Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Well, I'm nearly through the first day here at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, and based on my rate of shedding, I predict that I will be bald as a pool cue by St. Stephen's Day on Friday. Lest you feel some pity for me in that revelation, let me direct your attention to the above photo for a prime example of the bed head phenomenon that was me prior to getting my buzz cut a couple of weeks back. I'm talking Big Apple Circus bed head here, not the stray cowlick here or there but a high-altitude, high-wire act that was not appropriate for viewing by the young or those suffering from cardiovascular challenges. Goodbye bed head; you won't be missed.

I took the first dose of the ARA-C from 10:30-1:30, and I'll get the second dose at 10:30 tonight. Doses 3 and 4 happen on the same timetable tomorrow, and then with any luck, I'm out of here late morning on St. Stephen's Eve (also known to some as Christmas).
The first dose appears to have gone down well, thanks to a host of anti-nausea drugs now coursing through my system like the snow-clogged Charles River just around the corner from here (OK, I'll save the poetry for the other blog). The good news is that it's so far, so good. I've eaten two square meals (very square: turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy) plus some potato chips and cookies that Kath was good enough to smuggle in from the commisary downstairs (I told her that she "gives good nurse."). I don't yet have any of the neurological side effects that cause some ARA-C patients to lose sensation in their extremities and have difficulty signing their names, which can make it difficult for them to pay their bills so they won't get released until they can (just kidding)...

You've had a chance to read Kath's earlier post, which was lovely. She should have no performance anxiety on this blog as far as I'm concerned. As she wrote, members of Class V from the Eureka-Boston Fellowship that I ran back in the day came over for dinner last Wednesday. I love all of the nonprofit leaders who were part of that amazing network that we built together from 1999 to 2003 (and that lives on in the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network). This particular class has a special place in my heart because they have continued to meet regularly and informally in the five years since their program ended, enduring marital crises, personal tragedies, new fixer upper homes, professional duress, and much more and continuing to hold each other close whenever times got tough for one of us. So no surprise that Mark, Sandy, Phil, Sarah, and Renee should show up with crazy amounts of Redbones barbeque and the kind of friendship that can carry you through the darkest times.

As I told them that night, these are by no means the darkest times for me. In the past two months, I have been reminded in myriad ways of how many people I have had the chance to touch and be touched by going through over two decades of trying to see if we couldn't maybe someday give kids born in poverty the same lucky breaks and the same second chances that guys like me carry around like a birthright. And well we should carry them around as such; but only if every other child, regardless of circumstance carries the same rights.

Which leads me to why I know the times are not dark. One of the Eureka Fellows at dinner last Wednesday works at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless' McGuinness House, which provides respite care to patients with long-term illnesses. When I talked about my work with MY TURN in Brockton, she told me about a patient from Brockton who has just been transferred to their facility so that he can begin chemo. He can't do chemo in a shelter because of the potential exposure to pathogens that could kill him with a compromised immune system.

So while I sit here in my private room at Newton-Wellesley hospital, paid for with generous health insurance benefits and arranged through that Lebanese-Egyptian-Rhode Island mafia I celebrated in an earlier post, there's a man just like me, but for the grace of God, who will walk a much harder road. Not a hopeless road, thanks to Healthcare for the Homeless, but a far more daunting road.

Everytime I get pricked or prodded here over the next few days or lament where I'm spending part of Christmas week, I turn my mind to this brave soul a few miles away from me. A brother in arms. I'm as lucky as they get and I will never, ever forget it.

1 comment:

Mark Alston-Follansbee said...

is your finger in an electrical outlet? take it out Steve. merry christmas, xxx