Our Chemo Romance

Chemo Romance, not that crappy band….

One of the hardest things about having the immune system of a kitten born prematurely with unrelenting feline AIDS is the lack of human contact. My chart says that I am “profoundly neutropenic,” which means that my white blood cell count is lower than snake piss (as we used to say in Upstate NY.) An errant fart could kill me at the moment, so everyone who enters my hospital suite has to wear a mask, gloves and a really stylish yellow gown made out of low-grade paper towels. My doctors and nurses handle me constantly, so I do have SOME contact, but that’s obviously not what I’m talking about. This is about being around my girlfriend.

To put it bluntly, my current physicality with Liana is about as fulfilling as a Mormon safe sex pamphlet. Ever since we’ve been separated by sterile barriers, I’ve realized how much I’ve taken for granted… There have been no hello kisses, no hand holdings, no skin-on-skin snuggles, no hair smellings (keeping this rated G, you PERVS.) The last feeling I had before falling asleep every night used to be her lips against mine, or at the very least a stray hand that fumbled toward me in the dark to maintain a symbolic contact.

All of that is temporarily removed from my life because she’s a walking sack of infectious little gremlins whose only goal is to invade my orifices and defecate on the few remaining white blood cells that I have. (“This article started out so cute and you had to ruin it with your weird mouth and brain,” is what she would say if she were here with me now. It’s a good thing she loves me!)

Despite our setbacks we have found a way to keep the flame alive during this decidedly non-physically romantic period in our relationship. With a little planning, ingenuity, patience and love you can overcome even the least sexy situation!

Li and I decided to have a date night tonight, as we are usually want to do on Fridays. Normally we would curl up on my big-ass fluffy couch with little-ass fluffy Ruby, tap a box of wine and watch a movie together.

The Ruby Doodle
The Ruby Doodle

I haven’t seen Ruby in over a week, and I’m not going to be able to see her for at least a month more… But there will be more on that later. I’ll save that article for when I reach such an emotional bottom that I’ll need to write about her fuzzy little jerkface just to bring myself out of the depression…. But again, I digress.

Even with no Ruby, no couch, no boxed wine, no touching, subpar hospital ambiance and an unfortunate DVD audio output feature we still managed to Macgyver up a pretty wonderful date night.

First thing’s first, we replaced the boxed wine with St. Luke’s special Beer in a Bag, which is actually just a plastic sac full of donated blood platelets that shares its color with pilsner and/or urine. I imbibed alone tonight because my platelet counts happened to be embarrassingly low. Liana didn’t mind not sharing, but if this WERE a box of wine then my arm would have been unceremoniously removed if I stood between Li and the fermented grape nectars.

Better than nothing??
Better than nothing??

Instead of the couch, we curled up on my adjustable twin hospital bed, which was actually quite comfortable thanks to the air mattress that actively adjusts its inflation based upon weight distribution. We set the ambiance by lighting a bunch of LED tea candles and placing them around the room. These candles were one of the more thoughtful gifts that I have received while in the hospital. They came with his-and-her hospital slippers to keep our feet cozy while we shuffle around the sterile hospital hardwood floors. Thanks so much, Jamie!

Here are the candles… sort of.

LED candles don't really photo well, but it did look really cute in person
LED candles don’t really photo well, but it did look really cute in person

Liana rented Jersey Boys from a Red Box on Colfax (where, at his polite request, she bought a homeless man a lunchable and a piece of fresh fruit because she is a walking miracle) thinking that a musical would hit the spot for me, as they usually do. Unfortunately the weird A/V hookup between my TV and DVD player leaves a lot to be desired and we couldn’t get the sound right. It was so bad that HBO GO’s notoriously horrible interface/stream quality was somehow better than the hardwired DVD player, so we opted to snark along with Bill Maher for a while.

All in all, the date night was a success. We made do with our limited, self-deprecating options but that is what we’ve been learning to do so well during this whole leukemia ordeal. Even something as simple as a Friday Night Date Night requires patience, ingenuity and a relinquishment of control in order to make it work: cancer or no cancer. Our ability to compromise and get by with what we are given defines us as lovers, it defines our ability to be happy, and it defines our lives.

We still managed to cuddle, of course.
We still managed to cuddle, of course.

I’m the #leuckiest guy alive.


2 thoughts on “Our Chemo Romance

  1. Cynthia Rodgers January 31, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    Unconditional love via latex – free hand holding and an impermeable grown of yellow polyethylene. Most people miss the true experience of such meaning without tackling the hospital required fashionable gear and extreme precautions/circumstances.

    Bravo, simply beautiful…..


  2. Jean Martin January 31, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    You are certainly learning to be creative! And you might just have the best girlfriend in the world, but then again, you know that. You’ll never take holding hands for granted, that’s for sure. Life is Plan B – congrats for adjusting, and thanks again for sharing.


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