Treatment Tuesday

One of the hardest things I do is to prioritize myself in my daily life. It’s how I got myself into this mess in the first place.

Tuesdays have become a de-facto me-day. It’s my longest treatment day, and the one that has me see the biggest variety of caregivers. It starts with mental health counseling, and goes on to radiation, chemotherapy, and some others get thrown in during the long chemo infusion process.

It’s like a weird 6+ hour day at the spa, all about me. Only with less pampering.

My caregivers all empathize with my long day at the hospital, but inside I silently grin. This is the most time I’ve spent on me.

I realize I may sound like a crazy person trying to draw a silver lining on this dark cloud, but it’s how I choose to see it. The process and the treatments are what they are, and aren’t what they aren’t. I get to choose how to experience it, and I choose joy.

Covid + Chemo + Cancer

“Have you had a cough? Feeling fatigued? Nausea?”

Yes, yes, and yes. I had chalked all of it up to chemo & radiation side effects, especially after speaking with my radiation oncology nurse last week, who brushed off my nascent cough.

Now, speaking with the medical oncologist, this was more likely to have been Covid. The side effects were not likely to have been as dramatic as these symptoms, this early on in treatment. However a mild case of Covid, combined with a newly-weakened immune system, would easily explain that. Occam’s razor, and all.

I do not take anything back however. I am still grateful for my breath, my cuddles, my wife, etc. This second Covid infection of mine kicked my ass all weekend. I had small, random bouts of feeling “okay” mixed with feeling like absolute shit. Eating, drinking, managing medications, it was all a challenge and now that I’m starting to feel better I know I can handle it. Well, Erin can handle it. I’m just along for the ride.


This week really smacked me in the face. All of my best intended plans got thrown by the wayside. Exercise, diet, energy… all gone.

How I’m doing? changes by the minute. I’m being carried by the current and right now the seas are getting rough. Will they get rougher?

Instead of boring you with details of a painful existence, let me tell you about what’s going right in my life.

My youngest loves to cuddle with me. I know the age window for this behavior is closing soon, but right now he cuddles like a champ. I can call him with my raspy, barely audible voice from across the house and he cheers me up, even if for just a moment.

Daddy is going to feel better soon, I tell him.

Side Effects

I had to do a double-take at the container in my hand. I must have just picked up someone else’s god-awful concoction of metal and bitter aspirin tannins and taken a giant drink. But the tumbler in my hand was mine. A Father’s Day gift that has proven the test of time — who in their right mind would spend this much money on a goddamn cup? — and is almost always by side.

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When the Orlando theme parks shut for the pandemic, I was laid-off from my position almost immediately afterwards. It made economic sense, as they were my main clients, and they would certainly not be re-filling their wine cellars anytime soon.

Thankfully the Medicaid lifeline was there for us almost right away. They responded faster than the unemployment folks did! (Don’t even get me started on them, we are still owed unemployment from nearly a year ago!)

The coverage, while not great for offices and doctors in the “nicer” areas of town, was perfectly fine for our mostly-healthy family. It helped Erin get through some medical issues of her own, and healed Kai’s broken elbow. It also covered countless medication refills for my hypertension, etc. All at 100%. For the nearly 18 months I was unemployed, it was an absolute life-saver.

When I did return to full-time employment in Aug/Sept of 2021, I notified the state and found private insurance through the ACA website. I later found out that due to the pandemic, the state wasn’t dropping anyone from Medicaid due to the public health emergency. How thoughtful of them! So I canceled my private insurance (right as I was diagnosed with cancer), and happily stayed on Medicaid.

Continue reading “Uninsured”

Everybody has a Plan

“Everybody has a plan until they get hit for the first time.”

The quote has been shortened, twisted, and transformed over the years, but the original quote from Mike Tyson in August of 1987 before his fight with Tyrell Biggs is still true, and succinct.

There are many aphorisms about the value (or not) of planning. I don’t think most of them bear repeating, the one I often refer to is attributed to Werner Erhard, an infamous guru-type, who supposedly said:

“It’s easier to ride the horse in the direction it’s going.”

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Ode to Erin

I read somewhere that we marry a version of our partner, who they are in that moment in time. We’ve known each other for nearly 20 years, married for almost 16 of them. People and personalities evolve over time. My validation-seeking, social butterfly, partying-to-fit-in self would rather cuddle with my youngest and watch Star Wars spin-offs and David Attenborough nature shows.

My life-of-the-party socialite wife has traded the glasses of wine and cocktails for chamomile tea on the couch and a sensible bedtime. Post-shift after-parties until dawn have given way to boho decor and yoga schedules.

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Mr. Brightside

As much as humanly possible, I try to look at every situation from multiple perspectives. Perhaps it’s from my photography background, or my high-school journalism days, or some other combination thereof. Regardless, I often ask myself what can I learn from this? Call me hopelessly optimistic if you want, but I look for the silver lining. If I’m able to (and I’m certainly not able to 100% of the time) disassociate from the emotion of the immediate situation, there is almost always another angle to approach it from.

Cancer is the situation now. This is the darkest cloud to ever form in my sunny skies.

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Alone. With Friends.

I’ve never felt more alone.

The path I’m on is mine alone. I know I have many, many people who love and support me, but even if they could, they can’t do this with me. I’m reminded of this every morning when my amazing nurses place my rigid plastic mask over my face and lock it into place. My eyes are held shut as I’m held into millimeter alignment for the radiation beam. The many daily jaw and tongue muscle exercises. The list of solitary activities goes on.

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Sobering Thoughts

I caused all of this. My cancer is my own creation, a consequence of years of smoking cigarettes and working in smoke-filled bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. Hell, I used to request to work the smoking section of restaurants when I was a young server, because the smokers tended to drink more booze and run up larger tabs.

Alcohol is another major risk factor associated with my type of cancer. I’ve had alcohol nearly every day since I was 21. I can probably count on two hands the number of days that I abstained. It’s been my sleep crutch ever since I first discovered its sedative effects. (I know, it’s not the same as sleep, save your comments.) It used to take me hours to fall asleep, but with booze I could reliably get unconscious on a regular time table.

Plus, I liked it a lot. I was good at drinking.

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