Hello, Everybody—nice seeing you again.
I have a dayjob at a dog magazine, and when I first started there people kept telling me about the dog with no nose. They said he lived somewhere in the neighborhood of our office, and that occasionally they would see him outside being walked. As an extremely gullible person, I am always a little afraid of being pranked, and for a long while I thought this was probably just some kind of initiation trick, like going to camp as a kid and being sent on a snipe hunt or when the other production staff at the Village Voice used to threaten me with tales of Gauzehead, the dreaded specter of Deadline Doom. I did actually see Gauzehead once, and he was truly terrifying. He also had an uncanny resemblance to Andrea, the drummer for the Fuzztones,
but I’m sure that was just a coincidence.
Anyway, one day I went out for lunch very late, later than usual. I was talking on my cell phone to DJ Amanda, when I saw him—The Dog with No Nose. It is almost impossible to describe what he looks like, because it’s just so wrong. He’s a nice old Golden-Retriever-looking fella who’s missing the top front half of his face. His tongue laps out periodically as if he’s trying to smell things with it like a snake. He shuffles along the street leaving a wake of double-takes and horrified looks from the people he passes. “Omigod!” I hissed into the phone. “It’s The Dog With No Nose!” “Oh, I’ve seen him,” Amanda replied. It turned out she knew all about him, having run into him once when she took her Puli , Dodger, to the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.
This would seem to confirm some of our office speculation that The Dog With No Nose lost his nose due to some awful accident or maybe an illness, dog nose cancer or something. Dogs are not vain, so the ghastly disfigurement probably doesn’t worry him, but how does he get along without the sense of smell that is so important to dogs? Was his nose removed to save his life, and was that a kindness or not, given the circumstances?
I have been thinking a lot about The Dog With No Nose lately, since my skin cancer’s come back all across the tip of my nose and a little spot on my upper lip. I’m just finishing my fourth week of chemo, and my nose is coming off in hunks. I realize now I’ve always been rather fond of my nose. I stare at it in the mirror and suddenly find it perfectly adorable. I know I’m going to miss it if they have to take it off. Having been through cancer twice before myself, and having been the friend or relative of a number of other people who have had other types of cancers, I know it’s difficult sometimes for well-meaning friends to know what to say or do. Of course, everyone is different in their reaction to serious illness, but here are a few things I’d like my friends to keep in mind, and maybe other folks would find these helpful as well:
1. Please don’t be afraid to ask how I’m doing. I want to know you care about that. But please don’t call me at work and ask for the full report while I’m sitting in a cubicle. E-mail is probably the best way to contact me, because even when I’m home I may be tired or may not feel like talking right that moment about being sick. Send me an e-mail and tell me you’re thinking of me. Tell me I can call you anytime if I feel like talking. Think of something fun we can do together that doesn’t involve my sitting in direct sunshine. Please don’t disappear from my life just because you’re afraid you’ll say the wrong thing. Telling me you care about me is always appropriate.
2. Please be optimistic, but don’t tell me your elderly uncle had skin cancer and the doctor just scraped it off and he was fine. I really hate it when people act like skin cancer is baby beginner training wheels cancer and not the “real thing.” I have already endured being told I was going to lose an eye from this. I have been through two major operations—one took four hours, and the other five hours, and I had to be conscious during both of them while pieces of my face were being removed. The left half of my face is so scarred up it looks like a hippie chick’s patchwork handbag. On the other hand, I don’t want to hear about how many people die from skin cancer every year, either. So this is tricky, I know. Maybe you can just concentrate on how lucky I am to live in New York, where there are so many great doctors to help me. There have been some terrific advances in treatment since I had my surgeries a few years ago--that’s a good thing to keep in mind, too.
3. Make me laugh. Send me a funny card, or a copy of the funniest book you’ve ever read. E-mail me a joke. Send me a DVD of a funny movie. If you’re SURE you know my sense of humor, you can even make jokes about my stupid illness. DJ Kelly told me that if I had to have some of my nose removed, she would donate tissue from her ass to replace it. This made me howl, because she knows her ass is a never-ending source of hilarity to me.
4. IF you can do it honestly, compliment me on some aspect of my appearance. Not only does my face look weird right now, but being sick makes me feel ugly. On the other hand, I’ve recently lost 22 pounds and I look pretty good. I just got a great haircut. Saying something nice would really boost my mood right now, if it’s sincere. We had a small electrical fire in our office last week, and the cutest fireman came to check it out. I said something flirtatious to him, and HE FLIRTED BACK. I can’t tell you how great that made me feel.
5. Pray for me. Scientists and experts have found that other people’s prayers have a positive effect on the recovery of sick people, even if the sick people don’t know they’re being prayed for. So please put in a good word for me with your deity of choice, or just picture me happy and healthy, flirting with some fireman, my adorable little nose intact. I’d really appreciate it.
Thanks for reading my blog entry, and may God bless.