Testing the Waters

In: Business and Management

Submitted By jwlevine
Words 1065
Pages 5
Tuesday, March 9, 7:30 a.m. -- Denver Nuggets coach George Karl pops in his mouthpiece and puts on his helmet and braces himself for a brutal 15 minutes, but this isn't football. This is cancer radiation.

We're at Denver's Swedish Medical Center. The helmet is actually a white, hard-mesh mask that fits to every contour of Karl's big bucket head. It has red crosses all over it, like a hockey goalie's. He lays his 283 pounds on the table and the technicians clamp the mask on hard. How Karl breathes I'll never know. They secure his limbs and ask him to hold a blue plastic donut so no part of him moves. He looks like Hannibal Lecter about to get fried.

"It makes you a little claustrophobic," the 58-year-old coach tries to say through the mask. "But what are you gonna do? Leave?" Coaching the wildly talented but wildly uneven Nuggets is hard enough, let alone doing it with throat and neck cancer, but that's what Karl is trying to do. Everybody tells him it's not possible, and today, maybe he's starting to believe them.

With only three of his torturous six weeks of treatment done, and the inside of his mouth looking like he just took 100 bites out of a lava-hot pizza slice, and his head throbbing and his eyes hollow, Karl looks like a guy who should be on a stretcher, not an NBA bench.

"George, this is only going to get harder," a nurse tells him. "You're not going to feel like working." Clearly, she's never met George Karl.

He shows me many things I don't want to see. He's doing it because he wants people to know exactly what it's like. Wants to take the fear and mystery out of it for people.
Suddenly, the huge gray machine whirs like a giant Transformer, turning sideways, first this side, then that, as though it's trying to decide how to eat him. Then it zaps his throat and neck lymph nodes, ravaging them. It gives him a radish-red rash that's covering…...

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