Schimmel’s Book, Part One
Current mood: exanimate
Mr. Robert Schimmel is a prince among men. A
top tier natural comic, son of holocaust survivors, hopeless romantic,
and a professional entertainer who's not afraid to work in the most
personal territory imaginable – if you've not heard his work, you're
begins a series about his new book, "Cancer on $5 a Day* (*chemo not
included)". Oh, yeah, we can add "cancer survivor" to the resume
above. Schimmel talks openly about the experience, on talk shows
and in his regular act. The book details how he got through with
humor and love, from the initial shock through the darkest days when he
was completely ready to let go and die.
"If you went untreated, if we didn't catch this now, now as in today, you would be dead in six months."
"But you caught it," I say.
"We caught it," Dr. Mehldau says. "I'm going to put you on chemotherapy starting in two days. That means Wednesday. That gives you exactly one day to get yourself together. Sorry, but that's the way it has to be. By the way, Robert, are you open-minded?"
"I guess you haven't seen my act. Why?"
"Well, some patients find that using marijuana during chemotherapy helps with the nausea and appetite loss. It's actually safer and a lot more mild than most of the anti-nausea injections they give you. So that's an option."
I look over at my mom and dad. No reaction. Just nodding. A Reflex. Taking it all in. Trying to deal. I look at Dr. Mehldau. He smiles, and I'm thinking ---
Did he just say in front of my parents that I could smoke pot?? This is a dream come true! Where was he when I was eighteen years old?
There's Hodgkin's disease." Dr. Mehldau writes and speaks simultaneously, scratching the words Hodgkin's lymphoma on one side of the page in clumsy cursive script. "And non-Hodgkin's lymphoma." He scribbles these words on the other side of the black line and looks up at me. "You have non-Hodgkin's lymphoma."
"Just my luck," I say. "I get the one not named after the guy."
Mehldau laughs, jarringly, then says, "Well, if you can find something
funny the moment you get the diagnosis, you're going to be okay."
Poof. The joke brings a moment of relief. Of hope. The tension in the room escapes. It's as if we're encased inside a giant balloon, and, pop, I've stuck a pin in it and let the air out. All that's left now are the five of us and Mr. C, the rampaging rhinoceros in the room.
Amazing when you hear that word.
strange, but not surprising, is that when I hear the word, my first
reaction, my initial instinct, is to go for the laugh…
a small house tonight – my mom, my dad, the lump doctor, and my
oncologist – but they've paid for their tickets (well, it's co-pay). They're here for the show and I'm not going to let them down. I've still got my sense of humor, my edge. And that means I'm alive!
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