THE POISON I.V. PAPERS: I.
[This is the first of a series of occasional journalistic entries concerning the recent fortuitous discovery of cancer cells in my abdomen, and my struggle to put this shocking, new condition into perspective. The presentation will be honest and in my own particular style. Phillip Danzig]
14 Apr 2004
Howard Stern went 'off the air' recently for using obscenity, scatology, 'pushing the envelop too far' and other excess which have characterized and obsessed the psycho-sexual landscape of the entire 20th Century. He was brought down by a combination of Orthodox, Fundamentalist Christian and outraged secular citizens and the FTC, cheered on, no doubt, by the growing group of Fundamentalist Muslims here in the USA.
But there are several other sets of words which remain largely 'in the closet,' beyond the pale and spoken of mainly in hushed terms. Among these, I have recently become personally familiar with 'Chemotherapy,' 'Metastasis,' and 'Cancer.'
Following a routine CAT Scan this past January, to probe my long standing Crohn's Disease, my Doctor informed me that "evidence of masses were found in my liver." My previous scan, the previous February, had shown nothing. Profoundly shocked, I asked, "Is this a tumor?" 'No,' he said.
Feeling my head entering hyperspace, I quietly asked, "Are we talking ... Cancer ?" 'Yes,' came the clinical reply.
"Liver Cancer ?" 'No, these cells have originated elsewhere.'
Then it's spreading, I thought. With my voice echoing from somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune, I forced myself to ask, "Then, where are they coming from ?" 'We don't know that, yet,' the Doctor said, "but the good news is, we found it early."
Unable to distract my head with further questions, tears welled into my eyes. Janet, the nurse, gave me a needed hug and said, "Don't worry, we'll stay with you through this.. ..'
"Okay," I thought: "I might live three months, 13 months, or 30 years. Or, the proverbial elevator cable could snap when I return home, today."
I confided in only a few close friends, waiting to get more factual information. My alementary canal wa probed from top and bottom: An Endoscopy proved Negative [in medical parliance, 'Negative,' is often actually 'positive" - "Nothing Found'] as did a Colonoscopy. A liver biopsy
suggested the small bowel or the pancreas as the organ of origin. My Gastroenterologist suggested I select an Oncologist.
Several days had passed. It was time to inform my three sons. I pointed out the absence of a
firm diagnosis, but emphasized the presence of several hopeful avenues I was already pursuing.
I spoke with some knowledgeable members of my congregation, the Town and Village Synagogue. One mystical tradition holds that every congregation contains a Tsadik [Righteous
One] and a Roshe [Wicked One]: What I soon learned, however, was that Town and Village also held a Professor of Cell Biology at the New York University Medical Center, and the
Director of Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. They helped me to set up a consultation at Memorial S-K a week later.
But I also mentioned my predicament to Rabbi Meir Fund, whose Kaballah classes I have attended for over three years. I have provided some minor architectural assistance for his
newly-located, "Flatbush Minyan," and I am one of the few in the class who had attended services and concerts of his great friend, Rabbi Schlomo Carlebach.
"Unbelievable !" Rabbi Fund told me. "I know an Oncologist who has achieved amazing successes. You must see him." Next day, I phoned the office of Dr. Howard Bruckner to make
an appointment. 'And who is the Recommending Physician ?' I was asked. "Rabbi Meir Fund," I replied. I had an appointment in three days.
Checking around I found that Dr. Bruckner had, indeed, a major reputation. Trained at Yale, formerly on the staff at Mt. Sinai, he was now Director of Medical Oncology at the Lutheran Medical Center, in Brooklyn. "Brooklyn?" I thought, "that's where I was born. I"m going home." And half-a-dozen people I talked to spoke highly of Doctor Bruckner, including my medical contacts at T&V. All mentioned his "unorthodox treatments" and unusual successes.
I prepared for the consultation.