Monday, April 25, 2011


You know those sappy love stories where the guy finally realizes the truth behind the feelings he’s been carrying for the woman? But she’s in a far off place and probably with another man?

Yeah, I hate those.

Waging War

I didn’t think about it again the rest of the weekend. I really don’t think much about it at all. It’s like being born with two eyes, or ten fingers. It’s just something that ‘is’. You get used to it, really. At least, that’s what I’ve come to believe.

It never crossed my mind that I should be wallowing in self-pity, all “oh woe is me, poor poor Kevin, whatever can I do to live?” I recognized there was a problem, saw the solution, and began pouring everything I had into getting there.

I didn’t realized until much later that I never told my friend about it the entire vacation. I was too busy enjoying myself at the theme park.

I finally have my answer, but not completely. We know what it is that’s killing me, we just don’t know how badly. The doctor ordered a bone marrow biopsy to determine what stage I am in. Let me tell you, that’s one hell of a trip. If you ever get the chance, get one of these. And by get one, I mean run like hell in the other direction.

Sure, the anesthetic works wonders, but there’s a reason they give you so much of the stuff. I guess it’s my natural resistance to medicine and the like, but it took a while for the anesthetic to kick in. I laid there on my stomach talking to the anesthesiologist, and after a few minutes, recognized that my vision began to blur, but just at the corners of my eyes.

Next thing I know, I’m mid-sentence discussing something with my mother in recovery. To be honest, I’m glad she didn’t have a tape recorder. It’s probably best I don’t remember anything that was said that day. She could hear me all the way from the OR, as I had lost all sense of volume, chatting up all the doctors in the room. While in recovery waiting for my mind to return, I had in-length rated the attractiveness of every nurse I had seen.

The best part was, of course, once the tranquilizers wore off and I could feel the spot they ran me through with a rusty machete. Or so it felt. Every time I walked, I caught myself trying to force my lower back more forward as I moved, as if it got me further away from the pain.

Days later, the results of the biopsy came in. My doctor called me to his office to discuss the news. Stage III of IV, with a 40% chance to live. Everyone else was so excited, that it wasn’t state IV. It hadn’t metasticised to any organs was all that meant.

I only remember thinking, “Forty percent. That’s more than enough. Even if it were 1%, it might as well be 100.”

Treatment was to begin immediately, chemotherapy every two weeks for the next six months. And so it begins. I have my answer, and they’re handing me the cure. Let the battle begin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Let's Do This

It’s been nearly nine months now. The doctors say they finally have an idea of what’s going on, but they aren’t telling me what. I find myself reassured that I’m getting closer to the answers I seek. The truth will soon be discovered.

We missed the train last time around. By the time I could get to see the doctor, the antibiotics already suppressed the symptoms. She says the next time it happens, to call her and I’m going into surgery that morning.

I never thought I’d welcome this pain so willingly, but the drive to the hospital was the most euphoric pain imaginable. It was nigh unbearable, yes, but it meant an answer.  The swelling’s never reached the lower half of my body before. I found myself wondering what significance that might hold.

I arrived at the hospital and was immediately prepped for surgery, as promised. The nurse who shaved the area was really cute. If I wasn’t so excited to learn the truth behind my suffering, I might have asked for her number. Maybe someday I’ll have my priorities worked out…

Days later, it’s my mother’s birthday. It’s also the day the family is going on our yearly vacation to Branson. She received a call in the Arby’s drive-thru just before we left town, but wouldn’t say what it was about. We had to stop by the house again because she forgot something she said. I saw through the cover but didn’t say anything. As she climbed back in the car, I knew something had happened, but again, she deflects.

The entire drive was spent talking with my best friend, who’s joined us for the trip, while in the back of my mind, I watched my parents for signs of what changed the atmosphere. That night, we ate at a delicious steak house and laughed the entire meal. I casually brought up the phone call and my mother sobered up until we left.

We’ve finally arrived at the hotel, everyone else has gone down to the pool to relax but Mom has stayed behind for the moment. Now is the time to find my answers. I nearly pin her up against a wall, demanding to know what is going on, and that’s when she breaks down. She explains to me that the phone call was my doctor. With tears in her eyes, she looks up at me, and speaks the words “It’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma…Cancer of the lymph nodes. But it’s the curable kind…”

I sit on the bed opposite her, and within my mind, the words float by:

I have cancer.

It’s curable.

Let’s do this.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dreaming of You

Dreams have a funny way of bringing things to the forefront of our minds. Funny, and yet bitter-sweet.

I dreamed last night, of events unfolding, playing themselves out as if I didn’t make what I’ve come to believe as my greatest mistake. I saw, for a moment, a glimpse of what life could be like, had I done things differently. It was beautiful, it was magical, but it wasn’t real. Somehow, deep inside my mind, I knew it couldn’t be real, that at some point, I would have to wake up and push all of this aside.

I know, I’ve probably said it before, that you can’t live in the past, it’s what happens now that matters. Well, this event is what had taught me that nugget of truth. A ghost from the past, if you will.

I hesitated. Because of certain similarities to events I had experienced in the past, I hesitated. I didn’t give my all. Because I couldn’t commit fully to what was going on around me, because I was still living in the past, I caused a lot of damage. I felt terrible for so long, until it finally scabbed over and I was able to recover. Viewing that dream, however, ripped open the wound anew.

This had me lost in thought all day, observing different trains of thought running through my head. (Yes, I do  think about thinking.) Because of that one singular event, I vowed never to have it happen again. I would learn from my mistakes and become even more in control than I ever dreamed possible. I searched for reason, for a way to understand the world around me, to understand myself, and to hone my rational thought so I could commit without a second thought.

This is what led me to the two-fold path of Zen and Objectivism. One, at least for me, would not be complete without the other. Zen sterilizes the field, clears and opens my mind, preparing me for new experiences, and helps me to keep my wide-eyed wonder in life. This is what makes experiences all the more vivid. Objectivism, the other side of the coin, is what then fills up the space, with nothing more than is necessary. It’s a reminder not only to collect what is important, but to remove what isn’t.

Hesitation only invites death and decay. To stop moving allows roots to grow around our feet. Live your life, don’t relive your past. Seize the day that stands before you and claim it as your own.

The past cannot control us, if we are to truly live. Let the memories of the past be simply the bridge that takes us from the present to our future.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reason To Live

I still don’t know what’s killing me. No one will say it, but I know it’s true. Whatever it is that’s wrong, it’s killing me. I’ve begun to think if I wasn’t resisting it as much as I have, I’d already be dead.

The doctors think it’s just some freak case. They’ve given me antibiotics and it seems to work, for a time. My symptoms have gone down, but the underlying cause, I can still feel it within me, like a feral beast awaiting the moment when the cage is opened once again.

At least I’ve found something to note the passage of time. This eternal struggle has made time seem to stand still. I’ve never been interested in it before, but I’ve found myself watching American Idol. There’s something about this guy from Blue Springs, Missouri. I find myself wanting him to win. It sounds crazy thinking about it, but at the time, it made sense. I’m fighting for my life against an unknown ailment, and I’m voting for someone to win a talent show.

I think it’s giving my life meaning. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m going to conquer it. I’m not just going to fight it, I’m going to find ways to enjoy myself despite the pain and anguish. I’m going to make this guy the winner. I started getting callouses from voting so much. My phone let me send a message to twenty numbers at the time and even by the end of the first night, I could enter it in without a thought. My mom and I voted the entire two hours, just sitting on the couch, text after text after text. Come to think of it, that might have been her way of joining in my struggle. A way to show me she would stand by my side all the way. At the time, the only thing that mattered was texting as much as I could. (I think I’ll thank her for that now.)

As crazy as it sounds, this gives me something to do besides fighting. It became a silent chant in my mind. “Just one more day. Just one more day. Gotta vote David Cook to the next round. Just one more day.”

It’s become easier to resist now. I guess putting your mind on something else really can help. I have a goal, and not just “to survive.” That’s too generic, too distant. It might seem so far off that I could lose grip. But now, all I need, all I have to have strength for, is Just One More Day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Of Stones and Journeys

We are each the sculptor and the stone. The purpose of our lives is to find the beauty that is within. Inside each of us is perfection. Somewhere, under this stone slab we start out as, is a wondrous statue.

I’ve spent plenty of time working away at it, knowing the truth that it isn’t necessary to add anything to the statue. We aren’t really creating it. We are simply freeing it from the stone prison surrounding it.

As it turns out, I’m not without my mistakes. I had taken my life-altering experience as a chance to re-create myself, in whatever image I saw was the best. So I tried. I wanted to become this great image I had in mind for me. I started to get upset. I wasn’t there yet. Why wasn’t I? What was I doing wrong? Why weren’t people seeing this image I wanted them to see?

It’s true, most of it was identical to who I am. It was maybe two degrees off in a different direction in the beginning. But travel long enough, and those two degrees could mean the difference between London and Timbuktu. I had fallen victim to the very rules I ran my life by. “Willfully turning aside from the truth is treason to one's self.” I had blinded myself to reason to try to add more onto a stone that I should have been chipping away at.

Cut the unnecessary. That is the stone-worker’s job, his passion. That should be ours. We don’t need to turn ourselves into something else, we don’t need to add more responsibilities so we look better, we don’t need to buy all these new things just because they’re out there. Remove what isn’t needed. Shave off another layer.

My life-altering event wasn’t an excuse to glue everything back on to the statue. It was an upheaval. A great many pieces broke off, revealing much of what was underneath. I’ve come to realize that what I need to do is to use what IS, and form around that. There, reason lies. There, truth lies. There, life lies. There, I lie.

Life is your journey, and yours alone. Walk it like it’s the only one you have. Because it is.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Beginning's End

It came back. I can’t comprehend it, what is plaguing me, but something has to be wrong. Something has to be terribly wrong. Swallowing has become so difficult, with this golf-ball sized knot in my throat. Breathing is fine, eating is fine, neither makes it hurt any worse. But living, living hurts.

I went to see my doctor again. He won’t admit it, but he’s as clueless as I am. Something has gone terribly wrong. He knows it’s not a bacteria, but has given me antibiotics just to see what they do.

I hate temperature now. The heat, the cold. If only they would stay for a while. It seems like every moment I switch between sweating uncontrollably to shaking with chills. There has to be some way to cure this.

At least whatever’s wrong with me is draining my strength. I’ll be able to sleep some of the hours away. Or so I thought. My day is spent blocking the pain. As long as I’m forcing it out of my mind, I can’t get any rest. There’s only one way to sleep. Welcome the oblivion. Slowly, I release the walls I’ve set up in my mind. The pain washes over me…I’ve never screamed myself to sleep before, but it looks like I’ll be doing it for a while now. I can’t believe no one else can hear me. At least someone’s getting a good night’s sleep.

No man’s an island, you say? I sure proved that one wrong. keeping myself going one step at a time has turned my thoughts inward, constantly focusing on control. I can’t talk much because of the sharp pain when I forget the walls. Until I lay in bed, I can’t let it take over me. I have to stay in control.

I have to keep working. I have to go to class. They’re the only ways I can keep track of the time passing. Every day is just pain. But at least I’m somewhere else for a while. Even with all this crushing weight on my shoulders, a change of scenery is…kinda nice.

Driving takes the edge off. Feeling the cold wind on my face takes me back to childhood, playing in the snow, climbing the mountain, snowboarding, and for a brief moment, nothing I’m dealing with exists. Eventually, I’ll have to return to reality, but for a second, I am free.

I don’t know when I’ll reach my limit, maybe I already have. But I have to keep going. I’m not sure why, but I have to. Just one more step. Just one more day.