The first breakfast that arrived at my hospital bedside astonished me.

In one corner of the large tray sat a big cup of a dark brown liquid probably meant to be coffee, topped with a plastic cap to prevent spillage. Next to it sat a "milker", which is not a miniature Swiss miss leaning her forehead against a contented cow while pulling the teats, but another piece of plastic containing high-fat milk. Then a white-sugar baggie. Next to that, another plastic, mass-produced milk container with white stuff I haven’t drunk for years, since I learned about all the messing around with hormones and chemicals in the so called dairy industry. Across the tray leftwards stood a small plasticised-cardboard tub of ice cream, its contents, including chemicals and carcinogens, neatly printed on its cover in a font designed for ants. Finally, the piece de resistance: a large, unadorned brick of dark green jello.

Have you ever read the contents on a jello box? (Bring your extra-strength reading glasses if you’re new to the fine art of ingredient-watching.)

Good morning, Cancer Patient! Want to have another go?

Every meal arrived on trays with niches for cups, bowls, and plates, make of a durable brown plastic, the kind that will not betray the iniquity of a lazy dishwasher and assures us that it will probably last about 10,000 years beyond the last human. The double-walled bowls and cups were made of the same stuff, and although the plates were ceramic, they came covered with lids of the stuff. I began to wonder whether anyone connected to the hospital had studied the effects of all that plastic on hot food. Were the lids dripping minute particles of themselves into the coffee, tea, soup and entrees? What about those liquids spending half an hour in their stay-warm containers?

Buon Appetito, Cancer Patient! Helping you restore your levels of carcinogenic intake!

Good thing, I had no appetite. For someone whose theory is that we’re getting cancer in droves because the world is full of carcinogens which we can’t help but ingest, the presentation of such a breakfast makes it plain that the gods are laughing at our frantic attempts to curb the results of our own excesses.

A cynic could consider cancer a natural form of population control. Only problem is, it’s non-selective. I may agree with the principle that we should curb our population, but when it comes to being one of those culled by cancer, I blurt, "Oh, but I didn’t mean me!"

Those first breakfasts returned intact to the kitchen. Later I saw that "return to the kitchen" did not actually happen: all uneaten food was scraped off into a large bucket. In six days, my presence contributed a lot to that bucket.

The same headliners appeared daily, only varying the dark brown liquid with a harsh-smelling black tea which seemed likely to have been brewed from the cheapest possible bags,made from floor scrapings. Only the jello bricks transformed themselves into, of all things, chocolate cake. If you’ve ever had a belly incision, you’ll remember viewing toast, croutons, and cake-y things with distrust, lest they make you cough. All three arrived in those first five post-op days, along with roast potatoes that, according to my visitor, tasted like playdough, cheese-fried steak, half-cooked tasteless spinach, spicy navy-bean soup, raw salad, uncooked prunes, and packaged waffles, among other things.

Huh? Red meat is supposedly one of the bad guys in instigating colon cancer. I’ve read research results indicate that dairy is one of the best media for growing cancers.And if you google post-hemicolectomy diet (which I foolishly did not do before entering hospital), you see that raw foods and fruit are to be avoided after surgery, along with anything that might move with difficulty through your highly tender and swollen plumbing.

In six days I swallowed perhaps five to six cups of food, including some tasty cream soups, cream of wheat, and most of a quite delicious chicken dinner. It’s not that the kitchen can’t cook, not at all. It’s that there appears to be no intelligent connection between the kitchen and the hospital at large.

Obviously the great edifice of cancer expertise would not exist without patients–but must I get cancer again? Isn’t it okay to get well now?

What fools these mortals be!

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