Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Line

There's a very thin line between doing okay and plunging over the edge into the dark, forbidding places that lurk within you.

Places that are ready to swallow you whole if given the slightest chance.

We all walk a slight variation of this line at some point in our lives, and unfortunately, sometimes we walk it more than once.

Everyone is different.

Some walk the line just fine, without falling one way or the other, and they get through to the other side where things are far better than just okay.

Praise them for that accomplishment.

Some struggle to walk the line. They teeter several times from okay to the dark places, but eventually, they too, make it to the other side.

Help them walk that line. Then praise them when they have succeeded.

Some are unable to walk the line and they plunge over the edge to those dark, forbidding places.

Carry them to other side. Praise them for letting you help them.

I've been walking this line since I learned I had cancer.

It would be very easy to just fall over and plunge to those dark places below.

But I fight it.

Yes, I want to crawl under a rock and just cry.

And sometimes I do.

I just refuse to stay there for very long.

I get back to walking that line, even though I can't see any light at the end.

But I'll keep walking.

I plan to make it to other side.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Life is a series of stages. These stages are of various lengths, and they can even be nested within one another. We go through each of these stages not really knowing when one stage ends and another begins because these stages bleed into one another making it seem like one continuous life. It's only when we reflect, look back on the events that made us who we have become, that we can see these individual stages.

But every once in awhile something will happen that is so traumatic that you know, right then at that very moment, that you've entered a new stage. It will be painfully obvious, and will probably scare you right down to your core.

Well, today, I enter a new stage.

It was pretty overwhelming to hear the words "Stage 4".

Everything went blurry and I needed a minute to refocus.

These are words we never expect to hear, yet, there they were, hanging in the air, no, make that choking the air, as I tried to comprehend them.

The tumor was the size of a walnut. Ok. But out of the total of 24 lymph nodes they removed from my neck, two of them had cancer.

That right there made it Stage 4.

If there had only been one lymph node with cancer, then it would've been Stage 3. I think she was trying to keep me from panicking. She did a pretty good job.

There was some cancer found in the deep margins around the tumor. But they couldn't get any better margins without seriously damaging me. That's not good.

And, one of the two lymph nodes was leaking.

Think of the lymph node as a balloon filling up with water. At some point, the balloon is going to burst and begin leaking. That's what happened with the lymph node, only it was filling up with cancer.

This means I still have cancer in my neck.

And that means radiation and chemotherapy are next on the agenda.

It's the radiation that scares me.

I haven't even been given the list of most of the side affects, yet, but I know to expect dry mouth, possible damage to my teeth and jaw, and, oh yeah, not being able to eat, you know, real food. It will become very difficult to swallow. In fact some people have a gastrostomy tube (g-tube) inserted through the abdomen to deliver nutrition because they can no longer swallow.





Fuck you, cancer.

I'm going to try to not go the g-tube route.

I hope I make it.

In any case, at the moment the plan is 6-7 weeks of chemo and radiation. Radiation every weekday during that time. I'll know more about all that fun stuff after I meet with the Medial Oncologist and the Radiation Oncologist. I'll meet with them soon.

So there you have it.

The hits keep on coming.

But I'm not down and out.

Life happens.

But life is worth enjoying to the fullest.

Even during those stages where enjoyment maybe difficult to come by.

This just happens to be one of those stages.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Life Happens

I was supposed to get the seventeen staples taken out today.

Well, that didn't happen.

Last night, at dinner, my oldest son's lunch decided to evacuate his stomach and intermingle with the dinner he was currently eating.

Yeah, fun times.

Then, in the middle of the night, his other end decided to join in the fun.

So we didn't get much sleep.

We didn't want to risk taking him on an 8-9 hour trip to Seattle and back, plus I didn't think I'd be able to make the trip by myself because I hadn't been out of the house in about two weeks, so we decided to reschedule.

Life happens.

We were supposed to get the pathology results today, as well. But you know, it doesn't really matter. We're going to do whatever needs to be done next. If the results come back in the best case scenario then there will be nothing else to do. That would be ideal. But if the results come back saying we need to do radiation and/or chemotherapy, then that's what we do next. I'm not going to screw around. I'm going to give myself the best chance to beat this shit. But I need to be healed from my surgery before we can start radiation, and I'm not healed, yet. Hence, it's fine we don't yet know the pathology results. We'll know soon enough. I'm thinking if it was excruciatingly awful, then I'm sure they would have contacted me by now. When we know, we will let you all know soon thereafter.

In the meantime, here's what's been going on since I updated you all last:


Well, maybe not completely nothing.

For the first week home I spent many more hours in bed than I did out of bed. You know, that's not a good thing. My body ached. Legs, neck, back, shoulders, and arms. It sucked. Yeah, I'd get up and walk around every day, but then I'd have to head back to bed after I did my laps. It's just all I could do. Yes, I slept a lot. That was good for healing, but it was murder on the rest of my body. These things still ache today. I am so looking forward to seeing my massage therapist. She's awesome, but I know I'm going to be knocked out when she gets done. I'm that bad off.

Then this past Sunday (a full week being home and 11 days after surgery) I was pretty down. Not depressed, more like "I'm tired of this shit" but I was too tired to do much about it other than lie in bed and listen to music. Reading was too tiring, watching Netflix was too tiring, writing was too tiring. I just wanted to lay in bed and listen to music and beat myself with "I'm tired of this shit. When's my tongue going to feel better? When will I feel my face again? Damn, my arm hurts, my back hurts, my legs hurt. When will I be able to swallow without pain? Alexa, play the Milk Carton Kids again." Pretty exciting day.

But the next day, Monday, I woke up feeling better. It was the first day I spent more hours out of bed then I did in bed. Rachel took the little guy to school, then came home and took the big guy to his appointment, then afterward they headed to Costco.

So I had some time to myself. It was nice. I watched the last two episodes of Jessica Jones on Netflix, which by the way is a series that I really did enjoy. I followed that by watching the documentary "We're Twisted Fucking Sister". You know, it's the era I grew up in, and yes I did enjoy it.

The next day I was alone again (Yes, that's a Dokken song) and I finished watching the documentary "History of the Eagles Parts 1 and 2." I enjoyed that, as well.

But I didn't just sit down to watch these shows. Instead, I walked. I swayed. I tried to sit as little as possible. I don't think I've ever watched a television show by standing through about the entire show.

But it helped.

The standing and moving helped me feel better.

The music helped me feel better.

Knowing Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are far more fucked up than me helped me feel better.

It was all good.

But then on Monday afternoon, Rachel brings home liquid Tylenol. Well, I can't swallow pills. I'm trying to get off the oxycodone because I have a slight allergic reaction to it, plus, it's oxycodone people. I don't need to be on that stuff for a long period of time.

Anyway, the liquid Tylenol:

She pulls it out of the bag and it's blue.

Yeah, blue.

The flavor is called "Cool Burst".


"Cool" is not a flavor. Cool is Fonzie. (Look it up if you must.)

Look at that color.


And it tastes absolutely disgusting. Why is grape flavored reserved for kids Tylenol, while disgusting Cool Burst is for adults? Supposedly there's also Cherry Burst, but forget the "burst" thing, Tylenol, and just give me something fairly decent tasting to swallow. Don't try to be fancy. Ugh.

So around 5pm I decided to muster all the strength I had to get this down the hatch. The directions state to take 2 tablespoons of this stuff. I said screw that and took one tablespoon. I knew from the hospital stay that half the dose still worked for me.

And it did again.

About 30 minutes later my mouth was feeling pretty good. Not great, mind you. Not back to normal. But I felt I could swallow. So I decided to try these meatball things that Rachel got at Costco earlier. We had never had them before, but the boys had them when they stayed over at a friend's house while I was in the hospital. They ate them then, so Rachel thought she'd try it. I ate four of them. They were freaking tasty.

I took the Tylenol again the next night and then ate quite a bit of Chicken Alfredo. (Yes, this was the dinner my oldest got sick at.)

I was slowly getting actual food into me. Up to this point, breakfasts have consisted of one scrambled egg, while lunch, as well as several dinners, have consisted of tuna mixed with mayonnaise. It was good to eat something different.

On Wednesday, the day we were to head to Seattle to get the staples out and get the pathology report, I decided I had to leave the house. I hadn't driven or left the house in two weeks. My oldest was sick and so he was just going to lay around and watch television all day. Knowing that I was not going to want to watch what he wanted to watch, and that I didn't want to spend the day in bed, I dressed for the first time in two weeks and then headed to the college.

I missed my first class because I just couldn't get there any earlier. So I arrived during the middle of my second class. It was an absolute pleasure to see them and to see them diligently working. I got to help several of them with their math questions while I visited. It was nice to be back in the classroom.

Afterward, I visited with some colleagues and then left to pick up the little guy from school. He wasn't expecting me. I wasn't expecting to pick him up. But I needed to spend some time at the office, therapy and all, and ended up staying longer than I had anticipated.

All in all, I've had three pretty good days in a row. Each one slightly better than the day before. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just can't see it yet.

But I think I can feel it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Hell Left The Light On

Born with no choice
Yet fights society every day,
He wonders if it’s worth it to go on.
When different on the inside
Than the outer shell does say,
You can see Hell left the light on.

She prays for it to end
But no god finds time to intervene.
She drifts to a world that's far gone.
Violated, humiliated
Her whole self now unclean.
All because Hell left the light on.

His color viewed as “lesser”
By those who find pleasure in hate.
He stays in the shadows, withdrawn.
He goes on with his life
Though the pressure is great.
Always wary, since Hell left the light on.

Her husband and children
Slaughtered before her eyes
She was then raped and sold before dawn.
With God as the government
The devils arise
To make sure that Hell left the light on.

The disease has spread
Poisoning him to his core.
Death is a conclusion foregone.
He’s fighting for life
In a game he can’t score.
And he knows Hell left the light on.

Knelt before the man of God,
Then told he’d be released from sin.
He prayed it wouldn’t take long.
He wipes himself clean,
Looks in the mirror again,
And wonders why Hell left the light on.

Alone with their despondency,
Their world has crashed all throughout.
The loss of their child they dwell on.
They speak of before
When that’s what life was about.
Long before Hell left the light on.

--Randal D. Anderson
June 7, 2016