Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 34

Survivorship

HAUNTED

Staff called for me, and the next 60
minutes or so were a blur of nurses, anesthesiologists and my surgeon going over policies and asking
questions. The same questions over,
and over, and over. A mask finally
covered my nose and mouth, and it
was time to say good riddance to my
cancer for good.
"Bye, Vlad," I said in my head.
Staring at the wall became my
main entertainment during the next
two days in the hospital. My body
lacked the energy for such strenuous activities as holding my phone
or raising my eyes to the TV. I kept

"Dead?... Oh, don't worry. As a
ghost I won't leave."
"I don't want to talk to you. You
should be gone. Just leave me alone.
I need sleep."
"Okay. That's fine. I can visit you
there, too."
When Vlad spoke to me I could
hear his slimy smirk. This ghost had
no trouble communicating with my
living body.
Two weeks after surgery, my urologist confirmed at the follow-up
that Vlad was the type of cancer we
thought. Congratulations! I was cancer-free as far as anyone knew. There

"No, I hate you. I hate what you and your friends do to so
many people in this world. I just know that it's important
that I don't turn my back on you."
wondering if this was what existence
is like for old people with dementia.
A foggy mind and sensitive abdomen meant that I had no complaints
about sitting still and competing
in a staring contest with the white,
white wall.
Though I could still move only as
well as an 80-year-old, it was a relief
to be home with my precious pup on
the night of January 5th. Moving was
work, getting into bed might as well
have been climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. As I let myself close my eyes that
night, I got the answer to a question
I hadn't dared to ask. Vlad was still
there.
"I've been lonely. It's been too quiet.
Let's talk, shall we?"
"Vlad, you're dead. You can't still
be talking to me. How are you here?"

34

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
JUNE 2020

was just one problem: I was being
haunted from inside my own body.
Participating in kidney health
symposiums, attending charity walks
and even venturing on rock climbing
trips for young adult cancer survivors were not enough to exorcise my
demon. Even if I called upon Saint
Peregrine Laziosi, patron saint of
cancer patients, I knew Vlad could
not be persuaded to leave.
"Pretty day. Just like the day we
met. Ah, memories."
"Vlad, we need to talk."
"Uh-oh. Here it comes. You said it."
Vlad chuckled.
"My life has completely changed
since we met," I said. "I see the world
differently. I've lost weight. I have...
a new puppy."
"Oh, I saw! He's a cutie. Shame

what happen..."
"Vlad, there's no room for you in
my life now, but I know you don't
want to leave."
"Give it up. Been over this. SO not
leaving."
"No, that's fine. I understand. I
wanted to let you know that I'm not
okay with you being here, but it's
fine. The world I knew is gone now,
and I can't get rid of you. I don't even
really want to. You've changed me,
and you're part of me forever. I don't
want to be complacent, and I don't
want to go back. You remind me to
look around and really see what's
there. Do you understand?"
Vlad was silent for three full seconds, a new record in his conversations. Then he said, "No, not really.
You're weird. Are we friends now?"
"No, I hate you. I hate what you and
your friends do to so many people
in this world. I just know that it's
important that I don't turn my back
on you."
"Okay then. Well. I'll be HERE."
Vlad still talks to me, and I think
he always will. He's no longer a vampire slowly killing me. But as a demonic ghost, he both goads me forward and prods me when I'm down.
Vlad came with me on a recent trip
with fellow cancer survivors down
the Green River in Utah. Yet, his
muttering was a dull annoyance
compared to the beauty of the red
sandstone and shooting stars that
became my new friends on the trek.
I welcome Vlad in my life, but I also
wish I had never met him.
If you're listening now, Vlad, I just
want you to hear this: "Shut up. I'm
here, too. Come at me." l


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Elephants And Tea - June 2020

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Elephants And Tea - June 2020 - 1
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