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THIS IS NOT ABOUT HOTELS
By Michael Matthews
April 28, 2011 -- Editor's note: The volunteer columnists and editors at JoeSentMe.com don't talk much amongst ourselves. Partially because we're business travelers, too, and we frantically zip around the world doing what we do to earn a living. I also discourage intra-site chatter because I want columnists to keep their own counsel and avoid group think. So imagine my surprise when I got an E-mail from Michael that matter-of-factly explained he'd been diagnosed with an illness and was beginning immediate treatment. I naturally assumed his column would go on hiatus. But Michael's subsequent updates about his experiences have been so like a Michael Matthews column that I suggested he publish them. What appears below is not about business travel or about hotels. It's about life as Michael knows it. And that, I think, is why you read his columns in the first place. -- Joe Brancatelli
Arrived at Northwest Medical Center in Tucson at the crack of dawn after having bathed in some foul mixture "to kill the bacteria." After filling out forms, I was admitted and told to strip. I was rewarded with one of those cloaks that show your bum at every turn.
I'm thirsty. Haven't had any water for the previous 18 hours, let alone a real drink.
After two hours lying around doing nothing, with my fretting, darling wife by my bedside, the Sandman arrived and had me sign more forms. If I don't wake up, don't blame him.
A nice nurse with a very large razor seemed to take pleasure in shaving me bald from the neck down. Thankfully, she stopped at the important bit.
A visit from the guy doing the pick and shovel work. He explained that he would dig a hole above the breastbone, then excavate down from there to my lungs.
The Sandman turned on something in the IV and I started to feel sleepy. Next thing I know someone is calling my name and I'm back in the land of the living. I'd been out for four hours and the only thing to show for it is a Band-Aid across my throat and bandages from the IV. Damn. How can a Band-Aid get any sympathy? Where's the big gauze pad and bandages wrapped around my neck?
Here's the news: Everyone had been right and now we had proof. A nasty case of lung cancer. The tumor is a decent size (think lemon) and is wrapped around the pulmonary vein, so it can't be cut out.
The chemotherapy will be three times a week for the next three weeks. Then three weeks off, three on and so on until the cancer is gone. My first visit to the chemo guy is tomorrow for a full accounting of what will happen. Since my chest is already shaved, I might as well be bald as well.
PS: My daughter is here, too. Both of them are fussing around. Is there going to be no peace? Love them at my side. But, damn it, I can't have a drink till tomorrow. We'll see …
Let me make it quite clear: My doctor and his nurse are frauds.
Throughout the meeting this morning, they kept informing me that I was going to have regular cocktails three days at week at three-week intervals spread out over 18 weeks. As you can imagine, the word cocktail got me immediately alert and, with salivating lips, I was ready for this undertaking.
I got home and pulled out my 50-year-old bartenders guide to find the ingredients. But there was no listing for Etoposide or Carboplatin cocktails. I called the King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel in New York and spoke to my favorite barman, Allen. I thought perhaps that Etoposide or Carboplatin were newer concoctions. You know, like a Cosmo, whatever that is. But Allen hasn't heard of them, either.
As I said, it's a fraud perpetrated by my doctor and nurse. There are no cocktails starting tomorrow morning, just some stuff dripped into my veins for hours. It's going to make me bloody sick. Well, I've been sick on cocktails before, so that's not a totally new experience. Oh, yes, there was something about a daily dose of radiation for a number of weeks. But I'd gone numb on information overload by then.
The nurse told me to get a great hat. I asked why. She let me know that my skull hadn't seen the sun in 70 years and it might be shocked. "So get a hat and sunscreen for your dome." She also said I'd lose my hair--all over, not just on my head. "All over?" I asked. Yes, she said. ALL OVER. I will be just like a newborn babe: all pink, soft, vomiting and glowing (from the radiation).
PS: My oncology doctor is originally from Lagos, Nigeria. I don't think he's ever written or E-mailed me.
Had the first three days of chemotherapy, which went amazingly well. You're in a room of 20 or so other chemo addicts and they shove needles in your arm and you lie there for four hours with poison pumping into your veins.
The first day nobody said a word. Everyone too busy contemplating their dismal future. Okay, this has to stop, said he. Days two and three saw me arrive with piles of croissants from a new French bakery that's just opened. (The owner calls it Frogs. My god, a Frenchman with a sense of humor!) Doctors, nurses and patients all dug in. Everyone was smiling and talking to each other and there were crumbs everywhere. If there had been music, I would have had them dancing in the aisles, clinging to their drip stands, shimmying in their smocks with bottoms asunder.
Next step was a radiologist called Curtis. He's funny and a no-BS merchant. First step, he says, Is "planning." Hey, I know that. I've done planning for a few hotels in my time. Step two: Make sure the radiation gun knows where to shoot. Step three: Tattoo the target on the right side of my chest. That's right. I'm going to have a tattoo on my chest telling folks where to aim. (Note to self: Buy shirt.) Step Four: Be radiated.
PS: Doctor amazed that I've still got hair, put on some weight and am joking, sleeping normally and walking. Oh, yes, this is Day 17 of no smoking. Wonder why?
We've got to face facts: Things are bloody awful.
Not only am I hamstrung with poison coursing through my veins, but the dog has damaged her knee again. I just spent $4,000 getting her fixed up and now she's limping. Half the garden hasn't recovered from the winter frost. My plans to be a beekeeper (and have lovely honey) have been nixed by our homeowner's association. The postman knocked down the top of our mailbox with his little toy van. The Royal Wedding invite never got here. And I suddenly realized that I have a birthday (my XXnth) coming up in a few weeks. What to do about it? What does a shortly-to-be-bald, crotchety, old man need? Of course! A penis extension! That's just what I ordered: a Porsche 911 Carerra.
It's a beauty. My friend, Dan O'Conner, who runs a Mercedes outfit here in Tucson, checked it out for me. A cream puff with only 39,000 miles and it goes like a rocket. Between my naps, I'm cruising the university area and local hot spots looking for the Easter Bunny. So far, and it's only been a few hours, the extension hasn't worked. Have to give it some time.
PS: The over/under on the first speeding ticket is June 15. Take the under.
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ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.
THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.
This column is Copyright © 2011 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.