A Streetcar Named Dilaudid

September 30, 2009

Somehow, I have turned in to Blanche DuBois.

I spend lots and lots of time in the bathtub and I find myself suddenly dependent on the kindness of strangers. I’ve been quiet in the blogosphere for a while, trying to wrap my mental game around some new treatment and ongoing issues relating to chronic illness. Frankly, it blows. I’ve been in a moody place that isn’t particularly inspirational, heroic or even interesting so I just decided to keep my trap shut. But, I think I’ve figured out what’s made me particularly mopey and I think its important to share.

Accepting charity sucks.


I said it.

I am EXCEPTIONALLY grateful for EVERYONE who had shown me profound kindness and generosity over the last 18 months. The outpouring of love and assistance has been truly inspirational. But. Accepting help and gifts and cash from your friends, family and radio fans is a very creepy feeling. I feel totally undeserving. Not because I’m a rotten person or anything, its just Marc and I have it so much better than most. We have great insurance. Marc has an impressive job with a supportive employer. I have access to many support organizations, simply by living in a major city. Somehow, I feel like I’m robbing the truly needy.

That being said, I’ve also learned that friends and family desperately want to “do” something to help. Sadly, they can’t make my disease go away or do chemo for me so many feel quite helpless, which sucks in its own way. In an effort to help loved ones who want to offer some comfort, I suggested they send Jewel or Target gift cards. I made an effort to ask for help, as loved ones have requested.This summer has been tough all over and we can always use stuff to make mine or Marc’s life just a tiny bit easier. I’ve treated myself to new bedding to keep me comfy and a wicked cool red grocery cart that I’m looking for ways to trick out. I’m planning to get a yoga mat and try to channel some pretzel healing karma or chi or whatever it is you get from Yogis that don’t carry pic-a-nic baskets. I’m even flying to Vegas to watch my pal run her 50th marathon in 50 states courtesy of miles from a terrific pal with miles to share. My dear pals Tim and Katherine even set up a donation website where you can donate toward my future care. I’m keeping it all in a savings account, just in case I hit a cap on my insurance pay outs or I have access to a surgical procedure out of network. Those are just a few examples; there are many many more.

Having a bit of a financial cushion is extremely comforting as I look at the insurance statements that roll in every day. But I can’t separate the guilt and even a bit of shame for accepting other peoples hard earned dough. I get it. I asked people for help. But, its still weird being on the receiving end. What’s worse is I haven’t written a single thank you note. I’ve saved names and contact info, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Not that I’m not incredibly grateful; its just so embarrassing somehow. I feel enormously selfish for not offering a simple written “thanks” to all the generous souls who have offered numerous forms of support, but I’m truly at a loss for words. (I know, it seems impossible.) And the longer time passes, the more rotten I feel.

Please know I appreciate every single gesture, note, card and check. Its just every time I try and muster the mojo to start writing, I stare at the haunting blank note cards until I can’t take it anymore. Then I dip in to my stash of narcotics and soak in the tub. Its the truth and it ain’t pretty. I’m not trying to excuse myself from the responsibility of gratitude or make anyone feel awkward. I just wanted to share my feelings in an effort to explain my discomfort and out of character behavior. And I don’t imagine my feelings are unusual. I’ll bet plenty of tumorous folks out there feel similarly strange accepting assistance in a variety of forms.

So, please don’t think I’m an ungrateful bastard. I’m just embarrassed and tongue-tied. Probably a little high as well. I promise I’ll try again, once I dry off.



  1. Hey Chris, enjoyed the post and can empathize with your conflicting emotions. I think the best way you can demonstrate your gratitude is to continue to share as much of your experience as you can here. You’re a gifted writer. You express strong emotions while being funny and never melodramatic. Your using your gifts to advance the cause of cancer awareness is inspirational and I’m certain thanks enough to anyone that has helped you out.

  2. Just heard you on Steve Cochran, well, the latter part of your time with him. I wanted to tell you about a musical (yes, a musical) about a cancer survivor that is playing right now in St. Louis. It’s called “Unbeatable” (www.unbeatablemusical.com)
    and is based on a true story of a woman who ignored that pesky lump in her breast until they determined it was Stage 3 cancer. It’s really more about priorities, allowing the people in your life to help, dealing with having your life on hold for a year. I went to see it as a cancer survivor myself. If it comes to Chicago, please go see it. I don’t know what their plans are right now. It’s been in Phoenix and Houston, now St. Louis, maybe at some point it will come to Chicago.
    I had rectal cancer 4 years ago. I also had the lovely 5FU, the oxi…whatever, a port, radiation, etc. I was blessed in that I was supposed to have a colostomy when all the treatment is done, but the treatment did the trick and killed the tumor. The doctors were shocked, but happy for me. Twelve more weeks of chemo followed, just to be sure…
    I’m 3 and a half years in remission now. DO let people help you though. I know it’s hard, but as you said, they want to do something. It’s the only way they can be part of it with you. Also, check out the website for Unbeatable. There are music clips on the site, and some bits about the story.
    It sounds like you have great doctors, a wonderful husband (as do I) and support from family and friends. Allow yourself to be weepy and moody too. You can’t be “up” all the time, because it takes so much energy to do that. You need that energy to surpass the kick in the butt the chemo gives you. I’ll check the blog every once in a while now, but should you need to vent to someone who has been down this road, email me. A woman at work who barely knew me helped me so much when I was going through it. She’d had a similar situation and many days it seemed she was the only one who truly knew what was happening. It sounds like you’ve hooked up with some support groups too, so you probably wouldn’t need anything from me. Still..
    Hoping for the best for you,
    Dolores Sierra
    East Moline IL

  3. You are here and that is our thank you. Seriously — I’d so much rather you relax in the tub or drink fabulous wine or snuggle with Marc or watch “Family Guy” or anything you love to do, than write t-y notes. NOT NECESSARY. Kinda silly, really. You continue to rock, dearest Chris…

  4. Oh, you are such a Catholic! After reading your post it made me think of when we were waiting to make our First Reconciliation with Msgr. Obmann. And you know, at 7 we had sinned so much! I think we were desperately looking for something to say. I know I told him I stole Jolly Ranchers from the 7-11. Isn’t it amazing how guilty we feel, even when people desperately want to help us?

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