Shelter in Place

I was diagnosed with throat cancer in December 2017. The side effects of radiation treatment battered me. Excruciating blisters on my tongue and inner cheeks; nausea; and an inflamed throat made eating and drinking almost impossible. Fat, then muscle, disappeared; I stared in the mirror at a 100 lb. wraith.

I found a numbing peace at casinos, mindlessly punching bright buttons on slot machines. The anonymity was further balm: with everyone laser-focused on the next spin, I attracted little attention as I wandered the isles clutching my water bottle and protein drinks.

Recovery took well over a year. By then, casinos were not a distraction from cancer, but an expensive fixation. At times, I drove home on desolate country roads in the still-dark morning, my vision blurred from hours spent staring at spinning bright lights; a sharp pit in my stomach from, once again, having lost an alarming amount of money.

I recently resolved to end the affair. More recently, COVID-19 arrived, shutting down all “non-essential” venues of possible contagion. Including casinos.

Cancer may have tempted me in. COVID-19 helps keep me out.

Jan Bartelli lives in a very small town in upstate New York, and for many years lived in a very big city in downstate New York. She is an attorney, a former published journalist, and the persistent writer of creative nonfiction.

See more of Jan's work in 8.2