Trying Anything

Heal, Summer 2008, Volume 2, Issue 2

From Cancer on $5 a Day* / *chemo not included: How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life By Robert Schimmel, with Alan Eisenstock

From Cancer on $5 a Day* / *chemo not included: How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My LifeBy Robert Schimmel, with Alan Eisenstock

In 2000, comedian Robert Schimmel, a well-known entertainer with both Showtime and HBO specials to his credit, began filming Schimmel, his own sitcom. But it was not to be. Soon after finishing the pilot in Los Angeles, Schimmel was performing in Las Vegas when the night sweats and chills he had chalked up to stress took him to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. After learning he had stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his personal life became a bit more complicated when his “about to be ex-wife for the third time” offered to care for him in the home they had shared in Arizona.

Through it all, Schimmel turned to his life’s elixir — humor. The infusion room became his stage, his oncologist an audience of one, and, eventually, his entire cancer experience was mined for material to use in his act. Schimmel also learned about himself during the cancer as he struggled with particularly nasty side effects from chemo. He began pursuing a number of complementary therapies such as Reiki, acupuncture and meditation to take, as he called it, “an hour vacation from the horror of chemo and the madness that surrounds it.” In this excerpt from his book, wife/ex-wife Vicki has suggested he try crystal therapy.

"What do I have to do?" I ask Vicki.

"That's the best part. Nothing. She comes to you. she brings everything, candles, music, and the crystals, of course. This could be very good for you, Robert. It's all about connecting to your inner place of healing."

I don’t know. I’m open to almost anything, but this sounds wacky.”

“It’s not. Crystal therapy goes back thousands of years, to the ancient Hindus. Oh, one thing. She’s really booked up so the only time I could schedule her is tomorrow at two, and that’s when you’re supposed to be at the clinic.”

“Yeah, no problem. Let’s cancel my appointment at the clinic so I can spend the afternoon with some crazy lady and her rock collection. Like I would ever do that.”

So the next day at two I’m lying in bed with candles burning on my nightstand, while Inez, a woman in sandals and a flowing floral robe, hovers over me, her fists closed and bulging with crystals, Yanni singing from her portable CD player.

By the way, I’m pretty sure I’ve discovered the cure for cancer.

Yanni.

If I beat this thing, it’s because the cancer cells couldn’t stand Yanni anymore. They packed up and got the hell out of my body as fast as they could so they wouldn’t have to listen to any more of that music.

“How you doing, Robert?”

Inez speaks in a superhigh voice loaded with sympathy. Her voice is birdlike. She chirps.

“Fine. Doing great.”

“That’s wonderful. Okay. What we’re going to do is locate your seven chakras. You know what a chakra is?”

“An ice cream flavor?”

Inez chirps, “Not quite. Your seven chakras are the areas in your body that need to be aligned and in balance to promote health and healing. They’re your meditative spots. Including, by the way, your third eye. Your disease blocks your chakras, clogs them up, so to speak. The crystals, specifically the one you choose, will help in the unclogging, alignment, and balancing. Understand?”

I don’t have the vaguest idea what she’s talking about. “Got it,” I say.

“Great. Robert, you’re very spiritual.” Chirp, chirp, chirp. “Okay, now close your eyes.”

I do. I smell a whiff of strawberry wafting over from the candles. Behind me, Yanni’s yowling as if he’s got somebody’s thumb up his ass.

“Now, I want you to hold out your hands. At the same time, I’m going to hold out a selection of crystals. With your eyes closed, pick one.”

“What am I feeling for?”

“The right one. For you.” She pauses. “I don’t have to say anything more. You’ll just know.”

I shrug and cloes my eyes. I wonder how this would look to Dr. Lugo if he walked in now. Not sure I'd be able to explain the crystal lady to him. I might just go with, Okay, doc, here's the truth. I'm an easy mark.

I shrug and close my eyes. I wonder how this would look to Dr. Lugo if he walked in now. Not sure I’d be able to explain the crystal lady to him. I might just go with, Okay, doc, here’s the truth. I’m an easy mark.

“Robert,” Inez tweets, “the main thing is to clear your mind. Don’t think. Feel.”

I nod and reach out my hand. My fingers fumble through the crystals in Inez’s hand, four or five cool, smooth, jagged little torpedoes. I touch each of them, and then I feel my fingers involuntarily closing around one near the hook of her thumb.

“This one,” I say. “Yeah. This is the one.”

“Perfect,” Inez trills.

I open my eyes and observe the pale blue stone pressed into my palm.

“You’ve chosen kyanite,” she says. “Kyanite is the absolute best stone for aligning the chakras. And it helps you communicate with your spirit guides and angels.”

“Sounds like I’m already dead.”

“Not quite,” Inez says. ...

Robert Schimmel recovered, resumed performing, remarried and, in 2003, on the third anniversary of his diagnosis, became a father again, to son Sam. His son Max was born two years later.