Friday, July 31, 2015

Rambling Again Still Once Again And Learning Even More As I Do

It's funny, but quite unintentionally this blog has turned into an online representation of what cancer is and has done with me.  I ignored my blog for a little while kind of like I ignored my health.   I look at all the different things I used to be interested in and passionate about to the point that I could write about it endlessly and then suddenly I slowed down.

I look and notice it was in mid 2012 I suddenly stopped blogging; probably when the symptoms of a disease I didn't consider first began.   I just assumed I had lost interest, but 2013 saw even less postings and 2014 saw only 2.  I look at that first "Cancer" themed post and I notice no other tab has been used since really.   That is the effect of cancer not killing you:  you keep living, but the cancer becomes an all encompassing thing that just absorbs every aspect of your life.  Politics, pop-culture, that annoying driver in the car that blocked your way into work; these things I used to be so passionate about to a point where I actually had four blogs running at one time for all my random thoughts are not pointless and moot.  I mean, how can you stare death in the face, walk away victorious, and still be impressed by the stupidity of minor fads or political blunders?  I've said it before, but not all of me survived cancer.

This week at my Cancer support group we discussed something called "Chemo-Brain."   It is something that was long thought to be an urban legend, but it has recently been shown to not only exist, but to last for a very long time.   So what is "Chemo-Brain?"   I've gone online and looked so you don't have to.

Chemo-Brain is a side effect of chemotherapy.   It has long been known that radiation can effect memory, focus, coordination, and various other brain functions for a period of time, but many people undergoing chemo had reported similar symptoms.   They, whomever "they" are, did research into it and found that chemotherapy does in fact effect brain function and this effect can last for five years or longer.     We can add this to the neuropathy (numbness in extremities) that chemo already provides for free.

Here's what I am experiencing:  First, feeling in my fingers mostly returned shortly after the chemo ended in June of 2014, but my feet still feel basically like I am wearing socks when I am not.   On some types of floors I actually have less traction barefoot than I do with socks on.   Very weird, but something one gets used to and it just becomes part of life.   It is not a "poor Brad" thing at all, but something I wanted to talk about in case other cancer people stumble upon this blog and are experiencing the same things and need confirmation:  yes, it is the chemo.

Now for Chemo-Brain.  I am no expert and am only speaking of what I am personally experiencing.   This may or may not be par for the course.   And while I don't need to say this, I still will say I am no doctor nor a scientist and am assuming based on my research and speaking with other cancer survivors that the things I describe here are attributed to Chemo-Brain.    I hate disclaimers.

OK, so you know we have "long term memory" and "short term memory," right?  For me, my short term is fairly sharp and in vivid detail while my long term is basically a highlight reel of the event or time I am remembering.   The memories also feel differently: short term feel fresh and alive while long term feel fuzzy and like history long past.   Short term memories contain emotion while long term are detached views of events.   Well, my short term memories feel like long term ones: they are hazy, vague, detached, and long in the past.   The problem is that things that happened 2 minutes ago feel that way and that is if I remember them at all.

Here is an example from today: I was at work and calling patients to see if they were ready to schedule.   I was in the groove doing it and, while not succeeding in getting them to commit, was successful in making them know we cared and were there for them.   It was going great until a call came in and I answered it.  I think it was a doctor's office, but it might have been a patient, but either way it required me to leave my desk to get a file.   I sat down, finished the call, and began surfing the internet completely forgetting about the calls I was making.   As far as I could remember, I was done with my work and had nothing to do.  I remembered making the calls, but it was so long ago according to my recall that I had to be done.    And, to be honest, I can't say for sure if this actually happened today, yesterday, last week, or last month.   Probably all of the above.

Now I know I went out to lunch with my mom today.  I know where we went.   I know what I had (because I had leftovers), but I'll be damned if I remember anything we talked about.   NOTHING!   I know we talked.   I hope it was good.  And by Sunday or Monday I won't remember which day I went out to lunch with my mom, but I will remember going out to lunch with her.   That is the weird thing about this Chemo-Brain that I think I am experiencing: I do remember events, but not details.   Everything is a blur, like when you drive home drunk by accident:  that feeling when you pull into your drive way and have a sudden realization that you drove, but you can't recall doing it.

Still no "poor Brad" here though, because in typical Kanrei fashion I have turned this into a positive and a lesson I believe I needed to learn.  I have learned to live in the moment and get the most out of every second that you can.   This is a lesson I REALLY needed to learn as I was someone obsessed with the mistakes of yesterday and worried about the mistakes I will make tomorrow.  Cancer first removed worry about tomorrow with the threat of death that I had to accept and now has removed the worry of yesterday by taking it and making it history instead of a ghost haunting me; sitting on my shoulder asking "are you sure" with every choice I make.

The pre-7/30/13 Brad, when I think about how I would describe him, amazes me he had friends.   It amazes me he never killed himself.   It amazes me he ever had a girlfriend,   It amazes me his parents never felt shame and disappointment when they looked at him.  And it amazes me that he had the strength to become this post-7/30/13 Brad I am proud to be.

Is it weird that I am kind of thankful for cancer?  I said something akin to this at group and I could tell the concept bothered them and I can understand this because they were probably great people having an amazing life that cancer destoryed, but I wasn't there.   It took cancer to make me realize life had value and, pardon the expression, a limited lifespan, but I am drifting into topics I have already covered.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Devious Evil of Oz

So I have come to realize the Wizard of Oz and Glenda, the “Good” Witch are actually manipulative villains who misled Dorothy into a war she had no business in with false promises and empty powers: sound familiar?    I’m shocked to be honest.  I always knew Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was the story of a homicidal child killer who set traps and then invited kids into his “Fun House of Horror” to watch them fall victim to their own weakness, but I thought the Wizard of Oz, while really just a man behind a curtain, was at least good; not so.    Hang on kids…
We all know the general tale, so I am not going to recap it, but there are aspects we need to revisit: for example, the start of Dorothy’s adventure in Oz.   Glenda and the Wizard were in a battle for control of Oz with the “Wicked” witches of the East and West prior to Dorothy's arrival.   Dorothy just happened to get caught up in a tornado that ripped her house out of Kansas and placed it, of all places, directly on half of Glenda and the Wizard’s arch-nemesis?   And notice Glenda just happened to be there when Dorothy landed?   Coincidence?  Hardly!   Glenda was there to do a job: get the shoes off the dead Witch and onto Dorothy’s feet so the sister Witch will assume Dorothy murdered her; send her off to meet a “wizard” who has the power to send her home and escape this madness knowing full well the wizard had no such powers.   Glenda the “Good” witch is introduced with a murder, a manipulation, and a lie to a 13 year old girl she just tricked into aiding her war.    And that is just the start of the tale!

The center of the land of Oz, home of the Great and Powerful Wizard, is known as the Emerald City; sounds great right?    Except the city is surrounded by a gigantic wall and a locked door being guarded by the most rude and obnoxious gatekeeper who refuses anyone access reflexively.    And the Emerald City is surrounded by poppy fields that put anyone who enter it into a deep coma-like sleep.   Sounds real inviting right?    And you have to get through a forest full of human hating mobile trees just to get to that poppy field trap; Oz ain't a wonderland.

The Witch is wicked, right?   How do we know that?   All we know is she is after Dorothy for the murder and robbery of her sister and all she wants is the return of her sister's shoes.    That's evil?   Compared to the Wizard who took advantage of a 13 year old girl with promises he couldn't fulfill only on the condition she would also murder the sister Witch; this time premeditated murder no less?   This Wizard's help is to turn a child into a cold-blooded killer!    And who does he send with her?   A moron, a lazy woodsman, and a coward.    He could have, in theory, prepared them for the trip being a great and powerful wizard, but instead sends her on her way with a moron, a slacker, and a coward: a 13 year old girl!

Now then, a spoiler you should all know is that the entire story actually takes place in Dorothy's head, so that should mitigate the evil of Oz, right?  Hardly.  What that fact does it place Dorothy in direct competition with Alice for the most insane character in literature.   I mean if Dorothy based everyone she met in Oz on a real life person she knew, that means she thinks of them as manipulative, evil, cowardly, stupid, lazy, and eager to take advantage of a child for their own purposes.    

"There's No Place Like Home?"

Maybe, but given how she saw home, is that a good thing?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why Now?

Donald Trump being Trump....

Hulk Hogan removed from the WWE...

Fox News vs Jon Stewart...

WHY DO I HAVE TO HAVE OTHER THINGS ON MY MIND NOW?!  This is not fair!   Those are like Kanrei's Treats and I can imagine the rants I would be on right now if not for this stupid annoying 7/30/13 crap on my mind!

Oh, the PET scan came back great and the operation is on for August 13th!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Insurance Companies Suck Eggs and Love the Aftertaste

Let's discuss insurance companies for a moment as they are a big topic today.   I will avoid politics and calling out of parties and politicians because that is divisive and we need unity on this.   It affects us all and we do not know the impact until it is too late.   Yes, this is that serious.

I am a cancer patient and one time survivor who is trying to go for two.   After major rectal and colon surgery in early 2014, a recent colonoscopy found a tad bit more cancer that will now require half my colon being removed.  Prior to this procedure, a full body PET Scan is needed to make sure there are no other terroristic cancer cells lying in wait for their coming out party.   MY surgeon said if there is cancer elsewhere in my body then the operation he has planned  becomes moot and a different course of action will be necessary.   The insurance company did not agree and blocked the scan; they decided on the morning of my scan to request more notes from my doctor to show medical necessity.   They did not inform either me or my doctor; only the lab knew and they were told two hours before the procedure was to begin.  Do you see a problem?

Here is my question: why can an insurance, why can some non-medically trained person working for an insurance company get between my doctor and me and actually have  stronger voice in my treatment than my doctor?  The techs at the lab looked over what was sent to them and said it was "self explanatory" why I was having the scan done.   My guess is that once again my age made them think they could delay it.

This is not the first time I believe my age has come into play with my treatment and I fear it will not be the last.   Getting cancer young is not something people want to consider is actually a possibility.    Either that, or they just don't believe someone under 50 is suffering since the industry standard for screening for this type of cancer doesn't start until that age.   I started showing symptoms around 38 I have come to realize; diagnosed at 41.   Sorry, but my life forgot to check with industry standards.

And let's be honest: it is quite stressing to not only have to fight cancer, but to also have to constantly prove I have it.   These non-doctors have no business basing life and death decisions on some cookie-cutter handbook filled with "if/then" formulas that determine care.   My doctor went to school!   I bet they took an online course and my life is in their hands?  I face better odds with cancer.   At least the cancer needs me alive to survive; this insurance company already has my money and probably already has me replaced.   My death would simply be a statistic, a line on a profit ledger, and nothing more.

Now for the good news.   The people at the scan lab called my doctor's office who in turn called the insurance company.   I'm not sure what was said exactly, but less than 20 minutes later it was reversed and my scan was back on with their reluctant blessings.   It was quick, painless, and I believe the results will be in my favor.  

I hope the results are in my favor.   Not because I fear cancer; been there done that.   No, I hope the results are in my favor because I am afraid of the insurance company and having to fight them again.    This is par for the course for cancer community from what I have been hearing.    We have enough stress with our bodies trying to kill us, we really don't need the health insurance industry betting against us too.

I can't wait to see what they have in store for my operation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

OK, I am officially human: I'm shocked.

 I am worried about tomorrow's PET Scan (I think that is what it is called as I have only heard it said and I think that is what I heard) to do a survey of any and all cancer that might be hiding in my body, head to toe.   Well, not worried, but unable to think of much anything else right now.  

 The PET Scan is a 3 hour rest stop in a giant doughnut-shaped apparatus the size of a room that hums, knocks, and moans.   It is probably the most freaky sci-fi thing I have encountered in my cancer travels.   It is a frightening monstrosity that would not be at all out of place in Dr Frankenstein or Melange's lab.   Someone did some serious "can I make this more scary" thought when designing it.  All it needs are spikes...actually, it has a needle that pumps some dye or iodine or something into your body to make it all aglow under the PET Scan's gaze.

OK, I don't want to talk about it more.   I will post tomorrow how it went, but I am going to think about other things from now until then.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Quick Meaningless Empty Babble

A subject came up in a thread on a blog I play around on and it sparked me thinking.   The subject was "wisdom vs intelligence" and it sparked many quotes in my mind from the Tao of Pooh.

"A clever mind is not a heart. Knowledge doesn't really care, wisdom does."
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

"The masters of life know the way, for they listen to the voice within them, the voice of wisdom and simplicity, the voice that reasons beyond cleverness and knows beyond knowledge."
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Told you I have gotten big on quotes since 7/30/13.

I have always believed Intelligence is what you know; the depth of the library in your  mind and your ability to recall the most minute details from that reference section.    I am a fairly intelligent person, but probably closer to par for the course.    I know quite a lot, but have difficulty recalling it without the proper spark to set off the explosion of memory.

I have always felt Wisdom is the ability to learn from experience and apply it to one's life.    While I do feel intelligent, 7/30/13 has made me far more wise than I ever was.    And my exploration into the meaning of things and my love of quotes I have noticed has made me more wise than intelligent.   I can't recall facts, but I can quotes and teachings and can and do apply them to my daily life.

Let me explain how I see things by example:

The intelligent person can look at a fire and explain to me the whys of the fire and the hows and find uses for it and will see it as a tool and nothing more, but the wise person remembers the damage it can cause, the pain, and knows to treat it with care.   The wise person will use it as well, but with the protections of past experience that the intelligent person will write off as error on their part.   The intelligent man is burdened with hubris where the wise man knows he knows nothing.

I'm done babbling for now.

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Slightly Obsessive Fan's Anal Retentive Review of Mad Max: Road Fury

My name is Kanrei and I have a problem: I can't leave baggage at home when I see a franchise film or TV show.   I am cursed with a clear memory of the canon of the story and I end up falling in love with the most minute  details as I piece together how they combine to form the characters I love.   That is a disclaimer before you read my review.   That said, here we go...

I finally got around to seeing the newest Mad Max movie; Road Fury starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy and written/directed by Mad Max creator George Miller.  I have to be honest: I was mostly unimpressed if I viewed it as an entry into the franchise, but enjoyed it as a stand alone movie.

Now that said, I do go into the series with a lot of baggage and that definitely had a major influence on my enjoyment of the movie.    To give you an idea: my Empire Strikes Back era Han Solo action figure had his left left wrapped in masking tape the moment Road Warrior ended and he was christened Mad Max from that point on.  Every time my Star Wars and GI Joe toys came out to play, it was always a post-apocalyptic setting they were playing in.   The Star Wars figures no longer fought the Empire and GI Joe didn't care about Cobra; it became every man for himself in a battle for survival.   The weaker figures banded together into gangs, but the heroes were always alone.  Even my Matchbox and Hot Wheels toys found renewed value to me as I re-created the final scenes of Road Warrior over and over again and made up my own versions.

Star Wars was huge for me, but Mad Max introduced a new style of story that I just feel in love with much like the Zombie fans of today.   I even dressed up as Max to get a chance to see Beyond Thunderdome a day early for free at Sunniland Theater.   I think I have a photo of it somewhere, but no scanner so no copies here.  Sorry.   Yes, it is safe to say Max and I go way back so it is also safe to say I was very excited to hear George Miller was returning to the world I so loved as a kid.

The baggage one would expect a long time fan to bring to this movie is that a new actor was, for the first time, playing the role of ex-cop desert wandering Max Rockatansky.    The antics of Mel Gibson (the original Max) over the last decade or so made it fairly easy for me to not mind that he was out of the story.  I would probably keep wondering if his "madness" was mostly intoxication and would be waiting for him to ask the bad guy if he was Jewish.   And we all know there would be an extensive torture scene because I think that is a rider in any and all Mel Gibson movies.   I'm getting off subject...

The new Mad Max didn't bother me because this is a new movie introducing a 30 year old character to a new audience.   Mel's Max would be more about a geriatric ex-bad ass and just the fact he was still alive would be impressive enough.   Old men driving could be interesting if you like chase scenes at 15 miles per hour, but I don't think it would be effective in a 2 hour large screen event.   How many bathroom breaks would they have to have?

I don't know Tom Hardy.  I think he played Bane in the last Batman movie, so I had a clean slate with him.   I was ready for a new Max and it was way easier to me to accept that I expected.   To be honest, just the thought of it being George Miller returning to this world made me giddy like a 12 year old again.   The man who made the greatest action movies of my childhood started making movies about talking pigs, so his return was beyond a dream in the shock factor.   Who ever comes back from kid movies?   How would he return from CGI wonderlands and did he even want to?   Can you go home again?   Actually, yes you can on most fronts, but not entirely as even Max is subject to Hollywood trends and other successful franchise influence.

I will try to avoid spoilers, but some are inevitable for me to really talk about the problems I had with the movie.  I promise I will be as vague as possible with plot details and will not discuss the third act at all.   Consider this a review of the first 2/3rds.

The first and biggest problem was that Max was mainly pointless to the movie and the role seemed to be "generic action hero" at times, but mostly just "audience surrogate" so we have a character to follow.   He was mostly in the way and the few times he actually served a purpose to the story, it was out of character for the Max character we have known since the 70's.   While he was the best behind the wheel of a car, his use of firearms has always traditionally been problematic.   I can only think of two times he successfully used a firearm in the first three movies.   It is actually a running joke that the shotgun he waved around in Road Warrior was actually empty and the few times he found a shell, it was a dud.   It was a joke they included once in this new movie, but for the most part this Max was just an amazing marksman with a pistol while driving.

Now I know kids today have grown up in a world where everyone with a gun is a bad ass straight out of a video game, but Max was always more of a "Die Hard" type hero.   He was not looking to save anyone, just survive.  Like John McCain, he would actually go out of his way to avoid a fight if at all possible.   Not so with this Max.  They try to have a scene where they want you to think he doesn't care for anyone, but you knew given the time it happens in the film that he was going to go against the character we knew and help out of the kindness of his heart and not for the reward of his actions.

The plot of the movie revolves around a harem being stolen from a warlord and the warlord's attempt to get it back, but is wasn't Max who stole them; it was a new character to the series and actually the main focus of the action for the most part.   When the action needed it, he would become the uber hero of action movie mythology, but for the most part it was Charlize Theron's movie.   They even altered Max's back story from a dead son to a dead daughter to try and make some sort of empathetic bond with the plight of the harem.  I wouldn't mind him helping them if he got fuel, weapons, or a car out of the deal, but helping them just to help them doesn't fit a character that was willing to let an entire colony fall in Road Warrior if they didn't give him all the fuel he could carry for his help.   Maybe George Miller did make children's movies for too long and forgot how to make a truly cold hero in the style of Eastwood's "Man with No Name."

The main problem I had with the film was that there was nothing to tell me this was Max.   It really could have been anybody in Max's place and the story would have been the same.   I'm not even totally sure this is Max's world either to be honest.  Robotic arms?  Villains in cartoon skull masks?  Blood transfusions on cars?   A rock band on a car?   Fuel is no longer an issue (the central theme of the Mad Max movies) as there seems to be tons of it, but water is in short supply and mutations and tumors are running amok.  

I know the opening credits said Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky and I briefly saw the famous V-8 Interceptor and he did have a brace on his left knee, but that was about it.  The brace on his knee due to a shotgun blast removing his kneecap was an issue in the movies that followed the shot, but not in this one.   He could run and catch up with cars, leap from exploding vehicles, and every other action hero staple we expect from movies today.   This was more Mad Max as envisioned by Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger than as seen by the George Miller of the past.

All that said, the people I saw it with who had no such baggage loved it.   It starts with action and never lets up.   Their only complaint was ironically one thing I loved: they don't give you any real back story or narrative to catch you up on the series.   You really have no idea where in the series this movie takes place and that is a great aspect for people just getting into it.

Mad Max is a great character and I am very happy to see his return.   I am so happy he is back that I am going to see the next one on opening day and try my best to leave all my baggage at home.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Vacation Hangover

Oh my vacation hangover.  I feel in a haze today where nothing feels quite right.  Seven days of constant family and beach and dining and fun becomes habit fairly easily as it is perfection and Heaven on Earth, so when it ends it is almost like the end of a world.   Any problems and stresses from the week fades fairly quickly into the past as only the good times, the smiles, the laughs, and the joy remains in my mind and the possible myth of the vacation replaces the minute realities.

Were there stresses?  Most certainly there were.   One cannot spend a week with parents, siblings, in-laws, and children and remain free of hectic stresses and clashes of personalities.   It is inevitable and the reason why we don't live together year round, but for a week or two here and there, the personality differences take a back seat to a combined effort for a united great memory of something that we don't get to experience often enough: getting away with nothing but people you love, trust, and can be yourself around.

For me, the week was just what I needed, wanted, and dreamed of.  It was days of activity and nights of me alone on the beach or in a pool; both times staring at a sky of sparkling white dots forming images like some connect the dots designed by eons of planning.   City living really makes me forget how much I love seeing the stars.

So anyway, as I sit here back in my apartment I am left feeling out of place and wondering how to get back to last week.  It is weeks like last week that I beat 7/30/13 for and thanks to 7/30/13 I was able to participate in ways I never did before and my former hangups did not block my engaging in a great time.

Thank you family and thank you 7/30/13.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Nocturnal Delusions

I love the beach at night.  It's amazing during the day, yes, but there's just something magical and special about the beach at night.   And it is not due to the lack of people, although the solitude is nice.   It is just that at night the beach takes on a new connotation.

The day beach is alive. It is about people watching and children playing and splashing waves while young people soak up the sun and parents play with children building sand castles and digging to China.   The parade of hotdog and iced cream vendors and parasailers and jetski renters: this is the spirit of the beach and it is a beautiful thing to both watch and be a part of, but the night beach is magic; solitude without being alone.

The nighttime beach is where the vast darkness of the sea meets the vast darkness of the sky.  During the day the two always meet, but never entwine.  The blue of the ocean keeps itself separate from the blue of the sky and the specks of white from the waves never interacts with the splashes of white from the clouds; not so at night.   Night they meet, they dance, they become one.   The only separation between sea and sky comes from the flashes of glowing crests of waves as they answer back to the moon and from the twinkles of stars far too often hidden by city lights.   The single blackness hinting at larger mysteries that will never be solved as unknown life dances both above and below.

I'm not sure there is any other place at any other time that really puts everything into perspective as the beach, any beach, at night.   The idea that there are billions upon billions of lives happening both above and below, each with a myriad of problems all cataclysimic to a group of individuals, but meaningless in the vastness of existence makes any and all hurdles I encounter seem quite silly.

 I don't, for example, have something trying to eat me 24/7.   Might seem trivial and almost comical to point out, but pretty much every other living thing on this planet and I'm sure most of the living things above us all have to worry about being a meal for something else and I don't.   Perspective!   Oh joy of joys to never have to worry about being dinner!   Trouble with co-workers or family really doesn't seem to matter in comparison.

"Brenda took the stapler off my desk again!'

"At least she didn't consume you."


And the beach at night reminds me of how little I know (to repeat a theme).   And the little I do know, I probably don't really understand.   Standing on the shore looking out at the sea and the stars and I can't stop imagining all the wonders and sights and experiences I will never have occuring just beneath and above me.   It is a wonderful and a humbling moment.

I love the beach at night.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Through the Looking Glass on This One

They say "You Only Live Once," but I'm on my second and, to be honest, about to start my third.   And I am through the Looking Glass with this one.  Everything is the same, but ever so slightly a mirror reflection of what it was pre-cancer: I'm tired of typing that word so I will refer to the date I was diagnosed instead as it is a rebirthday: 7/30/13.  

It seems from my perspective that in many ways Brad didn't survive his ordeal and I am what came through.   7/30/13 was a Baptism by Fire and I am what didn't burn.    Thinking of the damage the radiation did, the fire analogy isn't that far from truth actually.   The flaws of my character (as I saw them) were destroyed in the onslaught of radiation and only the parts I wanted to survive came through.    I'm sure many MANY flaws survived, but they are probably aspects of me I viewed as essential character traits and I hope they have been refined to be slightly less annoying to the masses.

Since my last chemo treatment about 13 months ago, I have not felt fully engaged in my, or Brad's life.  It is a wonderful feel I cannot recommend enough.   I have engaged in all forms of self-exploration and self-analysis and found some aspects that I needed help in and have sought said help.   I have gained a detached look at life in general and feel (ironic choice of words) that I look at it from a sane logical "it won't affect me either way" point of view.   I mean, when you are not sure you will be around to know who wins the next election, you really have a great insight in that you have no horse in the race.   It is a natural high and has given me a wonderful appreciation of life I never had, but I realized last week it can't last and that also is good.

This natural high, these last 13 months have been a cocoon; a period between lives.   I had a feeling in my bones that 7/30/13 wasn't done with me and when it became fact, I realized this time was just the time for me to change into what I am going to be.    Even more refreshing of a thought than the natural high to be honest.   Brad couldn't have handled what is to come like I can.

And I am Brad.   When I speak of Brad as a separate entity, it is because the person I am now is really very little like I was.   I would go into detail, but I think my previous posts have covered that aspect of this saga quite well.   This is just a disclaimer that I am not schizophrenic, but am just using a literary device.

OK, back to our story:

The Colostomy Bag...Brad couldn't have done that, but a post Iliostomy Bag Brad laughs at it.   And I am entering a new life on August 13, 2015; my third.   I have no idea what this life will entail, but I know this second life has equipped and trained me to deal with it in ways I never knew I could.   I am not scared, but excited to enter it.   I am nervous of course.   Sometimes even scared, but this new Post-7/30/13 Brad has no problem dealing with it and actually sometimes enjoys the game.

Friday, July 10, 2015

And the Posts Go On When the Mind is Blown

Gimme a V!
Gimme an A!
Gimme a C!
Gimme an A!
Next comes the T!
Followed by an I!
Oh, where's that O?
Finish it off with an N!

What's that spell?  VACATION I hope!  Yes, I am on vacation!  Splitting.  Bolting.  Getting the Hell outta Dodge.  Leaving the office.  Abandoning my cat (guilt trip on that one).   Stick a fork in me for I am done!  A week with the entire family ( parents, brother, sister, brother and sister in-laws, niece, friend of the family: everyone but poor Satchel and Lilly who will NOT be hanging out together having a "can you believe they left us" bitch session.

Where am I going?  Not gonna tell ya because it is not vacation if they can reach you.

When am I coming back?  Not gonna tell ya because I don't want you camping outside my apartment eagerly awaiting my return.

Who am I going with?  Not gonna...oh wait.

Will I be updating my blog?  I hope so and there might actually be a post or two that ISN'T cancer related.    Can you imagine?   Do you remember when I was all politics and pop culture?   Can you believe I don't know ANYTHING going on in the pop culture world?   It is nice actually.   I now consider myself an expert in Nostalgic Pop Culture and have lost the Ph.D in Pop Culture bestowed on me by a group of friends.

Have a great weekend although I may post again before Monday.  

Thursday, July 09, 2015

I'm Still Thinking and Rambling...Perhaps Even Babbling at This Point

I'm sorry in advance if you are tired of hearing about my cancer, but it is the  event  most recently with the biggest impact on my life, so forgive me.   I spoke yesterday of how I changed from cancer, so today I will talk about how cancer changed me; a subtle but important difference.     Yesterday I spoke of what cancer taught me and today will be the effect the experience had on me.

I was a very private person who played their cards close to their chest.  My internal monologue was quite entertaining and funny, but I usually kept those thoughts in my head.    The few times I shared I was usually made uncomfortable by the reaction to them.   I thought it was my thoughts.   It wasn't, but my confidence in them.    The listener could tell I was uncomfortable sharing my thoughts and, as a result, they came across as empty and vague.   Not their fault at all.  Then came cancer...

There is no private with cancer.   There is no personal space with cancer.   I lost count of how many people had their fingers up my ass (not at one time pervert).  Shitting myself is more a norm than a freak occurrence.  I've had a catheter put up my penis and my ass exposed to random nurses (some quite hot) and had to call those same nurses to help the few times my ass exploded and missed the toilet 100%.  I've created smells in an office filled with women (one of whom I am attracted to) and had to overhear their "do you smell something" or "what smells" comments simply because they forgot; not malicious.    I've used the public bathrooms in every gas station, grocery store, movie theater ,restaurant, and rest stop you can think of and not to piss.  I've had a  bag of shit attached to my belly that burst open one time in Best Buy.   And that is just the first few things that leaps to mind without my getting too detailed (yes, there is worse).    I've gone through all of that and, as Elton John sang, am still standing better than I ever did.  

I learned shame is not something someone else forces upon you, but something you choose to feel.   Every experience I had was horrifying and worthy of my deciding to hide my head in shame, but for some reason I didn't.  I made jokes.   I laughed at myself.   The night I shit 7 pounds (yes, I weighed myself after every bowel movement for a year and averaged 2 pounds per session) I actually bragged about it to anyone who would listen.    I said to my radiation doctor one day as she apologized for having to finger my ass once again that it was OK because I had no shame left and I wasn't joking

It seems shame, like a man's hair, comes in a finite amount and, if you use it all up early, you will live your life without it.   I had long hair as a teen and in my 20's, so I have a bald spot today because I used up that area's hair allowance.  The same thing happened with my shame; where I was once embarrassed to even fart in public and never NEVER let anyone know I was taking a shit, I was now telling multiple strangers intimate details of my personal Hell and wasn't hesitating or feeling embarrassed in the slightest.   I've further realized as I post these stories uncensored here for all the world to read that I really have no shame left.

Someone once told me to write like my parents were dead.   They said I couldn't be honest as a writer if I worried what my mom would think if she read it.   I never could do it; I don't like the thought of dead parents and, when I did have one it would crush my creativity because I was sad my parents would be dead.   It never worked.

Cancer taught me something else: write like you are going to die.   If you are dead and people mock your writing, who cares?  If you are dead and people learn from your writing, you have a  legacy.  If the details of my journey can help another relate and know they are not alone like I sometimes felt, all the better.

And while I am being honest, I should let most of you know I was pissed at you for a time.   Some of you were great, but most of you vanished on me when I needed every reason to live I could find.   That hurt deeply.   I can understand my impending death might have made you uncomfortable, scared of saying the wrong thing, or made aware that we are the same age and my dying means you could be too.   I don't know, but I forgive you.    Some of you have been purged from my Facebook.   No hard feelings.

To be honest, since you never read this blog in the first place, you still won't know about this.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Not a Nihilist? I'm Shocked If Correct.

Yesterday at my Cancer Group, we discussed how our priorities changed because of our experiences.  It was a subject I have toyed with internally before, but never actually vocalized how cancer changed my outlook and the core of who I am.

I used to be a cynical realist before the C-word entered my life.   There is a lot, no really, A LOT of debate between me and everyone I know how much of me was "cynic" and how much was "realist," ( clue where I fell: A "cynic" is an "optimist's" word for a "realist.").  Irregardless (I know that isn't a word, but love to torment my inner English major), I have changed in every single way; you sort of can't face impending death and NOT change.

Let me say for the record and without false bravado that not once was I sad about my potential death.   To be honest, and my mom is going to hate reading this, but I was shocked I made it as far as I had.   If I was stage four and death was a certainty, I was OK with what I had done with my life and the impressions I had left with those I cared about.   Being Gen-X, the concept of a life cut short was ingrained in a lot of us from an early age.  Think of the opening scene from "Pleasantville".  Here  is the scene:

[Montage of teachers talking to David's classes] 
College Counselor: For those of you going on to college next year, the chance of finding a good job will actually decrease by the time you graduate. The available number of entry-level jobs will drop 31 percent over the next four years. Median income for those jobs will go down as well. Obviously, my friends, it's a competitive world, and good grades are your only ticket through. In fact, by the year 2000... 

Health Teacher: The chance of contracting HIV from a non-monogamous lifestyle will climb to 1 in 150. The odds of dying in an auto accident are only 1 in twenty-five hundred. Now, this marks a drastic increase... 
Science Teacher: ...from fourteen years ago, when ozone depletion was just at 10 percent of its current level. By the time you are thirty years old, average global temperature will have risen two and a half degrees, causing such catastrophic consequences as typhoons, floods, widespread drought, and famine.  

Science Teacher: [With a bright smile:] Okay! Who can tell me what "famine" is?

Fiction?  Afraid not.   This is right on the money for what I was taught very early in life, so I was a bit of a cynic, yeah.

Cancer was life's way to deal with my existence cleanly; I was meant to die, this was the time for it to happen, but it didn't.   That haunted me actually more than my perspective death: why did I live when I had so little to live for and why did people who had so much more die?

Survival Guilt?  Me?  That shit is fiction!  How can you feel guilty for living?   It is not like my life or death had any impact on their survival.   Death doesn't work on a quota system (I hope), but there it was.   I spent a good three weeks after a family friend's death from cancer in a funk questioning everything.   I suppose it was my emotional cocoon and how I was processing what I had gone through.  On one side I was no longer a cynic, but on the other, my nihilism was born.

I would spend the next year of my life believing nothing mattered; everything was random.   Healthy life or eat like shit?  Work out or lounge?   Family or single?  Slacker or contributor?  It doesn't mean shit.  The value of one's life is purely random and without any deeper meaning.    There is no "Fate" other than "your game has ended."  How could it mean anything?   I had seen for myself the meaningless waste and cruelness life can dish out and there was clearly no meaning to any of it, so why bother trying?

So why did I survive?  To spread that message?  That couldn't be, because if I survived to spread the message that "Life Had No Meaning," that clearly means my life had a purpose yet unfulfilled (to spread that message) and therefore the message was wrong.    But if the message is wrong, then I couldn't have been saved to spread a false message; there had to be something more.   My nihilism became detection.

I began recounting books I read, movies I watched, songs I knew, and reviewed them for hints.   Richard Bach's "Illusions" and his "Messiah Guide" were big helps.   I looked up Gandhi and MLK and other great minds for things they said.   I looked at quote sites for things about life, death, and what could be between.  I became obsessed.  It was amazing.   The INTERNET became my own personal "Messiah's Handbook."

As Bach wrote
:  (H)e said. “You just open it and whatever you need most is there.”
 “A magic book!”
 “No. You can do it with any book. You can do it with an old newspaper, if you read carefully enough. Haven’t you done that, hold some problem in your mind, then open any book handy and see what it tells you?”
 “Well, try it sometime.”

The INTERNET was working this way (Why is INTERNET in all caps?) and I was transforming internally.   I realized, as Socrates had said, "I know that I 'KNOW' nothing."  I realized I believe, I think, I hope, but I don't know and odds are neither does anyone else.   We are all slaves to our perceptions, so we can't be anymore upset at someone who sees an issue differently than we do than we can at a dog for not understanding abstract advanced calculus in Spanish backwards.   This was illuminating to say the least.

I'm going to split for now, but the greatest way I can summarize my new found outlook is to again quote Richard Bach:

“The world is your exercise-book, the pages on which you do your sums. It is not reality, although you can express reality there if you wish. You are also free to write nonsense, or lies, or to tear the pages.”

Every personall theevents of your life, are there because you have drawn ... What you choose to do with them is up to you

Everything in this post may be wrong =D

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

So Not That Bad

I'll admit it: for all my bravado, I was very  nervous going to see my surgeon today.  Made no logical sense for me to have been nervous as there was nothing he was going to surprise me with today; it was all planning, but I was nervous.   Luckily, I walked away from the meeting with one key phrase repeating in my head: It was not a new cancer he found, but an old one that survived somehow.  That is Fucking GREAT!

I could see there is some concern in my doctor that, if this cancer survived the chemo, what else did.    He even said the one way he would not do the operation is if there is cancer somewhere else in my body and we are doing a PET-Scan to see.  He seriously doubts he will find any, but wants to be safe first.  He said there is no point in removing my colon if cancer is also somewhere else.

On the bright side: he doubts Chemo is in my future and the post-operation will be a breeze.   He said again that the quality of my life will improve greatly and I already basically have a colostomy bag, only I wear it on my butt and have less control over what goes where and when.   Seems I have even less rectum than I thought I did.   He said today it was about 3 cm left out of an average of 15.

Now the details.

They are going to remove the left half of my colon and put a colostomy bag at the opening.   I will still have half my colon, so the contents of the bag should be closer to poo than diarrhea.   They will  remove not only what is left of my rectum, but will also be removing my anus and sealing it shut.   I will be a human Ken Doll from the rear: all crack, no hole.    Unlike a Ken doll, my front will be fine.  =D

I am splitting on vacation next week (I hope to keep blogging), so I am not going to think, write, or dwell on my upcoming operation for now.   I will relax, have fun, and enjoy taking the last month of shits I will ever take.


Sunday, July 05, 2015

My Dear Rectum

Dear Rectum,

Have fun these next few weeks because this is your last hurrah.   I will not miss you.   I will not sit back and reminisce fondly of the unrelenting hours of nonstop fecal parades.   I will not buy toilet paper or tushy wipes out of a sense of nostalgia for lost days.   I will happily wear boxers once again and never fund the Depend industry again.  The bathroom stalls of gas stations, restaurants, movie theaters, concert halls, and grocery stores will not see my ass again, although I have been mostly impressed with how clean they are nowadays.

I used to fear the colostomy bag.   I couldn't think of a more humiliating hell that that, but I was wrong.    Believe me when I say NOT having one has been way worse.   Yes, I appear normal, but am not.   With the bag, I won't appear normal, but I will be and that is a great trade.

I only mourn one thing and will have to make a point of having lots of photos taken without my shirt on next week on vacation since that will be a sight I am going to lose.

Other than that, bring it on Ass!  I am ready for anything you bring and you better bring it because this is your last chance to show me what you got.  I'm ready; are you?


PS- I would have said "fuck you ass," but that might seem gay and I'm not gay...not that there's anything wrong with it.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Three In A Row?

Three days of posts in a row; you'd almost think I was a blogger or something!    Fact is, this is my legacy and I want it complete.  I have no kids to pass on my life lessons to, so I have you Lemmings instead; my people.   And I want to post while I can because there is a chance things might overshadow my desire to share at some point and, if I can make this habit instead of desire, then it will be easier if I am weaker.

So far there is no chemo in my future and, thank G-d no radiation; just an operation.    And people are shocked I am psyched for the colostomy bag, but if you knew what I have been seeing (and I won't share because even I have limits) you too would be counting down the days until you never shat again.   Besides, Depends are getting expensive.

OK, so aside from the cancer, what else has been going on this last year?   Well, I sold my condo and live in an apartment now.   Taxes and insurance were out of control, so better rent without headaches IMHO.   Same job, but less hours due to my condition.   Overall, I am actually and surprisingly quite happy.    Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me.    I almost wish it happened sooner so I could have started this new me earlier in life.

Are you sitting down those who knew me for years?   I'm happy.   I am beyond happy.   I don't care if the glass is half full or half empty so long as you are happy with the choice of glass and its contents.   Where I used to search for a touch of grey in a world of shadow, I now am surrounded by a world of light.   I wake up happy.   Even when I am bored, I am happy to be bored.   It is amazing the way something "Tragic" can make your outlook better.

Sadly, this new found outlook has destroyed one of my previous life's joys: being a sarcastic bitter political cynical junkie.   I can't do it anymore; I don't care.   I now see how stupid the game is where I used to love the way it was played.   I laugh at the pundits and partisan hacks now and actually pity them where I was once one of them.   I kind of miss it.   "Kanrei" was a good political warrior once upon a time and now he is an old wise man seeking balance and peace.   What a waste of a talent.   And with Trump in the race too...

Well, that's good for today.   Wonder if I'll do it again tomorrow...

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

24 Hours Later

OK, so I've had twenty-four hours now to digest the news that cancer had returned.   I use past tense because the polyp that had the cancer has been removed, but it is an issue because I just had a colonoscopy three months ago where a monster of a polyp was removed and my colon declared clean.      And "Monster Polyp" is an understatement when my surgeon said it was the largest he had ever seen and had an OR on standby "just in case."

But to get back on subject, what this changes is simply wording for me and timing.   I had already decided to have an optional operation to have half my colon removed.   I had decided to do it in September, so when my doctor called last night heralding Cancer's return performance, all the news really did was change "optional" to "mandatory" and "September" to "in three weeks."

Why  "three weeks?"   I got vacation planned and I would rather go in diapers than with a bag.   After this vacation, I will have the rest of my life to party with the bag.  

I have noticed the universe listens, so be careful what you say.   Just two day before the doctor called, or three days ago I guess I could have just said, I was telling my mom that I wished I could do the operation sooner, but felt I should give myself the waiting period.    Universe heard me and said "waiting period over."

I can't wait to never wipe again though.   No, seriously!  I hated wiping before the creations my body creates post-cancer; now I really hate it and it takes for freaking ever!   I aspire to the consistency of a new born with diarrhea sometimes.

Too far?  Sorry  =D