January 6, 2020

Another Gregorian year comes to pass. Halfway through my personal year 50, and just on the other side of treatment. Looking forward to a day of no side effects and hopefully some time very soon. Jet lag and chemotherapy two days after I got back from the UK, plus a cold I brought home with me, made December far more of a struggle than I had expected it to be. For almost a week I didn’t do much of anything besides sleep and drink water, and I’m still trying to get my legs back underneath me after all that.

2020 is shaping up in a good way with projects. Waiting to hear about one project that went into limbo once I started treatment. My Patreons are being revamped with new content and more reasonable/appropriate tier structures. I will be speaking at the International Coptic Congress in Brussels in July, my first lecture as a Ph.D. I’ve been asked in the last few months to appear on several podcasts, which I had put off due to just not feeling well/needing to conserve what energy I did have, but am hopeful to be able to make those appearances. Starting in April I will be doing some traveling for teaching. I’m balancing things better, making sure that I do not forget myself on my internal priority list, and settling into life-after-grad-school. While I am a work in progress, it’s also fair to say I’ve always been a work in progress, and we all are, as long as we live. Here’s hoping this year brings good work.

December 13, 2019

Tomorrow afternoon is my third and final chemotherapy treatment. Grateful to be at the point where it will be recovery versus continued suffering. I’m a little worried about how well it will go, as I’m not in the best of shape going into this one; just got back from England in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, and jet lag plus an 8-hour time change were not kind to me.

The trip, however, was worth the bodily wear and tear. I got to see friends and family I haven’t seen in years, and to teach the things I love to teach. I even spent two days at a seaside resort listening to live music and wondering why it was so cold in my room (answer: I had turned the heat off, not on). It wasn’t two weeks of wandering everywhere nonstop like my first trip to England five years ago was, since I wasn’t in any shape to handle that level of exhaustion. But it was still very enjoyable and I saw a different part of the country. Hopefully today’s elections won’t make it impossible to visit anytime soon again.

Getting back home was more of an adventure than expected due to the French airline strike and a serious windstorm that jeopardized my first two flights, followed by a fight between a passenger and a flight attendant on my third flight (Chicago-Portland) that required us to return to the gate so security could get the passenger off the plane, but eventually I got back to Portland and back into my house. I was gone so long that Zigzag didn’t even yell at me. I’ll appreciate the fuzzy company while I’m recovering this weekend.

November 13, 2019

Second Friday treatment went better than the first month. Last month, I spent the Friday evening wrapped in multiple blankets, shivering so hard I couldn’t hold anything without dropping it. This month I slept until Saturday, then had a three-day headache. Both times I’ve been left with a lot of pain and fatigue and generally feel like I’m much older than I am. But two are down and one is left, and between now and then I will be in England for two weeks to teach and meet with family. Probably shouldn’t be going, but we arranged it long before the treatment was set up, and I can’t afford to eat the cost of rearranging everything. The next two weeks then will be an interesting balance of trying to make sure I get enough rest and recuperation and yet still get everything prepared for the trip.

Today I’m back to writing, scheduling appointments, and sorting out time to finish unpacking. Yes: I’ve lived in this apartment for a little over a year now, and I still need to finish moving in. It will be difficult to not want a clone once they perfect the science. I probably could use two about now.

November 6, 2019

Made it through week 3 and most of week 4 of my treatment. Spent the majority of last week traveling, including an unexpected side trip that had me not flying back home but taking a cross-country train. The train ride extended from Chicago to New Orleans (Tuesday and Wednesday, 29 hours), then back to Chicago (Thursday-Friday, another 29 hours) and on home to Portland (Friday-Sunday, and more than 50 hours). Even reading that is exhausting, and it was.

Someday I would like to make the Portland-Chicago portion of the trip again, when I am both prepared for it and not in the midst of so much other stress. It seemed like it would’ve been pleasant, had I not been running behind and in no position to afford six days without internet (and thus working) access.

Home again and finally starting to feel the ground beneath me and not a monotonous swaying and clatter. The enforced quiet time was good for my brain in some ways, and I arrived home with lots of ideas on how to make some current projects go better. In other ways it was far too much time to be alone with my thoughts and staring at a pre-winter landscape with largely nothing in it between Wisconsin and Montana. If you can’t be alone with your own thoughts, you have some personal work to do. That said, there’s still a space where just like any other company, you’ve spent too much time together and you need a break.

October 18, 2019

Week two has begun and the side effects have fully settled in. So far it’s still better than my previous experience, though it being different every day has been strange to navigate. One day I’m in bed for 10 hours and the next I feel fine except if I try to eat something. The this is really happening” part has sunk in along with a strange sort of isolation that only those who have been gravely ill will understand. It is a mixture of feeling like the rest of the world is going on without you, tempered with your own alternating between wishing to be left unbothered and yet wanting more support than you feel like you’re getting and both at the same time. Confronting your mortality via illness is terrible. One can find strength in getting through it, but I would not argue that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger. It just doesn’t kill you - and it leaves damage in its wake that must be healed along with the body’s healing.

In other news, I am not just staring out a window contemplating my illness. Final edits have come in for a small writing project, and I’m nearing contract stage on another. The work goes on and the life goes on, even if I’ve downshifted to head up a mountain at the moment.

October 11, 2019

One week down. One treatment down. So far, the experience is not as awful as it was in my 20s, for which I am grateful. That being said, it still has its awful moments. Already noticing a marked difference in my short-term memory and instituting countermeasures against the cognitive fog. Blood sugar is up but not so far that I can’t adjust for it. Hopefully that, too, will stay where it is now and not get worse as we continue. Once again, I am fighting insurance over who gets to pay for my three months of misery. Once again I am also dealing with many more emotions around this than I hoped to or cared to.

But one week is down and I am alive and the hairdresser thinks I should keep my hair, and autumn has come to Portland, and Zigzag is being a very kind nurse. I have book projects and other work to keep me occupied, and beloved family bringing groceries and distractions. Outside my door where the leaves of the dogwood are falling in pink and crimson, three crows come by each day to greet me. Even if the rest of the world outside my door seems to be upside down in a trash can on fire, a few good things remain to remind me that there is more to life than any one bit of adversity, and the only way out is through.