Bring it

You may have noticed the rather obvious lack of regular updates until recently. It’s not for lack of things to say. Rather, I became tired of sharing my complaints. Complaints from others are actually giant pet peeves of mine. I don’t have much patience for what I often perceive as someone being a baby. But look at a bunch of posts I’ve written. Harsh negativity. Whining. Darkness. Pain. A big chunk of this blog is heavy, downer material.

I didn’t want to keep adding to the never-ending noise of negativity already present in everyone else’s lives (whether personally or through media outlets). What good does it do?

I can write about things I love; Things I’m grateful for; Things that inspire. But two things stop me from that:

1. If I starting listing all I’m grateful for, it would never end. No, really. It would also be horribly cheesy, and full of sappy clichés. That’s what “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books are for.

2. It’s a matter of having things to spare, and NOT having things to spare.

I’m drained, mentally and physically. I cherish the things I’m grateful for (it really is an endless list). But I can’t share them with you. I can’t afford to. They are mine and I need to be selfish. I will greedily take their nourishment as my fuel, my ammunition. I even silently edited or unpublished previous posts praising my wife and daughter. It’s an attempt to reclaim the memories and moments as my own. A way of placing the treasures back in my safe, close to my chest.

On the flip side, the negativity, pain, frustration, anger, and constant drain of this body’s imperfection are all things I have in excess. They are overbearing, heavy, and at times, seemingly all-consuming. Of this darkness, I have plenty to spare. In fact, my spirit is begging for a release.

I will tell you one thing I am grateful for, though, which might not make sense: I’m grateful for anger. When enough steam builds, I explode, but into words. There is something to expressing the anger that enlivens me. Anger is often my inspiration. My own reminder that I am alive, and kicking. And powerful. That’s something truly wonderful.

What is the benefit of honest negativity?

One quite awesome side effect of writing about darkness is that by reading it, you (yeah, YOU) become part of my healing. I write it, thereby releasing it, and your act of reading is in a way, an acceptance of bearing part of my load. So, thank you, dear reader, for being a receiver of my upcoming wrath.

Also, by being honest with my anger and frustration, maybe another benefit will emerge. A reminder that I am the result of archaic cancer treatments done to me as a child. Treatments that haven’t really changed in over 20 years. Why the hell not?

Why are so many cancer sites inspirational? Why are we okay with being fed clichés and sappy stories? It doesn’t always end pretty. Hell, it sometimes never ends at all. You can’t wrap it up in bow (if you have, you are blessed by fate). Cancer is a bomb, treated with a nuke. Newsflash: it doesn’t end post-cancer. It’s the shit that keeps on plopping.

It’s NOT okay.

Inspirational stories, heartwarming survivor moments, and sugar-filled words of encouragement have their rightful place. But they also mask a reality. I’m here to remind of the wake of destruction this disease can produce. Over and over again. Relentlessly. How are we okay with the state of cancer treatments? Where’s the damn progress? Why are kids (and anyone) still being treated with bags of toxic poison?

Don’t look away. Don’t assume “it gets better.” Face the monster. Look it straight in it’s death-filled eyes. Ignore it, and it will continue destroying lives. Ignore it, and it will never be defeated. So I offer you myself, my pain, my piece of the Dragon. I am the Boy Who Cried Cancer, except I’m not fucking lying.

I am cancer-free yet no where near healthy. And I am but one of many pediatric cancer survivors stuck with post-treatment illnesses. Maybe your own child knows the hell of cancer. How will she or he grow up? Maybe my anger will ignite yours. And maybe that anger will inspire action.

Or maybe you will simply know that you are not alone.

To those kids who have walked through the wasteland of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery… To those souls robbed of innocence far too early… To those making sense of a wrecked body post-treatment… You are me. And we are not alone.

I raise my fist to you, and I will scream for you, as long as I can:


(From the 1976 film, Network)

I’m all about that bass, no treble

Months ago I visited the doctor to investigate a weird little symptom that came up. A small section of hair had fallen out on the left side of my head. It wasn’t much, about the size of a coin. Complete hair everywhere else but that one spot. No biggie. I hid it easily with my other hair. Turned out after some blood work that I had/have hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid gland is under producing its hormones (thyroid hormones control metabolism/how food converts to energy in different parts of the body). One of its symptoms can sometimes show up as hair loss.

My hair is all grown back now, and I have been taking meds to hopefully raise my thyroid levels to a normal range. Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue, and I felt that long before I was diagnosed. This is still fairly new and so the medication will need some time to work it’s magic on my system. I’ll eventually retest my thyroid levels and go from there.

A bit before the hair/thyroid thing, something else surfaced. I woke up one day, like usual, only my left ear was plugged up. It felt just like an altitude pressure change. I could hear out of it, but all high pitches were muffled or silent. My right ear was perfect. I tried the usual tricks to “pop” my left ear back into crystal clear mode: yawning, chewing gum, yawning more, even the thing you’re not supposed to do-pinching my nose and blowing. Nothing. I eventually went for a complete ear exam and hearing test.

Turns out I have “asymmetric sensorineural hearing loss” in my left ear. That means it can’t be cured with surgery since it is a brain/nerve pathway issue, not an ear canal problem. Permanent, in other words. I was hoping I just needed a canal cleaning, but nope. The sharp, crispy high sounds never returned on that side. Lil Lefty had heard his last tinny cymbal crash.

No treble anymore.

Good news is the hearing loss is mild. I can still hear most things, just not in the higher register. And my right side is still golden.

I had an MRI brain scan to rule out the worst possibility: cancer. I knew that my childhood diagnosis was astrocytoma, which is usually a brain tumor. Waiting for the results was, uh, stressful. But the scan came back all good. No growths, no lesions. Brain looked nice. Phew. Great. Ahhh. Wait, so why did my left ear lose some clarity?

The doctor(s) are calling both diagnoses idiopathic, i.e., they don’t know the causes. Grrr. Could it be related to past chemo/radiation treatments, perhaps? Maybe. Could malnutrition affect thyroid hormone production(I AM still very underweight)? Maybe. All of the above? Maybe. Is not knowing becoming increasingly frustrating? YES. Do these new symptoms make me feel any younger? NO.

Still, I’m doing alright. Mostly. Kinda. But I’m saving the complaints for after the holidays. This is just an update of the latest medical news.

Tonight ends another wonderfully rough and tumble year. High highs and low lows. Tomorrow will bring more of the same. No matter what though, beauty makes it all worth it. And there’s plenty of that. You only need to open your eyes.

Tonight I will toast to life! Have a good one.