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.
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.
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.
The last time I saw my father was in 1997 when we went to see Titanic. He’s not dead or anything, we just don’t talk anymore.
My father never wasn’t conventional. My parents divorced when I was young and my father got custody of me and my siblings. We lived with him for six years until he sent us to live with our mother (on June 7, 1993, not to be too specific). It was in those six years that the groundwork was set for the man I would eventually become. And yes, I am really a man.
I never had a bedtime. Not because he didn’t want me to have a bedtime, but rather because I insisted on watching “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” It was there that I saw the stand up comics that would become my inspirations for pursuing the same goals.
He encouraged my obsessions with Bette Midler, Madonna, and Oprah, even though they didn’t necessarily fit the mold of what makes a “young man.” He let me watch any movie I wanted to, no matter its rating. How else was I going to see my first crush, Tom Cruise, in Rain Man?
We don’t speak anymore because of the incredible amount of negative history that is there. As I age, I’m able to separate the things he did from the things I’m grateful for. Nothing is ever perfect, especially in relationships, but what matters most is one’s outlook on the bigger picture. He wasn’t a dad, he was more that distant Uncle who overstays his welcome at Thanksgiving. And that’s okay.
I see him in me, both the good and the bad, but being able to rationalize that is what makes me a man. Well, that, and this…
Ever been on a great date? What’s that like?
H. Alan Scott (Huffington Post, Celebrity Twitter Directory, Time Out “Joke of the Week, Oprah said his name), brings you a webisode about a gay man searching for a traditional romance in a world filled with assholes. (Ed note: No, really, literal photos of assholes, on the phone. On MY phone.)
Ever been on a great date? What’s that like?
H. Alan Scott (Huffington Post, Celebrity Twitter Directory, Time Out’s “Joke of the Week,” SRSLY LOL, and Oprah said his name), brings you a webisode about a gay man searching for a traditional romance in a world filled with assholes. (Ed note: No, really, literal photos of assholes, on the phone. On MY phone.)
Bryan Wilson and I iF*ck!
When I was baptized I knew it was a bad idea. I figured I’d try to stump them, so I asked where all the black people were. They immediately said Gladys Knight was Mormon. I know, I was shocked by that too, I had no idea the midnight train stopped in Salt Lake City.
I’m originally from a small town in Missouri, Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis. Very quaint, simple little town centered around the train station and high school football team. We’re famous for the local pizza guy kidnapping a kid and keeping him in the basement for 4 years. But he made great pizza!
Watching the “It Gets Better” videos has left me feeling like somehow I missed out on something. Where’s my agony? My heartache? I was so painfully well adjusted with liberal parents (sure we’re Mormon, but we were like the affirmative action family for the Mormons, they kept us around because we made them seem populist). Instead of wearing black or a trench-coat or some other hate crime inspiring apparel, I wore khaki’s, sweater vests and pastels. Finding out I was gay was about as shocking as running into Newt Gingrich at a buffet.
Not once was there ever a time when anyone thought I was anything but gay. I’m a gold star gay, I’ve never been with a woman. I just recently learned women don’t pee through that little “man in the boat” situation downstairs. My mother would even say, “When you kids grow up an have children,” and then to look to me and say, “… or adopt.” There was always an alternative for me.
Every gay guy has that one special gal, in my case, I had an entire family. They were the Whites (that’s their last name, not just white people in general, however the Whites are in fact white).
There was Judy, the Mom, whose creativity and unique point of view showed me that I could say anything I wanted if I just owned it. Meredith, the universal baby sister to us all, whose warmth and kindness is masked by a fierce determination to accomplish anything (picture Hillary Clinton talking Osama bin Laden down while wearing pearls). Finally Lori (L-O-R-I, thank you very much), who had this boldness and awesome sense of self (and just a flat out genius). Over the years we spent together, these three women became my second family. Together the three of them made what would be like a super hero gay man.
We had a tendency to dress in themes for dances (I know!). I dressed as Elvis Costello once for Lori. My real last name is Hoeninger, but is often mispronounced as “Ho-Nigger.” Which is just another reason why it was destiny for us to join forces. Together we became a collective White Ho-Nigger.
As a comedian, you take adversity and turn it into comedy. I’d probably be more successful if I were to have, I dunno, a mini-bout with being bipolar, some sort of bullying, maybe a pathetic attempt at suicide involving a broken Madonna cd, I-don’t-know. Instead all I got is that, because of the Whites, my awesome parents, and some strange element of “I-don’t-give-a fuck” attitude, I went to a high school dance dressed as Elton John in a pink boa (you read that right), and be crowned King! To quote my friend Sharon Spell, it never really could get better for me, it’s more like “It plateaued.”
Getting my body beach ready for my upcoming vacation ain’t easy, but it’s moderately funny.