The Chemotherapy Blues

February 1, 2016

Cancer and the blues go together like chemotherapy and hair loss.

"Of course, there are a lot of ways you can treat the blues, but it will still be the blues." - Count Basie

Recently, I was asked by a client what going through chemotherapy is like. I was immediately thrown into a quandary by this question. Should I answer honestly and say that it's like checking oneself into a vampire hotel where the life force is systematically drained from you? Should I mention that the list of possible things that can go wrong is enough to require a valium drip so that one stays in the seat and does not bolt for the door?

Perhaps, I should answer with a more fanciful tone: Tell him that it’s like being hooked up to your own private video game where tiny little Pac Men are sent coursing through the blood devouring the evil cancer cells. I could assure him that the hair loss, low blood cell counts and fatigue are simply signs that the one is winning.

There was always the third option of the oblique answer: "It’s not as bad as you might think and I’ve had root canals go worse."

Since none of these options felt like they would be helpful, I turned instead to something I wrote while going through my own treatment called, "The CheMo Better Blues." I penned it after having one of my sessions called off due to a low white cell count. Rather than being elated that I would not have to undergo another five hours in the chemo chair that day, I was left feeling ... well, here’s how I felt:

Editor's note: Peyton Wimmer, a friend of Mike Verano, recorded the song and sent it to us.

The CheMo Better Blues

My arms are achin’

My nerves are shakin’

Ain't front page news

Just the chemo better blues

My counts been droppin’

So the treatment’s stoppin’

Ain't nothin’ I'd choose

Just them chemo better blues

Like a bird that can't fly

Like drugs with no high

Feeling drunk with no booze

Got the chemo better blues

Sittin’ and stewin’

On my lip I’ve been chewin’

Just shortenin’ the fuse

Waitin’ on chemo better blues

Fillin’ the verses

With doctors and nurses

It’s no joke

It’s no ruse

Just the high flyin’

Catfish fryin’

I ain't lyin’

Chemo better blues

I had considered putting the lyrics to music, since there was a time when I could hammer out some 12-bar blues on my Martin acoustic guitar I bought myself for my 40th birthday. Sadly, I have the type of vocal stylings that would cause the old Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson to roll over in his grave. That being said, I now turn these lyrics over to the CURE community and have only two requests of anyone who wants to put them to music: If your YouTube version goes viral, please mention me as the lyricist and send me the video link.


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