Here’s an interesting thing. Interesting in so many ways. I pour my heart into my writing about fighting cancer- the ups the downs, the challenges, all of it. So what has generated more fascination than anything else? Pigeons having sex outside my hospital room window.

Seriously. Emails, Facebook comments, personal comments… So what happened with the pigeons? I hate to tell you this, but I have no first-hand knowledge of what happened to the pigeons. They sure looked like they were about to have sex. But then the treatment for my cancer interfered with my observations somehow, and when I was able to pay attention again, they were gone.

Oh, before you go getting all depressed and everything, one of my nurses told me that the man in the room next door had also been observing sex in the city and was able to confirm a successful coupling. You’re welcome.

Now, let me tell you something else that happened that will surely divert you from your pigeon obsession, while at the same time putting pictures in your head you will regret. You may even have trouble sleeping at night. If you do, call me. I’m awake all the time anyway.

Part of the check-in procedure at the hospital is for a nurse to explain all the medical geegaws and doodads that are in your room and what they would be used for. You then get a tour of the pod where the nurses work. My intake nurse was very thorough and professional. Fine. I hear “blah blah blah masks, blah blah blah gloves, blah blah blah isolated.” Good. We seem to be on the same page. She also has a great sense of humor.

We return to the room where I will spend the next 17 days in air-purified isolation. She explains that the air filtration system in my room is much noisier than most. That’s OK with me. It runs 24/7 and provided genuine white noise to keep out most of the sounds on the other side of the barbed wire, where freedom waited, thumbing its nose at me.

Anyway, the nurse continued to explain what’s going, or will be going on. Again, absolutely no disrespect, but she might as well have been explaining about using my cushion as a flotation device. I was distracted and nervous. Suddenly, though, there was an almost indiscernible change in her tone. It wasn’t much, but it got me to pay attention.

“One of the things we need to do quickly is takes swabs of your nose and your rectum.”

At that point rectum seemed like such a big-boy word, but I continued to listen.

“That way we know, if you get sick, whether or not it was something you brought in with you.”

Right. Cuts down on the finger-pointing later. Makes sense, let’s swab away.

Now, by this time in my treatment, I’ve become pretty OK with showing any of my body parts to any of the medical team, or even a casual observer if it brings them joy. The fact that most of the people I am showing my parts to are young women is neither here nor there. What the heck am I going to show them they haven’t already seen? They’re terrific nurses, for heaven’s sake.

So. The nurse swabs my nose, and before you could say, “My name is Jim and I’ll be your patient this evening,” I’ve dropped my pants and underwear, and a long, thin stick with a cotton swab on the end is up my butt and out and in its little carrying case.

“We’ll being doing this again midweek,” my Saturday nurse said. Excellent. I got the routine set in my mind: nose swab, expose butt, stick stuck, pull up pants. Easy peasy.

A couple of days later a new nurse comes in, one who fits the same demographic. Time for my swabs.

“Yes. I’m ready. Let’s get it done.”

The nurse swabs my nose, I lay stomach down on the bed, butt exposed, feeling somewhat proud of myself for being such an adult about the whole thing. And before you could say. “My name is Jim and…”

But wait a minute. Something wasn’t right. A cold breeze was blowing over my butt, which seemed to have been hanging out, if you will, for a couple of seconds too long.

I was just about to say something when I heard a sweet, bemused, non-judgmental voice behind me say, “Oh. I was just going to give you the kit so you could do itself yourself the next time you went to the bathroom.”

Here’s what went through my head in the next two seconds:

1) Give an explanation that is vaguely correct- “Darn these pajamas. They just won’t stay up since I lost weight.” Lame;

2) Start singing the National Anthem as both a distraction and way to stand up and pull my pajamas up in one fell swoop. Probably not;

3) Tell the truth. “Actually the first nurse wanted to do it in the room so I thought I might save us some time.”

It was all very adult and stuff, but I did feel a little creepy. It became the source of some humor over my stay, sort of like Sheri saying that I looked like Uncle Fester from “The Addams Family” once my hair fell out. Oh how we laughed!

So, I had my first post-transplant doctor visit and it went very well. All the numbers are where they should be and the side effects I’m having are exactly what was expected. The biggest thing is feeling nauseous and tired most of the time.

Also, everything I eat tastes like wood shavings.

Considering what I’m fighting and what I’ve already been through, that doesn’t seem so bad.

I will admit, though, that not seeing the pigeon romance through to the end was something of a major disappointment.

Wait. You don’t suppose dropping my pants with the blinds open chased them away, do you?

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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