of Princeton became quite familiar with the ambulatory rooms at Perry Memorial Hospital
in Princeton where he
received daily chemotherapy treatments throughout December 2005 after he
was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
NT photo/Lindsay Vaughn
PRINCETON - When Trey Barker of Princeton
was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, his
experiences and emotions spilled out into his
blog, "bullets and whiskey," where he
had already been writing a year or two.
Now compiled in "The Cancer Chronicles," Barker's entries brim with the anger, fear and confusion he
grappled with during a year of chemotherapy.
The book's release coincides with Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May.
was diagnosed in November 2005.
"I always assumed when I was growing up that I would have some sort of skin cancer, because I grew up in West Texas with no clothes on.
That's just the way we did things when I was growing up," Barker
previously had a couple of moles removed from the right side of his
neck that came back benign.
Later, a lymph node in the same area started swelling.
tried taking antibiotics a couple of times, but when the swelling kept recurring, the doctor suggested removing the lymph node.
After that surgery, the first pathologist said it was benign.
However the surgeon was unsure, so he consulted a second pathologist who wouldn't commit one way or the other.
took it to a third one and the third one said, 'Oh yeah, this is cancerous,' and of course once they got it all chopped up and everything, it came back way cancerous," Barker
That December, he
endured four weeks of daily chemotherapy treatments in Perry Memorial Hospital
In January 2006, his
treatment schedule decreased to three times a week, and in February his
insurance company allowed him to start giving himself the shots at home.
Along with being more expensive, taking responsibility for administering his
own shots was actually rougher, Barker
went to the hospital every day at the same time for treatments, he
learned what to expect.
But when he
immediately returned to his
job as a deputy with the Bureau County Sheriff's Office
had to determine the best time and place to give himself the shots.
blood pressure would drop quickly, and he
had to figure out how far it would fall and how long it would last.
said the Sunday nights following those breaks were difficult.
"Most of the chemo had worked its way out at that point.
I'd had a couple days of feeling good and normal, and I knew the next day I was going to have to go back on," he
Now cancer-free for three years and counting, the only physical sign of Barker's ordeal is a small pale mark on his
Even the massive scar from his
surgery - which extended from his
temple, past his
ear and down around his
neck - has faded, but not without leaving him with a good story about how it helped toughen his
reputation as a sheriff's deputy when he
returned to work.
"That scar served me well a couple times in dealing with drunks.
I didn't even have to get physical because the scar just took care of it," he
"I might have said something a couple times about, 'You should have seen the other guy,' and I didn't have any problems after that."
spared nothing in his
blog - the irritability, the sickness, the desire to throw punches all around, the strange dreams and one downright surreal anecdote that rivals French absurdist theater at its best.
One day when Barker
was suffering from a particularly heavy case of "chemo brain," he
answered the phone and was greeted by a coffin salesman yammering about "HauntCon" and "scratch and dent coffins."
starts talking about conventions, and I don't quite understand what he's
talking about, and then he
started talking about coffins and I really didn't understand what he
was talking about, and that sort of scared me, because for a big chunk of that month, I really felt like I was dying.
Not like dying from the cancer, but just dying from the chemo," Barker
began to understand the purpose of the call.
used to sit on the board of the World Horror Convention
name was on the Web site.
The salesman was trying to find out about events where he
could sell his
told him who to contact for more information about that year's convention and mentioned he'd been sick and wouldn't be attending.
"Literally the last thing he
said to me after I said that I'd been sick recently was, 'Do you need a coffin?' and I thought, this cannot be happening.
So of course as soon as I hang up I go running for a pen and a piece of paper," Barker
"I could never ever have just sat down and thought that scene up."
didn't consciously plan to compile his
blog postings into a book, but as a writer, everything he
writes is for publication of some sort, he
has penned several other books and will soon release a collection of dark crime fiction.
"The Cancer Chronicles" can be purchased for $14.95 online at www.treyrbarker.com or in Kirby-Henning Pharmacy, Princeton.