Bumbling Along in My Predicament

Beginning two days after my chemo sessions every two weeks, I have a rough couple of days of after effects. It's mostly like a fairly bad flu – aches and pains and chills but no fever.

I crawl out of bed every now and then, check email for personal messages, have something to eat even when I'm not hungry because it's good for me and crawl back into bed.

In general, so far, given my predicament, I'm willing to make this trade-off – about three days of debility for 11 days of feeling good. Especially so after my blood tests at last week's treatment were normal.

The chemo treatments delay the growth of the cancer – for some unnamed period of time - giving me a few more months, they say, of healthy life, if it can be called that. Whether this is a rational choice on my part is a mystery to me.

Mostly, I'm just bumbling along, taking the advice of the doctors and nurses who, of course, have vastly more experience than I do at end-of-life cancer. Whether I'm right or wrong doesn't seem to matter much to me.

One of the things I'm grateful for is that my sense of humor remains. Let me tell you a little story that happened last week.

You who have been around through this entire adventure know that last spring I underwent two separate surgeries to place stents in my body to stop a dangerous internal bleed that was caused by the original, extensive surgery for pancreatic cancer.

The new surgeries were performed by a different kind of doctor than the one who did the cancer surgery.

A few days ago, a young woman called to book a six-month follow-up appointment with that surgeon telling me that before we met that day, he wanted me to have a certain kind of scan. Realizing she was unlikely to have read my medical record before making the call, I asked if I could skip the scan since my condition is now terminal.

There was a moment of silence at her end and before I could stop myself, I heard these words pop out of my mouth: “You know, a case of the surgery was a success but the patient died...”

Another stunned silence at her end and all I could do was laugh and apologize. But was there ever a more perfect moment for that old joke?

Like I said, I'm just bumbling along through this predicament of mine.


Good for you, Ronni - seeing past the ridiculous. Thanks for the chuckle and I'm happy that you are doing as well as you are. Of course, I always wish better for you, my friend!

Ditto what Cop Car said! I think you are right!

Dear Ronni, I admire you so. I, too, in challenging circumstances, like to go for the joke. (And with challenging people. It is not always happily received.) I can only hope that, in your shoes, I would still be up for it, but I'm not so sure. Wishing you many days of feeling well!

Ronni, this response is not just to today's post specifically, but to all of your posts over the years. I am 70 and began reading your blog roughly 10 years ago. I found your comments and insights to be thoughtful, often humorous, and very helpful as I adjusted to aging. I have composed some rather lengthy responses to your remarks in my mind, but none ever made it into writing except for a couple of comments on your Face Book page. So, you and I have had a lot of conversations even if you did not know it. I am a retired RN who worked in various settings, but for three years when I was in my 30's I was a hospice nurse. The experiences of those years permanently influenced my perspective on life and the decisions I make. Each of us has our own personal perspective and must make the choices that seem best for us. I feel deeply sad that you are dealing with deteriorating health and end-of-life concerns. Please know that your writing has made a difference and that I am one of the many who wish you well as you continue to live your life.

Perfect. She probably didn't dare laugh.

That does seem as appropriate a moment for that old joke as any. I'm wondering why that surgeon, or the person calling to make the appointment, wouldn't have read the most up-to-date details of your record before scheduling a scan.

It is good to know that your sense of humor is still with you, and that you are having as many days feeling as good as you are. I hope that the treatments will lengthen those good days and that the less good ones are an even smaller percentage very soon.

Your words this morning reminded me of the Dick Van Dyke episode where he had a dream that he had lost his thumbs and his sense of humor when visited by Kolak from the planet Twilo. That led me to Youtube to watch that episode again. Thanks for the humorous start to the day. Thumbs up!

Those receptionists get on automatic and it's good that someone like you comes along and makes shakes them up. Dark humor is great and sometimes it's the only way to get through the heavy stuff.

Love what you said.

Ronni, I remember years ago sitting in a surgeon’s examining room waiting to schedule a breast biopsy. There I sat scared and miserable in my paper gown open to the front. For some reason the door was left ajar and a man was sitting outside in the hall probably waiting for his wife. He also appeared miserable and I remember I feeling sorry for him. At that point I wanted so badly to open my paper gown and flash him.
But I didn’t.
I totally understand your macabre stab at humor.

It seems so simple, and perhaps could be seen as inappropriate, but BRAVO for you. From my perspective, when we can no longer see the humor (dark though it may be) in life, we cease to be human. You have shared much of your life, and your humor, with your readers. Thank you very much.

Role model...extraordinaire!

If you can't crack that joke now, then when? She will be telling that to her grandchildren some day, once she recovers from shock.

You amaze and inspire me. Struggling to learn acceptance, I read your words. Humor is our best defense against fear. Thank you again.

Glad your sense of humor is ready to respond to the ridiculous moments of life.

Oh lovely! Too perfect!

Hope you feel better soon.

Once she picked her jaw up off the floor, she probably got busy telling all her coworkers.

You're a remarkable woman, Ronni.


Oh blessings on you! And peace and comfort too.

Love it, Ronni, you made my day. I feel for those poor people in the dr's offices. No one gives them a heads up about phone etiquette, if you can call it that! I've worked with people under those conditions...……. I'm an RN, also, & we always tried to help them with some notion of what the patient's were going thru. Loved the joke too...…...oldie, but goodie. Be as well as you can, friend. Dee:)

Dear Ronnie;
I think it was a perfect response.

You have perfect timing Ronni. Being able to joke and laugh about the absurdities of our lives keeps us sane. Love you.

Laughter is the best medicine. Sometimes we laugh to keep from crying.

As others have said, your response was perfect and it's great that you were spontaneous with the joke. I would have thought of it 5 minutes after hanging up.

Brilliant timing. If we can't laugh at ourselves the game is over.


You might mention to the doc that the receptionist is cranky.
Yes, perfect timing for the joke.

What you said is making me smile, and that you said it makes me want to laugh out loud.
She may have missed your spot on humor in that moment, but I bet she's gotten it by now.
And, nothing like humor to knock another little chip out of the wall of denial. I wish you much laughter, always.

Perfect! Your timing is right on!

I have another sort of grim joke--not utterly unconnected. I have just had a full laryngectomy. I'm going home today, thank goodness, but all through my stay here, when I pushed the call button, someone would come on the speaker saying "How can I help you?" I, of course, being unable to talk.

The medical system is a labyrinthine medium for black humor!

Priceless!, Ronni. You still got game!

Good one!


Gallows humor is very rarely understood by those who are...um..not facing the gallows.

Once more Bruce Cooper says exactly what I think! Your blog has brought me in contact with so many new blog friends- including yourself of course Ronni. xxx

You are a gift to us all... and always will be.

I love it when someone thinks of the exact right thing to say ... and actually gets a chance to say it at the exact right moment! As you just did.
On a related topic, how much do we all hate the "doctor hand-off" when you have to tell the elevator version of your story over and over (and over) again? Lab and test results don't always make the transition, and keeping track of it all adds another layer of stress to a very tough time.
What a great role model you are being!

Bruce put my thoughts into words already -

Gallows humor is my favorite kind. When my mother was at the end of her life at age 92, I was visiting her and she seemed to fall asleep. Suddenly one of her monitoring machines went off, emitting a high wail. I jumped and cried out and was running to get a nurse when I heard another sound. It was my mother, laughing hysterically. "Oh sit down," she said, wiping her eyes, "It does that sometimes. Pain in the ass." I swear I had never heard my mother say the word "ass" in my life. I was proud of her.

Your joke reminds me of one that my cousin couldn't help making when his father was dying.

My uncle (my mother's sister's husband), a worldly New York publisher, was as secular as they come, but his younger son had become an Orthodox Jew. My uncle didn't personally care about that but was willing for his son to go through all the proper rituals after his death.

We were in an elevator at the hospital and my cousin -- bearded, black-hatted, but still a diehard Yankees fan and political liberal underneath -- had just been explaining to me in a didactic, doctrinal tone of voice, like a lecturer, that a person has to be buried whole, with nothing missing, and thus my uncle's amputated foot, lost to a blood clot detected too late, was waiting for him in the morgue at the Orthodox cemetery.

My cousin gave me a sly sidelong look and said, "Talk about having one foot in the grave."

Thats delicious Annie - what a good laugh you gave me - thanks for hosting this site Ronnie - you are great!

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