Friday, January 23, 2009

Words can't hurt you

The best way to confront fear is to look at it from a fresh perspective.

For me, that means expressing whatever is freaking me out into a few words, writing those words down, and asking myself:

"Say, can I make this into an anagram?"

An anagram of a word or phrase is the same letters in a different order. An anagram of the name ROD BLAGOJEVICH, for example, happens to be:


See how the anagram helps you understand that nutjob governor of Illinois just a little better? (Don't ask me why the word "anagram" itself is not an anagram of anything, or why the word "palindrome" is not a palindrome.)

My point is, when I know the anagram of something, I understand it better. And if the thing scares me, the fear goes away.

A few Wednesdays ago my friend Chuck brought me to Kaiser Hospital so I could check in for surgery: a tracheotomy and a biopsy of my tongue.

The tracheotomy part of the procedure had me freaking out until I sat down with a pencil and pad of paper and discovered that TRACHEOTOMY is just another way of saying:


When I woke up in the recovery room late that afternoon and felt my neck, I said, "Oh, this must be my other taco." Made a potentially harrowing realization almost fun.

Right now, I am spooked about the next milestone in my cancer odyssey. On Monday, I am seeing my head and neck surgeon and then will head to Kaiser's Tumor Board.

As I understand it, the Tumor Board will review my case and then evaluate me. Then they will disappear behind closed doors and discuss what they see.

When I reunite with the Tumor Board later in the day, they will have a recommendation for treatment of my cancer.

I am spooked in a major way about the Tumor Board. Before last week, I had never heard of a Tumor Board before. To confront it for the first time and realize that it likely will shape my future with this disease is pretty nerve-rattling. (A friend sought to allay my fears by telling me that a Tumor Board is "like a surf board but with more lumps.")

But then I sat down to reshuffle the letters in TUMOR BOARD. Here's what I came up with:




B.M. RUT? OR D.O.A.?


I'm aware that those anagrams make little sense. They may even reveal more about me than they reveal about the Tumor Board. And no disrespect is intended on my part; I have been blown away by the quality of care that I have received at Kaiser since becoming a patient there.

But the Tumor Board isn't nearly so frightening to me now. What good is fear, anyhow?

What was it that F.D.R. once said? All we have to fear is FIT ELF EARS . . . or IF EELS FART . . . or A RIFLE FEST . . . or . . .


  1. Paul -- I always knew you had a brain. What is an anagram for You Have Guts? -- Marvin

  2. Reading your blog makes me feel like you are sitting next to me with your great sense of humor. I wish others who are going through similar "life lessons" could learn from you and you then can be their source of inspiration! I look forward to see you next week. So ... if we go out for coffee, what tube does that go into?

    Love ya ... Mike

  3. Paul, you are so hilarious! Thank you for the anagrams. They really made me laugh. I may try some myself! :)