For anyone asleep during the 80s, the title of today’s post is a line from Bon Jovi’s song, “Bad Medicine,” off their 1988 New Jersey album. Please note, not being alive during the 80s is no excuse for not knowing awesome music. *pointed stare* It seemed an exceedingly appropriate theme song for the post on the day I start chemo.
Before skedaddling out of the DMV (that is, the District of Columbia-Maryland-Virginia area; not everyone’s favorite state government office) for colder pastures, a friend and I used to wander through book stores having conversations using only book titles. We frequented the Borders (R.I.P.) in Tenleytown and could spend hours wandering around chatting, reading, occasionally singing, and ultimately I would enable her to buy way more than she intended. Have I mentioned I am a Master Enabler? I once talked a friend of a friend into buying a suit when all he initially commented on was a scarf in the window. I digress. I recalled these jaunts through Borders as I was putting together my chemo playlist (song list below), amusing myself to no end with various narratives created through song titles.
Some songs had to be included regardless of the narrative. For example, “Be Our Guest” from Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. I have so many fond memories from my time at Walter’s when I was a kid – credit to the Ward 51/52 staff and two incredible friends I met in the hospital for creating an environment where fun can flourish amidst chemo, nausea, and surgeries. I met the first of these two friends when she was med-evaced in from Germany, where her dad was stationed. It was awkward at first because everyone seemed to assume we would be best buds just because we were in the same situation. And I really mean the same situation: we had the same diagnosis in the same leg with the same treatment plan and the same team of doctors. But we really clicked when we discovered a shared love of oldies music (especially the Beach Boys).
From there, everything changed. Whenever possible, we requested to share a hospital room if we were admitted at the same time. If our powers of persuasion were unsuccessful, more often than not we would still be hanging out in one of our rooms. I distinctly remember spending an afternoon in her room, both of us sitting on her twin hospital bed flanked by IV poles, singing “California Girls” at the top of our lungs while shooting wildly and inaccurately at the Duck Hunt video game screen. Another time we were both in the hospital and it started to snow, the first snow of the year. Can you imagine being ten years old and stuck inside during the first snow of the year? The horror… the horror! We talked one of the young nurses, whom we called M&M, into taking us down to the second floor to the fancy (and rarely used except for dignitaries) entrance by the General’s office, where we could roll our IV poles outside onto the expansive front lawn. It was a glorious 30 seconds! After 30 seconds, the IV pumps went bananas with an unknown error… unknown because the pumps had not been programmed to recognize when the fluid inside the line froze. We still considered it a sweet victory, despite having to retreat!
If we were successful in securing a double room together, we promptly rearranged the furniture to better suit our needs and made signs so the food staff could distinguish between “Bed One” and “Bed Two.” We even once posted a price list on the door – 25 cents to take vital signs, 50 cents to draw blood, 75 cents to hang chemo, etc. Prices went up if you woke us up, which the night shift found horribly unfair, but can you really look at a bald child getting chemo and talk about fairness? No… no, you can’t. We made just enough from that endeavor to go down to the Post Exchange and buy junk food.
We did have one holdout, though – our orthopedic surgeon. He opted to pay us in Hershey’s kisses. It took him the better part of a year to figure us out, I think. Don’t let Grey’s Anatomy fool you. Orthopedic surgeons tend to be cautious and reserved types, in my experience. Our doctor was especially so, but my friend and I would not be thwarted. We were going to be spending a lot of time with him, and laughter was required – his included. Perhaps he walked into the cast room one too many times and saw us flinging notes or games of Hangman back and forth with ace bandages as our sling shots to maintain his solemn demeanor. We had no choice, though. Our moms had told us we had to stop yelling back and forth, so we improvised. If they had put us on neighboring exam tables, we wouldn’t have had to take such drastic action. Someone snapped a picture of the good doctor mid-laugh towards the end of our time together, and he looked as jolly as Santa Claus.
But back to “Be Our Guest” and its mandatory inclusion in the playlist. We were singing along to the Beauty & the Beast soundtrack one day, and as we sang “Be Our Guest,” we realized we’d been going about everything all wrong. ‘Course by course, one by one, until you shout, ENOUGH I’M DONE…’ The medical team referred to our chemo infusions as courses, with each batch of three drugs as a single course. If memory serves, the protocol called for six courses. We had no idea we could just tell them we were done! Too bad we were already nearly finished with the full meal by the time this epiphany occurred.
I don’t have any grand illusions that the chemo and targeted therapies in store for me in the year ahead will be nearly as fun as when I was ten at Walter with my two buddies. For one thing, it’s all outpatient, so I won’t have nearly the amount of time to meet new friends, and there’s no replacing or duplicating the chemistry of my original two chemo amigas. For another thing, my observation thus far has been that civilian hospitals allow patients far less latitude than I historically enjoyed at Walter. But with friends like you and a kickin’ playlist to accompany my experience, I’m sure we’ll dance our way through it in high style. As with the official surgery playlist, I enthusiastically request your suggestions for additional songs for the chemo playlist.
- Elton John – The Bitch is Back
- Jennifer Holliday – And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going
- Beauty & the Beast – Be Our Guest
- Lenny Kravitz – Always on the Run
- The Fugees – Ready or Not
- Annie Cast (original) – It’s A Hard Knock Life
- Jay-Z – 99 Problems
- Idina Menzel – No Day But Today
- The White Stripes – Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine
- Lianne La Havas – No Room for Doubt
- The Strokes – Trying Your Luck
- The Beatles – Hello, Goodbye
- OK Go – White Knuckles
- TLC – No Scrubs
- Britney Spears – Oops!…I Did It Again
- Keane – This is the Last Time
- Aerosmith – Back in the Saddle Again
- Bad Company – Bad Company
- Iggy Azalea featuring Jennifer Hudson – Trouble
- Montell Jordan – This is How We Do It
- Jamie Cullum – I’m All Over It
- Apples in Stereo – Same Old Drag
- Bon Jovi – Bad Medicine
- Bell Biv Divoe – Poison
- Poison – Nothin’ But A Good Time
- The Ramones – Beat on the Brat
- Murder by Death – Until Morale Improves
- Laura Mvula – That’s Alright
- Postmodern Jukebox featuring Wilkie Ferguson – I Don’t Mind
- Sonny & Cher – Let the Beat Go On
- UB40 – Fools Rush In
- Janelle Monae featuring Big Boi – Tightrope
- Blues Traveler – Most Precarious
- AWOLNATION – All I Need
- Joshua Radin – Friend Like You
- Neon Trees – Animal
- Bob Marley – Three Little Birds
- Lauryn Hill & Tanya Blount – His Eye is on the Sparrow
- Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins – Rise Up with Fists
- I.A. featuring Timbaland – Come Around
- Tennis – Take Me Somewhere
- Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life
- Trip Lee, featuring Dimitri McDowell & Leah Smith – Sweet Victory
- The Decemberists – This is Why We Fight
- Aerosmith – Same Old Song & Dance
- Ariana Grande featuring Zedd – Break Free
- Lou Reed – Perfect Day
- Nas featuring Lauryn Hill – If I Ruled the World
- The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
- The Wiz Live Cast – We Got It
- The Brian Setzer Orchestra – As Long As I’m Singin’
- OK Go – I’m Not Through
- Postmodern Jukebox featuring Kiah Victoria – Such Great Heights
- Billy Joel – My Life
- Django Reinhardt – La Mer
- Patina Miller – Fabulous, Baby