So, it’s been just about a week since I entered the hospital, and what a week it’s been.

Sunday and Monday I had the doses of chemotherapy that would completely destroy my immune system. Again, that is something I thought would register physically, where I’d think, “Wow. So this is what it feels to be completely vulnerable to any sort of infection.” Again, I was wrong. Other than a slight increase of nausea… bupkus.

Tuesday was what they call around here my new birthday. My stem cells were reintroduced to my system through an IV drip. For such a major event in my life, it didn’t seem like much, but, of course, it was. It really meant turning the corner and getting back to being healthier.

I did feel sorry for my day nurse, who had to stand — no sitting allowed — and study the IV, just in case, for more than an hour. But all went well, and he finally got to sit down, I assume. No one here seems to sit down much, at least not that I get to see.

I am isolated, other than staff and my wife, Sheri, who come in, but always masked, so I see just their eyes, forehead and hair. At times, it looks like bank robbers left their convention early to avoid traffic. The last couple of days, I’ve been able to walk around the pod outside the door, as long as I wear gloves and a mask. Believe me, it’s a lot more exciting than it sounds.

Let’s see, what else has been going on. Sheri finally buzzed off the rest of my hair and beard yesterday. It seems OK to me. I have to be careful, though, because when I run my hand across my head to fix my non-existent hair, my hand goes flying off the back. Even that’s OK as long as Sheri isn’t right behind me and gets a poke in the eye. Today, I’m sharing my new Yul Brenner look with you, especially those who watch “Hoarders” just so you can look around your house and say, “Hey. This isn’t so bad.”


The two pigeons who have been hanging around outside my window for the past couple of days appear to be getting ready to fulfill their part of the “Birds do it, bees do it” equation. They are the only other living creatures I see on any sort of regular basis, so I’m quite happy for them. Hey, don’t even think about judging me. If you were watching it on PBS you would be falling all over yourself to get to a phone to renew your subscription or make a pledge.

Right now, my biggest enemy is boredom, which you probably could tell. There is a TV; I have my computer, Nook and iPod, but sometimes it’s just hard to focus, let alone sit up and do something. Sheri comes every day, for a few hours, and it’s nice to have her here, but it leaves a lot of other empty hours to fill. Staffers stay and talk if they have the time, and I try to do little spurts of stuff and then rest.

I talk to my daughters Jennifer and Alison each day. I know it helps them to hear my voice and know that I really am doing quite well. I can write and text anything, but when they hear it in my voice, they know it’s real, whatever “it” might be.

I do have a couple of difficult stretches ahead. My white blood cell count continues to drop, which is a good thing because it means the chemo is working, but it also means I will be really, really tired and have some other side issues to deal with, including a high temperature. But the allergy team has already been in and determined the best antibiotic to knock down any fever, and there are plenty of measures the staff can take to help counter other symptoms. I admit I really have become quite the chicken about feeling sick. I hate it, but the anti-nausea medications really help.

Still, I feel better than I did, for now, and frankly, at this stage, that’s more than good enough. We’ll see what happens next. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to write again, but it helps me a lot, so I will do my best.

For now, I have some pigeon watching to do.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog,

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