Brain Cancer in a Dramamine Age

I think it was the wind, the hot, dusty wind. When I realized that the wind was carrying lead, and that the entire city of San Salvador was being exposed from that blasted Record Battery operation in San Juan Opico, El Salvador, my brain internalized the situation, and I felt that I was stricken with lead poisoning. I had a severe spiking, headwrapping headache for day after day, then began to suffer bouts of vomitting. I became weak, lost all appetite, and became very sensitive to light and noises. Even talking, caused spasms of pain in my skull.

In this condition, I wrote that damn article, “No Place for the Weak”, published on this website on March 28. Indeed. Yet, I had become weak. I staggered when I tried to walk, and had visions of death squads and lead poisoned children. I went to the doctor at a private hospital in San Salvador. He prescribed an intravenous dose of dramamine after diagnosing me with a migraine headache. As I watched the nurse deliver the bolus into the brachial vein of my right arm, I waited for a dramamine rush, some indication that relief was on the way. It did not come. Dramamine is a very useful drug, which has been the drug of choice for decades to relieve the vomiting of carsick children in the back seats of the Nashes and Chevrolet’s as they crossed the nauseating plains of North America. I waited for relief.

I was surprised to read that there was a potential for dramamine abuse, and that if one took a large enough dose, hallucinations and a kind of alternate reality might be presented. Successful dramamine trippers had benign, non-threatening hallucinations that have nonetheless been known to panic some adventurers. The other noted side effect is a feeling of having very heavy, “leaden” legs. After my initial loading dose at the hospital, I did maintain a certain dramamine level, in fear of the vomiting, more than in hopes of having a good dramamine trip. I caught my flights from San Salvador to Newark on April 1.

As I staggered through the endless security at Miami International Airport, weaving and staggering through the endless cattle lines waiting to be searched, I found myself walking like Hunter Thompson in the depths of an ether binge. I was further staggered when the youthful Transportation Safety Officer gave me a 15 minute lecture about how NEVER to carry any metal through the metal detector. He had me isolated in a glass booth, as he yelled “SEGUNDO, Assistance Needed!” I had set off the alarm twice. My shoes were off. The minutes dragged. It was an hallucinatory feeling, but at least I was not projectile vomitting, and I nodded as he talked on about the importance of not setting off the metal detectors. Where do they find these people? The kid looked a bit like Johnny Depp; I was hallucinating. I had, 58 years into my life, connected with dramamine at last. I had mainlined it, taken it orally, and what next, snorting crushed up lines on barroom tables in a “No Cover” Bar in San Salvador? To what depths could a man sink? The TSA Johnny Depp wanded me, ran his hands down my fly, ran his hands around the inseams of my pants, caressed my ass firmly as he looked for what? He waved me on, having had his way with me. I staggered off, looking for a place to buy a soda, and take another 100 milligrams of dramamine.

At least I was clear of that damned lead, those vicious death squads, or was I? A member of the oligarchy, Juan Carlos Sol, had written me an ominous email; he said he knew where I lived and that he was an ARENA Party supporter, because he HAD to live in El Salvador, whereas I could escape to Pennsylvania. I saw his face in my mind, leathery and reptilian, an old hardened visage similar to the one of Jose Napoleon Altimirano that appears in every issue of El Diario de Hoy. These people will never give up their power. They are as old and vicious as the flesh eating dinosaurs, and are holding on to their predatory position at the peak of society in any way they can.

The structures of the death squads of the 1980’s in El Salvador are still in place, with their connections to the National Police and the military. I made it out of El Salvador. but I am not yet out of Miami. Miami is the soul of the rightwing in the Americas. There are thousands of bitter Cubans here, thrown from their lives of power and privilege by the Castro/Guevara Cuban revolution, raising money to support terrorist attacks on Cuban soil, assaults on the red menace of Chavez, or funds for the terrorist Posado Carilles, who has been granted refuge on US soil.

A wave of nausea sweeps over me, seeming to emanate from my brain, trying to trigger an emetic response in my gut. I fight it off, trusting the dramamine to do its job. Larry King is on the airport TV screen, wondereing “Can Barack Obama draw the white, middle class working man vote?”

I make it to Newark, then get a ride into Pennsylvania with Tim and Sarah. I remain sick, however; the headaches persist, the nausea rises. I have to cancel a trip to San Francisco when I go to the doctor and find myself unable to move about without a vomit bag at my side. The Pennsylvania general practitioner decides I may have a toothache, he sees decay in my teeth. He prescribes amoxicillin, a gram of Tylenol every 6 hours, and, you guessed it, dramamine. I spend another weekend in hell, sick with headaches that are busting my skull, but the GP is resolute, “You’re a big guy, just keep loading up on the Tylenol.” I load up on dramamine and on Monday go to an emergency ward, where a CT scan is ordered, and a 2 inch tumor is visualized hanging behind my right eye. The surgeon appears, firm and confident, and tells me it has to come out, or it will kill me.

I agree to surgery to remove the tumor. I am shipped to an intensive care unit, where there is a 24/7 staff struggle to get control of the machines, the computers, the monitors that beep chime ring constantly, as the nurses ask each other what to do about this order, how do you do that, all night long it goes on, night after night, nobody kinew how anything worked….

But after a couple of days, they took the tumor in a six hour operation, and left behind, in my skull, a wafer of chemotherapy to attack the remainder of the cancer. It is a phase IV cancer, a glioblastoma multiforme with a propensity to recur, and now I am slated to undergo radiation and chemotherapy to kill the cancer cells not physically removed in the surgery. I lay back in the intensive care unit after the operation, the room was dark, the TV glowed above, with coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary race. Barack Obama appears on the screen, his hands compressing the air, and he starts to talk …

“The truth is that my foreign policy is actually a return to the traditional bipartisan realistic policy of George Bush’s father, of John F. Kennedy, of, in some ways, Ronald Reagan, and it is George Bush that’s been naive and it’s people like John McCain and, unfortunately, some Democrats that have facilitated him acting in these naive ways that have caused us so much damage in our reputation around the world,” he said. “At a town hall event at a local high school gymnasium, Obama praised George H.W. Bush – father of the president — for the way he handled the Persian Gulf War: with a large coalition and carefully defined objectives.” (Devlin Barrett, AP 03.28.2008)

I saw Barack give this message, watching a TV while lying back in an intensive care unit bed post-surgery. I needed to read the press reports of it, as above, to confirm to myself that it happened.

I can’t believe this, it’s the dramamine, I am in a fog of benign hallucination. My understanding of the Gulf War of George H. W. Bush is as follows; first, that the State Department of George H. W. Bush told the government of Saddam Hussein, prior to the invasion, that the United States had no mutual security agreement with Kuwait, in a July 25, 1990 meeting with Saddam Hussein and his foreign minister Tariq Aziz, as capitulated by April Glaspie in this transcript from the meeting, “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.”

On August 2, 1990, the armies of Saddam invaded Kuwait. In the next three months, the United States mobilized the United Nations Security Council to authorize the use of force to dispel the armies of Iraq from Kuwait. Although many nations urged a diplomatic initiative to resolve the dispute without war, Bush and Baker moved inexorably to war.

By the end of 1990, the United States mobilized over a half million troops to Saudi Arabia and the area around Kuwait. On January 17, 1991, an air attack was unleashed on Iraq. In the next 42 days, 110,000 bombing sorties were conducted using cruise missiles and bombs. 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped. Over 150,000 people were killed. The civilian infrastructure of Iraq, including water reservoirs, water filtration systems, telecommunications, and food supply was destroyed. On February 27, 1991, George Bush ended the hostilities, after the coalition forces had swept effortlessly through Kuwait and rapidly defeated the Iraqi Army. After encouraging a Shi’ite uprising against Saddam, George H. W. Bush allowed Saddam the air space to slaughter those who rose against his tyranny.

A sanctions regime was imposed on Iraq, which limited the food, medicines and fuel available to the civilian population. The United Nations imposed sanctions were implemented through the remainder of the Bush administration and continued through the Clinton administration. They claimed the lives of over a half million Iraqi children, a fact that was acknowledged by Secretary of State Madeline Albright in a 1996 60 Minutes interview, when she said, “On balance, we think it’s worth it.” It was worth it to Saddam, who prospered in the corruption fostered by a sanctions program which allowed him to control the wealth and patronage of his office, as the people of Iraq starved.

While Desert Storm was a quick war, it was very costly to the US service people who served. The introduction of depleted uranium and other toxins to the battlefield by the coalition forces caused 183, 629 disability claims from the 696,628 US service people who went to the theater of Desert Storm. By 2000, over 9000 of these vets had died. Depleted uranium continues to kill, as it remains toxic for 4.5 billion years. No troops were warned prior to their service in the field of the dangers that faced them in this new, toxic, battlefield.

I am not a Democrat, and do not wish to argue with Barack Obama about his analysis of this history. His understanding is so stunted and so crippled it is not possible to really fairly encounter — there is no argument. However, I can only wonder at the support he is receiving from people whom I know truly want a change.

OK, I can understand the need to grasp for hope in the midst of a political panorama in which the candidate for change of the Democrats hearkens to the years of such wartime success as has been outlined above, and then, deeper, to the glorious communication skills of a Reagan who united the country in a foreign policy typified by war crimes against Nicaragua, a holocaust in Guatemala, support for mass murder in El Salvador, and the arming of Saddam Hussein.

I would encourage Democrats and Republicans to reclaim their parties, to demand policies of justice in both domestic and foreign policy from their candidates, if I believed that the political hacks and opportunists that run these criminal enterprises would have a profound religious experience that would enable their humanity — if I believed in miracles. A vote for McCain, Clinton, or Obama, is a vote for a member of a club that will never represent democracy or justice: the election of 2008, another travesty of democracy.

Tell me it’s the dramamine, the fog of the benign hallucination — not another Bush lite truimph of the mundane, the grins of Clinton and McCain, the compression of the air between the empty hands of Obama… tell me it’s the dramamine…

Joe DeRaymond lives in Pennsylvania and has traveled to El Salvador working with Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad (CIS). He can be reached at: Read other articles by Joe, or visit Joe's website.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar balkas said on May 5th, 2008 at 7:25am #

    obama, clinton, mccain have a script embedded in their brains and they go nowhere w.o. it.
    if they stray from the script, it is mostly because their memories are not that good.
    the lapse is never ever repeated again. corporate media hosts also have scripts to follow. once again, it’s the memory that is of crucial import and not honesty. thank u.

  2. joe said on May 5th, 2008 at 11:08am #

    Sorry about this note – but –
    Bozhidar: Imagine that this article was written by a human being.
    Imagine that he mentioned that he has brain cancer and he’s being
    treated for a life threatenting disease. Which issue might you address
    first? US foreign policy, or the author’s current situation?
    Wake up, my friend!
    Even with the best of intentions, we’ll change nothing while we sleep walk our way through a pseudo-life…

  3. J McBeal said on May 5th, 2008 at 11:17am #

    I pray for your fast and complete recovery. We need people like you to help point out the way.

  4. Don Hawkins said on May 5th, 2008 at 12:14pm #

    Joe I read this and can say you are no average Joe.

  5. TS Draegeth said on May 6th, 2008 at 4:21pm #

    Best wishes for the author’s recovery.

    Maybe it is the dramamine, and we’re all on it. I’m seeing the same mad visions as you.

  6. L Cipota said on May 8th, 2008 at 4:40pm #

    Joe is one of my heros. I echo the wishes for his full recovery, without dramamine.

  7. P. Leister said on July 10th, 2008 at 7:16pm #

    I have had the honor of knowing Joe as a coworker…I have and may never know one of such character and conviction. With all you’ve been through Joe, this is simply one more hurdle…there is much you are needed for in this world. Stopping now is not an option. I’m pulling for you Joe, with all I have…please keep me updated and if there’s ANYTHING you need. You know how to contact me…

  8. henry peters said on September 4th, 2008 at 1:00am #

    about 2 years ago i had some strange dizzie spells followed by massive i went to my doctor many times but he kept telling me that i was suffering from anxiety attackes.for 2 years the symtoms continued and the doc kept saying the same thing .he even sent me for an mri but with no contrast the results were negative.then last year in sept. at work i had a grand mall siegure and was rushed to the hospital where they descovered a 4 and a half centimeter tumor in my right temperal lobe.doc says its got to come out or im going to i went in got it removed and then told after the biopsy of the tumor that its grade 3 astrosytoma and also that i have a 2.8centimeter tumor that they cant remove.ive done all the radiation and chemo and then given a poor prognosis of a year to a year and a brain has been brutalized through radiation,chemo and bad diagnosis but i stand firm and solid on my own two feet and if its death that is chosen for me so be it but at least i keep my pride and dignity to the end and noone can take that from only 43 years old but i have no regrets about life.its not the quantity but the quality of life.ive loved every minute of it and who knows nobody can predict when its someones if according to these so called doctors who kept misdiagnosing me to begin with are going to now try to convince me that i only have a half a year left not going to happen

    thanks for listening from:henry peters

  9. Louise said on October 2nd, 2009 at 11:04am #

    A wonderful soul passed from our midst the afternoon of October 1, 2009. Joseph DeRaymond died from a brain tumor he had fought over the last year and a half. Even with the knowledge that his time was short, he went to El Salvadore this past summer to help with their election process. Joe stood for DEMOCRACY at its best. Outspoken, yes – kind and considerate, most definitely. His voice and smile will be missed.