After the surgery last month I had to learn to walk again without part of my lung & diaphragm. The very first day they had me sitting up. The second day I took my IV pole, two vacuum-suctioned chest tubes, a portable motor that sounded like a shop vac and 3 nurses in tow for a walk (if you could call it that) down the ICU hallway. We even tried climbing stairs, but the tubes from my IV only allowed me to take 3 steps up, which I think would be manageable for even the most feeble degenerates among us. I stopped practicing the stairs after that. But I kept walking, and 3 or 4 days later I was doin' laps like lance armst--- I mean, like a pro. It's amazing how fast the body can recover.
After I was discharged from the hospital I went right into chemo cycle #5. I think the extra pain meds have made me extra nauseous this time. There are lots of other "extras" that pain meds give you, like extra hard poop. extra heavy eyelids. extra street cred. extra helpful friends.
For the last few days, Jon & I have been editing the final version of the comic. It's come so very far from the hair-brained scheme we hatched years ago. I had time to kill in the waiting room before one of my (many) doctor appointments, so I pulled out a test-print and started to read. In no time I was sucked into a colorful world that echoed, in a surreal way, the hospital around me and issues I was immediately facing. Jon's drawings are delightfully intricate; you can take your time on each page and notice new details with every read. I was disappointed when my name was finally called, because it meant a transition from this magical cancer-comic world to real world-- and real cancer. Bottom line: great for making hospitals more bearable. I can't wait until issue #1 is finished.
I suppose I should mention: I will be featured on Season 2 World of Jenks on MTV, which premiers this Monday. The crew followed me for a year as I moved from San Francisco to NYC to pursue my career and a cancer-free fresh start. I'm horribly embarrassed about the whole thing, but I remind myself that I participated in this project to promote young adult cancer awareness and issues of survivorship. When I was first diagnosed I felt so shamefully alone-- my cancer happens to one in a million, and it's even rarer in young adults. The prognosis is grim, but there are a few survival success stories out there if you look hard enough. I wanted so badly to find someone I could relate to, someone to learn from, some lucky soul who had found the light at the end of the IV drip and was ok now. I wanted to be ok too, someday. What I needed was empirical hope. I needed proof through personal experience that my cancer was survivable, that pain is surmountable, that the future is inevitable. I needed accounts of young adults overcoming the physical & emotional upheaval of cancer so that I could be better equipped to navigate my own tumultuous journey. Trouble is, until very recently, people have rarely been encouraged to open up (I mean really
open up) about Cancer due to negative social stigma, fear of vulnerability or judgment, or outmoded cultural mythologies of illness. Eff that, let's talk about it! Let's set the record straight and help the newly diagnosed. Empirical hope, knowledge, camaraderie-- this is what I wish to give others by sharing my story with MTV.
Hope creates strength, and with strength we can survive. to ride ziplines.