Rambling into eternity: Part 5

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      Straight columnist Dave Watson is undergoing treatment for cancer. Read part one, part two, part three, and part four of his story.

      A place where everybody knows your name: Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Of course, most of us would rather that place wasn’t a pharmacy, but that’s the stage I seem to have reached. At least that’s the conclusion I arrived at after walking into my local drugstore and hearing the pharmacist call out, “Hi, Dave,” which prompted me to say, “Oh, Jesus, not here too,” or something equally perceptive.

      That familiarity, naturally, comes from my frequent purchases of prescriptions, which must total several hundred dollars monthly between the 10 or so prescriptions I regularly cash in. Fortunately, the government covers those costs, and, best of all, I still receive all the Shoppers Drug Mart points on my account. That’s free money. Kind of like those lovely parting gifts that TV game shows used to give out to the losers.

      Pain management 2 I’ve already mentioned how the pain of cancer can be overwhelmingly strong, especially when it shows up in the bones. As an example, while visiting a friend in Vancouver recently, I decided to crawl on my hands and knees down their hallway to the bedroom from the bathroom because standing and walking were too tough to attempt.

      Sometimes I try to treat it as psychological pain, because nothing is actually broken, even though the pain may block standing or the application of significant weight. Then it’ll begin to take some pressure; I’ll even be able to take a couple of steps. The pain will nearly vanish. And then, a step or two later, it’ll stab itself right back into my consciousness. And stab is the correct verb to use. Or maybe gouge.

      Bone pain is odd because although it may originate in one place, it could show up elsewhere. The best example I have is the near-crippling pain in my left shin. I’m told it radiates from my lower back. Not that there’s anything I can do to help that situation. A heat-and-massage pad applied to that leg, or to the back, have no real effect, except as a slight distraction for the appropriate nerve endings. So radiation treatments are in my future.

      Oh, of course, there are the painkillers, the taking of which is like a sport. You have to ride the balance between a bearable level of pain and enduring hallucinations. Sadly, these aren’t the good kind of hallucinations, with happy sunbeams, rockin’ tunes, and laser light shows. Damn. That would be so cool.

      Instead, I get aural hallucinations. Because hydromorphone makes you a bit dizzy and drowsy anyway, it’s easy to space out as if you’re falling asleep. In fact, the experience that it most reminds me of is something that used to happen occasionally as I was falling asleep. I’d be in that warm and half-conscious pre-sleep stage when a mental image would appear of me slipping while walking on an icy sidewalk. Naturally, the dream version of me would react by flailing its limbs. Unfortunately, so does the real-world me that’s lying in bed, trying to sleep.

      I try to watch out for hallucinations, but it’s tough to reject part of what your brain tells you while believing the rest. And these are crafty semi–dream states. Mine tend to take the form of conversations, where a dialogue will run past, sometimes with Ramses II, other times with another neighbour (I live in a pretty good neighbourhood in my hallucinations. Zeus is my postman).

      Firstly, I’ll often feel the presence of another person in the room. Nobody specific or threatening, just a third or fourth occupant. Or I’ll think I’ve had a conversation with someone I’m with, and I’ll have to ask them if it happened. The worst thing, though—the way the silent, internal conversations manifest themselves and become hard to hide—is when I do the equivalent of slipping on the ice and respond to something verbally. There’s no justification for randomly blurting out, “The stack of oak twigs is over there.”

      Am I brave? Some people have accused me of bravery in the face of cancer, what with having it and writing about it and all, but I prefer to refute any such claims. Bravery would involve a conscious act to take on cancer—if that were possible—say, to save someone else’s life. I’d rather think of myself as someone who’s developed cancer somewhat earlier than is statistically common. Bad luck, that’s what I’ve got.

      Some other people ask me if I’m scared of the disease or of dying from it. I’d have to say I’m not. I don’t want it to happen—dying, that is—but it’s not like I have any choice in the matter. I think that’s what inevitable is supposed to mean. No, scared isn’t the right word. I think that sad is more appropriate. I’m sad that, barring miracles, I’m going to die from this. It may turn out that my mood swings might bring scared back onto the emotional menu at some point, but not yet.

      Anger And I’m not going to be angry, either. There are so many ways to get cancer that I wouldn’t know where to put the blame. There’s the big corporations, the personal bad decisions. Not to mention that hair gel in the 1980s.

      Comments

      3 Comments

      Judy-Pat

      Apr 29, 2008 at 7:19pm

      Hey Dave.
      I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know you through your wonderful articles. I find them very humorous and honest.
      Please know that from your extended family in Toronto Ontario you are in our thoughts and prayers daily.
      Bye for now

      Judy

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      bettyrebel67

      Jul 17, 2008 at 7:32pm

      whoa.....
      how sad i am am that this lovely man has left the human plane. I have known Dave since the late eighties. he and i were set up in a blind date by my then roomate, Rob. He and Dave worked together at Burger Haven in New West. He had just started working at the Straight, and we attended many gigs together. I was so honured when he invited me to be with him on his Stand-up Comedy Act night, his first of probably very few, surpisingly. He was a very funny guy, an honest man with a sweet and kind heart. We attended many crazy events, drank Jolt Cola together when it came out, and saw some of Expo86, which is around the height of our dating years.
      I last saw Dave when i tracked him down through mutual friends, and introduced him to my daughter, who was about four-six months old. He loved that her two bottom teeth made her look like an "Upside down Bugs Bunny".
      I only found out about Dave's passing a couple of weeks ago, and have been prone to crying and being angry about the fact that he was too damn young to die, and a whole bunch of other harsh emotions which surged up, including being way too hard on myself for not being able to stay in touch with him. he was a very private guy, and yet anyone who was blessed enough with the smarts to read his columns, whether it was Undercurrents or Dot Comment, knew all kinds of crazy things about him. We sucked at dating each other, but we very much loved and respected one another, and i haven't spent a day since i first met him over twenty years ago, not thinking about him. Dave helped me realize my abilities in writing, and he helped me to stand up for myself when people tried to edit my work to death. I know that i wouldn't be thinking in the level of critical thinking that i do, if not for meeting this man and talking about the bands we watched, the movies we saw, the events we attended, and so on. College English certainly helped somewhat, only cuz i had a great teacher, however, it was always Dave Watson who made me feel that i was good enough to write. He had a great deal of self confidence, and he helped me gain mine, enough to be able to write and feel confident in myself and my thoughts.
      He was always the well dressed man, whether he was sporting his dress pants and running shoes, or wearing his Hawaiian Shirts that gave him such flair. I love you Dave, your spirit is a strong and pure one, despite your aetheistic stand. To your family, my sincere condolences, Dave was outstanding, and his time with you was a blessed time, albeit too short a time. To his wife, i feel your loss in my heart, and hope you are finding ways everyday of going on without him in the physical form. I am sure he was so much fun to be with, and his unique character will always be something that you will remember about him, regardless of everything else. To his friends, colleagues and readership: What a loss we have experienced of late, in having to let go of such an amazing writer, someone who helped even those of us who got technology, just get it a bit more, as well as those of us who just loved the indy bands of Vancouver and the local region, we had such fun attending those gigs Dave wrote about, and hanging with him with was even more awesome!
      technology just got a little less geeky with his passing, and i know that we all wish we could read just one more Dot Comment....
      I am just so sorry that i somehow went kinda off my track of reading his articles right at the time he left the straight, and i went back this month to start reading his articles, and it was the most surreal thing that has ever happened to me. That was what my whole experience with Dave Watson was though, Surreal. SO, Tamats-gutsi, Things happen as they are meant to happen. I just wish i could have actually known more when it was all happening, but having his last articles that he wrote being focussed on his last experiences, it was such a gift. My final check in with my really great sweet friend. There is very little for me say, as i read through not only his Rambling Into Eternity, but also the many comments, and articles written by friends and colleagues of Dave was such the icing on the top of the last piece of his life cake. He really inspired so many folks, and his writing was always so real and raw.I am thankful he never sold out, and never gave into the hard human shit that most of us have to duck and cover to avoid. Huy Chewx Wa, Dave Watson! (Thank you!) K'Aycht'N! - I Hold my Hands up to you, Dave, you were a gift, a gem, and i will miss you always. btw... the words i am using here are from my language, the Squamish Language, and they are the few words i can say, as well as spell, but they are ones that are significant to my feelings about my good friend. Huy mal7h! - we have no word for good bye, just, See you again soon! _ T'Uy'Tanat- Cease Wyss... aka Betty Rebel!

      Denise Fantinato (Pygmy Paizley)

      Jun 13, 2009 at 2:15pm

      I am so sad to hear of Dave's passing. I had no idea he was battling cancer. He will be remembered fondly by so many. He was such a "back bone" for the Alternative Music Scene in Vancouver - how many of my shows did he help promote by writing previews and reviews of the bands I brought to Vancouver under Paizley Productions. We laughed, drank, listened to music and did one too many of something from time to time. I had never seen so many tv's in one room before, other than at an electronics store selling them. He told me it was so he could "keep up with all the news as it was happening" - aahhh, the good ol' 80's. The world was just starting to tamper with Atari Computers then.....

      Good Bye Dave. Keep that pen flowing and the computer keyboards going, where ever you are. You will be remembered and missed on Aug 8 for the reunion party. But I'm sure you will be there in spirit, with so many others.

      Love, respect, friendship and memories,

      denise (jackson)

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