(Harry Nilsson reference)
The biopsy did verify the existence of squamous cell carcinoma. I was soon transported to THE hospital, for about two weeks, so that they could estimate my survivability re a long operation, so that they could wean me of cigarettes, so that they could wean me of alcohol, and so that they could let me eat for a couple of more weeks before they cut out my tongue.
I endured an operation that lasted between 13 and 15 hours, depending on who you talk to, they replaced roughly half of my tongue with muscle and nerves from my left arm, and they took a slice out of my left leg in the event they needed tissue from somewhere else (they did not, but what the hell, it was my leg, not theirs). Let me tell you that I endured 33 of a scheduled 35 radiation treatments that lasted from 30 to 45 minutes while I was bolted down under a fiberglass sort of mask, and that I also had some fun with chemotherapy.
Following the surgery, I was maintained in an unconscious state for four days, so that I would not move about, in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I then spent another week and a half or two in the hospital in various stages of opiated happiness, with a resolute effort to be cured at once, and experiencing wondrous and horrible conspiracies that were only in my mind.
Later, after release from the hospital and confirmation that all of my mad dreams were not true, I enjoyed chemotherapy: day-long lounges in easy chairs with needles in my arm and balloon-sized, well, balloons, filled with chemical wonders infiltrating my immune system. During all of this, I was receiving radiation treatments, daily, for seven weeks. As a claustrophobe, I was not enamored of the idea of having my face pinned down to a table in a fiberglass mask for 30 to 45 minutes. In fact, I advised the medical folks I would rather die than go through this for seven weeks, but they opted to ignore me. From this, I can tell you two things: I had never taken valium before but suddenly realized it was one of the greatest inventions since the wheel, and, two, music is the greatest clock in the world. I calculated that every song was three minutes long, and used this to help me get through the dragging, dragging minutes to the end of each session.
As time passed, I made the effort to reduce my valium dose, but never went without the music, and never really got used to being bolted down to a table. Of all of the experiences I had, this, the radiation, the mask, is the part I would least wish on anyone (with the exception of the staph infection I developed as a result of a later operation, which I will get into later). And yet, if I can do it, anyone can.
I’m not saying I did it with grace and courage, but I did it.
(You should know: after the trial episode, I DID say I was going to have to die, because I was not going to go through this, and they finally offered for me to stay in the hospital like the children, so that I could get drugs and so forth, and I actually said YES!!! That sounds good to me!!! And they shook their heads as if to tell me I was a wimp and then the doc said, “You are a wimp.”
Ultimately, I was not allowed that option.)