Chapter 55: “Memories: Old and New”
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It may not seem like it’s been that long since treatment to your fine readers, but by this time, I had begun treatment over seventeen months ago and after all that time, I still had the Port-a-Cath (from which to draw blood) in my chest, you know, just in case. I had wondered for how long I would keep this third nipple, but the time had come where they deemed it ready for removal. This was a huge milestone for me. This symbolic moment told me that they were confident that I wouldn’t need the Port-A-Cath any longer.
Sure, I was nowhere near the five-year confidence threshold, but nevertheless, it was a cause for celebration. In an effort to commemorate such a moment, I wanted to get the removal on film. The procedure was to be conducted during an in-office visit and so, I knew the sterilization process wasn’t drastic enough to prohibit a camera.
Yes, I know how crazy it sounds to record a doctor as he cuts open my skin and pulls out a long-dormant tube running directly to my heart, but medical teams have filmed much worse. I had documented nearly my entire life since getting that camcorder and this was no exception.
While I anxiously awaited my new footage opportunity, I scrounged up what little money I could find (via my MBNA credit card…) and bought my first editing software: Movie Magic. I knew that I needed to get good at editing in order to eventually make my own films. Plus, I had amassed so much footage now that I could easily make a fun video slideshow of some sorts.
I imagined it would be similar to what Mitch and I accomplished for the Senior Slideshow but this time with a mixture of photos and video set to the music that I loved. I began throwing different clips into the “magnetic non-linear timeline” that Movie Magic boasted and it was as easy as dragging the clips and dropping them wherever I’d like onto the timeline. They called it “Drag and Drop.” Huh, cool!
In fact, it was this touted ease of use that convinced me to buy this product over their competitor Sony Vegas. I loved Sony products normally (hey, look at my camcorder), but the boxes were my final decision influencers. And it was only $149! For the record, it’s much easier to buy something with a credit card if you know it’s for your career.
I didn’t yet have my own computer on which to edit said video, so I used my Dad’s Dell at his house. The software had two license codes so I didn’t have to worry about doubling it up later on down the road.
I began with an intro video; all of the big studios and production companies had them. First, I needed a name. What can say how I feel as a man from Maine pining for the job of writer/director? Can they even pronounce my name? That’s it. I’ll make a crack about how people will inevitably mispronounce my name… Gag-non. Gagnon… Gag-non what? I GOT IT!
Gagnon A Stick Productions.
Cut. Print. That’s a wrap. No further rumination needed. I assembled my intro video rather quickly. I took a shot of an earlier video of me messing with the night vision as I listened to Tony, Brent, and Andrew jam downstairs. Then I overlaid some eerie images that I had taken and ended the video with a random video of me jumping in my Dad’s house then screaming.
I present to you that very video:
Told you that name was classic. I see no issues with it at all.
Assembling this footage proved to be quite the challenge. These videos tested my ability to pace properly and to continually captivate the audience who watched them. Wait, who would be the audience for such an event? Myself, the people in them… And I guess that’s all. I didn’t plan on showing many people these horrid practice edits.
Then I found myself busting a gut while working on them. I had such a great time with editing these snapshots of our lives that before I knew it I was ready to share these with the world…
But that would have to wait for my appointment to remove the Port-A-Cath had already arrived.
The nurses required that I bring someone down with me to drive on the way back as they would administer some light drugs to help me relax as well as a local anesthetic to numb the surgical area.
Mitch was gracious enough to take a day off and drive me back. We borrowed my Dad’s Dodge Dakota extended cab and headed down. The only issue was that sometimes in Maine, we have massive snowstorms during the month of March.
Yes, that’s me filming while driving in a snowstorm… Duh.
As we reached our destination, I had Mitch roll the camera on me at all times. I wanted to document every second of this procedure. First, they fucked me up good; I was as high as a kite. Next, they conducted my vitals. As I waited for the doctor to arrive, I sat loopy as all hell in an examination room trying to be as sober as possible.
The nurse surprisingly had no issues with being filmed, but when the doctor came in, he wouldn’t allow us to film the procedure. What a crock! I should have persisted. Perhaps he didn’t want me to get footage on the off chance that I tried to sue.
But at least I got video of what was in my chest for a year and a half.
WARNING: It’s bloody.
And I got to keep it.
By the time we left for home, it had begun to get dark under the heavy snow. We went to grab some nasty food at a fast food place (probably Burger King because it was right off of the highway) and then I got in the driver’s seat.
Mitch protested, but honestly, the drugs wore off rather quickly– especially with food. I took the wheel and off we went to Northern Maine.
The trip was taking much longer than usual as some sections of the road whittled down to one lane due to the snow banks left by the plow. This was part of the reason that I had wanted to drive: If we were going to have an accident in my Dad’s truck, then it would be with me behind the wheel. I, of course, didn’t offer this reasoning to Mitch.
It had appeared I was trying to do just that because I had decided to film during a snowstorm again… while driving.
Luckily, we made it safely to our destination. The snow had let up and the plows were more efficient the further north we progressed (how bout that?).
I dropped Mitch off and drove back to Dad’s to crash for the night. It had been a long day and I was anxious to review the footage of my medically induced stupor in the morning.
I awoke earlier than usual and talked with my Dad about the procedure and the treacherous trip. Then, I locked myself in the “editing room” (read: my old room) and queued up the footage. I made a damned fool out of myself in there, yikes! There’s nothing I’d want to show to strangers, that’s for sure…
I resumed the edit of the slideshow which had a tentative title called “Friends.” I think I enjoyed these videos so much because they were – to me – time capsules of the most fundamental moments of my social interactions with friends in a time when I needed that camaraderie the most. But there was a pervasive thought in the back of my mind that continued to haunt me– one from which I could not escape; one that while I hated to conjure, was a sound and rational notion: If I were to relapse or worse… They would have these memories to remember me by.
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.
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