Friday, July 14, 2017

Of Course

I awoke to the sound of someone saying "Wake up, Mr. Anderson. You're in recovery."

It was the nurse.

Everything was black. I couldn't see a thing, but I could still hear her; like the lamp in the movie projector burned out but the soundtrack was still playing.

The audio track continued: "Wake up, Mr. Anderson. They had to stop the procedure. You're in recovery."

Wait. What?

The lights finally came on; bright hospital lights. Everything white.

"They were unable to complete the procedure," she said again.

My head spun, the fogginess of the anesthesia clouded every sensation.

I sat there and stared at the curtain, the fabric wall that separated me from the hustle of the medical staff.


As you may recall, my last surgery had to be aborted, as well. That's the last two surgeries--two routine, out-patient procedures--that had to brought to an end shortly after they began.

A few minutes later Rachel walks in.

What's there to say?

My mind was still in a fog, so I honestly don't remember if I said anything to her or not.

I didn't have a seizure.

Well, that's good.

The doctor visited with Rachel for quite some time after she called the surgery off, while I was in recovery.

I'm frustrated, but unlike last time, I am not raging with anger. I'm not yelling at the nurses or cursing to relieve my frustration. Instead, I just sit there. Staring.

It's surreal. I almost fall into a self-pity party because really, can't anything just go as fucking planned?

The doctor joins us a few minutes later.

She has terrific bedside manner. She's compassionate, concerned, and attentive--three reasons I have been seeing her the past couple of years. When she emerges from behind the cloth wall, I see the sympathy in her eyes, she seems just as frustrated as I am.

Bottom line: I have a very narrow passageway from my mouth to my vocal chords--and it needs to be straight. Mine, of course, isn't. There is also still quite a bit of swelling from the radiation treatments which makes the passageway even smaller.

So she couldn't get a scope down my throat--she didn't have one small enough. It's the second time in her twenty year career to see such a thing.

Of course. Of course, it would be me. I'm already in the 2% club for having a congenital bicuspid aortic valve; I'm one of the rare ones that has gotten staph endocarditis (and of the much rarer ones that have survived it--ok, that's like really good); and I've battled stage four tonsil cancer, which apparently the treatment helped screw up this procedure (though I think it would have been aborted anyway, even if there was no swelling from the radiation). I'm tired of being rare.

Ok. That's it. That's my fucking pity party. I'm done.

So, she couldn't remove the warts.

No removal. No biopsy. Nothing.

She gave us four options. The only one I'm going to tell you about is the one I'm doing next: we're trying again. She's going to get a smaller scope, probably one for a child, and we're going back to try this shit again.

Yeah, I'm pissed off about it. Yeah, I'm frustrated, disappointed, and sometimes sad.

But it is what it is.

If the next time doesn't work, then we'll go from there. I still have three more options, remember. But as some of you know, when you get down to the last few options, well, they all kind of suck, if not just completely outright suck. Here's to hoping we don't have to keep going through them.

So that's the latest. Thank you all for everything, Rachel and I appreciate all the love and support.

I'll let you know what happens next.

(No jokes about my small passageway.)

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