Cancer Update

I haven’t written anything in a while, mostly because there’s only so many ways to say you’re miserable, before you get tired of saying it yourself. Yes, I’m still feeling the after-effects of the chemotherapy, yes I’m still dealing with depression and a host of other changes in my life I’d rather not get into, but the end result is I am dealing with it and simply not sinking into a sea of self loathing. It hasn’t been easy. Some days I feel nothing at all, and have no opinions or thoughts about anything, other days I’m overwhelmed by sadness that I can do nothing to control. It’s a struggle to climb out of that only a person who’s gone through the fight with cancer can possibly understand. But I’m climbing, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel now, however dim.

The surgery to remove the tumor I’ve not so affectionately named Jar-Jar has finally been scheduled for April 1st (the irony of the date has not escaped me). I will be in the hospital approximately ten days to recover, which I’ve been told by the surgeon will probably be a lot of suffering, because what they have to do to get rid of the tumor. In short, they will be cutting out most of my esophagus, then pulling my stomach up to make a new one. This will basically leave me with little to no stomach left. Getting and moving around organs, is going to put me in a lot of pain, that they’ll have me drugged up for, so in that regard, I’ll hopefully miss out on a good deal of agony. There are also risks involved in the recovery, that could make things interesting for me, but I’ll be cured. I’ll finally be rid of this fucking thing.

Celebratory eating will have to wait. I will have three, maybe four weeks where I’m exclusively stuck using the feeding tube they put in me to allow the new esophagus/stomach arrangement to heal, then only water for awhile, then finally mushy solid food. I won’t be able to eat birthday cake this year, but I will at least be able to celebrate being alive one more year, which is a positive thing.

Meanwhile, as a means to combat my depression and my chemo brain, I’ve actually begun writing a novel, based on my game world, Imarel on the suggestion of my friend, Colin. I’ve got a lot of bad writing habits to break, and escaping my ‘short story’ mentality has also been a challenge, but tonight I’ll break 20,000 words, so little by little, progress is being made. Just like fighting this cancer, it’ll be a long road before this novel is anything worth reading, but I feel like, because of my experiences, I’m a little better equipped to see them to fruition. So, something for me to have some optimism about.

-Tim

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful

The title is a quote from “The Walking Dead” finale this season. I can’t say as I’m in a horrible, physical pain but rather suffer from the pain of having no energy to do anything and the pain of having this uncontrollable apathy towards the things I liked to do, but can’t. This has, for the moment, really killed my power to write, other than what I’ve been putting here, in the blog. I keep hoping, by documenting it that I’ll be able to reflect upon it later for writing inspiration. Like, I’ll be able to give some character profound depth for this quagmire of indifference and have it be genuine.

Writing this all down is I stress once again, not me looking for sympathy, but rather having merely the need to voice it, and hope people understand that it’s not them, it’s me going through this unusual sort of pain that this cancer (or by proxy, the treatment) is giving me. Support from family and friends has been amazing. I’ve heard from relatives I’ve not spoken to in ages, and it was good hearing from them. Friends too have come out of the woodwork and have been great. This is just something that’s unfixable I think, as far as my mood goes. I go from exhausted, to apathetic, to nauseous, to feeling like a spring that’s wound too tightly. It really sucks.

On the up side, I still have all my hair, and after tomorrow I’ll only have two more chemo treatments to go before I’m done. One thing I am absolutely not apathetic about is getting through that. The treatments have made it so I can eat some again, but there again, eating has become more of a chore and a hesitation than something I enjoy doing (though, again on the up side, mom’s Christmas cookies have once again made that not so much the case. I love those). So, two more to go and then I get about four weeks before they want to do surgery. The closer to that I get, the more anxious I become. That will be the longest I’ve been in the hospital since my heart attack, and it’s a fairly complex operation. Still, I’m also hopeful. I’m ready to be done with this and move on.

-Tim

Observations

I didn’t post from chemo last week, simply because I spent most of the time sleeping. I had to take extra steroids to keep from having the reaction I had the last time, which was gladly not repeated. In between moments of sleep, I talked with my father, who has been really by my side through all of this. Nothing deep or anything; just about the book he was reading and some of the things he’s seen in his life. But really, that’s enough. He was there. He didn’t have to be. He doesn’t have to do anything at all, but he has been, my whole family has been incredibly supportive.

Friends too have come out of the woodwork to offer their support. Facebook is incredible for that kind of thing, and it’s really lifted my spirits to see people actually give a shit that I’m going through something. But you also kind of get to see the quality of the people you know as well. People I thought would be the first to say something, have said nothing…instead, posting on about their bad drive to work, their semi-fake vacations and how much fun they’re having. Minute I post about Star Wars or something geek related, OH there they are.

I don’t expect everybody to pitch out a little banner in my honor, but when people I hardly know put an effort forth to say, “Hey, you matter, we’re pulling for you,” and somebody you’ve known for over a decade can’t be bothered to even say, “Hey, get better,” you have to really question their overall worth. I get some people don’t know what to say, sometimes I’m that person, but I always say something. Some sign you care can mean a lot in the grand scheme of things, I’ve discovered.

Before I started going through this, I was all raring for the fight. I was all ready to do battle with this and bring it down. But going through it now, with the radiation and the chemo, really brings you down to earth. You’re not fighting, you’re sleeping. You’re not clawing at anything, you’re trudging around, trying to not wretch or hope to the Powers that Be you don’t have another fit of hiccups (yes, that’s a thing and yes, they’re bad). Your brain doesn’t process things the way you expect; you get angry or sad for no particular reason, or you simply can’t process at all and you need an extra second or two. Believe me when I say, those few seconds to reach out to somebody and say, “Hey, we care” make a huge difference on days like that, even from a nearly complete stranger.

 

 

Adventures in Cancer

Today is my first day in chemotherapy, and aside of having a very harsh reaction to the medicine initially, it’s really been mostly me sleeping the day away. What I mean by harsh, is when they hooked me up to the medicine, my face immediately went red and I couldn’t breath. Apparently, this is common. So, the actual process isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and the nurses and aides have been very nice.

Sadly, that doesn’t give me much to write about, so I’m rewinding a little to last night and my incident at Wal-Mart. You see, with esophageal cancer, you slowly lose the ability to eat things easily, or without bringing them back up. I had eaten something a little prior to the trip and it see how it would settle. Needlessly to say, it didn’t. Getting from one end of a super-sized Wal-Mart, to the other with a pending stomach explosion is not a feat I would recommend for anybody, having choked my sickness back down twice before making it to the bathroom.

Luckily, the bathroom was unoccupied. Unluckily the toilet wasn’t. There is something really to say about unclogging your toilets or putting OUT OF ORDER signs in place. Suffice to say, I left the gift of my stomach’s contents on the growing pile of refuse stuck in there, having no other choice. What I found particularly ironic (and believe me, this experience is somehow going to find itself into my writing), the bathroom floor was cleaner than the damned toilet and the parking lot, where I thrice more left the gift of my stomach was, until then seemingly cleaner than both. There’s something really wrong when your parking lot is cleaner than your public restroom.

So, chemo is almost done for today: I’m at 170ish pounds and I’m experimenting with things to eat, to help keep my weight up. The long part of my fight has begun and I’m already feeling the weight of it. Being tired and evidently anemic, according to my doctors, which has never been a problem for me before. I have a month of this to go, and I honestly wonder at what condition I’m going to be at the end of this. Losing hair doesn’t bother me, so much as the consideration of how much energy am I going to have left before this is all done? All I have right now, is that I’m ready for this fight. Hoping that’s all I’ll need, besides the minds and science of these great doctors I’ve the fortune of having.

More next chemo,

-Tim

 

Rebooted, Maybe Not So Much…

The last time I wrote in this blog, I was talking about not liking to talk about my health issues and what had happened. Since then, I discovered that I have esophageal cancer, likely brought on by episodes of acid reflux much like the one I described. In fact, the episode may have been related to the tumor that’s been growing in there for nobody knows how long. It’s ironic, really that I’m writing about this today, because it was seven years ago yesterday, that I had a heart attack, at age 35 and survived that. Now, I’m in another fight for my life.

I’ve been diagnosed at stage three, and I have a ten centimeter tumor running from my esophagus, to the top part of my stomach. I was told by one of the oncologists working on me, that the bigger tumors are, they tougher they are to shrink with radiation and chemotherapy. As I was looking at the endoscopy image of the damned thing, all I could think about was that it looked like a fucking chestburster from “Aliens” hanging out in there. Might as well be for the end result of not getting it out. On the advice of a good friend, I’m naming it Jar-Jar. Why Jar-Jar? because I hated Jar-Jar in the prequel “Star Wars” movies, and I couldn’t think of anything better than digitally editing him out of every single scene, to improve those movies. So, the sooner Jar-Jar gets removed, the better off I’m going to be.

Some would probably consider it morbid that I’m naming a tumor that’s killing me, robbing me of the ability to eat a decent meal and generally making my existence at present pretty miserable. Part of my coping with all of this has been in equal parts, keeping a sense of humor about my condition and being able to look friends and family in the eye and tell them that I’ll be alright. Science is on my side on the latter part of that statement, at least. In fact, getting through the radiation and the chemo isn’t the worst part, or the surgery that’ll finally remove the tumor, and with it take a portion of my stomach. If I get through all that? My biggest danger time is the recovery. I could go through all of this, and still die from any number of complications. So, I have to keep a sense of humor about this, or I’m going to go crazy.

I suppose I’m also writing this, to sort of document where I am, and where I’m going. These words could be some of my last, if things don’t go right, or if I progress to stage four, before things have a chance to work. If nothing else, I want my friends and family who read this blog to know my thoughts, and that no matter what ends up happening, I’m not just quitting and letting this kill me. Between having too many more stories in my head to tell, and the new “Star Wars” movies coming out, I’ve got a few reasons to hang around, anyway. 😉

I’m going to be starting radiation and chemo soon. I’ll be stuck in a hospital for four hours, so if nothing else, this blog may yet see a bit of random writing that will help me pass the time, and get my brain in proper form again. I still mean to get on the ‘writing once a day’ routine, if I can. Here’s to steam-rollering forward, anyway.

-Tim

Tim, Rebooted

I had every intention of keeping on with getting myself into a schedule of writing everyday. I did. Except of course, life decided it was better I did other things, like wallow in anguish. I’m not normally one to complain about my health, because I come from the belief that those types of matters are not for posting on the Internet. However, as this blog represents my efforts to both exercise and strengthen my writing skill, (hence a place where I can be held accountable; I say something, I do it), that I am then accountable for simply dropping off the momentum I started upon.

The last past three weeks or so, have been a combination of some severe back pains, I’ve been having to see a physical therapist for, and somehow managing to burn my esophagus with acid reflux. This has led to a whole lot of sleepless nights, and a whole lot of lacking in energy. But, as with all things, I find a way to prevail. Thanks to the physical therapy, my back is finally down to a dull ache, and thanks to eating little and blandly, I’m getting less pains swallowing food, and very little stomach cramping. The back pains were especially bad, with muscles tightening up to the point where it was difficult to breathe under active situations. So, very happily reporting that I’m feeling a lot less like somebody ran me over with a steamroller.

This means, I’m going to be back to writing this week, I think. Or, at least I will try to be. My hope was to write something every day, even if its short. The Writing Warm-Up series I did was really only meant to be serial flash fiction, and nothing really more impressive than that. I’ll be probably doing more flash fiction for this blog in the very near future, as well as working on a novel outline I’ll detail next week.

Till then, here’s to me finally being able to do things!

Tim

Union [Writing Warm-Up #6, Final]

UNION [Writing Warm-Up #6, Final]
by T.A. Saunders

After five hundred and twenty years, I have returned. The last I saw this world, Europe was seeking trade routes to China, to trade silk, and Martin Luther sought to change the very foundations of your Christian religion. I saw Shakespeare rise, and Constantinople fall. It is truly a pity that the fine Muslim swordsman gutted the host I was using on that day, else I might have seen more of this world, slowly sinking into the mire of corruption. 

Oh, but my have things changed, and for the better I might add! As I soak the anguish, the rage and the despair from this host, I can also see his memories, his drugged delusions and I can see the hope he clung to till just now. There it goes! Out like a candle that’s burned down to its last, struggling to stay lit. Just a puddle of melted wax, and a charred bit of wick; that’s what’s left of his soul. Yes, Aaron was his name.

Going through his memories reads like a bad novel. All sadness, weeping and failure to live up to expectations. It’s this weakness I sup upon…well, all my kind do, really. Aaron wanted to be an astronaut as a boy. Loved his science, but struggled a bit with math. Grades. Yes, each ‘C’ was a lash from a father’s belt, between swigs of whiskey. He sought his mother’s eyes, but she always looked away, always said, “You should’ve done better. You need to obey your father.” Enablers are the best thing ever! Their passive role in torment, whether adult or child, is gasoline to the flame. Make it worse, make it so they break people like Aaron.

But he was spared a few lashes, wasn’t he? Spared because daddy was driving drunk and killed him and his mother both. That’s how he ended up with his grandfather. What that man lacked in the ability to inflict physical abuse, he certainly made up for in mental abuse. Honestly, if you’re going to abuse somebody, mental abuse is the best. No physical scars and you can claim the person is completely nuts. Another twelve years of being told he was a failure, being told he couldn’t go play with his friends and being forced to live like it was the 1950’s cracked what normality Aaron had. Fertile soil for the thing that lets me inside.

These early memories are the best. I can feel their deep, lingering pain like it was yesterday. Aaron still replays them in his head, sometimes even argues aloud, to himself. Says all the things he wanted to say then, to the dark, long after saying anything would have any meaning. So much easier to talk to the dark, when you want to say something, isn’t it? You don’t think anybody’s listening, but things do hear you. Things like me. Other things. Worse things.

All Aaron wanted was to be understood, to be accepted for who he was. But he wasn’t. Not at home, and not at school, where other children picked on him, pestered him and did what daddy wasn’t around to do anymore. Lashes of the belt were replaced with pummeling fists, hitting and smacking him for not conforming, not being as the rest of the herd was. Normal, normal, normal. Humans and their normal. Little prepubescent primates swinging their little arms, howling at whatever’s not like them and breaking it. It’s almost like having little, snot-dribbling minions really. Goblins that do my bidding, without me ever having to ask. Whatever resistance Aaron had to falling into the cool embrace of my shadow was destroyed by the monkey-goblins. Thank you monkey-goblins!

He never fought back once. Not one single time did he raise a hand to the monkey-goblin children, who beat their chests, howled at how different Aaron was, then beat him for not conforming. Not being a monkey-goblin. Aaron became something worse than a monkey-gobln. He became a dumpster for whatever chemical would make him forget, whatever he could drink to make him look cool to the monkey-goblins, or at least to other dumpsters like him. Misery does love company. Never forget that.

By the time everybody abandoned Aaron, he was a full dumpster. Full of anger, full of regret, full of dreams, visions and disjointed, impossible thoughts that could never be. The cracked glass of Aaron could never be a true, focused lense for anything real, anything that would be worth actually doing. Dealing meth, and smoking away half the product became more engaging than being an astronaut, or a physicist.

But even as drugs and misery sloshed and mingled inside broken Aaron, he never did quite become evil, did he? Angry at himself, weak-willed and tormented, but he never turned it on others. He always kept his torment to himself, let it harm himself, before he would let it harm others. Had this gentle side, hidden amongst the walls of pain and the gobs of drug-induced stupid. It’s why he felt so bad when he ran that poor beagle over with his grandfather’s Buick. The poor thing howled pitifully for a full half hour, after he sped away. Do old people always drive dog-killing Buicks?

But that will change, now that I’m driving Aaron. What remains of his struggling soul, I will consume, and add to myself. It’s an honor! I have devoured souls of Egyptian thieves, Roman harlots and British mass murderers. Aaron’s distinction will be in fine company to the other souls I’ve consumed, and made a part of me. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to enjoy killing people. It’ll give a power that drugs could never give him. It will feed him in a way that no approval could ever nourish him. He’ll feel strength when he clasps somebody’s throat, and squeezes. When life escapes in a gasp, from open lips that ask the unvoiced question of, “Why?”

“The why is power, Miss Chaise Michaels. Thank you for bringing me Aaron. Thank you for also bringing me your neck to squeeze. Aaron appreciates it, for all the suffering you’ve put him through.”

Now, to find a damned beagle, and convert it into a Hound of Hell.

 END

END