Me: Tell me about #chemotherapy. What was treatment like? How did you feel?
Andy: I had three sessions of chemo, each session was five days, getting chemo from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m., then I had 2 weeks off and then I had to come back.
Andy: Turns out I had three different #cancers wrapped in one, all of them aggressive. I didn’t even think that was possible.
Me: Damn! Me neither!
Tell me, how did you physically feel through all the #chemo treatments?
Andy: Well, after the first chemo I felt fine, like nothing ever happened. So I #smoked and #drank wine. After the second session my hair started to come out, starting with my pubes, not very sexy. After my third and last session I was vomiting, lost all my hair and my sense of smell and taste.
I still can’t smell and taste 100% and I got done with my last chemo right before Christmas 2013.
Me: At the end of the day we are all left with our thoughts at bedtime. What was nighttime like for you? And the thoughts you were left with?
Andy: At night I thought about it all the most, but it varied. Sometimes I would get totally freaked out and convince myself I was #dying. Other times I was sure that I was going to be fine. Some nights I felt I had accepted #death and was almost looking forward to ending my life here and getting to another dimension. So it was pretty much different every night.
Me: You once told me that you felt unworthy in some way of being alive, that you don’t do enough to have had this second chance. Do you still feel this way?
Andy: Yeah, sometimes I do. I can be pretty fucking moody so it depends on a day, but I definitely have days that I do. I was expecting this huge #awakening for me, but it hasn’t come to me. I guess I’m supposed to look for it.
Me: Where does one look?
Andy: Once I figure it out I will let you know. I’m guessing it has something to do with #soulsearching.
Me: Have you started any #soul searching? I mean, you have been given a second chance. What do you want to do with it?
Andy: I think a lot about #life and death in general. I don’t know if you could call that soul searching. I haven’t found my #calling or what to do about getting a #secondchance, in spite of my old age. Obviously, I don’t like to rush things.
(Andy gets sidetracked) This is my favorite picture taken during my cancer period. 🙂
Me: Why is it your favorite?
Andy: I like this pic. because it represents my life at the time, kinda dark, with no friends except for stuffed #animals. 🙂
Me: Stuffed animals don’t get enough credit nowadays. But why didn’t you have friends during this time?
Andy: I had just come back from the states after 13 years. All of my old #Polish friends had moved on with their lives, [got] husbands, wives, kids, etc. I wasn’t gonna call them up and say, ‘Hey, hang out with me, I have cancer.’ So I relied on my #family and stuffed animals, which was fine.
Me: Hmm. That’s really sad.
Andy: Haha! No, not really.
Andy: Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to see a lot of people. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react and my family is pretty #dramatic, so I wasn’t looking for any more of that.
Me: How dramatic IS your family?
Andy: Umm …pretty fucking dramatic. I don’t wanna say hurtful things so just take my word for it.
They are also amazing, just to be clear. 🙂
Me: So it’s not dramatic in like a funny #TV #sitcom way then? Just dramatic-dramatic. Gotcha!
Andy: Yeah, like everything is the end of the world.
(For Andy, it’s just the beginning. He learned he was in #remission.)
Me: When did you learn you were in remission? And what was the first thing you did (or said) when you learned you were now OK?
Andy: I found out right before #Christmas, on the 22nd, I think. Right before my #doctor told me I was fine I thought, ‘This could be a really shitty Christmas,’ but thankfully, it wasn’t. I called my immediate family and told them and probably had a lot of red #wine later on that night.
Me: What’s your #dating life been since this?
Andy: I haven’t been thinking about it to be honest, but then again, I don’t think I ever dated. Haha!
That’s probably sadder than having stuffed animals for friends. 🙂
Me: If you start dating your stuffed animals then we’ll need to have a talk.
Andy: It hasn’t come to that yet, but never say never.
Me: I was just wondering how you are going to break that news to potential dates? Like, do you avoid having that talk over #dinner, especially Italian or anything “ball” related on your plate?
I’m getting a replacement soon so I’ll just wait until that happens and probably avoid the issue.
Me: Smart. Thinking a-head. Oh man. All the bad puns.
Andy: It’s like we’re writing #SexandtheCity for [#gays].
Me: I didn’t even know they could give replacements!
Andy: Yeah, and it feels totally real, so that’s good #news.
Me: I don’t even want to know how they make that! But that does sound optimistic for you and your future #boyfriends.
Andy: Boyfriends? Gross.
Me: Taking about balls is fine but not boyfriends? OK, your future #sex partners if you are all #commit-phobic and shit. 😉
Andy: That sounds better. I’m not gonna lie.
Me: I had this whole heroic story you could tell guys why you were missing a testicle. Like you saved a drowning boy from a #sharkattack and his teeth pierced your nut. And now with this replacement my story is useless. Thanks Andy.
Andy: Sorry… you should have told me what you had in mind. I would have gone along with it!! I like to be a hero.
Me: I guess the replacement will just have to be good enough now.
Andy: I mean, I don’t really have to do it, if that’s what you want. 🙂
I can #sacrifice myself for a good #story. 🙂
Me: Through this whole life and death defining experience, did you learn anything new about yourself?
That it takes a lot to shake me and that I can keep a sense of #humor even when most people would not be able to.
Me: Now I know I asked you this question while you were inebriated on wine, but I want to ask once again while #sober. Not many people go through such #life-altering experiences at such a relatively young age. If you could impart any words of #wisdom or life lessons to younger people, or people in general, what would it be?
Andy: Who said I was sober?
Me: What time is it over there anyway?
Andy: 3:35 p.m., six-hour difference.
Me: Oh that’s totally acceptable drinking time then.
Andy: Well, I’m not drinking tonight.
I actually have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and I can’t drink.
Me: I knew there had to be a reason! Totally kidding!
Andy: You might be kidding, but you also might be right.
Me: OK, back to that question …
Andy: So my words of wisdom would be that it’s hard to predict life so do what makes you #happy. If shit gets fucked up, try to have a sense of humor about it; otherwise, you might go #crazy.
Every day is a new day and [there’s] no point living in the #past.
Me: Anything else in general you’d like to add?
Andy: Cancer sucks and chemo sucks and don’t get it.
Me: I agree! Now if we all knew how to avoid it!
Andy: I know. You can live a #healthy #lifestyle and that will reduce the risk, but that would be boring wouldn’t it?
Me: I know how you feel about boring!
(Let me digress for a moment. You may be asking yourself, ‘but what did Andy answer while drunk?’ Well, here you go … )
Drunken Andy: Eat well. No flour. No white bread. No sugar.
But that’s really whatever.
Just know that shit can happen to you when you don’t expect it, so be a good person.
Enjoy life. Hum “Like a Prayer” before you go to sleep.
Just have your priorities straight.
It’s not worth it, dying for stupid shit.
And one more thing:
I love you!
(OK, so the “I love you” was directed at me, but I think we all could use a little extra #love in our day and if Andy is offering it, I would take it. I mean, he’s this towering 10-foot tall lean man. (Obviously, not really, but he’s really, really tall). His arms can seriously scoop you up in a gigantic bear hug. So take Andy’s love in, just take it. And feel free to send those well wishes back to him and to all of those you hold in your heart. I know I will.)
Andy, I love you, too.