Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dark Places

Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had entered a dark place in my life.  While I was never suicidal or self-destructive, I found myself within a deep depression; completely at loose ends and wondering if my life would ever begin.  I had botched yet another job interview, though mercifully it had been done over the phone, in both questions and rejection.  My crushing disappointment was mostly unseen, hidden as best as I could from those around me.  I was utterly exhausted, unable to sleep, and even brief trips to and from town would leave me completely drained of energy.  The good news, if you can call it that, was my fatigue had a medical cause.  While I am still not sure I am any closer to finding a paying position, I have tentatively resumed my job search.  If I were to be interviewed and/or hired, I suppose logistics would have to be figured out afterward—for medical reasons, I am unable to drive and will remain that way through March or April of 2015.  As I have previously stated, every day of life since my surgery has been a blessing; if a person was so inclined, they might even say my old life ended October 8, 2014 and I was reborn October 14 upon being discharged from the hospital.  I came out of the surgery a different person, but in the best way possible—I actually enjoy life now.

Friday, December 26, 2014


In life we wear many different masks.  As children we wear various Halloween masks—I was mostly a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, though once I went as Garfield and twice as a vampire, no mask required.  As adults our masks become emotional:  we feign being happy, healthy, or satisfied when we are anything but.  We pretend to be excited or overjoyed for others’ success when in reality we are dying inside:  resentful, jealous, or even bitter that we are not experiencing the same thing.  But I am here today to tell you about a different kind of mask, one that is very much real and physical.  It is a white, plastic mesh mask that I wore to receive twenty-nine radiation treatments into my brain.

The mask was placed onto my face as a warm piece of plastic, which the therapists then molded into shape.  Each morning before going into the machine to receive treatment, I would lie flat atop a table and have the mask locked down so that my head was unable to move.  This act, while not necessarily comfortable, was essential to my treatment; it made sure that the radiation was delivered to the precise spot necessary each and every time in order to destroy any microscopic cancer cells that might have remained after the removal of my brain tumor.  For the first few weeks I would receive a scan prior to the four-minute treatment.  For the last few weeks, as I began to respond to the treatments, my scans were cut down to two per week.  But for the final six treatments, the radiation was delivered in more accurate six-minute doses.

The radiation, much like the mask, causes some irritation and discomfort, but you understand going in that the process is for your benefit.  And considering that I, in my perpetually-anxious state, didn’t expect to survive the craniotomy, well, everything else since October 13 has felt like a gift, a blessing, and a second chance at life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hair Loss

I don’t suppose I am a vain person in the conventional sense, though I do try to make sure I look decent (read: put together) when I leave my home to go somewhere.  One warning they gave me when I was fitted for my radiation mask, however, was that it could cause scalp/face irritation and hair loss.  Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until my third week of treatment that the hair began to break off and get everywhere.  It started on Thanksgiving, and around the incision in my head.  I still had some hair in the front for the next day or so.  But with each subsequent shower, more and more hair has come out in my hands, in the drain, and everywhere else.  The good news is that hair will grow back, and I am not completely bald; my head is simply “fuzzy” now.  But I have never had a shaved head in my life—I was born with a headful of hair—so this has been yet another interesting adjustment in this period of my life.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lil Oscar

Our memories of childhood are often hazy, idealized, or altogether fictional—but the older I get, the more I appreciate these snapshots of the past.  When I was very young, my father worked in Lexington and would get home every evening around six PM.  He always carried two things with him—a green Thermos, and a white-and-blue Coleman lunchbox called Lil Oscar.  Lil Oscar remained a constant throughout my life, likely because it predated me.  I am sad to say that after thirty-plus faithful years of service to my father, Lil Oscar has finally been retired to disability.  In other words, his handle fell off.  The good news is I bought a replacement model, but I will never quite forget the impression a lunchbox made on me throughout my years.