The Great Cancer Adventure

December 16, 2017

- 5 min read

Been a busy week. We left on Monday for Houston for a Cast & Crew showing of “Illusions of Cyn”, made from one of my scripts; without a doubt the very best truly independent film I’ve ever seen. What a talented group of people! So fortunate to have been a part of this. These are all independent film people. Robert Redford is an independent film person, but no one involved in this project is Robert Redford, including me; still, all of them have serious, impressive film credits.

Unfortunately, however, on the way home Wednesday, I somehow popped my artificial hip out of joint and spent a couple of days in a hospital there in Houston near Hobby Airport. Very discouraged to be certain, perhaps especially with this pesky cancer thing, but we are safely home. Right this moment, I’m watching the English Premier League with Betty’s brother, Mike, and seeing my orthopedic surgeon early next week. Almost certainly I’ll miss some work at a very busiest time, when I’m trying to wind down to retirement.

Those in our film party in Houston had earlier flights back to their homes than we did, except for Elizabeth who Betty as able to reach; she met up with us, following the silence and then the commotion resulting from my injury. She stayed over to be with us to offer any help she could. Betty slept in the room with me, while Elizabeth rented a nearby hotel room for the night. Elizabeth and Betty are the two kindest, most thoughtful people I know, and I am lucky to have them in my life. Elizabeth described Betty as “awesome”, when Betty felt like she was a duck, furiously paddling underneath the surface, despite having the appearance of a calm glide. A pretty hectic time. Emergency Techs carrying me off the airplane. Lots of drama. Not more than the film of course, however. Also, for the record, it’s actually difficult, if not in fact impossible, to fall when people are boarding an airplane. Not enough space. I bounced around from shoulder to shoulder and backside to backside, until held in place by people trying to help, all of whom had places they wanted and needed to be and could have easily taken out their disappointments and frustrations, but almost no one did.

While in the ER following an ambulance ride from the airport, the ER Doc tried to put my artificial hip back into place, twice, using his best judgment, expertise, the muscles of a large orderly and the medications available to lightly sedate me. I remember very little of this, other than some very weird dreams from one of the efforts, but The Champ told me that she watched the hip pop back out of place both times. Having done what he could to no avail, the ER Doc said that, following the protocol, he’d tried twice and since he had not succeeded, I would be discharged!

I was in control of my faculties well enough to tell him I wasn’t leaving, no matter how many big orderlies they had, since there was no way I could walk at that point. Insisting that I be admitted and an Ortho Doc be called, one showed up and took over. He made no promises, but he say that he had a bigger bag of tricks and much better drugs for this sort of thing than the ER Doc did. We agreed that I would not be seeing him for any follow up, since he practiced in Houston and I lived in St. Louis, so if he couldn’t get my hip back into place, he would NOT do surgery. Somehow he’d put me back together again well enough for me to travel, and my Ortho Guy in STL would be asked to do what he could from there. Certainly there was some serious risk here, after all the Houston Ortho Guy would be the third try, but previously he’d reinserted a total of sixteen artificial hips that had been dislocated, and fifteen of them stay in place, so I liked my odds. Besides, I didn’t like to think of what might be next if this didn’t work.

When I was transferred from the ER to my hospital room, my jacket went missing. Deciding it had been lost rather than stolen, Betty (who is much nicer than I am) had more confidence than I did that it would eventually show up. It did. As we were leaving the hospital, someone asked us if a jacket left on a windowsill in an ER room was mine. It’s long since occurred to me that Betty and I are like two Sesame Street characters. I am, proudly, Oscar the Grouch, whereas she’s Big Bird, not because she molts (which she doesn’t), but because everyone likes her, whereas, like Oscar, I am an acquired taste.

While in the hospital in Houston, Betty got in touch with a cousin, Susan, who lives in Greater Houston, who was helpful and supportive. During the course of those couple of days, I was fitted for a brace that went over my hips and down my right leg, and I made my way through the airport wearing it with the aid of a walker. At security in Houston, I was in a wheelchair, and one of the TSA Agents initially refuse me entry beyond his checkpoint. However, his supervisor, who had coincidentally just had training about this very same situation (so perhaps it’s not all that uncommon after all), took over and breezed us through. SWA were amazingly accommodating and not just because they had to be by federal law, but they were required to be by federal law to be accommodating, which, frankly, was a bit of a surprise. I know who’s President.

(Betty says SWA volunteered what they had to do, what our rights are and how to complain if anyone from their airline, or elsewhere, gave us any grief. Again, the Champ’s typically more charitable than I, so I might be a little skeptical here, but she’s the one who spoke with them at length, so I’m certain hers is the more faithful recollection. In this instance.)

Once again in STL our neighbor, Li, offered us a ride home from the airport. Shortly thereafter, even before she unpacked, Betty went foraging at resell shops for a couple pair of oversized pants as the trousers I wore to Houston were just too small by several sizes and split along the seams. After being in clothes that fit over my hips and the brace, we settled in. Her brother, Mike, who lives nearby, offered to come over and spend the night, just in case we needed anything. Frazzled, both of us, we were relieved when he arrived shortly thereafter. The first few days at home were uneventful, or at least not memorable, which was just fine and perhaps the same thing.

I began sleeping in the guest bedroom (my doing) as I need to sleep on my back because of the hip injury. I’ve tried to position myself to where I can sleep that way, but so far it’s only been an hour and a half at most at any one time, so I am exhausted. My snoring wakes me and anyone else in the same zip code. I have a productive cough (an oxymoron if ever there was one!) in that I am coughing up all manner of yucky (a medical term!) stuff. I have this from time to time, but never this much, and have been tested for TB, lung cancer, pneumonia and pretty much everything else with no resolution (my allergist thinks it might even be allergies and/or “merely” sinus drainage from chronic sinusitis). In any event, so that she can sleep, Betty’s in one bedroom and I am in another. Or at least we tried that for a while before she moved in with me. Intimacy is important for couples of course, including nearness and touch. I think I might have found a sweet spot for my head and neck which might allow for a little more deep sleep for both of us. It’s worked for a few nights now, so I am hopeful. Betty’s hoping to get a little more of the bed, as time goes along.