Monday, October 15, 2012

36. The Upside of Cancer

I am not, by nature, an optimist. You might think differently having read my cancer blogs, where I've poked fun and generally tried to keep a happy face on about the cancer, but that's really just my nature as a smart-ass. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm at best a realist, at worst a pessimist.

So it's kind of ludicrous for me (or anyone, really) to post a blog about the glass half-full part of having cancer. A disease that could potentially kill me, has certainly caused me a lot of pain, and is about to cause me a lot more, not to mention some pretty significant lifestyle changes, beyond the significant ones I've already made. I mean, I'm down from working 40-50 hours a week at a job that I love to about 20, at best. I don't get to go out as much because I'm not often feeling up to it, I've definitely become more of a social shut-in than I used to be. And my change in diet, while not spectacular, was definitely something I noticed.

However... I've never more clearly felt the love of friends and family than when I learned about this disease, or when I've talked to people about getting through it. And my friends and family were never not demonstrative. I knew just how much my parents, my sister, my extended family loved me, and how much I loved them. I had little doubt that I had somehow lucked into this huge, extended group of friends, both locally here in Austin, spread out in the comics community and the various Internet groups I've been a part of, and that there were way, way too many people in my life that I'd be willing to take a bullet for. The odds were getting good I was going to have to take a bullet... fortunately, most of my friends are too nice for anyone to take a shot at.

But I've never had more activity on my Facebook page than when I posted on my birthday from the hospital. It should have been the worst day of my life, but it was hard to be glum or angry about the diagnosis when I had so much support so visible to me. I had *104* comments on my post when I revealed the diagnosis, and a flood of support. Some of my artist friends drew me stuff (hell, so did some of my non-artist friends, a bunch of them made me an awesome get-well gigantic poster card), my friends at the LEOG helped me laugh my way through it with the most morbidly hilarious (and amazing NSFW) podcast ever and I was just overwhelmed by the amount of support.

The latest development is that my friend Grant Davis has set up a donations site for me to help cover the cost of surgery (and next year's chemo). It was a generous and really unexpected gesture, and has really taken off. I'm posting a link here just so nobody emails me and asks, but please... don't feel like you have to give, especially if you're family and you've already given me more than enough help throughout all this. I mention this not to point out the campaign but because I want to single out how generous my friends are.

I don't talk much about the money side of all this. The truth is, we're lucky. Suzanne's always been smarter than me about this, and so we've been paying for private health insurance for years, even though I never got sick. (Turns out I was saving up for a big one.) I'd gripe occasionally about hundreds of dollars a month for a plan that didn't really cover my doctor visits or anything else minor, our deductible was so high, and she'd remind me it was catastrophe insurance, so we wouldn't go broke if we got cancer or something.

My friends and family are amazing and generous. My wife? A goddamned visionary genius.

So when the hospital bills started coming in (and let me tell you, chemo and radiation treatments are *not* cheap), we were fortunate that the insurance paid for a lot of it. Our deductible is high -  I'm not gonna get into specifics, but we're out-of-pocket in the low five figures - but thanks to the store being fairly profitable and help from my folks and Suzanne's folks, we've managed to do OK. Mostly I look at the money we spent on my healthcare and think "I could have put a sizable down-payment on a new car." Then I want to punch my cancer in its face again.

There are folks in much more dire straits than us. Folks who couldn't afford screening or treatment who died from a preventable, treatable cancer. Folks whose health insurance dropped them when they got cancer. We were lucky enough to be in a time when that couldn't happen, and lucky enough to have money so that it didn't have to happen.

Next year the deductible will kick in again, and that means another big lump payment, but thanks to the donations we've already gotten and money from my parents and in-laws, I don't have to worry about it. I can't imagine having to worry about the illness, the pain, the surgery and its after-effects *and* money at the same time. So the help from everyone who has donated, if you're reading this? It is so very appreciated.

But I also want to say that for everyone who's had a kind word, who has offered me support, and there are so many I couldn't possibly name them all, I can't thank you enough. I'm not saying I'd take the cancer if I had the choice, but the upside of going through all this is getting to learn just how much I'm appreciated and loved. I'm not looking forward to the surgery and the recovery - to be honest, it scares me more than just about anything I've ever done - but the support of my friends and family makes it something I know I can get through.