Noel Sheppard‘s ordeal began five days ago. “Illness taking a turn,” the associate editor of the conservative media site Newsbusters confided on Twitter. “Woke up with odd swelling around the neck. Urgent care sent me to ER for tests. WTH.”
(At this point NYT Bill Keller and his wife, Emma, may want to shield their eyes and turn away. This one’s riveting. And if they can’t deal with cancer blogger/tweeter Lisa Bonchek Adams they’re going to hate this. And to be honest, for The Mirror it’s part TV drama, part real-life compassion and part ‘why is he sharing all this’ at this point. But you can’t help but think repeatedly please let him be okay.)
Like others before him who tweet abundantly about serious illness, Noel has retained a light touch when not seriously keeping readers on the edge of their seats: “ER ordering a battery of tests.I bet they all conclude I’m an incurable conservative with a warped sense of humor. … So now I’m actually in my own room with a hospital gown on. All this to cure conservatism? Time for blood tests. Dracula has entered the building.”
At this point it sounds like Noel has a bad case of bronchitis. But the tests continue. “Gorgeous Dominican nurse just drew 3 viles of blood,” he writes. “Why couldn’t it have been 4? …To all the haters claiming I have no blood, I just saw three viles full. So there.”
For whatever reason this one is a heart stopper: “It’s becoming likely that for the third Sunday in a row I’ll be watching football in bed. Feel like I’m 100 yrs old.” (Ugh, please let him be okay.)
More: 1. So now they’re setting up to give me IV antibiotics. 2. I know I’d become instantly better if Bill Clinton would feel my pain. 3. Radiologist saw something in my chest xray. Heading for a CT scan. Are we having fun yet? 4. In about 2 hrs I’m gonna be by myself in a hospital without my laptop and a dead phone. I’ve gone to hell. 5. CT scan done. Now the big wait to see if I need a biopsy. Cross those fingers.
Soon a big thank you to those reading: “The prayers & well wishes have totally floored me and given strength in a very scary moment a few hrs ago. Thank u all.”
The ordeal continues. The wait begins. What will the scan say? “Let me tell you a story about fear and loathing in a Florida hospital. When we last spoke I was waiting for CT results,” he wrote. “Back in my room they had me hooked up to IV that included numerous antibiotics. This seemed odd since I probably have a viral infection.”
The unexpected occurs. Things get tense. “Somewhere around 2am I complained that my heart was racing and I couldn’t sleep. Vitals were checked and were fine,” he shares. “But I couldn’t sleep and eventually began sweating profusely while feeling nauseous and disoriented. I’m now covered in sweat.”
Another heart stopper: “Suddenly the room was full of nurses frantically attending to my worsening condition. I sensed a controlled panic.”
Noel continued, “At this point a nurse paged my pulmonary DR saying I was having an a-fib. … That stands for atrial fibrillation. Basically my heart was suddenly malfunctioning. I wish I was kidding.”
He takes a moment to speak to his liberal detractors, saying, “So the decision was made to move me upstairs to the cardiac wing where they can closely monitor my heart. (Note to libs: I really do have 1.”
On Sunday, bad news arrives: “Worst possible news: CT scan confirmed the mass. Biopsy tomorrow. Days before we’ll know how serious it is. I’ve ceased having fun. Interesting bedside manner of physician’s assistant. Just came right out and said “We’re worried it’s cancer. Wow.”
The question of the hour: “How does someone who doesn’t smoke get lung cancer at 53?”
Time for another quick jab on libs: “Liberal media members better enjoy a rare Sunday off from my scrutiny. Don’t get cocky for I’ll be back!!!” And a dollop of dark humor. “I bet the triage nurse in ER would have considered me greater priority yesterday if she knew I could have cancer. Haha.” (It’s impossible to laugh at this.)
At this point there is the hopeful possibility that it’s just a lymph infection. He asks, “So who believes in the power of positive thinking? Can you will yourself through serious illness?”
On Monday, there’s news of surgery. “Got a hot date with a surgeon tomorrow,” he writes. “Try to get some answers. Hope I like what he finds.”
Then an outpouring of personal details comes. It’ s wrenching. 1. “I spent the next 24 hours crying and being very rude to everyone I came in contact with. I felt I’d been cheated, ripped off by life.” 2. “I’ve been a good husband and I think the best father I could be. I eat healthier than anyone I know & workout harder than guys half my age.” 3. “So why did I deserve this? What have I done wrong? So I got angry. And sullen. Stopped talking to people. Just snapped at them.” 4. “I’m ashamed of the way I’ve behaved the past 24 hours. But I realize now I was accepting defeat before knowing who and what my opponent was.” 5. “I know I’ve got some tough days ahead, but I’m bringing confident Noel with me, not the coward who’s been crying for 24 hours.”
A little humor: “A little Percaset. Now that’s better. Now draw me a bath, light some candles with aromatherapy & cancel the biopsy.”
For two and a half hours his tweets consist of a listing of extraordinary cuisine as he consumes all he can before the cutoff point. The menu includes blue cheese olives, french onion soup, Caesar salad, extra anchovies, filet rare with peppercorn reduction, creamed spinach, sorbet, ruby Port and creme brulee.
But Noel is not at peace: “Compounding matters the old woman in the next room has been screaming all night/morning,” he writes.
At this point in the ordeal, he explains why he’s tweeting so personally. “For those that have been wondering why I’ve been tweeting this experience, I haven’t wanted to watch TV. Seems like work. Not up to it,” he explained. “Reading also seems like work. By contrast, tweeting this has been oddly relaxing and reassuring. Does that make sense? On the other hand my kids are reading this. Is that good or am I just making them more nervous and therefore this is selfish?”
Tuesday arrives along with the diagnosis: “Well there’s no other way to see it: It’s cancer. Now we hope it’s Hodgkins which is a very high recovery rate. Won’t know for days. Unhappy.”
Testing continues. “Just met with oncologist. Scheduling more C-Ts of other areas to make sure it’s just lung and neck. This never stops.”
It’s Wednesday and no picnic for Noel. “Yesterday was the worst day of my life. Last night sucked too. Couldn’t find a vein for IV. Please God make this a better day,” he wrote. “I need it.”
Somehow Yahoo! News‘ Katie Couric gets a mention. “Word must gotten out that I’m depressed. Everyone is coming into my room this morning as perky as Katie Couric. Hahaha.”
The scans continue. Follow him at @NoelSheppard.
The Mirror reached out to Sheppard for an interview. But for now he declined. “I’m not well enough,” he wrote. “Doing very poorly.”