This year has been a real shitweasel.

It’s hard to sum up everything that went wrong here, especially because some of it happened to other people and they might want to include it in their own ‘2015 was a mythical weasel made of excrement’ posts, but as a brief guide for new readers:

I got testicular cancer, the week after I got out of hospital my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer, the week after he got out of hospital I discovered my cancer had spread to my lungs and I needed extensive chemotherapy, my brother was involved in several car accidents (none of his causing), I had a terrible reaction to the chemo and barfed my way through November and some of December.

A possum humped the living hell out of my roof.

And yet…

It hasn’t been all bad. Before all this cancer business I got a job I really enjoy writing for radio and that’s waiting for me in the new year. My brother got a new job and I’m seriously proud of him for snagging it.

An almost literal army of people came out to back me while I went through cancer and the chemo. I have never felt so loved or appreciated by so many people in my entire life. Funds were raised, parcels were sent. Friends and family both near and distant stepped up to help me even when I was exactly zero fun to be around.

My wife saved my life both literally and figuratively.

I have no way to properly thank anyone except to say how grateful I am for everything, and how happy I am to still be here. I think I’ve mentioned this before but when they found the cancer in my lungs I asked my surgeon ‘If I was dumb enough to refuse chemo, what would happen?’

‘You don’t make Christmas’.

‘Oh.’

I made Christmas. I made New Year’s Eve. I get to see everything both good and bad that 2016 has to offer.

I’m looking forward to it.

Happy New Year everyone.

– Andrew

These dogs expect you to enjoy your new year. Don't let them down.

These dogs expect you to enjoy your new year. Don’t let them down.

 

 

 

 

I really enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film wasn’t perfect, but I don’t care. It felt like Star Wars to me, and I walked out of the theatre with a huge smile on my face and the desire to see it again.

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

So. Happy.

After I saw SW:TFA I suddenly realized that it was Christmas time. I’d been looking forward to my results, then seeing Star Wars, so much that I had almost forgotten about Christmas. Almost.

 

I’m not a religious person, if people ask I describe myself as a hopeful agnostic, and I quote them a slightly mangled Asimov quote I like to think sums things up on my worldview:

“I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.”

And yet…I love Christmas. Our house is always decorated (mostly because my awesome wife loves Christmas too and always puts in the effort whereas I mostly ask where she’d like me to hang things). I love the getting together with family, and I’m very very lucky that my family is so close that it’s relaxing to hang out with them instead of a teeth clenching effort. I love the food and the semi-coma that I’m in afterwards. I’m lucky to have that too.

Hell I’m lucky to be alive.

What I’m trying to say, badly, is that no matter where you are or what you celebrate, I hope it’s awesome. I feel very lucky right now about a lot of things, and I hope I can pass some of that luck on to you.

And go and see Star Wars if you haven’t already.

 

I’m cancer free.

Probably.

We think.

Dammit.

I went in to the oncologist’s special under hospital lair yesterday (like many a lair it is underground, unlike most lairs it’s full of good people and sometimes smells like cabbage). I sat in a tiny room with my wife and I hoped I’d be told that I was so free of cancer they were going to use me as an example to other people as to what being cancer free looked like. I didn’t get my wish, but it was pretty close. My cancer has responded incredibly well to treatment. The fat, strangely symmetrical cancerous lumps that were sitting on my lungs generally being a nuisance have gone altogether. The combined chemotherapy punched them right in the metaphorical dick and they have gone wherever cancers go in the afterlife.

The problem is this little smudge on the CT scan.

It’s tiny. In fact it’s so tiny it really might be nothing. Apparently if I was a normal person it wouldn’t be enough to worry about…but I’m no longer normal. I personally have high hopes it’s just where someone sneezed on the CT scanner, but it’s not nothing, which means as a collective unit we’re all going to glare at this smudge until we know what it is. It’s actually currently too small to know what it is at all, it might even be a perfectly normal part of my lung.

Not my lungs, not even a CT scan...and yet I felt like I needed a picture.

Not my lungs, not even a CT scan…and yet I felt like I needed a picture.

The rest of me is truly all clear. My remaining testicle does not need to be cut off. My lymphatic system is healthy.

I am a very, very lucky person.

So what happens next is surveillance.

It sounds very much like my oncologist is going to be taking up residence in my garden with a pair of binoculars and an unhealthy interest in the color of my pee.

We feel like you should stop drinking Toilet Duck...

We feel like you should stop drinking Toilet Duck…

The truth isn’t that far off. I get checked once per month for the next six months (and by checked I mean blood tested and fondled), then once every three months for a year…then at ever increasing intervals for the next ten years. After ten years it becomes more likely that I’m going to die from something else.

Currently the leading bet is ‘bear related incident’.

Somewhere, a bear dreams of eating my face.

Somewhere, a bear dreams of eating my face.

I was quite depressed yesterday. I shouldn’t have been, I should have been happy but instead I was deeply weirded out and as flat as the surface of a frozen lake. I think I had really been hoping that I wouldn’t have to worry any more, and that this was all over with. In reality that was never going to happen, there was always going to be more follow up, more tests, more visits to the big grey cabbagey hospital building.

It doesn’t matter. I’m alive to do the tests. I’m alive to enjoy the holidays. Moping about will not change the smudge in even the smallest of ways, so I’m resolved to celebrate the fact that I need no more chemotherapy, and to enjoy every second that I possibly can with my family and friends.

The amount of support I’ve had throughout all of this cancer business has been overwhelming. I mean that quite literally, there were times where I took in the sheer number of people willing to help me, and the intensity they carried with them, and my brain just kind of shorted out and I had to go and stare at a wall for a while.

Right now I’m feeling pretty good about the future.

I should probably put some pants on and go and face the day.

 

 

I finally find out what my CT scan results are tomorrow.

When you get a CT scan they inject a contrast dye that makes you feel like you've wet your pants. It's disconcerting to say the least.

The blessed and infernal machine.

As I’ve said before, I hate the waiting game. If I’ve got to get get bad news/fight something/put on pants I want to get it over with quickly. Putting it off just winds me up, and (to mangle a Pratchett quote) sometimes I unwind all at once.

But with medical stuff there’s no changing the fact that you have to wait. No matter if you’re in a private system or a public one, there will always be people just as sick (if not sicker) than you who are ahead of you in the queue. I don’t begrudge them their time, I just have an irrational wish for everyone to talk a bit faster so I can get this done.

Sometimes I wonder if the problem isn’t so much the waiting itself, it’s the fact that I have absolutely zero control over the outcome. I wish I did, I wish I could punch cancer in the face and then kick it while it was down, or that there was something I could do to affect, even in the smallest of ways, what happens tomorrow. There just isn’t, and I’ve swung backwards and forwards between being accepting that I have zero control and outright frustration at the whole process. I’m yet to chew off anyone’s face, but I’m glad that the appointment is tomorrow, otherwise face-chewing was becoming a real possibility.

I like to think that if I was in real ‘get your affairs in order’ trouble someone would have called me by now, but there’s no guarantee of that. The odds are though that good news is waiting for me, most cases like mine are fixed after three cycles of BEP chemotherapy and while I really don’t want to do any more chemo, it’s still better than dying.

I’m mostly OK. What’s scaring me is the stress this is putting my loved ones through. I can see it on their faces and in how they’re acting around me. I don’t blame them. When my Dad was sick I felt like I had a bowling ball in my stomach. I wish there was something I could do to reassure them, to tell them this is going to be OK, but I’ve got nothing to say that isn’t a platitude. I just hope I can call everyone tomorrow and tell them good news.

 

Other stuff:

I finally actually listened to the lyrics of Baby It’s Cold Outside as sung by Dean Martin and Marilyn Maxwell…and yeah…that song is creepy as hell. 

Misheard song lyric: During Everclear’s Santa Monica – I am still living with your ghost, I heard as I am still living with your goat. Frankly the goat sounds like a good story. I’d listen to that song.

I have been sent three insane cancer cure ideas this week.

I cannot recommend the website Wait But Why enough, especially if you have some time to spend reading. That said the most recent post The Tail End, is quite short, and made me think very hard about the amount of time I have left, no matter what the results are tomorrow. I highly recommend you read it.

 

 

Late last night there was a possum on my roof.

It knows when you're trying to sleep.

It knows when you’re trying to sleep. Not my photo, but rest assured the possum in my life looked like this, but worse.

This in and of itself is not that unusual, and because I’ve had bad insomnia of late I often hear them grunting and hissing their way from one edge of my roof to the other while on their way to do what it is that possums do late at night (from the sounds of things huck up furballs and fight with rats).

However last night was an unusual night, with an unusual, some might even say unique, possum.

This possum will come to be known as Humpy, for reasons that will become clear.

He did not start as Humpy, at three am he was simply ‘that possum that seems to have been on my roof for about an hour, and is really cross about it’. There was grunting, there was growling, there was hissing. There was a great deal of skittering back and forth and then an extending bout of growling. I have a metal roof, so all of this sounded like Godzilla was undertaking a mating dance right above my head.

3.15: I am wide awake cursing. I consider getting up.

3.30am: Odd, sporadic thumping sound begins.

Bong. Thump.

Bong. Thump. Thump.

Silence. 

Bong. 

3.32am: I say a series of rude words about possums in general and this one in particular.

3.35am to 3.50am: Fifteen solid minutes of growling.

4am: Thumping returns, it’s just now distressingly rhythmic.

Bong.

Bong. 

Thump.

Bong. 

Thump.

4.10am: Thumping sound has now become so rhythmic it occurs to me this blasted possum is humping the hell out of my roof.

In my head, I name him Humpy.

In reality I pick up an elderly jandal from out of the closet and go to do my manly duty, namely to stop this possum making sweet, sweet love to my rooftop.

The jandal in its natural habitat: lost at the beach.

The jandal in its natural habitat: lost at the beach.

4.15am: I am unable to locate Humpy the amorous possum without getting on the roof he is attempting to fornicate with. I decide not to climb up on the roof at 4 in the morning.

4.20am: Bong. Bong. Bong. Bongbongbongbong…

4.22am: I hear my biggest cat Harry clamber up onto the roof. Harry is enormous, like a small bear, and not sneaky at all, so I can hear his progress across the roof. I silently hope Harry will scare away the possum without getting into a fight with it (New Zealand possums are nasty, diseased creatures).

4.33am: Harry stops. I think he’s assessing the situation.

4.34am: Harry very clearly decides that while he’s up for dealing with Growly the Possum, or Fighty the Possum he is not paid enough to deal with Humpy and that he’s going back to bed.

4.40am: Bong, thump, bongbongbong…

4.42: I return to the great outdoors.

4.44: I catch a glimpse of grey tail in front of my flashlight. I manfully hurl the dilapidated jandal at Humpy. However I am still very weak, so instead of a rubberized torpedo of possum scaring justice I gently toss Humpy a piece of iconic New Zealand footwear. After a few moments Humpty takes off with it and vanishes into the treeline.

4.47am: I return to bed, victorious after a fashion.

4.48am: I realize what Humpy is probably doing to my jandal.

4.49am: Resolve never to wear jandals again.

 

I’ve noticed something about people who go through cancer, at least the ones I’ve met. We all go groping for answers, sometimes literally.

I checked my nuts before all of this happened. Just gave them a solid non-entertainment based fondle. I can’t remember how often I did it, but I did.

You’d better believe I check my remaining ball every damn day now.

smiley-535286_1920

As much as that’s a solid self care plan, I don’t think I need to check every day. But in the absence of any real answers as to why I got cancer (official word on it is that I was unlucky and I can accept that), I feel like checking myself is one small piece of control I can have over it. Once I accepted I had been unlucky and that there was no reason for my cancer any more than anyone else who draws the short biological straw, I started noticing that a lot of people have a hard time accepting that things happen without a reason. There was no split between people who were normally on the hard science of things and people who were already into alternative medicine…pretty much everyone went looking for reasons.

Sometimes they found them. Sometimes those reasons were real, and sometimes they were just the first, easiest thing they could latch onto.

I’ve heard about everything from ‘sugar caused/fed my cancer’! (no it didn’t).

to ‘my relationship with X/Y or Z caused my cancer’ (it was rogue cell division).

to ‘I didn’t smoke enough weed’ (I feel like inhaling anything other than air might not help lung cancer).

and my personal favorite because it was about my cancer, not the speaker’s: ‘God gave you cancer’ (dick move God). Although come to think of it she didn’t specify which god…

ANUBIS: MY BAD BRO.

I initially reacted badly to all of these. I hated the idea that people I knew and in some cases were very close to couldn’t just accept that cancer is an awful, painful and yet often utterly random thing. Yes there are cancer causes out there (stopping smoking is a super good idea), but so often there just isn’t a clear reason and I think that’s OK…

Doesn’t stop me checking myself every day. Doesn’t stop my from reading up on cancer research, because it makes me feel better.

I think we all try to find comfort where we can, and I’ve softened on people who reach for that comfort outside of my own point of view. Cancer is scary. We all deal with it a little differently, and while I find the blatant misinformation of alternative medicine extremely frustrating, I don’t blame someone who is suffering to seek answers outside of what their Doctors tell them. I still love me some Western style peer reviewed medicine and that’s always going to be where I go for my answers, but if you seek answers elsewhere then I hope they bring you some comfort. Still: don’t buy anything from anyone, don’t trust something someone says just because it agrees with your worldview and always check with your doctor before taking anything.

And don’t try and force your weird turmeric drink down my throat, I will punch you in the dick.

 

 

 

 

I’ve got my last major scan on Monday. After that I wait for another week and then I see my oncologist and hopefully find out my cancer has been thoroughly stomped. If that’s the case then they put me onto surveillance…which sounds rather like my oncologist is going to take up residence in the bushes outside my house.

The problem is that waiting part. Even if it’s bad news and I need more treatment, I can handle it, but hanging around waiting for the news is hard.

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson:  The waiting game sucks! Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!