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[dreams|culture] My chemo-addled mind on pop culture

Weird have been my dreams of late. Ah medication and stress, those twinned servants of the entelechy of dreams.

Last night I didn’t just get a few postcards from my subconscious. I got a whole truckload 70mm CinemaScope reels shot on expired TechniColor film stock, complete with house posters and lobby standees. (Hmm, when I die, maybe I should continue going to conventions as a standee. Anyone want to take on carrying me around?)

At any rate, I enjoyed an hour long series of linked dream vignettes that was rather like watching Heavy Metalimdb ] by way of Moorcock’s Eternal Champion cycle. Sturm und drang, world-ending battles, dead peasants everywhere, myself in various guises, genders and ethnic modalities struggling to save the world over and over again, and mostly losing. All the way through, I always knew that I had lost or was going to lose. People implored me to stop.

On the plus side, my late uncle-by-marriage Big Jay McMinnis made an appearance as a Cherokee centaur. That would be Big Jay as I knew him in the early seventies, loose, wild and free, before he divorced my aunt and that bitter, judgmental form of churchiness ate his brain. The younger Big Jay would have approved. The later Big Jay would have been appalled. (And no, I was not named for him, my aunt did not even meet him until some years after I was born.)

So yeah, pop culture filter through the chemo-addled brain. Another funny bit popped up yesterday as well. Many years ago, I was a happy member of the Slug Tribe writing group in Austin, Texas. We met two Tuesdays a month in a community center conveniently located not far from my then-house. The room next door to ours was occupied by a Latin dance class. They would begin dancing to Santana’s version of “Oye Como Va”, and stop after the first few bars while (presumably) the teacher fussed at people. I have forever associated the opening of that song with delivering and receiving writing critique.

Funny, the things that come back to you.

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[personal|travel] Five things make a post for a flying day

Five things make a post. Or something. #blogworldproblems, I guess. Let’s see…

1) I am heading for the airport shortly to fly to DCA. There, Lisa Costello will pick me up, take me to dinner, then take me to NIH to check into their inpatient unit, pretty much for the month of March. The flight’s probably going to suck because of all the cancellations yesterday, which means severe overbooking today.

2) I continue to fear washing out of the trial at the last minute. My drop in baseline health these past 3-4 weeks concerns me. I have a tender lumpiness in my right side which I’m afraid is a result of the known rapid growth in my liver tumors displacing enough tissue to be detectable by touch. And this damned cough…

3) On a more-or-less unrelated note, I’d hoped to make a post this morning about atheist errors-of-thought, especially where it concerns the fungibility of faith. Or more to the point, lack of fungibility of faith. This is in part in response to [info]ericjamesstone‘s thoughtful essay And we will prove them herewith… in which he talks about (among other things) conforming to church doctrine with which he does not personally agree. He sees this as a test of faith (if I may simplify a bit), while I see this as evidence he’s in the wrong church. I’m pretty sure my reaction is simplistic bordering on insulting, and I wanted to analyze that in compassionate and respectful terms. But not this morning, it seems.

4) My dreams of late have been more and more chowder, less and less linear. I don’t believe my brain is decaying that fast (not an ordinary symptom of my kind of cancer, though intracranial metastases are a slight possibility), so I’m pretty sure my subconscious is working on a project. When it deigns to send me a coherent postcard, I’ll pass the word.

5) On a topic somewhat less to my own credit, I find lately that old hurts have been resurfacing in my thoughts. There’s precious little point to that, and it’s not the least bit constructive, but here I am. Like the chowdered dreams, my mind is trying to put things in order. I’ve gone through life not making enemies, though a few people have certainly gone out of their way to make me their enemy regardless of my actual words and deeds. But in this case I’m talking more about the usual hurts of life, lost friendships and fractured loves and “whatever happened to…” moments. Really, I don’t need these trips down memory lane amidst everything else that’s going on.

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[dreams] Walking into ignominy, and fish cookies

Long, complicated dream about my own impending death last night. In the manner of dreams, I have lost much of it already after waking, but the last bit remains.

I was preparing to leave this world, but for some reason I was dressed in motorcycle armor, and my death was a quest from which I would not return. I was wandering around trying to say good-bye to people I cared about, having just escaped some now-lost-to-memory threat earlier in the dream, when I realized that @jackwilliambell was following me with a pistol in his hand.

Confronting Jack, I told him to either go ahead and shoot me, or help me out. He decided to help me.

We were trying to get into the campus of a high school endowed by the late Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s. I had a bag of fish-shaped cookies I wanted to give to someone, anyone, I knew to pass on as my farewell offering to my circle of friends. But Jack and I couldn’t find our way to the front gates. Eventually we climbed some fences before trying to blend in with the student population.

I finally found @MartiMcKenna wandering around campus with some large, hunky young dude she was totally in to. I could barely get her to pay attention to me, but I finally got here to accept my fish cookies. Which her hunky dude promptly started eating.

Somewhere in there I woke up.

As usual, I don’t have much problem deconstructing my dreams. I went to boarding school when I was a kid. Dave Thomas supported adoption causes, and [info]the_child is adopted. Marti and Jack are both beloved friends of long standing associated with the writing community. I am in fact dying. Not so sure about the motorcycle armor or the fish cookies, come to think of it, other than some obvious Christian imagery around Communion, which seems remarkably egotistic, even for me in the privacy of my own dreams.

But weird and sad and amusing all at the same time. As with much of the rest of my life.

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[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland: New Year’s Day edition

Dreams

Last night I managed to have an anxiety dream which combined pretty much every oneiromantic cliche that ever existed into one simmering subconscious grab bag. Lisa Costello and I were staying in a college dorm, but I was splitting my time between attending classes and visiting an infusion center for treatment. Where I kept flirting with the nurses. Lisa tried to get me to go to a chemistry class with her, which it turned out I’d enrolled in but forgotten to attend. Instead I went over to the infusion center parking garage, where I could not find my car. Suddenly, I was surrounded by screaming kids embarking on a field trip, being rather badly led by the head financial analyst from my Day Jobbe. There was more, but basically, this dream combined school anxiety, job anxiety, relationship anxiety, financial anxiety, cancer anxiety, and “Dude, where’s my car?” anxiety. Oh my poor brain.

NIH

These past two days at NIH have been action-packed, to say the least. A fascinating experience to even be there. One big difference is that it’s a research institution, not a treating hospital. This means even really basic stuff like hallway signage and the behavioral priorities of the support staff is different from anything in my experience. With one minor exception, the process has been excellent, far exceeding both my expectations and my hopes. We still have no real idea where we’re going to land in terms of enrolling in a study (or possibly not), but we’re learning a great deal about me, about medical options, and about the way things are done at the cutting edge of oncology. As I mentioned yesterday, I will make more detailed reports later, once I am clear on confidentiality issues. I will say that a “Newcomer’s Guide to NIH” would be a hella useful thing to write.

Social Life

Other than seeing family, we’re not being social here yet, again with one exception. Too much to do at NIH, and my head tends to be brimming with thoughts and data at the end of each day. However, today we are meeting Slacktivist Fred Clark for lunch, as he is kind enough to drive down here to see us. I’ve admired Fred’s blogging for a long time, and suspect we are kindred spirits, so I am really looking forward to seeing him in person.

Schedule in Maryland

We will make a decision tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning about whether we’re going home over the weekend or staying into next week. This has to do with which path we follow for the clinical trials. Some paths require me to stay on for a while, some paths have a day or two more of testing (likely Monday and Tuesday), some paths have me go home and come back later. Once I know how that’s working out, I will make an effort to make myself available for social time with area friends and fans.

Happy New Year

This is quite likely the last New Year’s Day of my life. I intend to enjoy it, and hope you can do the same.

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[dreams|cancer] Doing good in the world, at least in my sleep

Last night I dreamt that I still had terminal cancer, and was being treated at NIH. In my dream, I’d dedicated the last of my energies to speaking and activism on the cause of spaying and neutering household pets.

Um. Wait, what?

Usually I don’t have a lot of trouble grokking the postcards from my subconscious that arrive in the form of dreams. Experiencing a lot of bafflement over this one.

I mean, I’ve always been a responsible pet owner, when I’ve had pets. I’m a big believer in spaying and neutering and animal health. However, that’s never been a top ten issue for me. If I were going to embark on a path of activism in real life at this stage of things, it would be all about disability processes and healthcare access.

So, yeah?

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[cancer|personal] Trapped in a whirling morass of urgency, as my friends grow ever more distant

Last night I dreamt something long and complex, which is now lost to me. However, at the end of it, I was in a coffee house on a college campus somewhere. It was indoors, part of a student union building or some such. The students around me were of various ages, and one or two had small children with them.

I’d been drinking hot chocolate and reading. It came time to leave so I began to pack up. As I wound my scarf around my neck, my hat fell off. When I bent to pick up my hat, my gloves slipped out of my coat pocket. I couldn’t fit all my stuff into my pack. And so on.

Around me the coffee house was closing up. As people left, they kept dropping things too. I started trying to collect the other lost belongings in the hopes of returning them. The barista was pushing the tables to the back and stacking them so she could mop the floor. My table disappeared, and most of my stuff with it. I kept running around desperately trying to retrieve everything. I only succeeded in dropping more and more of what was in my arms, most of it not even mine.

It doesn’t take a psychology degree to work out the meaning of that. No more than most of my dreams. And this has been my week. If there is no significant crisis or disaster in my life today, it will be the first day since last Sunday for which that has been true. I have rushed from one problem to the next, solving few of them, and seeing most of them generate more problems like a runaway software process spawning malign threads.

Such is my life these days. This week has been an unusually pointed example. But in all seriousness, Lisa Costello estimated recently that based on the experience of the past few months, even on my best weeks I cannot get any three days in a row without something overwhelming happening.

This distraction factor spills over into everything. Ever since the cancelled trip to Europe, I have been unable to schedule social time with friends. The big stuff is more obvious — because my medical schedule keeps shifting so randomly, I cannot make commitments to out-of-town friends who need lead time to arrange work vacation days and procure plane tickets. Less stringently, I can’t even commit to Seattle friends who can be more flexible because they’re driving or taking the train or the Bolt Bus.

But even the local stuff gets killed. I’m going to Maryland at the end of the month to see about two different clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health. That means I won’t be here for my December 31st appointment with my palliative care doctor. They’re impossible to see on short notice, so I had to take a reschedule for Monday, December 16th. Exactly when I had a midday date with Jersey Girl in Portland. Her daily/weekly schedule and mine are so misaligned even normally that when I have to cancel with her, it can take us weeks to reschedule.

I can’t keep up with anything anymore, not with the absolute priority of maintaining what’s left of my life and health, and the resultant very erratic and frequent scheduling demands of that process. So my out of town friends slowly stop offering to come see me because I can never commit to a time. Most days I’m too rushed and fuddled to even be smart about keeping up emails or texts or phone calls whatever, so it’s harder and harder to maintain my relationships even remotely. My local friends get used to me cancelling and being unable to reschedule easily. My life narrows a bit more week by week, as it does in so many other ways.

My attention span degrades, my social availability degrades, and instead I am trapped in a whirling morass of urgency. I hate this.

Welcome to late stage cancer, Jay.

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[personal|travel] Leaving Omaha for the last time

More weird, restless sleep, with weird, restless dreams. Something about the weather, or the heater in my hotel room, or my unsettled spirit, has kept me awake nights. This time it was vehicular arson as part of some large coverup, except I was very bad at cleaning up evidence of my misdeeds. The car in question in my dream was my first car, an orange 1976 Datsun 710 station wagon I drove in college. Not hard to interpret what that means, really. All in keeping with the melancholy of my visit here.

A friend who has been out of town all this past week is meeting me for breakfast, then taking me to the airport. American Airlines yesterday cancelled my flight this morning. Getting rebooked involved spending over an hour on hold with the Aadvantage Platinum desk (apparently hold times for the main desk were running closer to twenty-four hours). I am dubious of my new connection through Chicago O’Hare, mostly because of ORD’s chronic problems with delivering timely wheelchair transfers. Basically, in my experience they are incapable of doing so at that airport.

None of that matters so long as I get home tonight. Today is Lisa Costello‘s birthday, the last one I will likely ever be alive for, and I’d like to see here thereupon, and I have two oncology appointments tomorrow. So, yeah, this terminal cancer patient really needs to get home today.

Even so, my weather karma has brought not only deeply subfreezing temperatures and inches of snow to Omaha, it appears to be doing the same to Portland today. Unseasonable here in Nebraska, almost unheard of their in our part of Oregon.

And I’ll have the long trip home to think about how I feel about having been here one last time.

Wish me luck, I’m going to need it.

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[personal|dreams] Die Traumdeutung

It’s 13 degrees outside, with a windchill below zero, and snowing merrily. Supposed to accumulate two to four inches today here in Omaha. Luckily I am flying tomorrow, which is supposed to be clear and calm, though still colder than Dorgau’s hindmost paps.

Low-key day today after yesterday’s roaming about the wilds of southwestern Iowa. I think we’re catching a movie this afternoon, and an early dinner. Another friend may pop by the hotel to visit a little while this evening, weather and schedule permitting.

Last night I had, as usual, complex dreams. The part where my house was flooding to the window sashes in clear, warm water wasn’t hard to understand. My bladder has a sharp voice in my nighttime wanderings. The part where Zachary Quinto leapt out of a wrecked VW bus to attack me with a badminton racquet was a little harder to interpret, but I went with it. After fighting Mr. Quinto off, of course.

That last part is odd. While I often dream about real people, either directly or in the form of a dream avatar, I quite rarely dream about people I do not actually know personally.

I’ve spent time with the folks from my prior Day Jobbe. That was good but also sobering. I went on disability there just shortly after my tenth anniversary of service. That makes the Day Jobbe my longest-tenured employment in 26 years of working professionally across three related industries, by a fairly substantial margin. A big part of my life. It was work I enjoyed, with people I (mostly) liked, in a field where, while I wasn’t exactly working for the betterment of mankind, neither was I helping make anyone’s life worse. It was also work which enabled me to have a writing career through a good work-life balance and a decent paycheck. And, later it on, it was work of a sort that allowed me to segue into the deeper phases of my illness without an abrupt economic disruption, both through disability-friendly management and workplace policies, as well as a very good benefits package that turned out to make a critical difference in my life in at least three different ways.

So a lot to reflect on here in Omaha. Plus, well, Zachary Quinto. And snow.

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[cancer|dreams] Waking dark and dreamless

These days I go to bed with a mix of Lorazepam and Trazodone. If I don’t, the Regorafenib does weird things to my sleep cycle. Essentially, I fall asleep early and sleep short, as if my body clock wants to run about 21 or 22 hours long rather than the usual 24 hours. The cocktail of the other two helps me fall asleep and stay asleep, usually four to five REM cycles, and keeps me at more or less the right point on the day/night cycle.

The downside is that Trazodone especially makes me wake up groggy. Sleeping on my own, I wake up rapidly, moving from sleep to full awareness so quickly it sometimes feels instantaneous. That always allowed me to remember my dreams quite clearly. Now, the pharmaceutical fog that swaddles my mind on waking does not so quickly burn off in the fields of morning.

I miss my dreams.

It’s a small price to pay, especially compared to so many other prices I pay as my life narrows and narrows again in the face of terminal cancer, but still another loss I regret.


Note this is not a call for advice. We’ve dialed in the medication package pretty carefully, experimenting with various dosage combinations to sort out what works best for my medical needs. What I’m taking now ensures I get enough sleep every night for my body to maintain itself and for whatever healing can take place from the cancer to do so.

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[dreams] Inching closer to death, except the inches are going by faster and faster

I have been dreaming more of loss of friends and my shrinking life. Ah, cancer.

Two nights ago, it was a long, involved narrative about [info]danjite selling all his stuff and driving away in an old Dodge Charger, never to be seen again.

Last night in my dream I was out of work, and trying to get a new job. This involved speculative selling of a custom print solution for office documentation and Advo flyers. (Trust me, that actually means something in real life.) I wound up at a small party with a new author, possibly Max Gladstone. In my dream, he’d just signed with Night Shade. (Though in real life, Max is a Tor author.) As part of Max’s contract payment, Jeremy Lassen had given him a bottle of some liquor. The bottle had been cast (or carved) into a very accurate sculpture of a man’s athletic shoe, about a size 30. The neck of the bottle was the opening at the top of the shoe, and the cap was a quarter scale lifelike rendering of the head of Lee Arenberg in his makeup as Pintel in Pirates of the Caribbeanimdb ].

Ok, brain. What? I mean, I understand the feeling of being eclipsed by other writers as I slide slowly and all-too-silently toward death. (I haven’t written a word of fiction since June, and quite possibly never will again.) I can handle the symbolism of being out of work and celebrating/being envious of others’ publishing contracts. But Lee Arenberg? Shoe liquor? What?

Sometimes I baffle myself.

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