My first trophy since High School Speech and DebateApril 26, 2010
So check me out; I won an award for my blog!
As you can imagine, I am both thrilled and humbled. However, I was caught a bit off guard when the Hive Awards asked the winners to post something about the inspiration for starting a blog. I have always thought that question was something akin to “Why do think anyone cares about the cheese sandwich you had for lunch?” Indeed, I too once thought blogging was not unlike producing a one man stage production; the ultimate in egotism. So why did I start my written version of “Just Jack”?
Well, cancer does that kind of thing to you. It makes you want to offer some grand gesture to the world. Maybe it comes from that feeling of “holy crap, I almost died!”? Suddenly you feel that some higher being has a purpose for you, since they let you linger on the planet a bit longer. You want to fulfill some kind of obligation to your version of the man upstairs. Maybe even buy a little more time in this world via karma. But more likely, I think this desire to communicate a big message is a need to leave your stamp on the earth. The thought that someday, no one alive will remember you is a difficult one to stomach. When I’m gone, will there be anything left behind? Any reason for another human being to think of me? Because if there’s not, then what the hell am I doing here in the first place? That thought is really damn troubling and taps my eternal regret for taking a class in Existentialism in college. Anyway, I think that’s where I got started.
What propelled me to keep going was a need for company to my misery. I just wanted to kvetch with people my own age who were going through the same thing I was. I wanted to ask questions about insomnia and neuropathy and, truth be told, AstroGlide. (Yep, surgical menopause can leave you pretty dry in the nether regions.) There were numerous great books out there to cheer me on to survivorship. Plenty of stories of beating the odds. However, all of these memoir type offerings only dealt with the head game when it comes to cancer. Now the havoc that treatment wreaks on your noggin is profound and definitely deserves many lines of print. But I longed for someone to tell me how the hell to take a shower without getting my pump and chemo line wet. (Well placed Saran Wrap and a hand held shower attachment. Then engage in a game of naked shower Twister.) I wanted answers. Details. Concrete info I could use to fight this crappy disease and all the side effects that come bundled with it. And I found what I was looking for on Planet Cancer.
Planet Cancer is a social media site for young adults with cancer. I like to call it “Facebook for the Fucked”. Here I could create a page to tell my story and post questions about Avastin and bloody noses. (Use a neti pot!) I even found some butt cancer brethren right here in Chicago. Huzzah! Planet Cancer also offers members an easy blogging platform, so you can share your thoughts to a limited or public group of fellow tumory folk. I started getting comments from young cancer fighters from all over the world, thanking me for addressing the down and dirty aspects of treatment. I started voicing those moments when you are trapped in the bathroom with an incredibly painful bout of constipation, and despite an incredible support network of friends and family, you feel utterly and completely alone. Guess what? Lots of patients get plugged up from chemo and want answers too. They’re just mortified to talk about it. (Keep some soft fiber in your daily diet. Oatmeal is good. Soft on the entrance and the exit. Get some DucoLace from your doc and keep the dreaded enema apparatus on hand for extreme emergencies. Trust me, you will be in no shape to make your way to a 24 hour Walgreens in this condition.)
What keeps me going is a desire to document my journey and try to make even a tiny bit of sense out of it. I also have a need to shake my dark feelings and humorous anecdotes out of my brain and into the laps of folks who also need kinship. But most of all, it’s the feedback. The heartfelt messages from survivors thanking me for articulating what they were feeling, but couldn’t express. The DMs that say, “Thank God I’m not the only one!” Even a simple “You rock” tweet, makes me smile.
Many, many friends and readers have encouraged me to write a book. After long consideration, I honestly intend to do so. I just had to figure out how and why my book would be different from the zillions of other “I beat cancer and you can too!” stories. With the help of a myriad of seminars at SXSW and old fashioned horse sense from my pals, I think I have a handle on it. But nothing will replace the joy of immediacy in my blog. When I’m feeling post chemo queasy and pissed off late at night, I need only put my thoughts to screen. Usually, within an hour someone gives me a “Me too. This blows!” or “Try some peppermint tea or ginger candies”.
My cancer is inoperable. At this point in time, the plan is to do chemo for the rest of my life. We basically zap the crap out of my mets to keep them at bay for as long as possible. Or until someone invents a procedure or conducts a clinical trial that might offer me a curative option. While many would look at this as a dire and intolerable situation, I do not. I see it as a constant supply of material. And further justification in drawing my initials in every wet patch of Chicago’s concrete.