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Reality Blows


Ashoka the Great

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I play another online game rather a lot. On that game, I'm a server admin.

Tonight, one of my fellow admins confided in me that he had 'taken a fit' the other day. He went to the hospital, where they found three tumors in his brain.

The punchline?

These were actually secondary tumors. He actually has lung cancer.

Like me, he's forty-four years old. Unlike me, he has never smoked. (I quit a year ago, and think about it damn near every day. God, I miss it.)

So we talked on TeamSpeak....for about an hour or so. And then another player joined the TS server so we had to make small talk about other things.

I just sent him a PM. It's not all that relevant to CN. In fact, it isn't relevant at all to the typical CN demographic, but if only to give you a sense of the guy behind the walrus exterior....

For what it's worth, my prayers -- well, you know, when I offer them and all :oops: -- are with you.

I really don't know what else to say. Life has handed you a plate of !@#$ and you're supposed to say, "Yum, it's delicious!" I mean....seriously....what the hell is up with that????

In my own case, I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2000. In 2002, I was given three years to live. (Turns out I'd contracted it sometime in the late 1970s, courtesy of a blood transfusion during emergency surgery....but wasn't diagnosed until >20 years later.) And yet....here I am. As of right now, the virus is gone. I'm told there's about a 1/20 chance it can come back unannounced. I figure I have about the same odds of dying from something else in the meantime.

I'm not going to lie to you or pretend that your situation isn't worse than mine is/was. Yours is considerably worse, and I think you know it. You've probably already looked up information on the 'Net, and have found out 'five year survival rates' and all the other gruesome statistics associated with you particular 'brand' of cancer.

The good news is that neither you nor I have to worry about footing the bills for any treatment. (God bless the NHS!)

However....

The fact that health care is 'free' doesn't mean you just have to sit back and wait. I don't know how your government health care works, but if it's anything like ours....the person who yells the loudest gets treated first. Never be afraid to ask your specialist if there's something else that can be done, if something can be sped up or what have you....

The more you insist on getting to the front of the line, the better the chance that you'll actually get there. (If that makes sense.)

As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Well, now's the time to squeak, my friend. :)

No doubt you'll have to go through a whole lot of nasty medical treatments. About those....all I can say is that, having gone through a kind of chemotherapy in the past, assume from the beginning that it's absolutely going to be the worst thing you've ever endured in your life. That way, if it's not too bad, you can congratulate yourself on having withstood it without too much complaining. (Again....this is the voice of experience.) And if it's !@#$@#$ horrible, as mine was, at least you'll be ready for it.

Don't be shy. If you catch me online and just want to talk, know that you've got a sympathetic ear on the other side of 'the Pond'. And failing that, you can just send me rambling private message upon rambling private message.

OK?

You're going to get a lot of people telling you to 'think positive' and all that. Sure....do that. But do yourself a favor and always be aware of the realities of your situation.

When I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, I told a good friend of mine. This is a guy who, when he was in his early 20s, was in a car accident. He hit a moose while driving a sports car. He broke its legs, and the moose slid up the front of his car, went through the windscreen, and broke his spine. He is paralyzed from the middle of his back down. His arms work, but they work like flippers. Not arms. (If that makes sense.)

What he said to me is this....

"I try to be positive. I really do. But the fact is that no matter how positive I am, I'm in this chair. I can be as positive as I can, but I'm still in this chair. I do everything I can, but I'm still in this chair."

That sounds rather pessimistic in the telling, but the fact is that he was just warning me against the kind of 'think positive' nonsense doctors/nurses/etc. like to dole out.

Yes....THINK POSITIVE. But keep your feet on the ground. At the end of the day, it may not make you happier, but at least you'll know that you're dealing with reality, and not drifting into fantasy.

God, that sounds awful when I read it....but I think you know what I'm trying to say.

Take care of yourself, brother. Know that if you ever want to talk, I'm here. Sure, I'm just some random guy in an online game, but in some ways that might make me easier to talk to. If nothing else, I won't show up at your door in the middle of the night yelling, "Hey! Are you OK?"

That and....I've been there. I've sat with my son in my arms, crying as I wondered if I would get to see him grow up. It's scary as hell, and the hardest thing in the world is trying to imagine if anyone else has felt the same way.

Just know that you're not alone. OK?

See you online.

- George

PS: Just look at the image in my signature. We're all Kermit, and 'Life' is the guy in the pickup truck.

Life blows, kids. But that's no reason to take it for granted.

Oh, and btw....the image in my sig on this particular game forum:

kermit.gif

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Cancer getting into the brain or nervous system never is a good thing. I've known a few with that type of cancer, although in their cases, they were rather young. It is surprising the number of children under ten diagnosed with cancer each year. But yes, terrible illness. I know from experience. Never had it, but I have known people who have. I'll keep your friend in my thoughts for what it's worth, though as much as I would hope to see him recover, as I would anyone else, chances are the clock is ticking. For what it is worth though, it is possible to beat the doctor's odds for survival by maybe one year. Not bad all things considered, and in some ways a terminal illness is better than a sudden death. At least gives you and your loved ones the time to accept it, and clear up loose ends. Granted, that is depending on whether or not he remains lucid throughout the ordeal, as those I knew did. Once it gets into the nervous system it does all sorts of terrible things to it.

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Yeah....he's going to die, and he knows it.

And you know, as gruesome as it sounds, you're right. Being told "You have X years to live" is not as bad as it seems.

As I said to a friend of mine after my own diagnosis, "I was told I was going to die. Funny thing is, so are you. You just don't know when."

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For what it's worth, I will keep this man and his family in my prayers. I lost my aunt to liver cancer 13 years ago. I wouldn't wish the kind of pain coming from losing someone that close on my worst enemy. :(

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A bit of medical advice you may want to forward, though I'm not sure how useful it may be, chemotherapy and radiation has the result of decreasing white blood cells. After it is below a certain level chemotherapy can no longer be taken. The doctors will advise to hold on the chemo, to delay it for a month or so for the blood cell count to rise. Well, someone I know took that advise. The cancer came back with a vengeance in that time. It is possible to demand an injection that will raise the white blood cell count. That may allow chemotherapy to be taken on time.

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I, like Uralica will keep this individual in my thoughts. I'm not at all certain prayer helps, but it can't hurt. For what it's worth, I've only missed 2 sunrises in the past 3581 days (demon Rum :mad: ). Greet each.

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Our thoughts and prayers go out for your friend, and we hope is is comfortable at the moment (or as comfortable as you can be in his situation). I knew someone with the same situation as he, and it was a very trying time for all of us. But i'm curious, was it hard to take this private letter and share it with us? I'd have needed courage to do that.

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So young, what a shame. But you're right; at any moment any one of us could get hit by a car, have a heart attack or suffer a fatal injury at work (a guy who does the same job as I recently was overcome with toxic gas and fell thirty feet to his death, 31 years old, 8 week old baby). When I think of the real things that others are going through, it reminds me that every day is a treasure and we should live each day as our last.

Thanks for this KZ. My thoughts are with him and hoping he enjoys his time left and selfishly kicking my own ass into gear to start doing more of what I love doing.

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I'm terribly sorry to hear this.

I might be being super optimistic here, but I think there is a chance, slim, but a chance, that if he can keep this thing repressed under chemo and radiotherapy long enough, you know, science might in that time develop a 'miracle cure.' We do after all live in an era where science is always making rapid and incredible leaps, he has a chance that wasn't present 50 years ago.

It's important, as you alluded to in your post, to not become delusional over this, it is nothing more than a chance, however, I would strongly advise keeping on top of the latest advancements, and if something looks promising, sign up for the trial if you can. Bureaucracy will prevent a cure from being widespread for decades at a time depending on where you live, but a trial might just be the ticket. And you know, cancer is a huge area of research. You never know when something new might pop up.

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Wow, what a bummer. I will keep him in my thoughts and prayers.

Btw, I lol'd so hard at your comment about your sig. :)

As a person who is proctoring rehabilitation experimental research, I'd recommend to him to see if he can get in on any experimental research. There are sometimes big risks involved with experimental research, but judging by the sounds of the severity, it would be worthwhile to consider. From my experiences, Chemo is hardly effective especially with highly malignant cancer. This is easier to say in my shoes then his, but experimental research is for the greater good of society. It kills millions each year.

You might recommend telling him to google cancer research. I am sure you could find some medical schools that PAY for patients to get experimental treatment.

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I was pretty sure you were talking about my dad until you said the guy is 40.

Pops started smoking when he was 12 (1959) and even though there've been warning labels on the pack since 1964, he always blamed his health problems on a heart murmur/hole in his heart from Scarlet Fever as a child.

In 2002 he nearly died from 4-6 heart attacks as his body went into sepsis due to an e. coli infection in his blood, and had to have an aortic valve replaced. He went right back to smoking a month after his 4-month hospital stay.

Last October while prepping to unclog his corotid artery, they found a mass in his lung, which turned out to be cancer. They did the surgery then went on a scavenger hunt and found 6 brain tumors, as well. Suddenly clear that all the stumbling and running into walls was not due to his nightcap being amplified by the blood thinners.

I don't know if your friend smoked or not--people do get lung cancer without smoking--but when you consider the stakes, it kills me that there are still people walking around smoking. Even more baffling that 20-somethings are smoking in greater numbers for the first time in a decade.

When I was a kid, I used to swipe my dad's cigarettes, dump them all out, divide them into 7 and draw a line around the whole thing at each gradient, and number each one befor replacing them. I remember thinking even while I was doing it that it was stupid hype that each one took 7 minutes off a person's life. But here we are; he's 62, face bloated from steroids, chemo port poking through his skin like some Borg freak, so weak it takes him 5 minutes to go up the stairs to bed, brain pressured from the tumor such that he can't walk--he shuffles--or barely hold a fork, can't cut his own steak, can't button his own pants.

You young people that are picking up cigarettes--"just one" and "just when you're out" (stfu and give me a break)--you're not thinking. George--the man behind Ashoka--has been where you're going "sat with my son in my arms, crying as I wondered if I would get to see him grow up." If his friend has kids, George has been where his friend is going. He's been where me and my dad are now.

You'll work and work and work to save up a college account, or take that big vacation with the kids, or get a house in the right county for the good schools, but none of it means anything if you're not there.

Think about your future, and the people that are going to miss you. It doesn't take a pack a day to really mess things up.

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My condolences to you and your friend. An important reminder that our cycle of life could conclude at any moment and so we should remember our priorities.

Facing such a high probability of death is a scary journey. I hope he finds peace before the end. Perhaps coming to that point may even give him a little more time yet.

When we must deal with problems, we instinctively resist trying the way that leads through obscurity and darkness. We wish to hear only of unequivocal results, and completely forget that these results can only be brought about when we have ventured into and emerged again from the darkness. But to penetrate the darkness we must summon all the powers of enlightenment that consciousness can offer.
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That, Schattenmann, is why both my parents gave up smoking. My mom was 30 and my dad 29 when they adopted me - they gave it up not long after they got me, and I'm now 27. They don't regret having done so for a second.

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Death isn't all that bad if you can accept it. I mean really, look at your options, they rage from attaining immortality is some non-corporal paradise to just not existing at all in which case you won't care. What's to be afraid of?

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Hopefully the technology will come about one day to eradicate this terrible disease. I feel sorry for your friend and others who are afflicted by this. It is harsh reality but the only way to over come it is to keep advancing our medical technology, one day this plague will no longer be a threat to us.

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