Then he fessed up to the almost random, very unscientific way the medical community decides how much chemotherapy over how long a time a patient should receive. You really can't do a large, double-blind study because that would mean people with cancer would get placebos and they'd die. So, Tepler told me, they try out a new drug on a small sample, in the case of 5FU with Leukovorin it was fewer than 20, and they give them as much of the stuff as they could stand until they get so sick they couldn't stand it anymore and that became the standard dose. Which means the doctors and the pharmaceutical firms and the Food and Drug Administration have no idea how little a person with cancer needs to stop the cancer. They do keep lists of how many people live or die so they know, at least for the first few years after the treatment has ended, how much chemo you have to ingest for it to be effective. Tepler showed me I was still on the plus side. After a few weeks off, he told me, they'd restart the 5FU, dripping it into my arm in his office, one hour a shot, three times a week.
Of course this entire time Ena was pregnant with Dylan. I made very bad jokes about not knowing which of us was throwing up more. I was not a good going-to-be-dad. We found a dula, basically someone who'd be there at the birth to do what the daddy should do: she knew when Ena should walk, when she should stand, when she should push, when to head for the hospital. The difference was the dula had assisted at hundreds of births and new daddies hadn't assisted at any. And I was completely useless. I was too sick.
The dula timed things so perfectly Ena came within minutes of giving birth to Dylan in the entranceway to New York Hospital. (If they had a Frequent Patient program, we could all get our appendixes taken out free).
The day we took Dylan home from the hospital was my last day of chemotherapy. It should have been a double victory, a cause for a double celebration, but stopping the chemicals didn't stop the side effects. My hair had begun to fall out in earnest. I didn't go completely bald but it came out by the handful and got so thin the best I could've done on my own was a half-Giuliani. I found a great wig-maker, Broadway's best, if you've seen Hairspray you've seen his work, the work the folks who wear 'em don't mind you knowing about. You wouldn't believe the folks who wear his stuff who don't want it known. I won't tell and you can't tell.
When I did a pre-Oscar interview with Billy Crystal, whom I've known for years, his manager, whom I've known almost as long but hadn't seen in years said "At least you've kept your hair."
"Do you want it?" I asked. I took it off my piece, grey, bushy and perfect, and handed it to him.
I did an interview with Chuck Close, whom I consider America's finest living artist, at his one-man show at MOMA. He is in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down and has virtually no movement of his hands below his wrists and he's still America's finest living artist. He's bald as a rock. He did want to give it a try so after the interview I took off my rug and put it on his head.. What we shared was the camaraderie of people forced to live lives they never imagined they could and surviving in spite of it, getting on with the pieces of our lives that are still whole.