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Flush Twice

Revisiting ‘Never the Same Again” in the Chemo Lounge

By Margaret Moser, 1:47PM, Thu. May. 30, 2013

Flush Twice

Chemo’s kicking my ass. When I first got cancer, I was desperate for something to relate this horrific news to. Not a counseling group or a shrink. I wanted to know who else had danced eyeball-to-eyeball with the Grim Reaper. I found it in Jesse Sublett’s Never the Same Again.

Sublett wrote the autobiography almost 10 years ago, in 2004. Never the Same Again still brims with local color and acute observations on the Austin punk scene, as befits his continued status as leader of the Skunks. The Skunks and the Violators (with Sublett, Carla Olsen, and Kathy Valentine) had doubled-billed at Raul’s a couple weeks after the Sex Pistols’ San Antonio shoot-out in 1978, catching the wave of those who attended as well as those who didn’t.

Yet Sublett wanted more than rockstardom. He was bitten by the writing bug and took a 90-degree turn into that field with success, first as a modern noir author (Rock Critic Murders, Grave Digger Blues) and later as a screenwriter, among other efforts. More eerily, he’d once been a suspect in the murder of his then-girlfriend Dianne Roberts, which the book details.

Along the way, a diagnosis of a rare cancer in Stage IV – missed in initial exams – jerked him up by the short hairs. Given less than a 9% chance of survival, he underwent treatment that the word “grueling” barely describes.

His writing about the vicious disease and its tortuous treatment almost hurt to read the first time – Jesse’s been my friend since the earliest punk rock days – but now I take a cold solace in his black-and-white descriptions of the various stages of treatment. He too received advice, solicited and otherwise.

“Flush twice,” one friend told him. “That shit’s toxic.”

That advice makes me laugh darkly. And I’ve started flushing twice.

“Shave your head now and save yourself the heartache of seeing your hair fall out,” an unknown well-wisher offered me on Facebook. Um, that’s okay. My particular type of chemo is different from the more brutal one for, say, breast cancer, where hair loss is almost guaranteed. Different strokes for different chemo folks, it seems.

At nearly halfway through treatment and three months out of surgery, I get around great, and no longer use the store carts much, except during chemo days when even walking to the mailbox can be taxing. Yet my memories of cart use are good. The numbers of strangers who offered to reach high shelves or help with items was remarkable. I miss the knowing nods from the other cart users and now I always offer to help cart people.

It’s a strange, unpredictable disease. Sometimes it seems as though the cancer gods decreed, “Okay, so we’re giving you a rotten form of cancer, but hey, thanks to the forced weight loss, we’ll give you back that girlish figure from the Seventies and you can buy off the rack at Scarbrough’s in regular sizes again.

“No more fat girl!”

Vanity’s unrepentant.

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