Thursday, July 21, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes 

That time I had bleomycin injected in my neck…

A photo posted by Peter Rogers (@peterrogersesq) on


A few days ago I was feeling chipper. I had an actual bounce in my step. Things were looking rosy, looking up, only blue skies from now on. Why? A number of reasons. I had finally punched through a terrible month of work with days beginning too early and ending too late and I'd made it to the other side. No longer on the back foot, I was waiting for answers from others. I had shed an unexplained five pound weight gain (beer? Ice cream? General loafery?) by getting in a gym workout or two. I had a couple of great swims (one high atop an open air 50m pool). The weather in Toronto had broken from oppressive heat to a really nice summer heat tempered by lake breezes. Local berries were available at the market and I had finally found time for a long, leisurely ride to Rouge Park. I was feeling 10 years younger and despite a lot of things that should worry me (there are always bills and taxes etc), it hardly seemed to matter. This was summertime and the living was easy.

Then I got injected with bleomycin for another treatment of my VVM. I awoke from the treatment with a shredded throat that was as raw as sushi and sore as a hot blister. The injection sites themselves were swollen and tender, which is actually a good sign that should mean a healthy outcome but at the moment make me feel like I lost a bar fight. The hangover of the anesthetic has lingered like bad jet lag and the other side effects of the bleomycin were in full bloom. Vertigo, constipation, and difficult breathing all erased that youthful glow from a few days earlier. Now I was an old man struggling up stairs. My wheezy breathing irritating my throat and making my legs cramp after only a few steps.

As a sort of topping to this sundae was the return of a heat alert in Toronto and an ongoing onslaught of crap news. This year just isn’t going to get any better apparently. From the deaths of artists like Bowie and Prince, to deaths of people I knew, to violence from war torn places, terrorist violence, malcontents shooting up dance floors, police violence leading to racial tensions leading to sniper attacks on police, xenophobic politicians and social media trolls bringing out the worst in everybody, increasing unemployment, even a slight rise in crime rates, and the complete absences of a blockbuster movie or a hit summer album. It all adds up.

Into this tire fire we call planet Earth (yup, another record month for planet wide temperature gain), sauntered a mobile game, Pokemon Go. I think people wanted a reprieve and they wanted it together. You could literally hear mainstream media smacking its lips. They wanted a distraction and they wanted it now. So every radio report, podcast, website, newspaper and broadcast found a reason to do a story about a simple game app. It didn't help me any. In fact it heightened my current state of disconnection. How can you just idly walk around with your face in your phone ignoring everything? By being disconnected, that’s how. Compartmentalization. Cognitive dissonance. Ironic right? Get connected to disconnect. It’s as though people are willfully forcing themselves to do something trivial to avoid the stuff that isn’t trivial.

image from Men in Black
I feel just like this little guy (via audiostream.com)

I get it. In fact, I’m doing it right now. I feel completely separate from myself at this very moment. I feel like I’m in this body, trying to drive it around like some old tractor. Just like that little alien in Men in Black who was sitting in the head of a diplomat which was really just a vehicle he controlled. To anyone else, I look the same. A little puffier around the edges maybe, but essentially no different. But I feel like it is so obvious. When I speak, all I hear is this little croak that sounds like it is coming from somewhere else. Someone asked me why I hadn’t been to the gym lately to which I said I had a summer cold because why go through the whole rigmarole.

I don’t even know why I’m making such a fuss. I’m sure in a few more days I’ll feel normal again. Yet, I’m a strangely fascinated by this experience. It’s as though my consciousness is inside a balloon that is actually floating inside my head. It’s in there, but not a part of it. I worry if this is what being in an aging body is like. Foggy vision, lessened hearing, numbed senses, weakness and strain are all descriptions of how it is to age physically, but what no one mentions is how that physical change leads to a psychological change. One in which you are disconnected from the rest of the world by muted sensations that make you actually feel apart from it and therefore alone. In that way, the procedure I had a few days ago, has given me insights into a few years from now. I can’t say I like it.

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