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WHY I'M NOT GOING TO THE OLYMPICS
By Michael Matthews
November 23, 2011 -- Having recently returned from a few days in pre-Olympics London, I am sad to report that I'm not going to make either the British or U.S. Olympic teams next summer.

This is a real blow to my bucket list of must-achieve items before I go toes up. Besides, I'd only planned to be flag bearer because, frankly, I couldn't have qualified for much else.

Why not have aspired to the hammer throw, the shot put or maybe the decathlon? Well, to be honest, following all the bloody chemo and radiation, my learned doctors recommended that I have my brain nuked, too.

If you've followed my recent adventures in health, you know that I'd already done ten weeks of radiation, so, frankly, I thought that this brain stuff was going to be a breeze. After all, it's not brain surgery.

Incidentally, the plan behind this additional radiation is to kill any small cancer cells that might already be hiding in what my wife calls the emptiness of my brain. The radiation is supposed to form a barrier to stop any cancer from getting in. It's sort of a condom for the brain. All teenagers should have it.

First off, they lie you down on a narrow bench. They place your head in a vise and tighten it so your head can't move. Then they strap your body to the bench and give you a rubber doughnut to grip. They then take a hot sheet of plastic and cover your face, gently molding it to fit as a really tight mask. It's just like those masks the goalies wear in ice hockey.

They mark up the mask on where the rays will be directed on each subsequent visit. Ten consecutive days of visits, to be exact. It's essential that the rays hit exactly the same spot each time. There must be absolutely no deviation. But they didn't tell me why. That alone is enough to scare the bejeezus out of you.

I had to think about how to ensure that the great team of radiologists and support staff were going to be concentrating on the job, not playing Doctors and Nurses in their lead-encased office while my brain was being fried in the wrong spot.

The answer? Book an early appointment (like 8:00 a.m.) and arrive with large almond croissants still warm from Mr. Frog, our local French bakery. I'd also make sure to smile and inquire if anyone is hungover. Then I'd climb onto the bench and tell the ladies how pretty they look this morning.

With the mask placed over my head and screwed down, head firmly locked in the vise and doughnut being gripped, the nurses and the others depart the room. A big, white thingy descends from overhead and makes whirling noise as it adjusts its position. There's a sudden crackling, a blinding white/blue light for 20 seconds and a weird smell. And, just like that, it's over until the next morning. The light is amazingly bright coming from behind your eyes and the smell is disgusting metallic.

After the first day, I needed company, so I took my Teddy Bear. He's older and wiser than me, having been purchased by my father on hearing that I was on the way. The staff fell in love with him. Besides, a nearly 72-year-old patient with a stuffed animal and bags of croissants was a first for them. I think it took their mind off of any possible hanky-panky.

The result of 10 days of treatments and $300 worth of croissants? All of the staff was very happy and gained weight. Me, not so much. To be honest, it was just horrible.

For nearly three weeks, I've had crushing headaches and some short-term memory loss. I sleep 12 or 13 hours a night and at least two more each afternoon. I'm a little unsteady on my feet and my hands shake. All of which was to be expected, they tell me, and will hopefully be gone in a few more weeks. I'm also buying extra stocks of Extra Strength Tylenol and Ibuprofen. For the really bad headaches, I'm taking two of each. It'll kill your liver, but cure your headache. My son, the doctor, says the over-the-counter cocktail is the next best thing to morphine.

All of which doesn't actually explain why I'm not going to the Olympics, even as flag bearer. I've been disqualified because they've put me on steroids to alleviate the swelling in my brain. Which means that I've joined Barry the slugger, Ben the sprinter and most of the Tour de France cycling teams. I might try the National Hockey League and see if they'll have me. I don't think they have drug testing--and I already have the mask.

Thank you all again for your thoughts. The penis extension--that Porsche I bought--is running just fine. I'm just a little behind.

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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.