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At War With the Grapefruit

I’ve never liked grapefruit. First of all, it’s too bitter. Or maybe it’s sour. I’ve seen people sprinkle sugar on grapefruit halves and eat them that way. I have to admit that looks good, but I would need a layer of cake icing to make it work. And I admit there’s something appealing about how a small spoon fits those wedges, making perfect bite-size chunks.

But I’ll be content to watch other people enjoy them, thank you very much.

Then there’s the name—grapefruit. Who looked at one of them and thought of grapes? I happen to like grapes and don’t appreciate their good reputation being tarnished by grapefruit. Yes, grapes are fruit. It’s like saying, “beanvegetable” to describe a vegetable that looks more like cauliflower than a bean.

Grapefruit continued to stay on my bad side when I started ordering Screwdrivers in bars. A Screwdriver is vodka and orange juice. According to vodka folklore, the drink was first popular with construction workers who ordered it after work and stirred it with their screwdrivers. The addition of orange juice to the vodka makes it seem so healthy, too. Kind of like washing down a donut with Diet Coke.

The problem there is that at times I’ve been given a Greyhound—vodka and grapefruit juice—when the bartender was out of OJ, lazy, or distracted. At the risk of receiving a second drink watered down with orange juice or spit, I called it to their attention and told them I wanted a real Screwdriver. If they’re out of OJ they can give me a Cape Cod—vodka with cranberry juice. Now there’s a drink name that makes sense. Cranberries grow in New England, where Cape Cod is. I have no idea how the Greyhound drink got its name. Don’t care, either. It’ll never be more than a Screwdriver Wannabe in my book.

In 1998, when I had the kidney/pancreas transplant, they told me there was one food item I must avoid because it could render the anti-rejection drugs useless. Grapefruit. This would be the easiest adjustment to make to my new lifestyle.

Since then, bartenders don’t give me any attitude when I make them do a Screwdriver do-over, telling them, “I can’t have grapefruit juice. It’s for health reasons.” If they act skeptical, I launch into graphic descriptions of kidney/pancreas transplants and their immediate aftermath. They rarely have the time or the stomach for much of that.

It seemed that I had successfully kept the evil grapefruit at bay. Well, except for occasionally buying one by mistake because the grocery stores keep them next to the oranges and it’s not always easy for me to tell them apart. But, this has happened less often than you might think.

Now the grapefruit has found its way into my life. Actually, it’s found its way into my abdomen—in the form of cancer. Yesterday, I met with the oncologist for the first time. I was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago. I had done some reading online about cancer treatments and their side effects, so I was well-prepared for this appointment. One thing he told me surprised me, though.

“You have a mass in your abdomen the size of a grapefruit.”

It explains why my back and belly have ached the last several days. The pain should subside a few days after starting chemotherapy next week. Now, I’m actually looking forward to chemo—one more ironic twist to my ever-changing situation. So, look out, grapefruit. I’ve got some serious backup. And we’re going to shrink you down to the size of a real, authentic grape. And then keep shrinking you until you’re all gone. And when I get through this, I’m going to celebrate—with a tall, cool Screwdriver, of course.

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