Il l’ouvrit et ne trouva rien.
I was still under anesthesia today when the surgeon came out and spoke to Hsiu-Chuang. He told her that I was going to feel as if I had been punched in the stomach. He was right.
Luckily he was only being perfectly literal. That is in fact exactly how my body feels after the laparoscopic survey of my innards. From a more formosophical perspective, however, I feel that I have been granted a new lease on life (but no, there will never be any talk here of leasing to own).
As was the case for Charles at the end of Madame Bovary, with the simple difference that he was dead and it was an autopsy, I was opened up today and nothing was found. Well, nothing that the last CT scan said might be in or around the colon anyway. I won’t give more surgical details than does Flaubert (lèse majesté cools the epiphanical flow) but let’s just say I don’t think it was for lack of trying.
Perhaps it’s the clear-liquid diet, steroids, narcotics, antihistamines, psychological trauma and physical pain talking, but to my fevered neural network today’s events represent another major foe eluded. At the start of the Inferno, Dante had to get past a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf just to get his journey started, and that feels about right. Chemo and death anxiety inspire allegoresis, so let me put forth my leopard as my colon resection, my lion as chemotherapy, and my she-wolf as peritoneal spread (no, not as you, Zhen Zhu, vicious animal though you are). If any of these things had gone wrong, if, say, my cancer had not responded to chemo or had spread to the peritoneum then I would not have been able to enter the gates of hell. Or rather, I would have, but only literally, making for a very short 1-canto tale, and, so we see – wheels within wheels of blind Fortuna! — sometimes the literal is not the best option.
I am now trying to get deeper into the vision which, I can’t forget, ends improbably well for Dante. For some reason I find myself attracted to improbable endings, though I am not necessarily dreaming of a sublime experience of the pure presence of God in the Empyrean catalyzed by an impossibly idealized earthly love. It’s more like I’m hoping the spaghetti will stay down long enough for me to enjoy it. Yes, bless all our hearts, that remark was both allegorical and literal.
The next 3 cantos currently exist in cartoon form. 1. I proceed with the portal vein embolization this Thursday with an overnight stay at the Cleveland Clinic. 2. Then I receive some more chemo, presumably because my side effects are running low. Today the nurse had to ask me if my rash was really all over my body, though this may merely have been politesse. I mean the nurse’s manner, of course. The rash is due to the long half-life of the biological agent cetuximab in my body. 3. I remove a nice big portion of liver in mid-February. My funny valentine for HC.
Thanks again to everyone for so much literal and other support.