Losing Sympathy from the Women of the House
I am beginning to lose the sympathy of the women in my house.
This morning I was watching television with my five-year-old, Kate, when I figured I’d go ahead and apply some lotion to my skin, which is still shredding from the burn during the treatment. When I pulled off my shirt, skin literally fell about the floor. To which Kate said: “Daddy, can you do that somewhere else? That’s really scary.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at that statement but upon brief consideration decided to laugh. I told her it was nothing more than a sunburn. She eyed me skeptically, wondering how one gets a sunburn in the snow — and in Washigton DC on top of that. Her experiences with the sun come entirely from the Tybee Island in Savannah. After a moment, though, she accepted my explanation and allowed me to stay.
My skin in general remains sensitive. This morning I wanted to remove a bandage, tight with sticky adhesive, from my elbow and began pulling it off. I wanted to do the band-aid thing, where you rip it off quickly so that it doesn’t hurt. My mother, who happened to be in the room, warned me not to pull it off quickly, to pull it slowly, even as I was ripping it, and ripped a chunk of skin off my elbow entirely. To which my mother responded: “Well, dummy, I told you not to do that.” Touché, dear woman, touché.
And then I was complaining about not having lost weight I had gained last week during the treatment. It’s not so much that I haven’t lost the weight but that I have lost weight in muscle mass around my chest and shoulders while still retaining it in my feet and ankles and waist. I said that I didn’t think that was fair. To which I received silent gazes that, when translated from womanese, said: “You’re a damn fool. Try being pregnant.”
But I have clown feet. They are swollen and blue and sausagey. I hide when the bell rings, fearful that somebody will be coming by to sell me a red bulbous nose that honks.
The side effects of IL-2 are strange. They come in waves, some receding only to be replaced by others. My appearance, for the most part, has recovered enough that my mother felt comfortable acknowledging to me this morning that on the trip back from Duke, when we made the obligatory stop at Cracker Barrel, she felt like she was walking into the restaurant with an emaciated homeless person – the unkempt beard; the flaking and scabbed-over little sores along the face; the skin drawn tight around my cheekbones even as my joints and feet were swollen. When I first arrived home, I startled Kate. She was afraid and unsure how to react, though she recovered after a while. However, two days later I was relatively presentable. Internally things are still a mess. Powerful headaches, insomnia, a strangely intense burning of my eyes, nausea, gastrointestinal, dizzy spells, crocodile skin and increased shedding from the burn around the rest of my body, etc., etc.