The Red Tide

She didn’t tell me that my pee would turn red. But when this goes in your arm, it’s to be expected.

That’s chemo juice going in, not blood coming out

They call this “The Red Devil,” and it’s one of the three poisons in my little cocktail of fun.

The cure will ill you

Attacking a tumor is similar to attacking a dandelion: you go in with a deep fork and grab it by the root.

Attacking cancer is more like knocking out the weeds that haven’t emerged just yet. You can’t see them to cut them, so you use a little biological judo.

Weeds grow because they are primed to absorb nutrients faster than the surrounding grass. So you spray away, and let the greedy weeds absorb the brunt of the poison.

Same with cancer cells, which grow faster than they should. Unfortunately, you have many other cells with quick growth patterns:

  • Hair
  • Skin
  • Stomach lining
  • Bone marrow (white blood cells)
  • Mouth

The trick is to blast away and knock out the crap, while externally maintaining the functions of the parts that now aren’t doing so well:

  • Warmth
  • Itchiness
  • Nausea
  • Immune system

And that’s why I “volunteered” to allow a nice young professional the opportunity to poison me for hours today.

Limiting the playing field

The best news out of today is that we have no sign of spread. The “little blue round cells” that make up my sarcoma can be aggressive. Scans on my chest, spinal fluid and bone marrow have all come back clear.

And the eye issue is looking like it will be unrelated, and very easily managed.

We are still waiting a couple of weeks to get back the last of the genetic analysis of the biopsy samples. Since that result wouldn’t alter anything for more than a month, we are fine. Hopefully we can have a tentative window set up for surgery, which could be late April to late May. Hard to say just yet.

“Post-poison” game plan

This stuff is going to mess me up quite a bit. For instance, I’ve never seen my scalp. And in 15 years, the only person who got me to lose the beard was my sister, who insisted on it. She asked me to marry her, and I had to go to Georgia to do it. *

I will lose my hair and beard.

It’s going to change the flavor of foods.

It’s going to make me tired.

It’s going to make me sick.

The drugs designed to make me less sick will constipate me.

The drugs designed to make me less sick without constipation will make me sleep for hours.

The three-drug cocktail going in will be met by a sustaining three-pill regimen, which might allow me to eat enough and excrete enough to survive while losing weight.

(Don’t ask. It isn’t contagious, and even if it were it’s an expensive diet.)

Getting by…

...with a lot of help from my friends.

You’ve all been uplifting, in word and deed. So many have offered to help, and I’m forever grateful. I’ll be calling on some of you, maybe for a ride, or an errand, or a meal if I can’t make it out.

My family, stepping up and being strong for me, making sure I have what I need.

Those of you at Alabama Power and Southern Nuclear are a treasure. (So much so that I’m worried they’ll figure out they don’t need me.) You guys are the best!

Those of you in and around Birmingham and Alabama and the varies circles of my life, thank you.

Those of you “in the ethernet” whom I’ve connected with online — including many who took the time to pass an evening with a traveling stranger. We aren’t so strange after all. Your words and encouragement from behind your screens do indeed matter.

Even the memes.

I’m not going anywhere. Not with a mighty team willing to claim me, and help me smack that greedy McMurray right on into the formaldehyde.

If making him see red requires me to pee red, then so be it.

Pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er.


* – When my sister got married, she asked me to perform her ceremony in Atlanta. I married her – to her husband. It’s still funny that a guy from Alabama had to go to Georgia to marry his sister.

20 thoughts on “The Red Tide”

  1. Indeed, it IS funny. The story about your sister’s wedding I mean — not the red pee. Actually, the red pee is kinda funny too. Sometimes (actually fairly often), I go down to the crazy juice place about a mile from the office — it’s a nice walk, even on days like today when the wind is bitter cold. They have great, cold-pressed juice that makes me feel like a healthy hipster for drinking it. I couple of my favorite blends — Flower Power is one, I don’t recall the name of the other — are bright red, being composed of mostly beet juice. They are good, and heart-healthy. (That’s what the internet says, and the internet is never wrong.) But occasionally I forget what I had for lunch, or don’t think of it, and when I do my business later in the evening or the next morning, I get quite a fright when I look into the stool and see a pool of red. It’s alarming, but fortunately benign. That’s what I thought of when you mentioned the red pee. So it’s kinda funny.

    Anyway, enough about me. This is about YOUR pee. Thanks for sharing the journey. I know you have lots of peeps, but if you need to vent/cry/laugh/commiserate with someone a couple of thousand miles away, you have my number.


    P.S. — Sorry about the hair. I can’t even imagine …

    1. My brother has a great story about workplace revenge, involving orange pee and an impending health crisis.

      Hit me up. Would love to talk.

  2. Get a sewing friend to make you a doo-rag with Alabama colors on it. It’ll make you feel immediately better. Or, you could ask Neil if he’d send you a drumming hat!
    Been there, done that, my friend. I’m still here, weaker but wiser. You will be,too. Love ya, Ike

  3. Thank you for sharing your story with such honesty, Ike. I hate that you’re going through this. Standing with you from up here in Indy.

  4. Thank you for taking us on your journey. You know you are obviously loved, you have the support of all of us, and our prayers too.

  5. 1) NO SIGN OF SPREAD! That’s full of win. So glad to read it.

    2) You taught us a lot about weeds, cancer and why the poison approach makes sense (more for weeds, but what are you going to do). Seriously. Why can’t healthcare articulate things this well?

    3) OK, I wanted to put this first. LETTERKENNY! To add any more thoughts or comments would take too long. But LETTERKENNY is a hug you need…”allegedly.”

  6. Who knew about the pee? Thank you for not holding back. Fantastic news about your eye issue – so glad it is a separate thing. Your prose continues to amaze. Would love – when you have a moment – for you to email me your home addy:

  7. Thank you for the update! I hope that the side effects won’t be too terrible. You have a great attitude, and I admire how you are expressing yourself here. Hugs and prayers!

  8. That hair and beard will grow back – it’s not a necessary thing. The best words I could hear was that McMurray hasn’t spread. That is a big deal. It’s a round won.

  9. Hank and I read these together. We both have much respect for you. I love how you approach it with realism and optimism. It’s nice to see, when you maybe hit a rough patch, all the people leaving comments (and I’m sure hundreds who haven’t) can lift you up. We certainly will be. Praying over you as you heal! PS. I think you’ll rock the Raita look.

  10. Thinking about you Ike and admiring your humility and good humor. It’s a rough patch for certain, but the great news is that there’s no sign of spread. Get outta town McMurray. You’re not welcome here.

  11. Each day is a gift, even with all the difficulties ( red pea & waiting on your hair to fall out- you’ve always had a beautiful head full) No matter what happens, keep up your courage. Be brave. Bravery leads to Victory!! Victory to live another day !! Love your sense of humor. praying for you each day

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.