Chapter 92: “Death Becomes Him”
Jump to a Chapter:
With every receding tide in my life, there was almost certainly a complementary wave rushing back from the horizon. In the most serene moments of my holiday break, I felt the resurgence of my impending doom. As I lied in bed one night, in pitch-blackness (as how Deirdre and I preferred to sleep), I thought of death and the finality of it. I had narrowly escaped a sudden end a few times before, and I knew that no matter what I accomplished or how long I lived, it was inevitable.
What followed was a nightly routine of panic as I lied quietly next to Deirdre, the darkness of our bedroom smugly mirroring the end of it all. I wasn’t entirely religious, giving up on religion years ago. But I was always faithful. Humans had twisted faith in their separate self-serving messages. They altered how – and in what – people believed so they could control the masses. Faith shouldn’t be about control, but the human spirit.
Every religion believes in a few (reductive) basic principles: be good to one another, and to yourself. But these ideals were overwhelmed by the unbearable congregational weight of purpose. No one on Earth truly knows what happens when we die, and to assume that you do is one of the most dangerous thoughts imaginable.
Even our scientists only understand the smallest percentage of our universe, and therefore, nothing is truly certain. So, in the chance that we are only of this life on Earth, I wanted to make this collection of days on Earth count. I kept up at night with a different type of panic. A real, honest panic attack that didn’t elevate my heart rate or blood pressure, but my vision blurred and my heart sank.
All I could think of was when we clicked the lights off. That’s it. It was a hard feeling to shake. Why was this thought popping into my head after years of “calamitous peace” with false alarms and self-discovery? Why was my head resorting to scare tactics? What did I have to learn at this moment? Whatever the answer to those questions; my sense of progress was revivified yet again by the final deadline of an indeterminate amount of remaining life. What if I were to die tomorrow?
I took pause in this period of frantic to reflect on making it this far, to 2011, seven years since I was given the “all clear.” Death hadn’t gotten me yet. But on one morning, I had come closer to death than I would have cared to admit.
Well, okay, that may have been an exaggeration, but I could have been seriously injured. On this snowy morning, I had decided to try bringing more coffee to work in an attempt to save some money. So I packed my coffee mug, a thermos filled with more coffee, and my lunch box, all with keys in hand.
Our landlord had allowed water to continually drip onto our entryway steps. Amidst my frantic dash to work, I hadn’t remembered the ice buildup atop the hardened snow. As I descended the stairs, my feet gave way flipping me horizontally, SMASHING me onto the stairs back first, and sliding the few remaining feet to the driveway. The coffee from my travel mug had exploded onto my clothes.
I laid there for a good five minutes without moving. All I could do was groan in agony. Eventually, my landlord had heard my cries and came outside. “You all right?”
“Are you fucking kidding me? No, I slipped on the ice I had told you about several times.” I slowly climbed to my feet – not wanting his help – and realized I couldn’t stand up straight. I hobbled over to my car like Quasimodo so that I wasn’t LATE, and after a minute, I climbed into my car and drove off.
As I drove to work, suffering from my injuries, I performed a mental checklist of my body’s health. Amazingly, my back survived the fall, and I could move everything, albeit painfully. What if I broke my back just now? I would never be the same again. Then it hit me: I could have died! Right NOW. All because I didn’t want to be tardy (yet again) for a job that I despise. Wow.
I kept this constant reminder of death in my mind as a tool so I wouldn’t waste my precious time. I headed into my next classes with a renewed spirit and vowed to do my best with what I was given. And somehow, that fall didn’t alter my physicality in any way. If I had been eighty, I would have snapped in half.
The following semester, I finally signed up for Video I. The group of students I had in this class was partly comprised of the entirety of my former Intro to Video group. The others who I had hoped to work with were now, in Video II. Spencer, Jim, and even Brandon, that douche. I saw them as the new Triplets. I wanted to share in something so complete.
In the meantime, I had been listening to podcasts for over a year, and my video game “ear to the ground” was the website, IGN. I had hoped to meet them all, and now, I had my chance. Mike and I purchased tickets for PAX East in Boston during its second year ever. We were excited to go, but for different reasons. I didn’t care if I played any of the games on display there, but I really wanted to meet the IGN crew who had nestled themselves deeply into the recesses of my mind each and every week.
It was the only time I was ever “star struck” in my life. My goal of this whole trip was to take a photo with the IGN crew, chat a little, and move on. I had mentioned that I was the “F My Nursehole” guy from Knockin’ Boots and even brought a picture of me in the hospital.
The guys who frequented the panels of Knockin’ Boots and Game Scoop! (The show of which the Knockin’ Boots was originally a segment), remembered who I was, and were genuinely happy to see me. That was a great feeling. I knew so much about them, but they didn’t know a lot about me. That was the one-sided relationship podcast listeners had with the hosts.
Still, Mike and I had a great time at the event even if we had only one day’s worth of passes. We vowed that next time, we would get a pass for all three days of the event. What I didn’t expect was that the money I spent to get down there could have come in handy for something else.
Remember back when I was in the hospital they asked me to give a “sample” in case I needed a bone marrow transplant? Well, I thought my Dad had been paying that bill (with the Massachusetts Cryogenic storage company), as I hadn’t seen a statement since the year after treatment. Sure, Dad was covering a great deal, but since I hadn’t heard of the annual storage fee’s delinquency, I had assumed this one was taken care of. That was, until I received a statement in the mail for the past six years, the total of which was around twenty-three hundred dollars.
Why were they addressing me directly only now?
To be clear, I didn’t want Dad to cover it; I wasn’t going to call him over this. No, I was going to handle it, no matter how little my insignificant monthly payments would chip away at the total. I called and apologized to the cryogenic center that it had gotten this out of hand, and offered to make consistent monthly payments of fifty dollars until the balance was paid in full. I knew it would take years to pay off at that rate, and feared that they would deny such a request.
They instead agreed to it, as long as my payments were on time. I thanked them for working with me, and for keeping my sample in their storage. I didn’t know if I was even able to produce my own healthy sperm nowadays so this might have been the only way for Deirdre and me to have a child. We were still giving it the ol’ college try, but nothing had happened.
It’s funny that no matter how worried I had been about death – in the past and at this junction – I still had a little piece of me tucked away in some freezer somewhere in Massachusetts. Even if I was to die sooner rather than later then someone could carry my legacy onward.
What had cancer done to me to become so morbid? Some people take this lesson and come out the other end positive, but me – the procrastinator – kept eyeing that clock via the corner of the eye as the teacher paced the aisles of the classroom. You know, there’s a reason why that clock is caged, so you can’t fuck with it. So don’t and just keep your head down and make the best of it.
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.