You’d Think You’d Know

You’d Think You’d Know

You’d think you’d know you’d broken your arm.

I’ve had a bad 13 months. Started last winter walking dog in pre-dawn MetroPark. On the dark seldom used southern trail I stepped on black ice and went down faster than brain could follow — there was up, there was hard down, there was no inbetween.

Lying on the ice, my first thought was it’s freezing, if I don’t get up I die… but, can I get up? Am I broken? Of course I didn’t have my phone with me in case I needed help. So slow-mo pain by pain I get up, somehow functional, and creep back to light.

Weeks later in backyard I step on black ice again and wham my am fast flat. Slow creak up again, unsure I’m not damaged, take 1 step, go down again harder, slamming other side into frozen ground. This time pain’s so great I get nauseous, breakout in cold sweat.

Hobble inside, sit in chair, Lady says, “You Alright?” “I donno.” Check myself out pain by pain and it all seems to work.

Few weeks later I’m filling a five gallon bucket to water my illegal pot plants. I forget I’m 77 and not the SuperSmith I was, so lifting it out of the sink I hear a SNAP and hot pain sears my bicep.

Emergency Room doctor says no problem, I’ll be okay in 6 weeks.

5 weeks later I’m walking a 136 pound Golden Labrador (who weighs as much as I do at this point) who sees a neighbor’s illegal loose dog and charges sideways after it, wrenching my damaged arm.

I assume the intense pain is my torn bicep reinjury.

5 weeks later dog does it again, same loose dog, same damaged arm. Either the first dog charge or the second or both broke my arm.

I again assume dog reinjured my torn muscle, and my broken arm heals sideways, 90 degrees off, my bicep going horizontal instead of vertical.

For the next 5 months I have no use of left arm. I can’t do chores, can’t shovel snow.

Oh yes, in-between the torn muscle and the bone break, I contracted E Coli poisoning which went septic. 73% of the septic die. Doctor said I was very close. Lady saved me, said I wasn’t lucid when they took me in. And just to grind me down, during sepsis I was also dehydrated and anemic. Enough already.

One night there’s a knock on our door and I open it to a tall thin 65 year old black man with hedge clippers. He offers to do our yard work for a few bucks. I say sorry man but it’s dark now, too late today, but hold on I’ve been where you are and give him $10 and say come back when it’s light.

He said months later he was really angry when he knocked and my kindness touched him.

You know, he might have been an angel.

He came back next day and Lady had him do a couple hours work for $20 an hour.

Then he came back 2 days later and Lady says listen, you’ll come every Thursday, work 2 hours for $50.

I can’t do anything with one arm, so he’s a blessing. Been going on 13 months, every week.

Strange dude though, won’t talk about himself, just questions us, laughs a lot at my checkered past and cynical present. It becomes a ritual, he arrives around 10, I make us bad coffee, we drink it together, sort of talk as he avoids my questions, works for 90 minutes, Lady gives us all a hot lunch, we give him the money, and he leaves.

This goes on for months, then I seriously break my arm again. This time we’ve taken the dog to a dogwash, he poops on the floor, I scurry down 2 steps to get a poo bag, the non-slip rubber tip of my right running shoe mates with the non-trip rubber grip of the second step as I’m hurridly turning and I fly full force sideways into a display case and wall, me breaking the display case, the wall breaking me, lacerating my kidney.

Massive pain. Truly impressive. For the second time I’ve nausea and coverd in cold sweat.

Emergency Room shoots me up with one pain killer which doesn’t work, then another shot which doesn’t do it, until finally they hit me with Fentanyl which does the trick.

Doctors Catscan me, tell me arm was recently broken and healed wrong, then cut me open and put the bone back together by screwing 2 metal plates on.

Then they say by the way the Catscan shows a lump on your lung, we need to scan it. They scan the lump and say no problem BUT what is this thing peeping up behind your left kidney where nothing’s supposed to be.

Of course it was a big mother of a rare and aggressive sarcoma cancer.

Death snaeks in your mind
looks around
rearranges the furniture

First thought was I wasn’t going to be around to watch our kitten fearless Frankie grow up. He’s had so much affection that he expects love and acceptance as his due. I wanted to see what he’d grow into with nothing but love from us. The big thought I couldn’t think was Lady, losing us, her alone – some things are not thinkable.

Anyway we’re almost done here, or as life says, “Ha!”

They gave me 5 weeks radiation, then they went in and took out the tumor and anything it touched, which included my left kidney, some colon, a few unknown nerves, fat, muscle.

Here’s a link to a photo of what they removed. The man holding it is tall and has large hands. What he’s holding looks like a deformed flesh football from a David Cronenberg movie, or a large fleshpod Yeti heart. Have to warn you, it’s creepy, but in a cheap 1950’s sci-fi film sort of way.

See THE BLOB!!! I’ve named it Evil Smith, Evil Smith has been removed, so only Nice Smith remains. Look at photo at your own risk.

Evil Smith has been removed (i.e., abdominal cancer tumor)

So, 11 hour operation, 9 days hospital, so far 19 days home basically holding on trying to outwait the pains and weakness.

And yet this is good, I’m lucky. Had I not rebroken my arm, they’d not have accidentally discovered the tumor, and I’d be heading for the off ramp. Bad is good sometimes.

Back to our weekly 2-hour helper, Cornell. Can’t remember what he said as we were drinking our coffee, but it was something about my cancer that he could not know, and as soon as he said it, I instantly pinged “magic” and looked at him, thinking he knows stuff not yet said, might be one of those angels Lady and I’ve had help us past 18 years. Tried to trip him up again but no go. Kept watching him after that though. Strangely, he worked for Lady the 2 Thursdays I was in the hospital, then told her on my release day that he’d be gone for awhile, had to go to rehab for alcohol. He’s like the Lone Ranger, appears when needed, then rides off into the sunset before you can thank him. If he comes back, we’ll have something to talk about because alcohol was the hardest drug I ever beat, I bled to death from alcohol 32 years ago, came to in ICU, walked home 3 days later, haven’t had a drink since. Of course I did shoot a lot of cocaine and crystal speed and had a 6-month Nyquil habit, but all except cannabis, caffeine , and the ocassional mushroom ceased in 1999.

At the peak of my drinking (5+ gallons of cheap white wine a week) back in April 1991, I had ballooned to 275 pounds, looked like a fat gerbil who stuffed 30 pound of nuts into its cheeks. Sweated a lot. Finally settled to a comfortable 175 after going sober, but two years ago the cancer came and I’m down to 119. Look like a concentration camp survivor. Trying to gain weight but the tumor grew so big it pushed half my stomach into my chest, so when I eat, my chest stomach fills up quickly and jumps into acid reflux mode. I kid you not, we’ve got a clusterflux going here. I have some insane script writer going waaay overboard with my arc. Haven’t even mentioned my bad arthritis which hurts top to toe 24/7, and my scoliosis bent spine which curves around and out my skinbone frame to meet every chairback to be tortured. And of course causes massive pain at the base of the spine all the time. I mean come on, who writes this kind of story? Of course as far as “Why Me” goes, have to admit my past life has been less than exemplary, so I may have earned this Hell.

Best of all is my wife, Lady. She is another angel — no, not another, she is my love angel, my caring angel, my kind angel, my friend / partner / collaborator / favorite human angel. I’m alive because of her, she’s saved my life at least 3 times now, and this current rather excessive symphony of pain is worth it to be here with her. She is my magic.

This story reminds me of film director Luis Bunuel’s 1933 documentary Land Without Bread about a Spanish people surrounded by mountains who are so poor they have no bread. At one point the monotonous narrator who is piling one dread after another into an endless mass says in the winter the ground was so frozen they stacked the dead for spring burial. After awhile, so much narrated misery morphs in my head into a dry, droll Monty Python skit of horror heaped upon horror.

Laugh if you will. I do.

Wrote this today coming home.

Dead Man’s Curve
someday I’ll ride it honestly
right now I drive alive


Saw surgeon today for endless warnings of possible but hopefully avoidable death and destruction side effects of tumor removal. She spent almost an hour telling me what could go wrong. Wow. 8-10 hour operation, may be in sedated sleep for day after, week in hospital if it goes well, 8-10 weeks recovery, lots of temporary tubes in and out for blood and juice and night soil.

Must say my reservoir of positive outlook needs re-filling. Good news is patients with female doctors survive longer and heal faster than those with male physicians.

And during all this I left camera somewhere in the hospital… a small black digital, held together by gray duct tape, but still works, mostly. May have to set-up email on my too-smart fone, use it to take fotos, mail them to myself to massage. Camera has been my constant sidekick since February 2002, 150-300 fotos per month past 21 years.

The writing’s on the wall
and the floor
the ceiling
the hall
warning danger feral Smith
keep on going you might be missed
or not
that’s the knot

Alien brains ate my gummies
corporate torts whore my tongue
chased by patriarchal mummies
eye left oblique their know no fun

I’m old and cold
but keep moving
it’s best not to stop

As words flow like liquid laughter
first slow after faster
me smart enough to know me not

I cranky curmudgeon
stumbling about in mumbling mind

Me to life:
this ain’t where I want to be.
Life to me:
deal with it.

Deconstructing Smith

Three things doctors said echo in my head:
1) “Your arm was recently broken, and healed badly.”
2) “We’ll have to take out some organs, intestine, bowel, blood vessels, muscle, fat.”
3) “Of course you have acid reflux, half your stomach’s in your chest.”

Last year forgetting my old and feeble, I lifted a 5-gallon bucket of water and heard a sharp SNAP in my bicep, followed by some serious pay-attention-to-me pain.

E.R. doctor decided my mobility looked okay and I’d heal in six weeks. Five weeks later when muscle was near better, our large dog took off after a loose dog, jerking my arm sideways. Massive pain from which I assumed was reinjured torn muscle. So another 5 weeks waiting to heal when – whammo – dog did it again. Immense pain, again assumed muscle damage. Either the first or second or both dog lunges had broken my arm.

By this time I’ve been unable to use my left arm for 3 months. I assumed the doctor had been wrong and I had torn my bicep loose, so went to family doctor. He couldn’t understand how my bicep was going horizontal instead of vertical. He sent me to a specialist.

Week before specialist, we took Marlowe (our 127 pound 11 year old Golden Lab rescue) to a dog wash, where he pooped on the floor. I scurried down 2 steps to get a poo-bag when the non-skid rubber tip of my shoe mated with the non-slip rubber grip of the step and I flew full force 6 feet into a display case, demolishing it, breaking my arm, lacerating a kidney. Pain so intense I had stomach nausea and oozed cold sweat.

Three days in E.R. and hospital. CAT-scanning my arm, they noticed a small growth on my lung. After MRI-ing it, they decided lung lump wasn’t dangerous but said hey, what’s this thing peeking up behind your kidney?

Turned out to be 10″ tall sarcoma cancer, rare, aggressive, maybe my replacement birthed by inner anger… I named it Smith 2.0.

They screwed my arm together with metal plates, so now I’ve metal in one hip, both shoulders, 2 bolts in neck, 2 plates in arm. I set off metal detectors and give glorious glowing upper body X-Rays.

Couldn’t use my left arm for a year. Got 85% of it back, which seems as much as I’m going to get.

As they plotted my cancer removal, they decided to radiate before surgery because they need to remove everything the tumor touched, which is when they casually mentioned they’d take out a kidney, spleen, etc, and had to radiate to shrink the tumor before surgery because after surgery the body couldn’t handle radiation with one kidney.

The surgery doctor said I’m dangerously underweight since I’ve lost 40 pounds past two years (down to 135 from a comfortable 175), and she wanted to bulk me up. Explained that was difficult due to my stomach acid problems and she chirped “Of course you have acid reflux, half your stomach’s in your chest.” She thinks the cancer pushed one kidney out of its way and half my stomach into my chest.

Through all this a third doctor – Dr Chemo – was drooling to give me chemo as well. Told him not likely. He asked why. Replied quality of life. He hung his head, nodded yes, then explained this is a serious sneaky aggressive tumor and could have sent offshoots anywhere in my body, and if so, only chemo can kill it. Chemotherapy is basically making your body so sick and close to dying that the weaker cancer dies first. I know people who have done it and they say dying’s better. To see if it’d spread, they shot me full of radioactive juice and gave me a PET-scan and found no runners, which totally depressed Dr Chemo who kept saying perhaps we could work some chemo in down the line.

Finished four weeks so far of five of radiation, after which they’ll wait 2 months and gut me.

The list of possible side effects of abdomenal radiation is a horror movie, too much to ponder because I’ve no options. I survived 8 weeks voice box cancer radiation 18 years ago (cancer gone) and figure I’ll beat this as well, recover from surgery, get on with my outlier life with magic wife.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of changing script writers because they’re doing me dirty.

Although, bottom line, I’m lucky – if I hadn’t broken my arm the second time in 5 months, they wouldn’t have accidentally discovered the cancer.

“Go figure” Mr V wrote in one novel, and “So it goes” in another.

I seem to be of both.





radiate – remove – recover

Shot me full of nuclear juice Wednesday, found sarcoma has not spread, so no chemo, just 3 months of Radiate – Remove – Recover

radiate, remove, recover

Here I go again, one more mission impossible… got 10″ tumor growing behind my left kidney, a rare and aggressive sarcoma.

Plan is to radiate it, then remove tumor plus anything it’s touching (kidney, spleen, some intestine and vein). Have to radiate before removal because radiation too much for single kidney to survive.

The hits keep coming. Yet I’m still here.

At my 50th birthday poetry reading, Daniel Thompson introduced me by saying no one thought I’d live to 50 due to drinking 5+ gallons of white wine weekly. I’d ballooned to 280 pounds. 27 years later I’m 140 and 33 sober.

Need a couple more tests before they can estimate mortality odds, but my plan is simple — radiate, remove, recover.

I beat throat cancer 2005. Lady survived rare eye cancer 2017. Did lose our cat though to intestinal cancer 2016.

Cancer is what happens when civilizations piss upstream, then run back down to drink, which is what happens when corporations rule our roost.

(in CAT scan foto below, mass has pushed my left kidney out of its way)

online tap water quality check by zipcode

Cleveland tap water quality test results for the Tremont neighborhood per the (Environmental Working Group) website.

Bromodichloromethane exceeds the standard by 125 times
(cancer causing)

Chloroform exceeds the standard by 30 times
(cancer causing)

Chromium (hexavalent) exceeds the standard by 5.1 times
(cancer causing)

Dibromochloromethane exceeds the standard by 36 times
(cancer causing)

Dichloroacetic acid exceeds the standard by 12 times
(cancer causing)

Nitrate exceeds the standard by 2.5 times
(cancer causing) *

Nitrate & nitrite exceed the standard by 7.3 times
(cancer causing) *

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) exceed the standard by 157 times
(cancer causing)

Trichloroacetic acid exceed the standard by 11 times
(cancer causing)

Go here and type in your zipcode to find your neighborhood’s ratings

* don’t know why they have Nitrate and Nitrate & Nitrite as 2 catagories

as if answers exist

Status Report 253

Walking on egg shells
in quicksand
covering void
over nothing.

My companion faces equation
but I have no numbers
and cannot do the math.

Our quest lies in questions
that do not know answers.

As if answers exist.

I love
and am loved
yet may lose
though I’ve gained.

– Smith, 3.21.2017

Lady K eye tumor update as positive as possible

Lady K had a cat scan today to see if her eye cancer had spread. It tends to spread to and from the liver and lungs.

Her liver is clean, and they found a couple small spots in her lungs which they say are probably benign and nothing to worry about, but which they will keep an eye on just in case – and if it is cancer, it’s early enough to stop it before it gets started.

So essentially this is as positive a prognosis as one could hope for, especially since her eye tumor is a rare type of cancer (perhaps 2.5 cases in a million) and is aggressive.

So Friday they are going to partially pop out her eyeball, sew a small curved radioactive bead containing 21 radioactive seeds to the rear left side of her left eye, pop her eyeball back in, sew the conjunctiva closed (the mucous membrane that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of the eyelids) and keep her isolated in a hospital room for three nights, then remove the radioactive bead Monday morning and send her home.

At some point in the next three weeks, the stitches will dissolve and her eye will open again. She’ll wear an eye patch until then.

Doc says her prognosis for killing the tumor is 95-97%. Since there’s no known cancer elsewhere, her outlook is good, and they’ll keep monitoring her monthly for 6 months then yearly through five years to see if it springs up elsewhere.

It’s lousy to get cancer, but since she has it, this is as good an initial prognosis as possible.

This will make two cancer survivors in our family. We did lose a third family member to intestinal cancer – our cat Mandy.

future hope – Lady’s 7 month-old niece Liberty Lynn Green