Son of a Canferatu

Chasing me for almost three years, could Canferatu possibly close in on me, catching up in an average game of cat and mouse? Struggling to stay away from its heinous blasts of hot, narciferous breath, of the damp bone cold green-gray living-dead body, or the gnarled knuckles arthritic and exposing curled, long encrusted finger nails? I feel trapped inside the generic walls and barely concealing privacy curtains of many scenes of many hospitals. Canferatu pushes up against me and wants to bite me. I know how to handle a vampire, the kind of film legend, of the horror genre and less pathos imbued Dracula from the infamous oeuvre by Bram Stoker. The stuff of romantic legendary fictional bumps in the night.

Yet I, perhaps as a pathetic stand against my fiend, yet not so unlike Lucy who loses her life to kill Nosferatu, hold up some garlic I found buried in my backpack. (I’d have made a great Let’s Make a Deal contestant but not a great paperback heroine, I’m afraid). I duck under Canferatu, reeling from my video game style one-two punch, leaving the cold, putrid huffing breath, which smells like rotting animal meat. It’s ugly pointed fangs still glisten with the blood of his latest victims. I chuckle to myself.

I stroll nonchalantly in through the emergency room security and then sliding door cutting the air full of concern and the permanent infirms the temporarily injured with their and brain damagingly bored visitors. Some of the older women and men, the infirm, sit in tubing laden wheelchairs made of slings strung on metal pipes while the young sat on parents or in strollers with their curious eyes peering out wide with fever or fear, over annoying masks. Can anyone see their own illness monsters sitting in their laps, hanging from the ceiling above, doing high wire acts? Illness monsters turn to look me over, their zombie-like stares piercing my heart, and I pull a gleaming arrow from my backpack and shoot the largest dumbest monster through the eyes. They look at my tired face. “Unimpressed,” said their gazes. Descending a flight of brightly lit, stone cold stairs, I trip on the last step and land flat on my face. I look up to see several helping hands reaching out to get me back up on my feet down in the basement on the #oncology floor.

My partner, and his insistence, ripped my crying annoyed body from my comfortable bed into the car. He took me to Stanford Medical Center’s emergency room. #Metastatic #breast-cancer, that strange body snatcher, moved into my corpus and took up residence squatting in a few choice properties – now my liver on its menu. I could take up residence as a Buddha statue on a Tibetan shrine, my abdomen distended with 10 pounds of fluid, yet again.

My intestines crushed inside the cavity wall, and pinched by tiny cancer seedlings floating in the fluid and causing a kind of neurological short circuiting. The long trip, of both small and large tubing, suffers from incredibly slow transit and now an infection near my stomachs dumping valve, my ilium. By the light of the TV on with no sound on, the watery fluid, extracted by my awesome Dr. Brian, assisted through the night by Nurse D, who has a contagious laugh and keeps me pain-free, with her big smile and easy manor. Then, as the gastric acid moved down from my esophagus, back into its rightful home in my stomach.

I find myself actually hungry after a month or two of chicken soup and not much else other than the allusive matzoh ball (thank you Gunther’s Deli San Jose) or more common creature comfort, the wonton. Not having eaten for a lunar day, I’m very hangry (hungry + angry) by the time I’m able to eat anything at all. We arrived at 1:00 pm today; by 7:00 pm pacific, I fill with boredom, pain, and weariness from a day-long wait, interspersed with ugly, unwarranted comments and curses from my partner, a three year long depression sufferer.

Apparently, ascites build up and potential infection where they found a thickening of my bowel in the very same spot of my abdomen where I complained to my oncologist of constant pain. A pain level so fiercely off the charts, its feeling replaced organs and tissue about eight weeks ago.

No sleep and no change of clothing, no toiletries, no cat, not much of anything anywhere like home and of course no partner to hold me or wipe away any fears with a quick flick of the wrist. I’m complaining now rather than feeling the grace of life, in the now, where I am. I am grateful and very fortunate for my complete access to skilled nurses, doctors, and support staff.

That said, what company’s geniuses made this radically uncomfortable hospital bed? From the designers of, Hospital Gown, opening in the back for no real reason and showing the crack in your ass for over a century, comes new Z-Style Forward to the Past Torture Bed, now with patented bubble wrap technology in our extra, extra thin mattress. They tell me it’s for insuring patients do not get bedsores. And I’m exhausted from the bangs and inane noise coming from the room next to the one I share with a woman who speaks only Spanish and requires LOUD translators. Although she can apparently read the room service menu and translate it back to Spanish to order breakfast. She also gave me her cold so I’m running about a 99 degree fever and feeling flu-like symptoms.

Over the next few days my oncological team wants to remove, without prejudice, any remaining stuff in my sore, distended guts – still experiencing “slow transit.” Slow transit, an intrastate train system outside the country of Switzerland, where measurements of timeliness literally are marked to the 10th of a second. On time. I wish for a magic metamorphosis of my slow guts into a fast Swiss Train version.

Guts. Hmmm, apparently my friends and family admire my spiritual resilience, my steadiness and guts in the face of scary situations, and in particular, my over the age of consent blue humor. How much can my good qualities can stretch today? And so, I remain, my dear blog reader or two, your friend, in a sad state of Sick, in country called Illness, in a loud windowless room with Canferatu scratching on my door. He scares me nearly to death with oddly scented train cars and unpredictable time table based on non-Swiss random intervals.

I smell nice however, I’m not shooting with much accuracy, these days, either. From Werner Herzog’s remake with Klaus Kinski as Nosferatu, based mostly on the silent Murnau adaptation of the Stoker novel, I leave you with a quote, and one that says maybe it’s not Lucy with whom I should resonate, but the monster himself:

To be unable to grow old is terrible… Death is not the worst…

Ilene

Female. East coast transplant living in the Bay Area of California. Living with Stage IV breast cancer. Married to the coolest guy in the universe who occasionally suffers from serious depression. Love my stepsons, although I never thought I'd have that thankless job - ever! And my best friend Simon is also my cat. How I have survived with stage IV: treatments including chemo and surgery; palliative oncology; tenacity; a dark sense of humor; support groups; and my newly reinvented career as a vintage and antiques maven. Some days I miss the old me who led a well respected and well paid life as a business strategist in high tech. So much for that. I blog to simply share my experiences and my poetic approach with others who have cancer of any kind or with their care givers and those who love them. If one person at the very least finds a little commonality or a friend out in the ether tor a smile, a common nod about this experience, or even a link to assistance, then I have accomplished a small but extraordinarily meaningful goal. Go team.

2 thoughts on “Son of a Canferatu

    1. Keeps us all up at night little bastard doesn’t he! I’m considering letting loose a cat to capture the damned thing.

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