The way it seems to work the best is through infusion. My surgeon had dug a port into my chest. Plastic tubing connected the port to a pouch about the size of a box of Grape-Nuts I would have to live with 24/7; it was, literally, part of me. Inside the pouch a computer-controlled, battery-powered pump would dribble just the right amount of chemical through the tubing, into the port which connected to my jugular vein. The pouch even had a belt-loop so I could attach it to my slacks, hide it with a sport-coat, I'd been told. But it was a bit too bulky for that and the plastic tube would kink if I ran it under my shirt so I ended up running the tube up my shirtsleeve and carrying the pouch full of chemo in my left hand like an attaché case from Hell. That's the way I went to work, that's the way I interviewed Brad Pitt, that's the way I interviewed the stars of The Lion King, that's the way I appeared on network television. I have no idea how I did it.
Two nurses came to our apartment to hook me up to the chemo. They pried open the layer of skin that covered the port with a rather large needle and pumped it with saline to make sure I wasn't backed up like an over-used drain. They told me if something should happen and the chemo should leak or spill, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TOUCH THE CHEMICALS!
They gave me 24-hour emergency numbers to call. They would come and clean up the mess, it is that toxic. And that's on the outside. What was it doing to my inside? I found out fifteen minutes after they hooked me up. I got sick.
I ran a fever, I was nauseous, I had diarrhea. All expected, they assured me (assured me?), though not usually this quickly. But, one of my mantras, pain is God's way of telling me I'm not dead yet.
Somehow I learned to sleep on my right side, the chemo pumping into the port on my left, and three mornings every week I dutifully showed up at Memorial Sloan Kettering for radiation.
I'd gone through this when they treated my wife, Jane's, brain tumor. They radiated her brain, they radiated my tushie, the symbolic difference did not escape me. First they did a dry run, focussed three green lasers at me and built a computer model from which craftsmen molded a three-dimensional, plasticene copy of my backside. The overwhelming number of colo-rectal cancer reoccurrences happen at or near the initial site and radiation is the best way to ethnic-cleanse the area so there's no cancer left to come back. Because it was a dry run I could watch them line me up and see my tushie take shape in green parabolic arches on the computer monitor. It looked amazingly like the computer models I'd seen doing behind-the-scenes stories on the use of computer animation in Toy Story and Beauty and the Beast.
"That's right," my radiologist told me, the world renowned Dr. Bruce Minsky.
"The same people developed this for us. First." Dr. Minsky really is world renowned. And he was right about the computer program. A year or so later I interviewed the president of Pixar for a behind-the-scenes story on Toy Story 2 and he confirmed it.
"We couldn't get any money to make any movies so we looked around for other applications and created a program to make 3-D models from Cat-Scans." He was very flip about it, couldn't care less that he might have saved my ass, movies most obviously being the far more important part of his business.