Saturday, January 28, 2017

We Know

I could drink the Kool-Aid, take the blue pill, or just bury my head in the sand.

Any of those would be the easy thing to do.

But I can't.

And neither should you.

Why, you ask?

Because we're better than this.

We're better than what the man in the White House portrays about Americans.

We know we wouldn't be where we are without science.

So we should not be bashing it or trying to suppress it.

We know we wouldn't be where we are without journalism.

So we should not be trying to create confusion between what is real and what is fake.

We know we all depend on truth and facts.

So we should not be advocating "alternative facts" and "untruths".

We know we wouldn't be here without refugees.

So we should continue to accept them and offer them a safe place from the horrors they flee.

We know we wouldn't be here if there had been walls.

So we should not be building one to separate us from the rest of the world.

We know we wouldn't be here without nature.

So we should be trying to save it, nurture it, and love it instead of trying to destroy it.

We know we wouldn't be here without women.

So we should be embracing them, listening to them, and respecting them.

We know we are all humans on this little blue dot floating through space.

So we should not be trying to create divisions, but instead foster tolerance and inclusiveness.

We know that all any of us ever want is to be loved.

So we should love.

--Randy Anderson
January 28, 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year Without A Heart

Goodbye, 2016.

You were not the year I was hoping for when this whole thing started back on January 1st.

You were vicious, uncaring, dangerous, and vile.

From taking artists that helped shape who we are, to tearing apart hopes and dreams, to holding up a mirror forcing humanity to see the ugliness that had been previously hidden, to my own personal battle with monsters and demons.

I will not miss you, 2016.

One year ago I stated I would not be looking back fondly on 2015. My dad lost his battle with cancer while my wife fought her own battle with breast cancer. It was truly a shitty year. I was ready to move on to a better 2016.

As you all know, that didn't happen.

Instead, I received my own diagnosis of cancer.

Then I fought my own battle for a good portion of the year because the treatment was so difficult.

There are no words to describe what one goes through when battling cancer. It "sucks" and "fuck cancer" just don't quite do it justice, but it's about all we've got.

Fighting it becomes your life.

Both that you are literally fighting for your life and that your everyday life is about battling cancer.

Since I chronicled the experience as I was going through it, I won't rehash it again now. I'll just say, yes, the treatment was difficult both physically and mentally, but the added stress to our family because of the diagnoses (both my wife's the year before and mine this year), the treatment, my inability to be a functioning human being for months, and the fact that I was forbidden to drive for six months because I had a seizure on the operating table, all made the year even more difficult.

Then there were the friends that had their own battles with cancer this year. Some ongoing, others a new diagnosis.

I now relate to people learning they have cancer in a way I never knew existed. It can be a perfect stranger and I'll feel this overwhelming empathy for them.

When it's not a stranger, the feeling envelops me, swallows me whole, and then spits me out and leaves me a crumpled mess on the floor.

I said it in my first post regarding my cancer adventure, "I've joined the club no one wants a membership to."

But that's what it is, a membership.

And I am emotionally affected by others becoming new members.

I'm tired of cancer.

But it is what it is.

For now, I will not say I am "cured". (It just hasn't been that long since I was in the throws of battle.)

Instead, I say: according to the last scan, there is no evidence of cancer present.

And I am grateful for that.

So while my personal difficulties were quite challenging in 2016, there were also many other things going on in the world that made 2016 quite the shitty year. Everything from the climate to politics to ignorance to hatred.

It was the year a good portion of music died: Prince, Davide Bowie, Glenn Fry, Merle Haggard, George Michael, Maurice White, George Martin, and Leonard Cohen to name only a few.

Some others that were lost in 2016: Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Mohammad Ali, Florence Henderson, Ron Glass, Kenny Baker, George Kennedy, Gary Shandling, Patty Duke, Garry Marshall, Arnold Palmer, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Harper Lee, Morley Safer, Gordie Howe, Richard Adams, and of course, John Glenn.

Then, because 2016 wasn't finished fucking with us, we lost Carrie Fisher with four days remaining in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

The following day, her mother, Debbie Reynolds died.

Losing famous people often makes us realize our own mortality.

For a certain age group of people, we were given many opportunities this past year to have that realization.

It's sobering.

We know we're going to die but we rarely think about it. Then a famous person who had some impact on our lives dies and we realize, holy shit, that could be me. Particularly when that famous person is relatively close to our own age.

And/or we realize that all this, this bullshit that we war over, hate over, hurt others over is all just that: bullshit.

And/or we realize our childhood has been dead for many years and that we have far fewer years ahead of us than we do behind us.

Or we just don't give a fuck and we get right back to warring, hating, and hurting others.

Then it eventually passes and we move on to just trying to live through our busy lives, not giving another thought to death. That is, not until the next death of someone that has impacted our lives.

But while the year was filled with celebrity deaths, it was politics and world events that out shined everything else.

In the year 2016, humanity showed its true colors.

And they were not pretty to look at.

The disgusting U.S. Presidential election left most of us confused and despondent. Is this really the country we live in?

Apparently so.

Do so many fellow Americans harbor so much hatred?

Apparently so.

Then there was Brexit, Aleppo, Sudan, Russia, refugees, and the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub.

This is the world we've always lived in.

It is what it is, but I don't have to like it.

So I will not be looking back fondly on 2016, either.

It can not leave fast enough.

So good riddance 2016.

You personally brought me pain and took me way too close to death.

You brought many friends pain and fear.

And you tried to squash our hope with humanity's disgusting displays of violence, hatred, and killing.

It was the year full of hate
Where intolerance and ignorance did shine.
It was a year to never forget
As we crossed line after line after line.

It was the year full of death,
That needed to end right from the start.
It was the year full of pain.
It was the year without a heart.




Monday, December 5, 2016

I Don't Understand

I've seen the children
Die in the streets.
I've seen
Governments fall.
I've seen a doctor
Die in vain.
What has
Happened to us all?

I've seen the riots
I've seen the wars.
I've seen
Tranquility.
I've seen them murder
Overseas.
Somehow
We just don't believe.

Sometimes, I run.
Sometimes, I hide.
And sometimes,
I wish to Hell I didn't know.
Sometimes, I live.
Other times, I die.
And sometimes,
I just watch the hatred grow.

I've seen the women
Raped in their homes.
I've seen
Babies get sold.
I've seen the children
Just get raped by their own.
These are
Stories of old.

I've seen politicians
Stoke and incite fear.
I've seen
Truth lose to lies.
And God's often used
To justify atrocities,
To control who lives
And pronounce the very next to die.

Sometimes, I run.
Sometimes, I hide.
And sometimes,
I wish to Hell I didn't know.
Sometimes, I live.
Other times, I die.
And sometimes,
I just watch the hatred grow.

I've seen the government
Cater to the rich.
I've seen,
Jane and John Doe.
They live on a street
Where their soul's been sold,
Invisible,
To those that choose not to know.

I've seen the people
Who sell their skin.
I've seen
Sex end time.
I don't understand
This fucking world that I'm in.
But there we go
Crossing another line.

Sometimes, I run.
Sometimes, I hide.
And sometimes,
I wish to Hell I didn't know.
Sometimes, I live.
Other times, I die.
And sometimes,
I just watch the hatred grow.

--Randal D. Anderson
May 6, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Long and Winding Road

I had a CT Scan a few weeks ago that looked good.

Today I learned the results of the Pet Scan I had recently.

I'm cancer free.

Obviously I'm thrilled to get this news.

Both the blood work and the scan looked good. I'll do it all again in three months.

I'm "probably cured" but I know cancer can return, or show up somewhere else, at any time. We just never know what lies in our future.

I'll be getting tested every three months for quite awhile, and there will always be that concern/worry of it returning or appearing somewhere else in/on my body.

It is what it is.

I'm grateful for the doctors, the treatment, and the science that helped me stay alive.

I'm very thankful for all my friends and family that helped during this most difficult time in my life. Your support, both physically and/or emotionally, was much appreciated.

Thank you.

I thank my wife for keeping the house together, taking care of the boys, driving me everywhere, and for pretty much everything else during these past months.

I love you.

I took the title for this post from one of my favorite Beatle's songs because yes, this road has been long, winding, and littered with pot holes. It's been the most difficult road I've ever traveled:

The no eating; the no sleeping; the pain; the vomiting; the nausea; the depression; the apathy; the chemotherapy; the radiation; the countless doctor's appointments; the surgeries; the seizure; the no driving for six months; the lying in bed for weeks; the lost weight; the exhaustion; the nurses visits; the PICC line; the G-Tube; the scars (both physically and mentally).

A road I hope none of you ever have to travel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For Where I Am

On this eve of my 48th Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for where I am.

I have a pet scan next week. Yes, I'm a little nervous about it. Not the scan but more getting the results of the scan which I'll get a couple of days later. I'll probably get more nervous/anxious as that day gets closer.

For me anyway, now that I've been fighting cancer, every new "pain", every new blemish on my skin, everything that is new/different from the day before (both inside and on my body) causes me some anxiety.

It is what it is.

It's to be expected.

My tongue is feeling a little better. It doesn't hurt quite as much as it used to, though it does still hurt to eat. It even hurts when I yawn.

My neck is still pretty tight and tender, though even that has gotten somewhat better. I'm seeing a physical therapist for neck lymphedema massage exercises. Don't want lymphedema, now.

I still get tired pretty easily. Not much stamina to be on my feet for hours, but it's getting better. Last week I was up at campus for two days in a row. I was really tired during the second day. That's all new to me. Not used to being so tired from just being on campus, and not used to sucking air after climbing only three flights of stairs. That's what I climb to get to my office. That all should get better once they again become part of my daily routine. If all goes well with the pet scan next week, then that routine starts at the beginning of January. If the pet scan does not go well, then, we'll see where that leads.

This adventure has been long and, as you know, it has been extremely difficult. I don't know if it is ever truly "over" because there will always be that worry of recurrence or something new showing up during one of the many scans and blood draws that lie in my future.

But for now I'm thankful for where I am.

I'm thankful I made it through most of the chemo and all the radiation treatments.

I'm thankful for my wife helping me through such a difficult time in my/our life and for taking care of the boys when I couldn't get out of bed for weeks. It was very difficult on her, especially since she is still recovering from her bout with breast cancer last year. (Fucking cancer. We've had enough already.)

I'm thankful for the support of my family and friends. It is much appreciated. The texts, the messages, the gifts, the love. You all are wonderful.

I don't miss the days of pacing in my bedroom, literally just ten steps each way, over and over again to get some form of exercise but really just to pass the time.

I don't miss sitting in bed staring at the dresser for weeks. No music. No reading. No watching videos. Just staring at the dresser, suffering through depression.

I don't miss getting around 2-3 hours of sleep every day. If I was lucky I got 4 hours. I had to put a "can" in the tube every three hours or so. That included in the middle of the night. So while that interrupted any sleep I might have been getting, the bigger issue was that I just couldn't get to sleep. For months I had to sleep sitting in an upright position, which forced my wife to sleep in a different bed. I was often stuffy and couldn't breathe through my nose. My throat, tongue, and neck hurt. Badly. And the medication I was on caused insomnia.

Nope. Not gonna miss that.

And I hope I don't have to go through that shit again.

Ever.

I don't miss having tubes sticking out of my body. I'm reminded of them every time I look in the mirror without a shirt on. The scars are a reminder of the Hell I went through.

But I'm thankful I have the scars.

For without the tubes I would've died weeks ago.

Without the scar on my neck, the cancer would've spread even further than it did.

And even though I'm scared shitless, I'm thankful I'm getting a scan next week. I refuse to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is ok.

It's not ok.

I have cancer.

Stage-four cancer.

It may be gone now that I've gone through surgery and treatment.

But it may not be.

I need to know.

But for now I celebrate.

I celebrate with my family and friends.

We all have problems. For some it's health related, for others it might be financial, or with their relationships or employment or a myriad of other things that can go wrong in our lives. It saddens me to see such hatred still propagated throughout this country and throughout the world when all most of us are trying to do is to just live a happy life despite all these things that can go wrong.

Life is shorter than we can ever imagine.

Unless we've faced the real possibility of death, we don't really know how short.

Be kind.

Oppose hatred.

And live life to the fullest.

I'll update you next week when I get the results of the scan. I hope it goes well and the cancer is gone.

Regardless of the outcome, though, I am thankful for where I am today.

Take care.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

We Keep Moving Forward

I'm better now, but I had to make it through some very, very dark days.

Well, it's been awhile since I last posted. I just couldn't bring myself to write during the past month or so. For most of that time I didn't do much of anything. No reading, no watching movies/tv. I didn't even listen to music for quite awhile. I just sat in bed for many hours a day. For the first time in my life, I was suffering from depression.

It was awful.

There were some very dark days, days where I didn't think I could go on. Days where I didn't really want to go on. I couldn't eat, I felt horrible, I was still vomiting. I would lay in front of the toilet because the floor felt good and, well, I was close to the toilet. It was truly a horrible time in my life.

I think the main culprit may have been oxycodone. I took it for nine days about every two hours. That's a lot. But I thought I needed it because my throat hurt and while I was taking the oxycodone my throat wasn't hurting.

Then I had to go to the emergency room.

My g-tube was leaking more than usual, and it was a little loose. One of my closest friends came to visit me the day before I had to go the ER, and she and her partner, along with a friend that works at the hospital, stayed with me while I was there.

But I was like a zombie. Not a Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead zombie, no, I was apathetic, lethargic, and fairly unresponsive to those around me.

I didn't know it at the time, but it was because of the oxycodone.

We waited for quite awhile before I was called back, so it had been several hours since I had "eaten" (put a can in the tube) or taken oxycodone. Two things I thought I needed to do every couple of hours or so in order to survive. Well now it had been something like five hours and I wasn't really hungry, though I knew I needed to "eat", plus my throat wasn't hurting.

But wait, I need oxycodone to make sure my throat doesn't hurt?

Apparently, I didn't.

So I decided to stop taking oxycodone. Cold turkey.

I didn't know it at the time, but that might have been a mistake.

The next week, particularly the next four days, was the most difficult time of my life so far. Depression, vomiting, apathy ruled over me. I was lethargic and just stayed in bed or by the toilet. It was truly a horrible time.

It was also the first time in my life I had ever thought about suicide.

But I thought about it.

I wanted out.

I wanted my wife and kids to be free of the shit life I all of a sudden had.

I didn't think I'd ever be able to eat real food again.

I was terrified of my life.

If this was going to be the quality of my life then I didn't want any part of it.

So yes, I contemplated suicide. I had it all planned out. I even went as far as writing a letter to my wife for her to read when she found me.

I was planning on doing that on Friday, four days after the ER visit. She had gone to Costco and was headed to pick up the boys from school. I thought this is my time.

Then she spontaneously showed up at the house to drop off the frozen food before going to pick up the boys from school.

She was planning on taking the boys to get ice cream and asked if I wanted to join them.

Up to this point about the only time I had been out of the house was to go to the fucking cancer center or hospital. I guess I was going stir crazy, as well.

I said I'd love to join them and then put my shoes on.

I don't know if I really would have gone through with it or not, but I credit that moment with turning me around. While it has still been rough, I haven't thought about suicide since.

Today, there is no way in Hell I would contemplate it. That's not an option.

I really think the oxycodone was doing a number on my head. I was going through withdrawal. It took a few more days before I figured that out.

Oh yeah, we had a good time getting ice cream, though I didn't get any. Wasn't ready, yet.

Then the tube started leaking again and again became loose. At my next appointment with the oncologist I showed her. She thought it was infected and took a culture. Then she scheduled me to meet with the surgeon that Rachel and I like. The same one that took the tumor out of Rachel's breast last  year.

When I went to the ER, the ER doctor didn't have any experience with g-tubes but this surgeon happened to be working next door so he went and got her. She came over and fixed the tube from leaking, did a McGyver she called it, but it worked. She's awesome.

The culture came back negative but I kept my appointment with the surgeon.

A week or so later I had some ice cream at home. It was the first solid food I ate. I was terrified it would come back up, but it didn't. It wasn't much, and it hurt to swallow, but I ate it and it stayed down.

I slowly tried to eat other things over the next week but it was quite difficult. Plus, I didn't really have an appetite. I had way too much anxiety about eating. It scared the shit out of me.

But I continued.

Then I got to a point where I was eating solid food more than using the cans and the tube. I would use the tube during the night and eat solid food during the day.

Then came time to meet with the surgeon.

She came in and said that my oncologist thinks that she should take the tube out.

I was terrified. This was what had kept me alive for the past two months. It was difficult to think of not having it. I wasn't really eating terrifically and I was very worried about the middle of the night.

With a little peer pressure from the surgeon and my wife, I laid down on the table and she took the tube out. My anxiety was sky high.

Later we picked the boys up after school, and to celebrate me getting my tube out we went and got ice cream. I had a scoop and ate it all. I was very pleased.

Since then, I have been eating more. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pasta are still pretty difficult to eat, but chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey sandwiches, scrambled eggs and pancakes are not.

I started seeing a therapist, because, well, this hasn't been the easiest trip for me. The first day we met we talked about food. I told her I didn't like yogurt but I thought it was something I could eat. She scheduled to meet with me again two days later and I was to bring two yogurts.

So two days later I met with her. I had a vanilla yogurt and a strawberry yogurt. I sat there in that room with her and ate the strawberry yogurt. It took 25 minutes. At the end I told her I was just tolerating eating it. That of course is ok, as long as I eat it.

After I finished she wanted me to try the vanilla just to see if I liked it better. I did, and now I eat at least one vanilla yogurt a day. I actually look forward to eating it. This is a major change in my eating habits.

So eating has gotten better. I've eaten a lot of chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. Turkey sandwiches are slowly becoming a staple again. I'm even able to eat chips and hummus. Next is tacos!

Eating real food again has made me feel better and stronger. I'm out of bed more and interacting with my family and trying to help around the house. Every day I get a little bit closer to my normal. I am very thankful for that.

This past Monday we went to a restaurant for the first time since May. I didn't know how much of the two enchiladas, beans, and rice I could eat, but I was going to try.

I ended up eating all of it. That surprised me. And I wasn't feeling stuffed afterward. I guess my stomach is stretching back to its normal size.

While I'm still 30 pounds less then when this whole thing started back in May, I think I'll be able to gain some weight now. The cans and the tube just weren't cutting it.

I had a CT scan this past Monday that I'm a little nervous about. I get the results in a week. I am hoping I'm all clear.

So that's the update. Sorry it took so long, but I thank you for understanding. Things are much better now and I am mentally in a much better place than I was.

We keep moving forward.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I Just Want To Heal

One thing is pretty sure: If I wouldn't have gotten then g-tube then there's a good chance I might not have made it. That's worst case scenario. Best case is that I would've missed some treatments. All of that is bad so I'm glad I went ahead and got the tube.

Yeah it's annoying as all Hell, but it's keeping me alive.

The worst thing right now, though, is the constant dry mouth. It's bad. Absolutely no saliva. That is difficult to deal with. When my mouth dries out then it hurts to swallow water. I try to drink water a lot in order to help, but it's right back to dry mouth. As dry as the desert.

Chemo has caused most of this but I'm sure radiation has contributed to it, as well. I just want a moist a mouth again. Looks like that'll be awhile.

So yes, I managed to get through 33 radiation treatments. That's quite a lot. About seven weeks. Glad it's over but still have to deal with side effects for a few more weeks. That is getting more difficult.

I'm restless but tired all the time. I just want to heal.

Back to patience.

That's getting more difficult to do: be patient.

Yesterday my doc and I decided we'd stop chemo treatments. So I'm finished with chemo and radiation. Now it's on to healing.

The chemo was not systemic treatment, it was to help radiation do it's thing. I asked her if she was worried about me stopping and she said no. That's good.

It looks like healing will be difficult. That is disappointing. You don't realize how much you take your mouth for granted until it's not functioning the way it is supposed. It feels like it did after surgery, hurts in the same spots, but it seems more intense. Maybe it's my imagination, who knows. I did eat a little bit of real food last night, not much mind you, but I did. It's definitely more dry than after surgery and that makes a big deal. I need saliva. Maybe start feeling better next week? Who knows? Everyone is different.

It does affect my sleep. Hard to sleep with dry mouth and then wake up, drink water, and hurt to swallow. Doesn't make me want to go to sleep. Some nights are better than others. Most nights suck badly.

So that's it. Pain, dry mouth, treatments complete, more pain.

Please start healing. Please feel better soon. Please.