This blog began with a monster, a Day One Monster that was cancer, the Firecracker, and me at different turns. My breast cancer journey has been that way all along, monsters morphing into other monsters, some benevolent, some bad, if I may borrow the language of Frankenstein. On Day One, my New York friend Carlos started making papercraft monsters, one per day, to photograph and post to cheer me up. And they did, like the many gifts I’ve been given by everyone from my dear friends and family to supporters I’ve yet to have the pleasure of meeting in person. A handmade table, a hand-sewn hat, a Star Trek blanket, a hand-knit night cap, poems and photographs, tea, candy, potted herbs, lotions, yoga DVDs, magazines, rodeo tickets, gift cards, dried fruits, a bonsai tree. A bonsai tree!
These are just a few of the wonderful, thoughtful things I’ve received with endless gratitude. Did I say bonsai tree?! And in Carlos’ lot, there was one papercraft monster that seemed to say it all. The F-You Cancer Vampire:
And while I’d thought there were only twenty of these little monsters, I learn on Day 113, on the eve of my very last chemo treatment, that there’s one more.
After my little sister’s birthday celebration, Joe drives us home and announces he has to go back to work. He has an email he still needs to send or something or other. I shrug it off, go to bed. Then sometime around midnight, he fast-tip-toes into our room like his sleeves were on fire and asks, “Are you awake?”
“I am now!”
“I wasn’t working,” he says. “I was getting your ‘last chemo’ gift ready, and I think you should open it right now.”
As I’m following him down the hall, into the living room, toward the powder room where he says the gift is stashed because he “didn’t have time to wrap it,” he’s trying to convince me he made a papercraft monster of his own with some guidance from Carlos. Let me tell you, Joe isn’t crafty. About as close he gets to a crayon is when he finds them chewed up on the rug while the dog is outside pooping rainbows. So I’m thinking it’s either a sloth or a room full of puppies. One or the other. And, well, here. Watch for yourself. Fair warning: I am wearing sexy flannel cancer pajamas and ye ol’ sleeping hat and it was filmed by a twelve-year-old on her phone.
That’s right. Carlos himself arrived in San Antonio, all the way from the big apple, dressed like the “F-You Cancer Vampire”:
After the excitement I go into mom mode. My job, anyway, during one of the last occasions that Carlos paid us a visit was “official mouth wiper” when he took the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse ghost pepper challenge:
“Where can you sleep?” I ask Carlos. “Oh! We have a blow-up mattress,” and, “Are you hungry? What do you want to eat? Something vegan?”
“I’ll take a grass-fed vegan, thanks,” Carlos said.
“Maybe I can find one. I can definitely find a free-range vegan at Whole Foods.”
This is the kind of banter we’ve had in the chemo lounge on Day 114, and as I type, Joe, Carlos, and I are watching the very last of the Taxol drip down from the bag.