Tuesday, February 28, 2012

(Cancer) Sticks and (Kidney) Stones

The universe strives for balance.

It's one of those fundamental things I believe. For every good thing that happens, something bad does. I'm not talking about causality, per say. The balancing force may come in a completely different form.

Take this weekend, for instance. On Friday night, I was looking forward to a quiet couple of days, and told my brother so as we chatted over Xbox LIVE. He, on the other hand, was gearing up for a rip-roaring weekend promoting his two comics at the new Image Expo in Oakland. Usually, I'm right in the thick of a con, slinging my films and comics, but I wasn't up to it this time.

This decision was especially hard to make since I knew Norman Reedus was going to be in the Image Expo house. Actually, it's he who helped me make the decision. Every time I meet an actor I admire, it just goes badly (someday I'll tell you the Dean Stockwell story. Today is not that day.). As a huge Boondock Saints fan, Norman is one of my favorite actors, and I knew that meeting him in person would invariably lead to disaster. So, I decided to do everyone a favor and steer clear.

The man elevates smoking to an art form...

So, before I logged off for the night, I jokingly asked my brother, "Hey, if you happen to bump into Norman, do me a favor. Bum a smoke from him for me."

"I'll try," he chuckled.

It was a throw away comment, really, and I put it completely out of my mind. I went to bed that night looking forward to a day of working on my novel. Professor Lefty was looking forward to having some friends over for band practice and board games. Pretty normal.

Things began to go awry when I was woken up at 8 a.m. by the Professor lurching out of bed to race to the bathroom to be sick. I figured it was just a bug, until he came staggering back to bed. He was pale and clammy, and he squirmed in agony, moaning that his whole abdomen hurt. When he uttered the magic words "kidney pain," I knew it was time to call his Dad, who had spent a good part of his life as an ER doc.

The poor Professor got sick twice more during the course of the 10-minute phone call, and the Doc confirmed my fears: I had to take the Professor to the emergency room. It wasn't a bug that was making his sick, it was the pain, which meant either his appendix or a kidney stone.

Well. Good thing I'd gotten my driver's license two months ago.

I instantly went into crisis mode: jammies off, jeans on. Gather important papers, keys, and wrangle the ailing husband into the car. I calmly drove him to the nearest Kaiser hospital, registered him in, and soothed him through the agonizing minutes between when we arrived and when he got treated. (I have to say, the staff at Kaiser Richmond's ER were crackerjack. We were in good hands.)

I've been with the Professor for 15 years. I've nursed him through motorcycle accident sprains and scrapes, impromptu hand surgery, and the aftermath of a near-fatal car accident. I'd never seen him in so much pain before, and all I could do was hold his hand and wait for the doctors to do their thing. I admit, it was scary.

What he said it felt like...
After some pain meds and tests, the doctors determined that yep, it was a kidney stone. A small one, only 3 mm, but enough so that the Prof had felt like he was being torn apart from the inside. Feeling much better after the drugs kicked in, he was discharged with a passel of medicine in hand.

...what it really was.Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
After a brief nap of relief for the both of us, the rest of my day was spent in Florence Nightingale mode: going to the store for supplies, updating worried friends and family via text and phone, making jell-o and soup, cleaning up the mess we'd left in the wake of our morning flight. I didn't think twice about anything that I'd missed. I was just so relieved my husband was okay.

I finally called my brother around 8 p.m. I hadn't wanted to throw off his convention mojo, so I left him out of the initial round of calls. My folks had told him what had happened, however, and after I filled him in on the details, I asked him about the con.

"Well," he said, "you know that thing you asked me to get?"


"I got it."

"No way."

He did it! Well, to be fair, he and his friend/partner-in-comics Jackson did it. Jackson has cerebral palsy, as well as a hell of lot of charisma (he's a stand-up comedian) and a brass pair. He has a way of getting past the velvet rope, and his wheelchair is autographed by bad-ass celebrities including the guys from Slipknot, and now, my favorite Boondock Saint.

Norm at Image Expo. Picture by Xander Kent.

While Jackson was getting his chair signed, Xander noticed Norman was wearing a Stone Brewing Co. patch on his jacket. Xander, being an Escondido boy, promptly pointed it out, and Norm and he were instant buds. Even got the bro-hug. In this moment, Xander remembered my request. He told Norman I was a big fan and how much it would mean to me to bum a smoke. After a moment's thought, Norman graciously acquiesced.

The Stone Brewery patch! Photo by Xander Kent.

When Xander told me, I seriously teared up. It was kind of too much. After a day filled with so much real-world fear and uncertainty, to get such good fangirl news was a bit overwhelming. Not just that I finally had a little token from an actor who has meant so much to me, but that my brother was still thinking of me even at the height of his own fanboy glee.

Norman Reedus's cigarette. Photo by Xander Kent.

So, yeah. It was an amazingly good thing following closely on the heels of a startlingly bad thing. I know one didn't have anything to do with the other at all, but this is the subtle balance of the universe at play in my life. Kinda glad it doesn't happen all to often.

As for the Professor, he's doing much better. No pain, though no stone. If you have any to spare, please send some good vibes his way. He could sure use 'em!