Low Point

I had been trudging along, daily chemo (and all it’s side effects), checking in with my employer benefits people and filling out/completing a plethora of documentation needed for disability when I was blindsided. Here’s a bit of what happened. My oncologist had just confirmed I was heading into the last round of chemo, it would last until July. It was May and I was thinking, I better reach out to my boss and HR to find out what the protocol was for my return. I was excited to be returning to some semblance of my life before cancer. I spoke with HR and though the person was a bit rude to me, we confirmed my return to work date. For some reason, HR was insistent that I be back in the office (everyone was working from home because of covid-19 mind you) prior to completing my last round of treatment. I was a bit shocked by this but figured, I would work something out since my doctor had not released me for work yet. This discussion took place May 7th, I had a doctor’s appointment May 11th and could sure up my return to work date at that point.

When my employer got the new doctor recommended return to work date (from June 20th to July 1st), they called me and separated. So yeah I got fired while in the middle of cancer treatment. In one of my earlier blog posts, I talked about being fired (from a previous employer) saving my life… this time well, I have to take those words back. The day I was fired, was the day my healthcare ended. I’ve been devastated since that date.

It’s July, I scraped together enough money to pay Cobra. I didn’t have the luxury of letting things wait until I could shop around for perhaps better pricing because it would have meant having to wait an introductory period and starting a deductible period all over again. Yeah Cobra is expensive but I get to finish treatment and live. My last day of chemo was overshadowed by the fact that now my days are spent trolling job boards and looking at my email for job posting alerts. With unemployed sitting at about 15% I’m just a drop in the bucket. All my hard work earning several graduate degrees and multiple professional certifications, achieving a leadership role and managing a team it was my dream. I had arrived. Now its gone.

I’m struggling to find the positive and good. I spend time in my comic cave among the things I love. It makes me sad though, there may come a time when I have to sell some of my collection or all of it. I try not to be angry about my situation, but most times I’m not successful.

Friends sent me this awesome hardcover copy of Batman the White Knight in Polish. It’s wonderful and a beauty to look at.

Batman White Knight

I love Greg Rucka’s writing style so this gift really brighten my day (doesn’t matter that I already had a copy, it’s the thought that counts).

WhiteOut Part two Melt

I’ve been enjoying Joe Hill’s horror comic Plunge. This cover from Gary Frank was particularly striking to me.

The Cancer

It is difficult to express the feeling one has; what goes through one’s mind when a doctor calls to say you have leukemia. There’s really no preparing for it. Further, the disbelief that suddenly your life has a serious end date, something unexpected. Mid 2019, as I tried to visit a new comic book shop a month I started to feel really tired. I was so tired that after work each day, all I wanted to do was sit or sleep. Being an overweight person, I worried that I was getting too many carbs or too much sugar, so I scrutinized what I ate consistently. My diet consisted of chicken, turkey, fish and veggies, still I felt heavy and tired. IMG_2929

In the fall, I noticed something unusual, I had a huge bruise on my knee but I couldn’t remember hurting myself. I assumed, I must have bumped it at some point and just didn’t remember. Only, to discover that more bruises were appearing on my arms and on legs and I knew I wasn’t doing anything to cause them. I should have known there was something wrong because these bruises didn’t hurt. They were big, but they didn’t hurt and that seemed odd to me. I had a doctor’s appointment coming up and figured, I would wait and mention the bruise then. I got a blood test and received the typical message, ‘we will call you if something it wrong.’ I shrugged it off and figured my tiredness was because of my weight (trust me, the medical community is prejudice against fat people, any problem you have its cause you are fat, oh wait, I’ll use the medical term = because you are obese). So I really thought my problem was weight related and I just needed to keep using the stairs even though my fatigue was just shy of debilitating.

So yeah I got that call, that one I mention above; the cancer diagnosis. My life has been interrupted by “the cancer” and I’ve been learning to deal with it. First I should note that the rare form of cancer I have is curable, but only if my body doesn’t reject that treatment. I will spare the statistics of people who don’t survive and just say that I’m going to live. I spent over 30 days in the hospital, which was a horrible experience and not something I wish on people I mildly like. My enemies, yes I wish they had to spend a month in a filthy, dated and cramped hospital room in Bronx New York. Ok but back to the cancer. IMG_2854

When friends and family found out, I received mix responses, some were heart felt and made me feel loved and some were plastic and I really could do without. What do I mean about plastic? People who say ignorant stuff like, “you just have to stay positive” and “look on the bright side”. I can’t tell you how insensitive those words are. No one, not even other cancer patients or survivors should say you have to be positive about having fucking cancer. Its not helpful and further its invalidating. Going through this experience, there are ups and downs. My spouse and I try to keep our senses of humor about the whole thing. That is how we chose to deal with it, it’s not how others have to deal with cancer. Every person is different and that means how they approach their cancer is going to be unique. I wish people respected that and if they can’t think of something supportive to say, just don’t say anything at all.

My diagnosis was in September 2019, I haven’t been back to work since that time. Its been about 5 ½ months and I still have another 6 months of treatment to go. Most days, I’m tired but that’s from the poison on my body fighting the cancer. I take a serious cocktail of prescription meds and have to ask permission to take something over the counter for a headache. Everyday I go to the hospital to get stuck with a needle for my infusion. I thought being home would be ok, good even as I’d fill my time catching up on comic book reading, writing new blogs, cooking, grilling and watching Netflix. None of that has happened. I’ve been depressed and lost interest in most things that used to bring me joy; comics being one of those things. My hair hasn’t completely fallen out and I kind of wish that it had, instead it super thin and balding in weird patches around my temples. I have dark spots on my face and I look like I have two black eyes which are all side effects of the chemo. I mentioned said discoloration to the dermatologist who shrugged it off as me being black. Even when I said I didn’t have these before the chemo, he argued all my issues were either related to me being overweight or because I am black.

I just feel empty while I try and fight this stupid disease. I worry about getting back to life after cancer. I worry about returning to work, will I still be tired? Was all the tiredness the cancer? I worry about my hair growing back and no longer being thin. I worry that my skin will not return to its natural color but will have discoloration in odd shapes and in odd places permanently. I worry that my chemo brain won’t keep up with the fast pace of my demanding job. I don’t know what day of the week it is sometimes unless I look at my pill pack.

IMG_7871The entire time I was away from my local comic shop, the guys were kind enough to keep my comics instead of demanding I send someone to pick them up. This is what 3 months of comics looks like. That awesome person standing over my should, is Doug, he’s such a great guy. We practiced posing for the picture until you couldn’t quite see either of our faces.

IMG_3848Here are some pictures of all the comics I have yet to read. The books in the box that are not bagged and boarded and all the books on the table still in bags. I’ve been reviewing my pull list and cutting back. I fear my interest in this hobby is not long lived and that saddens me even more.

IMG_3847

I have been adding to my graded comics collection, this is a small stack I’m considering for my next submission. I love this Mark Brooks variant cover of Uncanny X-men issue 522, the return of Kitty Pryde. Underneath that is a first print of Once and Future; my goodness what a great comic. The first issue made me think of the first episode of the television show Grimm, really good stuff.

I was a bit emotional as I wrote this blog so please forgive the typos. I hope to do better next time and as far as I can tell, there will be a next time.

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