. That word is just so heavy. It’s like “buttermilk.” It sounds yummy, but after eating it you just feel bloated and ashamed.
Naturally I thought about how I would handle a diagnosis of testicular cancer. I couldn’t use it as a part of my comedy, Tig Notaro beat me to that. Let’s be real, in an arm wrestling match between testicular cancer and breast cancer, the latter will always win (congrats Tig!).
So this was a concern, but not a big concern, as I was pretty sure that based on my general state of good health, high activity level, and no family history of it, testicular cancer wasn’t a likely outcome. Right?
Gay doctor, “So you tested negative for all STD’s and HIV, and you’re in good shape and general health, but the HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) hormone was found in your bloodstream, which is commonly found in pregnant women, but when found in non-pregnant individuals it is in indicator of cancerous cells that lead to the formation of tumors.” “Okay, but have we 100 percent ruled out that I’m not pregnant?”
After a very long day of listening to Adele in various medical offices, it turns out that these little tranny cancer cells in my body that were just waiting for the opportunity to transition into tumors were successful. I don’t care what anybody says, “Testicular Cancer” is a horrible name for a tranny.
I rationally understand that testicular cancer is the new black, everyone is getting it and it’s so posh to have your testicles removed. And there’s a near 100 percent survival rate for men (if found early). But even with all that information, that word, “Cancer” will be a marker for me for a moment in my life, a moment I never expected. I’ll become that “Hot Gay Mormon Cancer Survivor” comic. If Tig becomes a Mormon, I’m going to sue her for defamation of character.
Come this Friday, I’ll be lighter in the junk department (not like I had that much there to lose in the first place). My doctor is amazing (as Mom says, “Always trust a Jewish doctor!”). Nevertheless, I am nervous. I am scared. However, I’m still holding out for the possibility that I might just be pregnant.
Basically, touch your balls and if something feels funny, go to the doctor! More info here.