Excerpt: 'Lessons for Dylan'

Once the model was finished, Dr. Minsky marked the model exactly where the radiation needed to hit. I never saw the model, never wanted to. Hey, I'm glad I can't walk behind me. But a couple times a year I'm solicited for personal items for celebrity auctions and I think about calling Dr. Minsky.

Next step, he duplicated the mark on my real tushy and gave me three tiny tattoos he'd use to pin-point the lasers. A perfect idea except for one small detail: Jews aren't allowed to have tattoos. There's a nice reason for this, really. Because we're all equal in God's eyes, we're all supposed to leave this world exactly the way we came into it. No jewelry, no signs of worldly wealth. Orthodox Jewish coffins are held together with wooden pegs, there's no metal on them. A European affectation, I think, because in Israel there aren't any coffins, Jews are wrapped in a shroud and slid into the sand, which is why there are no "Treasures of King Solomon" exhibits paralleling the Treasures of King Tut. No mummies, no gold, no treasure, no tattoos.

Lenny Bruce used to do a routine about how his mother screamed at him when he came home from the Navy with a tattoo on his arm.

"Now you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery," she screamed.

"OK," Bruce went on. "I'll be buried in a Jewish cemetery, they can bury my arm in a Catholic cemetery."

Look for my tushie next to Lenny Bruce's arm.

The major side-effect of radiation is exhaustion but the effects are cumulative and, at first, I was kind of peppy about the whole thing, smiling my way through it even though it took me a long time to get dressed and undressed because I had to loop my clothing around the chemo tube that was attached to my chest. Once the lead doors slammed shut and the humming of the x-rays started, I had to lie as motionless as possible for twenty minutes. I didn't move, the x-ray moved, computer controlled to come at me from three different angles.

Joanna Bull had been Gilda Radner's therapist when Gilda was fighting cancer. Joanna studies Eastern religions and taught me the Zen trick of self-hypnosis. She told me to create a picture in my mind of something beautiful, positive, serene, something that would protect me, make me smile. It's not hard, once you uncluttered your mind, and I recommend this technique, it kept me positive and serene through days of discomfort.

I pictured my grandmother. I'd see her face, I'd try to feel her hands, her long fingers, wrinkled as if she'd spent too much time in the pool. She, too, had colon cancer. She was diagnosed at 80 and lived till 90 and died of something else.

The exhaustion eventually began to show. I'd prepared for the worst, at least I thought I'd prepared. I remember a friend, Michelle Cossack, who died of breast cancer, telling me about the depths of the chemical depression caused by chemo.

"No matter how depressed I am knowing I have breast cancer, knowing I've lost my breasts, knowing I might die," she told me, "the chemical depression is worse."

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