Monday, May 22, 2017

Are You Scared?

After the beauty of an intimate encounter, she rested her head on my chest and draped her arm across my body. "Are you scared?" she asked.

"Not yet," I replied.

But I am.

Not of the possibility cancer has returned or if I'll have to go through all that pain and suffering again, which was, of course, the question she was asking, so no, I didn't keep the truth from her.

But I'm scared of other things.

Things like you and the boys not having health insurance if I die.

That shit keeps me awake on some nights.

I don't understand a world where people think, no, make that where people actually believe that such a situation is the way it is supposed to be; that healthcare is a privilege for the few and not a human right for all.

I don't understand people who are fine with their tax dollars going to the military, or some undisclosed, secret governmental organization, for the purpose of killing other human beings, but are so against those tax dollars going toward the healthcare of others.

As if dealing with health issues is a choice.

"Get a job that has health insurance," some say.

"Healthcare should not be a for-profit business," I respond.

But it falls on deaf ears.

It falls on those with no empathy for others.

It falls on those with only selfish motivations.

Mostly, it falls on those of privilege.

Almost all of my fear is health related: My cancer, your cancer, his seizures and other ailments.

It's a large part of our life together but I am thankful it's you that I go through this with.

I'm also scared for our children's future. Not because of the orange asshat that is currently in office, he is just a temporary blip, but of the way a large part of the population sees our child and those like him. What does his future hold? It keeps me up some nights, as well.

For our other child, my fear stems from what the future will be like for him. What will be left for him to do to earn a living, to be productive, and to find happiness?

Most parents have this fear for their children, but there's never been 7.5 billion people on the planet before. And this number will continue to grow.

I teach mathematics. I know this growth rate is not sustainable. I know the future will have problems that we humans refuse to acknowledge today.

More of that selfish motivation.

I know most jobs will be automated. Much sooner than many of you realize. Thus, there will be more people looking for work than there are today, but there will be far fewer jobs available.

Call me paranoid.

Call me foolish or stupid or insane or any other word you want.

It will not phase me.

If you've chosen blindness, that is your right.

But it leads to more of that selfish motivation.

More of that us versus them mindset.

We need more of that "we're all in this together so let's help each other" mindset.

We're all going to die.

You're not stopping that from happening.

So instead of being selfish, we need to help one another.

We need to listen to one another.

We need to have empathy for one another.

We need to realize we are all pieces of meat, made of stardust, riding this very small blue orb around a much larger orb in an average spiral galaxy through the vastness of space.

That's not hopelessness.

That's reality.

And that's why each of us are no better than anyone else on this planet regardless of money, occupation, or social status.

We really are all equal in the eyes of the universe.

It's unfortunate human nature doesn't let us see it that way.

But we are.

The truth doesn't need your approval.

It's doubtful you'll live approximately 2.5 billion seconds without any health issues. (That's around 75 years.)

And so our health matters.

Healthcare is a right.

Not "access" to healthcare.

That's bullshit.

We deserve actual healthcare, paid for with our tax dollars, as well as the knowledge that we will not lose everything we own when we get sick.

Everyone knows it.

It's not a secret.

Life is better than death.



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Where We Go Now

It's been a year since I wrote Don't Count Me Out, Yet. A year since my world changed after I was given my tonsil cancer diagnosis; a cancer caused by one of two cancer-causing strains of HPV. A rough year, indeed, with many dark moments where I didn't think I'd make it through. But here I am, one year later.

While there were many difficult days, I remember one particular morning when I stumbled into the kitchen, barely hanging on to whatever humanity I still had, frustrated by what I was going through, and in complete misery from the pain in my mouth and neck, and I said to my wife, "If this doesn't work, or if this shit comes back, then that's it. I'm not going through this shit again."

For those of you that know my wife, you can guess how she responded. For those of you that don't know my wife, well, let's just say that's not what she wanted to hear.

But I was suffering, the worst suffering I had ever endured in my, up to that point, forty-eight trips around the sun. I wanted it to end. I can not describe to you, to help you understand, what it's like to go through such an event. If you haven't experienced it, and I hope you never have to, or if you haven't experienced something similar, then you just simply can not understand. That is no fault of your own, it's just the way it is. Life is funny that way.

Obviously things got better. Yes, it still hurts to eat and swallow, and some food is more difficult to eat than others, but for the most part I've recovered nicely. Well, except for the part where sweet things taste different now, especially chocolate. Yeah, that sucks.

I'll continue to be monitored with blood draws and scans and whatnot for quite awhile. That's fine. I'd like to catch it early if it does decide to come back again and rear it's ugly head in a second attempt to try and take me down.

And today I can't say what I said to my wife on that ugly morning last fall. If that shit does come back, then we'll deal with it again. If that means going through all that suffering again, then so be it. Life is only for the living.

I have more living to do.

So, since that is all under control at the moment, it is time to again deal with my voice. For those of you who have been around me for the past several years, you've noticed my voice has gotten worse. It's getting even more difficult to talk, today. No, this was not related to the cancer treatment I received, it was it's own separate thing.

I was seeing an ENT for the voice issue when that had to be put on the back burner because the cancer thing came up. You know, staying alive became more important than being able to speak. Priorities and all.

Well, now I'm back at the voice.

I saw the same ENT this week and, well, let's just get right to it: I'm going to have surgery.

Yes, this is frightening because, as you recall, the last time I went in for a quick surgery (to put in a chemo port), I had a seizure on the table and the procedure was aborted. No chemo port. Then, no driving for six months. I don't want that shit to happen again, so the ENT recommended I see my neurologist before having surgery. Ugh. More doctor visits.

I'm having surgery because all around my vocal chords, including on them, there is papilloma; small wart like things that are caused by, you guessed it, HPV. We won't know if it's from the same strain as the one that caused my cancer until after the biopsy, so, yes, there is a concern they may be malignant.

However, I recently had a PET Scan that was clear of cancer, so I'm thinking there's a good chance it's benign. That doesn't mean it can't, or won't become malignant at some point, though. But I can't worry about that now because I don't know what to worry about. Let's see what happens after surgery.

The surgery will happen near the end of June and I will not be allowed to talk for something like ten days. Ten days? With my kids? I'm going to need to go away to a secluded island for that to happen.

Hmmmmm. That doesn't sound too bad.

In any case, this is where we go now.

It is what it is.

We'll get through it.

I'd like you to know that HPV can cause all kinds of other problems that are not cancer. In fact, of the many different HPV strains, something around 100 of them, only two of them cause cancer. But there are other high risk strains that may cause other serious issues. So with that in mind, my PSA is as follows:

Since my diagnosis a year ago I have been an advocate for kids and young adults to get the HPV vaccine. I have little tolerance for the anti-vaccination crowd. If you're in that group, go ahead and let fear run your life, but Autism is not caused by vaccinations. In fact, you're probably alive today because you were vaccinated as a kid. Be thankful we have such medical technology today that allows us to live healthier lives than in years past.

Get your kids vaccinated.

And if you're a young adult that is already sexually active, talk with your doctor. It might still be worth it for you to get the vaccination.

There's the update. Not the best news, but not the worst either. I'll keep you posted. For now, though, I'm trying to get what I can taken care of before Congress allows my health insurance company to put an annual or lifetime cap on what they'll pay out regarding my medical treatment.

You shouldn't allow that to happen.

You may be fine now, but you don't know what your future holds.

Until next time. Take care.

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.