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

Over One Hurdle…

I finished my chemotherapy on Christmas eve and my radiation will be done by the 30th. While I’m writing this still weakened and a little nauseated from the last treatment, I’m feeling both a sense of hope this is finally coming to an end, and anxiety for the next step, which is the surgery and the recovery to follow that.

Right now, I have a 4 t0 6 week recovery time, from the chemo, before they want to schedule me for the surgery to remove the tumor. This is where they want me to build up my weight and my strength again, before going into the process of cutting me open to get ‘Jar-Jar’ out of me. While I’m happy as hell I’ve made it through chemo with my hair intact, and I’m looking forward to not having to go to the cancer center every day, I am going to miss seeing my dad as much as I have been over this month or so. We’ve gotten a lot closer I think and I’m going to miss the conversations we have during treatment.

I’m hoping I recover swiftly from the chemotherapy and radiation. I cannot stand what it has done to my body and moreover what it has done to my mind. My drive to do things has been utterly decimated and my will to create simply doesn’t exist. In this time, I hope they heal as quickly as my body does. I need to be able to put my mind to things again to feel whole. I want to want to do things again. I want to be able to taste food again and have it be meaningful (that’s another thing this has done to me, dulled my sense of taste). I want this apathy to go away, so I can start recovering me again.

…and here’s to the next hurdle. 🙂

-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

 

I Can’t Get That Y’Sil Out of My Head! [Writing Warm-Up #5]

I Can’t Get That Y’Sil Out of My Head! [Writing Warm-Up #5]
By T.A. Saunders

My skin burns. It’s a pain that travels my entire torso, and I only have moments, between when this crazy bitch is making my skin look like a meat mosaic and when she’s wiping clean the knife she’s using, that I have relief. It’s a moment for me to reflect on how utterly fucked I am, for the person I am. If I were the bird I’d hoped I had been in a past life, I could fly away from all this, or if I was the beagle, I could just bite this bitch in the boob, and make a break for it.

But I’m none of those things. I’m an addict, a failure and I’m going to be the fuck sock for some primordial ass-wipe from Hell. At least, that’s the impression Doctor Michaels gave me, when she gave me the lowdown on my situation. I don’t know much about this voodoo witchcraft shit, but I know enough that once she finishes carving symbols in my skin, and chanting something that sounds like an unhappy Catholic mass done in Latin, I’m done.

For all the things that’s happened, for all the shit I’ve done to myself, I’m deciding right now, I’m not done. I’m not done with life, and whatever surviving braincells I have, I need to fire up now if I’m ever going to get out of this. To be honest, it’s taken me being put here, on the literal sacrificial alter of some demon, or whatever, to see that I want to live. I want to not be this jerk that mopes about his lot in life, wishes he was something else, and wallows in his misery.

The restraints are tight. I’m never going to break them. I had trouble, last week, tearing a t-shirt I was wearing, when I was doing a drunk impersonation of the Hulk; leather restraints are an insurmountable challenge. But if she sets that knife down on the tray, I might be able to get it. I might be able to cut a restraint, or cut her. For all this carving, permanent scarring I’m going to have, giving her a few stabs won’t even flicker on my conscious.

I should be dead though. All this blood is mine, she’s cut me all over and it stings to feel the air move across my body. I cry out more than I want to, but she’s making shallow cuts, inches at a time. She’s being precise, she’s being careful with every symbol. She’s making my flesh art to a dark god, that she hopes will take this body, filled with despair, frustration and a lack of beagles and use it for…well, I don’t really fucking know, do I? But she’s making art for him, is the point. Art I can vandalize, just by moving.

She lifts the knife just as I twist in my restraints. I snarl at her, and her expression is one of surprised shock. She eyes my restraints, and its here I know she fears me. She fears me getting free before she’s done. She uses her sweet voice to try and calm me, warn me she’ll use some chemical on me, but I don’t care. I want to be free. I wait for her to start cutting again, and this time she slips. This time I ruin her artwork. It’s a small victory, probably not important in the grand scheme of me being a meat tapestry, but it’s the fuck you of it that counts. Bitch.

Then I feel it. It. Each one of the carved symbols on my body burns like I’m on fire, but I can’t scream. Doctor Michaels is chanting in something that sounds like more of that angry-sounding Latin Catholic mass, and every phrase she finishes, brings It deeper within my body, through the symbols cut into my skin. I want to scream, for the discovery of a pain new and different to the one I’ve been experiencing for the last two hours, but it doesn’t come to my voice. It’s choked there, like a fat cat trying to push its way through a cat door that’s too small. Instead of the scream, I make this saliva-drenched gagging noise, thanks to the ball gag I’m wearing.

I can feel Y’Sil in my head now, coaxing me like I’m a prom date it wants to lay, in the back seat of his car, with images of power, conquest and women. He tells me he’ll let me kill the doctor first, if I want, or rape her, then kill her if that pleases me. Even as fucked up as I am, as mad as I am at this woman, the idea of raping her sits sour in my stomach, but killing her seems somehow better. It…he, whispers in my mind that together, he and I will have absolute power, to shape the world as we wish.

Somehow, the promise seems genuine. I give a little. I let him take a bit more of me, but not everything. I want something first. I want proof that he’s not going to jack me, and use my body as a wearable meatsuit. I have one condition, and I make it wicked simple.

I want a damned beagle!

Flying [Writing Warm Up #1]

FLYING

By T.A. Saunders

I always dream of flying. It’s a world of grays, whites and overbrightness. It’s a world devoid of the joys of color, but one I’m pleased to suffer; I have a sense of elation, despite the minor sensory discomforts. I’m always squinting, always looking, but never quite finding. Flying around like a hawk maybe, but I imagine hawks usually catch things. Maybe more like one of those stupid finches that are always hitting windows, and mailboxes. I’m left unfulfilled by the end of the dream, which makes me think it’s more real than not. Makes me think I had been a bird once, in a past life. I really hope I wasn’t a finch though. Stupid finches.

The absurdity of those words is something that I both accept and further, feel no need to defend. Past lives are part of religions around the world, and there are people all over the world claiming to be Elvis, Jim Morrison or fucking Jesus. Jesus is the most popular reincarnated person I’ve never met. Considering these things, me thinking that I was once something so inconsequential as a bird in a past life, hardly seems insane, or even remotely far fetched.

Now, as then, I find myself unfulfilled. I’m trapped in this meat sack and I can’t get out. I can almost feel my brain wanting to claw its way out of this feeble body, with no care or consideration to bone, muscle or precious organs. Meat chains. I want to get out of this fucking body and fly like I once did, like I once could, but I can’t get out. I’m trapped in this reincarnation, I am trapped in this existence where I must heed the word of those who are my intellectual inferiors, I must smile, nod and seem pleasant to coworkers that, I’ve often postulated are really just well-trained chimps, that some asshole decided to shave and stick in a work force.

But there I remain. In here, trapped. Trapped with my thoughts, trapped with my dreams of a life that will not allow me to forget. The curse of a human mind is that it works so well. It remembers things you cannot make yourself forget. You cannot line item delete painful memories, sorrowful moments and the scars of abuse that the world, and people who say they love you carve into you. All I want to do is fly and escape that ‘love’ that does more to bleed than to nurture. Barbed wire round and round until its cutting from all directions and there’s no room to keep beating.

The dreams are so vivid, that I wake feeling more exhausted than I was when I went to sleep. I don’t believe in the Christian mythology, but I don’t believe in all the crazy New Age hoodoo either. This girl I know in Memphis claims to be a Wiccan and has had more abusive relatives, tragedies and heartaches than a season of “Supernatural,” and she tells me that I’m Astral Projecting. She also told me she can do it better than me. I think if she were any more full of shit, she would cause a fecal matter detonation of such monumental proportion, they would have to call the event, “The Really Incredible Shitstorm of 2015.” That, and I don’t believe in Astral Projection either, but something’s going on. Something I can’t explain, something that won’t stop, because my wonderful human mind won’t forget something my soul remembered. Should have been reincarnated as a fucking dog. I really like beagles.

So I’m standing here, doing the only thing I can do. The only thing that makes sense. The only way I can escape. Once I jump off the top of this building, I’ll know who I really am. I will know if I’m supposed to fly in this meat suit, or if I really am crazy. If I’m wrong, from this height, I won’t have to worry about medical expenses or a psychologist, that’s for sure. I’m not afraid though. Spent my whole life afraid of loved ones, not loved ones, afraid of everything. But I’m not afraid of this. I’m smiling. I’m smiling because either way, I’ll be free. Gonna fly now.

Oh shit, what if I was a beagle?