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

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!

Evaluation [Writing Warm-Up #3]

EVALUATION
By T.A. Saunders

 

“Are you ready, Aaron? Are you ready for a new life?”

The words were soft and warm on my ear, as the unseen voice whispered them to me. I heard her, and her voice and the way she used it immediately aroused me. She wanted me, whoever she was. Must be a dream though, fucking weird dream, because I feel cold, and when I reach out to pull her from the darkness, my arms are held back by chains, and my feet can’t move at all. Shackled.

“What the fuck do you mean? Is this some kind of kink dungeon?”

Her laugh had the same effect as her voice. I wanted to lay this crazy woman, and I almost didn’t care if she had a pitbull face. If she was going to linger in the dark, I could imagine she was Christina Hendricks. I was confused though, because the last thing I remembered, was waking up in a hospital, with my grouchy ass grandfather, and some doctor. Maybe that was it? Maybe a nurse took me home, and locked me in her kink dungeon. Best kidnapping ever!

“No, Aaron. I’m preparing you for evaluation. I’m Doctor Michaels. I oversaw your treatment at the hospital.” She explained.

“Evaluation? What kind of evaluation needs me to be chained up? Because I’m no subbie! I’m dom all the way! So, uh look here, unchain me or else!” It really sounded convincing in my head, but seemed to lack the gusto I intended when the words peeped out of my mouth like some panicked duckling that fell behind the duck line. I really don’t like ducks either. I definitely wasn’t a duck in a past life.

“The evaluation can be a little upsetting, Aaron.” Even in the dark, I could feel her lips were close to my left cheek. I really wanted to turn my head and kiss this bitch, just to prove chains don’t have shit on me, but I thought better of it. Her soft, gentle voice, combined with that warning, made me a little uneasy. I knew I got banged up in that fall, but what happened that I needed to be chained up?

“This isn’t the psycho ward, is it?” I already knew the answer, but I just wanted to make sure. I wasn’t completely sure I wasn’t hallucinating, or caught up in some vivid dream. I really wanted this to be a dream, because this bitch talking to me is going to have tits for days, and red hair, and…

“No. You’re in a special ‘facility,’ however.” Her soft voice shook me out of my attempting to make her come out a certain way in my imagination. “I’m afraid the restraints will have to remain on for a bit longer, Aaron. Please try to understand, it’s really for your own good.”

For my own good. I’ve heard that a lot. Getting sent to my grandfather’s when I was ten was for my own good. Him beating me unconscious was for my own good. Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of people doing things for my own good, but I really liked her voice. Maybe just this once it would be for my own good. Maybe.

“I’ll try.” It’s all I can give the mystery woman with the soft voice. A lot of things don’t make sense, and as I reflexively test the restraints again, with a soft clank of the chains, I realize that whatever sense I’m going to make out of whatever predicament I’ve gotten myself into is irrelevant.

“What am I being evaluated for, exactly?” I ask, because why not? I’m chained up near a probably beautiful woman I can’t see. Good as time as any to make small talk, right?

“For your spiritual feculence,” She replied in that same breathy voice. I don’t even know what feculence means, but this suddenly went New Age, fast.”If Y`Sil, Master of the Living Dark, finds you suitable, He will wipe your mind, your memories away, and make you his vessel.”

“Wait, he wants to make me his boat?” This really was a messed up dream!