Where were we? In my last big personal post a few months after my 11/1/18 diagnosis, I wrote that I suspected I might need a few more rounds of easy outpatient chemo and then I’d be done with treatment. Fuck I was cute back then.
I ended up being transferred to a doctor who heads the entire oncology bone marrow transplant program in San Diego, and damn lucky for me, because this guy tackles the disease way harder than the teams I dealt with previously. The week-long treatment he started me on back in April required me to stay in the hospital, and when I got out I couldn’t stop puking through the debut of Game of Thrones’ final season (still not sure the chemo was to blame though, hohomaan).
Anyway … after a couple rounds of that, they told me the cancer was reduced enough that they could start the process that really obliterates all the malignant leftovers. To do this, they’d have to hook me up to a machine that extracts millions of stem cells from my blood, enough for two transplants that would occur during two separate months in the hospital, to rebuild my bone marrow after high-dose chemo destroys it.
In the weeks of preparation that stretched from late July to early August, I started to feel like I was finally beating this bastard, training my bloodclot-filled leg to push through a couple miles a day, then five, then seven. Then, for the four days leading up to my date with the extraction machine, they gave me shots that boost your bone marrow’s production of white cells so they’d be sure to collect the amount they needed for my future transplants. They told me these shots might cause bone discomfort, so I just wrote off the tingly throbbing throughout my upper body that hit me a few hours after each injection.
Finally, I went on the machine for a planned four-hour session, and the first three hours were uneventful while this medical marvel rapidly circulated all the blood in my body, taking only what it needed and giving the rest back to me. During the home stretch, though, a light tickle in the right side of my forehead quickly became what felt like an electric current pulsing through the entire right half of my body, which throbbed uncontrollably with that same tingly sensation the shots had given me, only with 100x intensity. After the nurse slowed down the machine, the throbbing eventually stopped, and I shrugged it off while the process resumed. A half-hour later, the same problem hit me again, and this time it felt like I was going to lose my ability to breathe, until they turned off the machine and I came to feel mostly normal again. They gave me an MRI and kept me in the hospital that night, and the doctor told me the following day that I had two cancerous tumors in the left side of my brain, which impacts the right side of the body.
A few days later, I finally finished writing Chapter 16 (out of 18) of Book 2, the biggest and most climactic of the book. It was the chapter I’d started nine months earlier when I’d been coughing up blood and having fevers for three weeks, just before my initial cancer diagnosis. A few hours after putting the final touches on this chapter that I’d made so dauntingly spectacular in my mind for years, I met with a neurosurgeon who told me that what I’d experienced on the machine were seizures, and that our best course of action was to hit both the tumors with radiation. This was put on hold a day later, though, when I had another seizure at home, followed by two more at the ER. I came out of the hospital two days later up to my eyeballs in seizure meds and steroids for brain swelling, and found out those latest seizures were due to one of the brain tumors hemorrhaging to twice its original size.
After waiting a few tense days for the neurosurgeon to draw up a new radiation plan that could contain the ticking time bomb in my head, I finished Chapter 17. The next day, I started the final chapter and got my radiation, which surprisingly felt like nothing (seems to have seared a permanent bald strip onto me though). One more seizure hit me the next day (8/22), and after upping my seizure meds, I’m happy to say almost three months later that it was my last one. The day after that, just about three years from the date I’d started it, I finished Book 2.
Giving the book to my trusted beta readers and getting their constructive feedback really helped me pass the time from that point on, especially when my doctor had me on so many steroids I could only sleep from around 6pm-10pm. There’s something really magical about watching the movie Rounders in the middle of the night for like a solid two weeks, but I digress. During the month I spent in the hospital recently, I kept my mind occupied mainly by outlining Books 3 and 4 of my series, and have the first six (and last four) chapters of Book 3 pretty solidly developed. The high-dose chemo, which somewhat melted the plastic tubing that transferred it into my body, knocked out my energy for a few weeks, but I’m close to my normal self again and ready to face my next (hopefully final) chemo around Xmas, which happens to be when Book 2 comes out 🙂 I may end up needing physical brain surgery to permanently eliminate those bitchy tumors and the seizure risks they pose, but that’s down the road quite a bit, and I have a lot of happy stops along the way.
One of my biggest fears in all of this came from following the progress of a few other authors who cranked out their whole series way faster than I ever could, and so many reviews for their second books read something like: “I loved the first book and couldn’t wait for the sequel, and I was so disappointed …” I’m happy to say that my beta readers and a few lovely fans are unanimous that people who liked Book 1 will enjoy the hell out of Book 2, and I’m very optimistic that I can deliver Book 3 much more quickly now that my obstacles are starting to fall away.
I want to thank all the readers out there who picked up my first book, even the handful who told me to go eff myself afterward. No hard feelings. Plenty more where that came from. Btw, if anyone needs to get a hold of me in the next few weeks, I’ll be watching and re-watching the new season of Rick and Morty. Like you weren’t gonna do the same…
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