Two friends moved within a block or two of me last month. One moved to raise a new family, and the other moved to try to save his own life. This past weekend I visited both.
Saturday afternoon I walked up the street, made a left, and found myself at Gary’s place. I met him through his girlfriend Chin, who’s been a good friend of mine for a long time.
Back in January I briefly mentioned an incident where Gary kept passing out, discovering later he’d lost about 20% of his blood via internal bleeding. The cause was a hole in his small intestines. They removed that section during surgery and did some tests to figure out what caused it. And the news was something awful.
Gary was told by the doctors that he had a form of cancer called non-Hodgkins lymphoma. For reasons unknown, it’s found more often in the U.S. and Canada than anywhere else in the world. Strikes mostly males, even young ones without a family history of cancer like Gary.
He needed to move to a place that was close to the UCLA Medical Center: for cancer patients, going to the hospital becomes a full-time job. And that’s how Gary became my neighbor.
Chin opened the door and led me into the living room where Gary was slumped on the couch, forty pounds lighter. Something about him seemed sadly familiar. I recognized the shaved scalp with a few ragged patches of fuzz still trying to grow in earnest.
Somewhere around the second or third round of chemo, your hair starts falling out in chunks. It gets pretty darn annoying so you end up just shaving it all off. I remember having to use dog grooming clippers to shave my baby sister’s head while she stood in the bathtub. I remember getting her a lot of hats.
We talked for a couple of hours, until Gary’s meager strength tapped out and he had to rest. He mentioned that what he actually had was T-cell lymphoma, a rare lymphoma that’s extremely aggressive and difficult to cure. And even if you’re lucky enough to get cured, the recurrence rate is staggering: there’s a 75% of it coming back.
But the support he’s had from his loved ones has been extraordinary. I’ve been a firm believer in the healing power of such a thing. His dad flies in every week from Dallas to take care of him. His friends constantly visit him in droves from the Bay Area. And throughout it all, there’s Chin. When she’s not at work, she’s always at his side, doing anything, everything she possibly can, and more. Guardian angels don’t do this much.
I’m usually guilty of being on the skeptical side when it comes to human beings. And so I suppose I really needed to witness the things I witnessed that Saturday afternoon. To remind myself that unconditional love actually exists, even in West LA.
One of these days, you know, when Gary gets better, and Chin’s not in the same room – one of these days I’m going to grab that guy by his shoulders and tell him what a lucky bastard he is.
On Sunday we went around the corner and stopped by EK and Daisy’s place for a small potluck dinner. This was also the first time I got to see their baby daughter, Belly, since she was born four weeks ago.
My God, the cutest little nose I’ve ever seen. Like a damn jelly bean.
The fools. They actually asked me to hold her. Look at Belly – she’s obviously smitten with my winsome smile. Can’t take her eyes off me … or maybe the booger dangling from my left nostril.
Here I am massaging Belly’s scalp. Baby completely zoned out. This works just as effectively on girlfriends too. Let’s say she tries to start a discussion about something silly, like feelings; just put your fingertips on that scalp and –boom- good bye talking, hello pleasure coma.
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