Mustard Gas & The Asian Happy Tree (pt.1)

Most people are other people.  Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

–oscar wilde

You know me, though.

I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known but I don’t walk around the house like a champion.  Instead I am simply that 1 in 8 statistic – the pink spiney elephant in the room who has outgrown its’ glass vivarium – that friend-ofa-friend of whom the other 1 in 8’s whisper about –  that actress in the movie last Sunday who won an award for being so brave as to shave her head and for vomiting and crying at the same time – that Large Corporation down the block near your house funded by glowing hairless shrinking pin-cushion people like me.   My shell doesn’t look like it does on the inside and you can’t see that part because I don’t really want you to. (I have a lot to lose should you know what I know/ see what I see.) I am buff and in good physical shape. I am pretty all wrapped up in valentine-colored rubber bracelets and silver inscribed bangles, holograms of flashy red laser beams, (thank you General Electric) and this GREAT new tan. New tan, new boobs! Oh, let me move my long beautiful 100% Russian harvested human hair swim-wig out of the way so you can read my ribbon-font inscribed t-shirt that I got from someone as a gift.

“I am a survivor.” Awsome.  (btw, come on down to the Walkathon and throw money at me while I dance in the sun for you.) Well worth the million dollar donation and you can get a toothy autographed snapshot of me with Susan G.



It’s just an acquaintance, really.  Actually, we worked together very closely for a short period of time recently; couple of years now.  I can’t be certain that I will never see it again but I am still planning an enthusiastic baai baai party (Cantonese for goodbye). Though it leaves me with rake-marks and no promises of acting out in it’s serial-killer / stalker tendencies,  I find it is  easier to write about  now that it is leaving. I am not sad to see it go and I hold no grudges that it bothered to show up in the first place. Holding a grudge is letting an emotional tenant live rent free in my head. Though it has offered a life-changing adventure, that bird can just kick it on down the road. My hostess days are over, we are officially splitsville.

At least for now thanks to the epoxy cocktail of Mustard Gas and some bark from an Asian Happy Tree.

The beginnings of the modern era of cancer chemotherapy can be traced directly to the discovery of nitrogen mustard, a chemical warfare agent. That’s right. There is even “Topical Nitrogen Mustard” which sounds like a very expensive Beverly Hills Spa treatment with a disclaimer reading “do not apply on sensitive areas as the face and genitals.” Nitrogen mustard gas was stockpiled by several nations during the Second World War but it is said to have never been used in combat. It is also said that by the end of World War I, chemical weapons, mustard gas in particular, had killed a total of 33,000 men and injured up to 690,000. Nitrogen mustards are powerful and persistent blister agents and are classified as Schedule 1 Agents within the Chemical Weapons Convention. Secret human clinical trials of nitrogen mustards for several blood cancers had begun in December of 1942. “Production and use is therefore strongly restricted”; well I should hope so! And regulated! I mean with so much of it on the shelf just sitting there, might as well see if we can recycle it. This makes me feel so much better as I watched it drip into my veins for a variant of long hours last spring.

My particular cocktail was Cytoxan and Taxotere. Part One as mentioned above has it’s roots in evil-doing; warfare and rage against an enemy. Part Two on the other hand, with taxanes,  are made  from the bark of the Pacific Yew tree (taxus) otherwise known as the Asian Happy Tree. If life and the Universe have pronounced metaphors of contradiction, here is one good example. The “Happy Tree” or “Tree of Joy” (Xi Shu) is also known as the Cancer Tree and is native to China. It is called the Happy Tree because of it’s uses in curing illness and colds. “The tree is tall (20 — 30 meters) and straight upwards, which looks like a handsome man. And the leaves, light green and bright, a huge canopy on top of the tree. Once you see the tree, you cannot help being happy. That might be why it is called Xi (happy) Shu (tree).”

The above is a summary of a Chinese online blog.

In the 1770s, Chinese herbalists found its medicinal functions — to treat cancers, the excitement you can imagine. They think surely the tree can bring people happiness, and thus they name the tree as ‘happy tree’. It was supposedly discovered in 1966, (1958 depending on who you’re talking to) by M. E. Wall and M. C. Wani in systematic screening of natural products for anticancer drugs. I liked that the bark could be used without harvesting the entire tree. But then I discovered that the tree may now be considered as “Endangered” by the government of China and export is severely restricted. It is estimated that less than 4,000 of the trees remain in the wild in China.

Chemotherapy seems like such a cruel joke. One part gives, one part takes away. Similarly, a common faultline in human nature. I can spot it on the streets from a mile away. So many odd parallels have happened during this adventure; I walk around looking at the world through pink-rimmed, highly fashionable mustard colored glasses. The Cancer industry is thriving and in my search to find what treatment opportunities I might have missed, I find more on the one I chose. Drink it down; I am finding that the rabbit hole is a rich place with it’s muses and antagonists.


About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mustard Gas & The Asian Happy Tree (pt.1)

  1. madelinelaughs says:

    I don’t know how you do it, but you added your own special light while sharing a small piece of the dark. Beautifully written and composed. I look forward to your Part 2.


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