Chapter 28: Super Smash Bros. Mesmerize
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I sat in my hospital bed in Room 864 (the new gold standard), watching the IV drip poison into my chest. The machine gears sounded off with grunts and cracks. Unfortunately, that meant it was working as designed.
There were times like this where I would just reflect upon my predicament alone. I wouldn’t have the television on, instead, I zoned out on whatever could keep my focus. I often wondered in these retrospectives where I would be at that moment if I hadn’t had cancer. I’d probably be in a classroom falling asleep during the lecture. Yeah, I’d definitely be tired.
I really didn’t want to start another round of chemotherapy. The stuff ate away at your being. Even if you’re inclined to be a positive person like I was, the treatment took all of your energy away and replaced it with pain and discomfort so you couldn’t focus on the optimistic, and instead, a sense of deflation filled your spirit. That’s why for the most part I tried to preoccupy my mind with happy things like television and video games.
But I had grown tired of the two games Grant 8 owned. I already beat Super Mario Sunshine, and Luigi’s Mansion wasn’t for me, so I stopped playing it. Even my Stepdad, Gary had grown tired of both, having instead beaten Mansion, and grown tired of Sunshine. The nurses had trusted me with their donated gaming console and unlocked it for me every time I used it, so I could easily swap back and forth between games.
So, as I sat staring at my IV drip, coming back to the world of the present, it hit me: I can buy more games. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of that before. I’ll chalk up the lapse of creative thinking to the chemo… Yeah. Gary and my Mom came in from their stay at Ronald’s.
“Hey, can you guys do me a favor?” I asked. Sure enough, they were happy to oblige, and I gave them the money with explicit instructions on which game to buy. I trusted that Gary would know which game to buy considering he had a Nintendo 64 and knew the difference between Melee and Super Smash Bros. for N64.
Later that afternoon, they came back with the requested item, and I immediately opened it and read the manual. I refrained from popping it into the system because they were there and wanted to visit. Good thing, because soon after, a nurse knocked on the door.
“Jamie, can another kid use the Gamecube?”
“Yeah, of course.” As much as I wanted to hoard it for myself, I knew that wasn’t fair and so I unplugged the system, which she wheeled out of the room. I’ll admit that I was anxious to play the game, but the Playstation 2 cart was more popular (it had a VCR too!), so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d again greet the Gamecube.
My Mom worried about me often. I continued to reassure her that I was doing fine. “Stop worrying,” I’d say. She quickly responded, “That’s my job.” Fair enough. So I would explain the daily routine to her and Gary as I learned the steps. It would always cause her to shake her head and exclaim how strong I had to be “to go through such a thing.” Told you, Mom.
That was the thing about the treatment. If a doctor tells you to do something, most times, there’s a reason for the instruction. They’re not employed to lead you astray, and if they were, they certainly wouldn’t hold the title for long.
I’d heard some stories of people who wouldn’t listen to their physician’s recommendations, and they would fall severely ill. I remember my sister telling me about her friend Mitch, and how he continued to abuse alcohol and drugs after treatment, and would adamantly refuse some of the steps needed for his treatment, so he inevitably had a rough go.
This is why I just “vegged out” most of the time, allowing my body the little strength it had to combat this epidemic. So my “apartment” was filled with films and video games, just as before when I was a lazy-as-shit kid. Makes sense, right?
Most of the times Mom and Gary’s visits were long. They’d stay with me and make sure I wasn’t alone. And I appreciated that, even though sometimes it’s important to wander mentally to find your center. Some call it mediating or reorienting; I just called it my space-time.
When I was alone, I’d often play games to avoid my space-time, even though it’s crucial to mental health. In hindsight, it wasn’t good to do, and I regret that now, but then; it was important for me not to stay inside my own mind and conceptualize the potential negative outcomes of such a course of treatment. I knew that I would get through this, and I figured it best by not focusing on those evil thoughts; I could let my body fight, hence the “vegging out” process.
Later in the day I was alone and wheeled the Gamecube back into my room. Finally, after baited anticipation, I popped in Super Smash Bros. Melee. The opening cinematic commenced, and I let the whole thing play out, even though I wanted to skip it.
Wow! What a video! I half expected the end to show all of the shadows of the hidden characters like the first game did. No such luck.
Then the starting screen displayed prominently. I pressed start and discovered the menu. I decided to start with a quick match. There were fifteen characters out of the gate (if you count Sheik). That’s more than the entirety of the first game!
Prior to buying the game, I had researched the game’s unlockables on the Internet. Heck, when the game was being teased, the Nintendo site revealed them all for me. So I knew that in the first 50 matches, you would unlock some new character. So I played fifty matches, using that time to learn a little about each starter character, and before I knew it, I had unlocked Jigglypuff. What is the next level of matches… 100?!
I wanted to stretch out the process of unlocking them, since this was the only game I had and didn’t have anyone with which to play. Gary had tried sometimes, but this wasn’t his type of game. Luckily though, there were two ways to unlock each character, and so I often used the other method.
Most of the time it meant finishing Classic mode or Adventure mode with a certain character. But as the days progressed, I found myself playing match after match too. So I decided that I would complete this entire game: beat every mode with every character, unlock everything possible, and collect every trophy. That would keep me distracted.
It had got to the point, where I only had two characters left to unlock: Mewtwo and Mr. Game and Watch. The former required you to either complete seven hundred matches, or have a total of twenty hours of smash time in the system. Either way was astoundingly time-consuming, but I had a plan and went through the match count method. I played one stock matches with 300% damage at the start, ensuring each match would only last a few seconds.
I did this for an entire afternoon. Over five hours of “Ready? Go!” and “Game!” Rinse, repeat. Soon enough, the silhouette of Mewtwo appeared, and I decimated him… after he beat me twice. The guy wasn’t easy (and I wasn’t that good as Smash then). But I got exponentially better.
All in all, this game kept me preoccupied as (once again), my counts were down for the count. Sure, I had to wipe down the Gamecube controller more than a normal person for fear of disease, but hey, Super Smash Bros. Melee was a great companion during these harsh times.
And if I didn’t have this particular game to assist in keeping me mesmerized, then I would not have taken what came next as easily… The shit was about to hit the fan.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.