Jay Lake: Writer

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[Cancer]

[cancer] On the significance of shirts

Tomorrow is my sixth chemotherapy session in this series of twelve. Second in the subseries of eight I’m now embarked on. All of this stretches forward until December, every other week.

So today I have to pop over to the oncology unit, my home away from home, to have the Huber needle implanted in my chest port and to have bloodwork done in order to verify that I am sufficiently healthy to sustain tomorrow’s chemotherapy regimen. There’s no particular reason to think I won’t be, especially since I’m now hitting the Neulasta, but they have to check.

Because of the logistics of accessing the port — it’s just below my right clavicle — I have taken to wearing one of my aloha shirts whenever that is needed. My normal attire at home is a t-shirt and shorts, and with a t-shirt I have to strip to the waist to be accessed. So now I go in colorful and a bit strange, unbutton a bit of decolletage, and let them go to town on my chest.

Kind of like a hot date, but with needles and blood.

There’s a bit of weirdness to this, though, that’s specific to me. I only started wearing aloha shirts back around 2001 or 2002, to go to SF conventions. I didn’t have any particular reason for it at the time, and I’d never been an aloha shirt wearer prior to that, but we all know how that’s turned out since. Still, I have a closet with three dozen or so aloha shirts in it that are my writer suits. Jay-in-an-aloha-shirt is Jay going to a convention or conference or workshop or something. Occasionally I wear one on a date or to a party, but really, even then it’s because I’m going in my writer identity.

Now the aloha shirts have become part of my cancer identity. They’re cheerful and fun, and I’m usually the most brightly dressed person in the infusion center. But it’s also added a more sobering dimension to a look I’ve carried joyfully for years. That untempered joy, now lost, is another item on the endless list of things cancer has robbed my life of.

Hibiscus, needles and pain. Maybe I’ll use that as a title some day.

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