The only symptoms were itching. The prognosis was slightly incredible - a type of cancer that only one in a half million Americans get, and my chances of survival were one-in-ten.
That was the beginning of the journey. Along the way were anger and surprise and relief and fear ... a bone marrow transplant ... and the feeling of being in a strange country whimsically designed for the absurd.
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From Cancer Country
"In the Medieval world, Death was the standard guy with the scythe, coming around when your time was up. Now then, one morning, drinking coffee in my kitchen around 10 AM, I looked out the window and saw, a few houses away, a twenty-year old guy with a clipboard - a Mormon, a Jehovah's Witness, or a college kid with some environmental issue.
I then had this weird vision of him being Death, of him having started his canvassing miles and miles away, way up in northeast Portland or somewhere, and now, after 67 years of human life, he had made it down here, to me, and in about five minutes would be knocking at the door, and I'd answer it, and he'd ask me if I like unpolluted air and clean water and tall trees, and I'd say Yes, and then he'd ask me for a donation, and I'd write a check, and then I'd sign his petition, and then all this world would be gone, just like that. All the places I'd hoped to travel to - forget it. All the years left with family and friends - over. Yes, that's it, I thought: the Medieval people had a nice thing going with the black hooded figure and the scythe, but he was so out of date, so past-millennia. This was our hooded guy now: a door-to-door canvasser, clipboard, politeness, a good cause. Death handing you a ballpoint pen that only half-worked."