“How can you convey the fact that the presence of somebody is greater or different from their appearance?” asked British artist Antony Gormley. This was the question behind his 1999 QUANTUM CLOUDS series. This will also be the question I consistently ask as I begin my treatment protocol at MD Anderson on Tuesday, November 15.
The good news is that the cancer (stage 2) has not spread. However, due to the size of the mass – I like that term better than “tumor” – its aggressive nature and my “young” age, doctors want to aggressively attack using chemotherapy. Every Tuesday for the next three months, I will receive the drug Taxol via a port. (My first treatment will be via IV; I undergo day surgery for a port on 11/21 for the remaining treatments.) Three months of Taxol will be followed by three months of a combination of drugs Brad the Pharmacist refers to as AC. This is a more potent cocktail; therefore, I will only get this every three weeks.
My appearance will change. My hair will begin to thin and fall out after a few treatments. I’m contemplating a Penguin Cap, as researched by the dearest Mo Taxon – my childhood, son of a rabbi friend who, perhaps fortuitously, is now in the medical marijuana business, among other ventures. I am so grateful for his loyalty and kindness. I could also purchase a new Hermes scarf each month for the same price as renting the Penguin Cap. I’m leaning toward the scarves.
This piece, part of Antony Gormley’s QUANTUM CLOUDS series, is in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Fisher Collection, donated by founders of Bay Area-based Gap Inc. My arrival in San Francisco this summer unwittingly coincided with Pride Day, the largest in the country. I took in the colorful festivities for an hour or so, then walked to the SFMOMA, also unaware that it recently reopened after a three -year, 10-story expansion. The collection was so stunning that I had to take two separate rosé breaks in Cafe 5‘s sculpture garden to fully absorb it all.
Pulled from the artist’s website:
“Antony Gormley is widely acclaimed for his sculptures, installations and public artworks that investigate the relationship of the human body to space. His work has developed the potential opened up by sculpture since the 1960s through a critical engagement with both his own body and those of others in a way that confronts fundamental questions of where human beings stand in relation to nature and the cosmos. Gormley continually tries to identify the space of art as a place of becoming in which new behaviours, thoughts and feelings can arise.”
This artist statement pretty much sums up my state of mind right now. I am struggling against my body and asking hard questions. Sitting across from Brad the Pharmacist yesterday as he detailed the three chemicals that will soon course through my veins, I went in and out of awareness: the side effects, the need to find an emergency room if I develop a fever higher than 101 degrees, the word port. “Your life can really change on a dime,” Mark said on the ten-minute drive home from MD Anderson.
“It is an open question in the QUANTUM CLOUDS, whether the body is emerging from a chaotic energy field or the field from the body,” writes Gormley. The next six-to-eight months, my body will house much chaos, but it, I and my family will emerge. For now, the shock has set in and I’m just ready to start.