Monday, July 25, 2011

What It Is

Hey hey!

Still don't have cancer anymore.

Still here? What good taste you have. In the months since the NMCMF Throwdown and now, I've gone through a few check-ups; all of them on the up and up. I have my first post-cruddymuffins (we're bringing it back) PET scan in a few weeks, though, and that's the telltale sign. My glass is half full, though. So don't worry your pretty little heads.

Now that I have all this time on my hands, what am I doing? You're very inquisitive, internet. Since my freelance gaming work is getting a little thin lately (for various reasons), I think it might be time to finally write that (other) book. I've slowly been chipping away at ideas, but it's between two things:

1- A quasi-memoir of the cancer thing interspersed with critical game analysis. Sound kinda dumb? Maybe it is, but I just read Extra Lives by Tom Bissell. Bissell is a particularly gifted writer; his vocabulary is astounding on the level of Michael Chabon, his observations on gaming culture are memorable, and he has a way of making you naturally curious about his thoughts on things that I already knew. But I didn't really think it was a great book. Part of it was my fault, I guess. I'm still waiting for the book Chuck Klosterman would write if he worked for EGM and not Spin in his youth, and I really thought that EL was my answer. It wasn't, but that doesn't mean that it isn't worth reading. The last chapter in particular - which is what I found most interesting - candidly dealt with playing Grand Theft Auto IV while on various cocaine benders. The book in my head will be something more along these lines (not a pun), but in the place of hard drugs will be harder drugs of a different stripe.

2- A book of critical essays dealing with the various ways that Demon's Souls may be the best videogame of the last five years. Yes, I'm absolutely serious. DS is the kind of game that takes patience and dedication to play, but the best parts of it are what's left unsaid in between the melange of player deaths and monster-slaying from religion, views on life and death, opt-in plot and need for narrative. Shit, I could go on forever.

Yes, both are vanity pieces. But I'm a vain guy. I can bench over 300 pounds. There. Vain.

I've already started on essays for both books. The good thing about doing this is if one works better than the other, I can fold them together, but we'll see. Anyhoo, here's hoping you're well, and not in the same situation as the guy in the picture.

He's straight screwed.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Time Has Come

Hey! Remember when I had cancer? Boy, that sure was the pits. Poopy, in fact. Stupid cancer; that's what you get for fucking with me!

It's been a week. More, actually: it's been a week and four days. That's a week and a half completely free of The Cancer, which is a lot longer than it's been for nearly a year. Crazy, man. You know what we should do? We should party. Yeah, it's time for us to party. So...


Saturday, March 19, 2011
Robbie's place in Cleveland, OH
8:00pm - whenever you leave

Come for the fish, stay for the freak.

It's a little sad that I've been planning this here blog post since I was first had my biopsy, but I didn't come up with anything better than that. I think you get the point, though, smart cancer blog readers. You can RSVP for this event by emailing me or hitting the Facebook page here. Not that you have to RSVP, but that might be the only way you get the address.

Food for thought: I just killed cancer. You should come over and drink to me.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Fierce Adventures of Nanomachine in the 4th Dimension: A Slapstick Comedy

Last Friday was a PET scan. Know what a PET scan is? It's a positron emission tomography scan, dummy. For the sake of it, I'll let you read the Wikipedia definition (which is always true):

Positron emission tomography (PET) is a nuclear medicine imaging technique which produces a three-dimensional image or picture of functional processes in the body. The system detects pairs of gamma rays emitted indirectly by a positron-emitting radionuclide (tracer), which is introduced into the body on a biologically active molecule. Images of tracer concentration in 3-dimensional or 4-dimensional space (the 4th dimension being time) within the body are then reconstructed by computer analysis. In modern scanners, this reconstruction is often accomplished with the aid of a CT X-ray scan performed on the patient during the same session, in the same machine.

What's essential to you:
  • This thing takes pictures of your body in sort of three-dimensional way. Meaning, they make an image of your innards to see what's wrong with you. The future is now.
  • They inject a small tracer molecule into your body that emits positrons (which is how the image is generated). Since these positrons detect gamma rays, it is safe to say that I am not the Incredible Hulk (as previously speculated) because I just don't have the gamma juice in me, man.
  • On the flip side, by injecting me with these positrons, I am pumped full of -in my mind- hyper-intelligent nanomachines. Since this isn't my first (nor will it be my last) PET scan, you wouldn't be too far off if you were to infer that they are making a super soldier out of me, one injection of nanomachines at a time.
  • My logic is sound. Always.
  • The 4th-dimension is time. IT MEASURES TIME. Go ahead and run with that.
  • The one I had on Friday will tell me if I killed cancer or not. After four months of chemotherapy, three weeks of radiation, lots of sitting around and waiting, a little bit of stress, a lot of vomit, and a well-choreographed dance sequence set behind the backdrop of the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, I'm finally going to know the truth. It's going to be like the ending The Usual Suspects. More importantly...
It's like spin kicking a possibly terminal medical condition in the face.

This Thursday, I get results from my kindly English doctor (whom I may start referring to as Dr. Light). You better check back. It's gonna be a scene, man.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Because it's Tuesday

A lot of people have been asking me about This Cancer Life, which is something you would expect. Most of the questions fail to go further than "how are you feeling." I find this nice because they want to know a little bit, but not more than to simply let me know that they're thinking of me. Who can blame them? These are the folks that don't want details about the nasty stuff, just the Cliff Notes: Are you ok? Check "yes" or "no."

I appreciate these. It's not that I want to dodge giving deep thoughts to my answer; more like I don't want to relive the 145+ hours of misery that long post-chemo recoup weekends have given me. Want to know how I have such an exact number? I play too many video games that track that stuff. Just the fact that I admitted that to you should tell you that I'm serious about this topic.

The other inevitable query people get (because I can over generalize the cancer population. You can't, by the way) is something along the lines of "does this totally change your perspective?" Also fair, I suppose.

See, so far with this stuff it's been guns blazing. While there has certainly been plenty of time to stop and reflect (which I have seldom shared with you, against my original plan, Maybe that's to your benefit, though), I'm more of a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy. Fix the problem now and think about it later. This has gotten me into trouble plenty over the years, but I'd rather just put the thing together and stop bickering about it rather than figuring out the best method. The "change" question, then, can give you some pause.

Obviously, the quick answer to this is sure, my perspective is changed. But I guess that doesn't do the question, and therefore the person whom asked it, the justice it deserves. So by answering so quickly to something like that and not giving too much depth, I'm pretty much saying that no, my perspective on things hasn't changed much at all. I still have a wife and family that love me. I still get up and go to work. I come home and have a beer now and then (and then and then). I guess this makes me a pretty bad cancer survivor when I can finally say that I survived cancer.

Then my cousin, bless his bald heart, went and fucked it up over Christmas. After telling a group of people what the next steps are, he stops, looks at me, and says "you had fucking cancer. Cancer." Funny enough, it dawned on me that people that talk to me about this actually use "cancer" less in conversations than "fucking." That little exchange shut me up for a second, and I drove home from Toledo to Cleveland silent, brutally reminded that I have "fucking cancer. Cancer." And maybe I'm not dealing with it as well as I thought.

Two weeks ago I was watching movies with friends. One of them asked if this was it for Hodkins; if remission means that I'm just living on borrowed time before it comes back. I calmly tried to explain to him that Hodgkins is 90-100% curable and that it'll probably never come back. I could see it in his eyes that that statistic didn't phase him, because he knew that deep down, it didn't really mean that much to me, either. I could be dead right now. Someday down the road this might come back and I might be dead then.

You don't stop and think about that (I hope), but I sure as hell do. You also don't think about the time when you share an awkward cake and tell your coworkers that you wish that you knew them all better. The time you remind your parents that they did right by me and that I love them. The time when you thank your best friends for what they've done for you and how they helped you through the worst. The last time you see the your nieces or nephews and hope that they have everything they need. The last time that you ask your wife if she just wants to take a walk.

Does cancer change your perspective? Absolutely. All of that stuff I just said is a bunch of things that I'm never going to have to do.

In one week I'll have my final PET scan. A week after that I get a follow up with my oncologist -again, a kindly English gentleman- to find out if I still have cancer.

And I'm not fucking dead yet. Period.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving has come and gone. As you'd imagine, I sort of have a lot to be thankful for this year. Chiefly, I'd like to thank the world Jimmy John's. It ain't for everybody, but it sure is for me. Oh, and thank God that I'm done with treatments. Man, did that get old, amiright?

Radiation was actually pretty reasonable comparatively. Yes, I only did it for about 3 weeks and some people go much, much longer (insert stamina/ prowess jokes), but the side effects were minimal and my energy didn't drop like it did for chemo. The worst of it was near the end where it hurt to swallow food, specifically bread. Think I'm kidding about Jimmy John's? Try giving it up for a few weeks. See that? No joke just dangles here.

The plan henceforth is thus: in about three weeks I'll visit my radiologists again for a check up. He's a roundish, bearded gentleman that kind of reminds me of that good scientist that helps you against that evil scientist (you know that guy, right?). He even has a mousy side-kick fellowship doctor to do his dirty work (not that I know what that is). I feel I'm in pretty good hands, even though I'll be out of them pretty soon. After all of that, I return to the taller, slender, Britisher doctor that is steering this ship for follow-ups and the Final Scans.

Then we're gonna party. More on that later.

So let's talk about my coif. Yes, I finally shaved my head about a month before chemo ended. I really didn't lose that much hair until more than half-way through, and by the time it was all coming to a close I was yanking out entire clumps when I would wake up in the morning. I'm not so in love with my hair, but this is a little bruising to the ego; I really thought that my particular cancer comic book would be subversive to the usual mass consumer trite. Turns out we all sell out sometime. Oh, well.

The plus side is that it is, in fact, coming in thicker than what it was before, but I'm resigned to keep it at a short, buzzed length from now on. Combine this with the copious stubble that I prefer to wear on my brick-like chin, I now resemble a more American Jason Statham (or Jason Statham resembles ME. Whatever flips your lid). But something much, much more mysterious has happened.

My immediate family is cursed, you see. Having a father and two older brothers, I can tell you this with downright scientific accuracy that the Learned men cannot reliably grow a mustache. My father, the reigning champion of the 'stached men of my family, had one when I was very young, but shaved it around tenish years ago. He finally let slip a year or two ago that it took him more than six months to grow it. To my brothers and I, whom have struggled since needing to shave in the first place to grow a flavor saver, this was like finding out that Santa existed, but he was just the foreman for the elves whom did all of the heavy lifting anyway.

Now don't get me wrong, I am in no way interested in being primarily be-stachioed. Nor am I interested in the current hipster-stache trend that follows pretentious college kids. But I likes me my beard. It's kind of punk rock lumberjack, after a fashion. But if it ain't right on the upper lip, I look more like emancipating rather than river-hogging.

Cancer, though, has somehow broken through my gene pool and mutated me in ways that nobody expected. Ladies and gentlemen, I leave you with this:


Lee Van Cleef

Har Mar

The guy on the Pringles container


Halloween next year is going to really kick ass.