Saturday, February 23, 2013

Exercise... exorcise... exorcist.

Let's get on to something practical, shall we?  We'll call it, physical activity.  Because that's what it's called.  These days, working out feels a little like exorcising demons.  It's just about as vigorous and spiritually exhausting.  And if you've never exorcised any demons, I suggest you give it a go and find out what I mean.

First, a little background.  I've been exercising since the age of 7.  In fact, I don't remember when I started working out, but I use 7 as the base age because that's when I joined my first martial arts school.  I starting training very early, for whatever reason anyone wants to do anything before they develop the capacity for abstract thought.  "This will allow me to improve myself physically and teach me valuable life lessons while maintaining an emotional and psychology balance," I might have said, had I been old enough to entertain such thoughts.  But instead, I probably just said, "Hey, it would be pretty sweet to learn how to kick a dude in the junk until he throws up," and bothered my parents until they took me around to look at different schools in the area.

I joined my school for a very simple reason.  They wouldn't let me sit and watch like the others.  They forced me to jump in and participate.  And so, at the age of 7, I began training in Muay Thai, Kali, Boxing, Kenpo Karate, and Japanese Juijitsu, with a smattering of nanchaku and bo staff thrown in for good measure.  I made my assistant instructorship in Muay Thai when I was 16.  My instructors were unconventional, and I came to find out that it was much more difficult than the generally accepted assistant instructor test.  It was, in fact, the most grueling physical test I've ever endured.  And although I became sidetracked and never made my black belt in Kenpo and Japanese Juijitsu, I was only two ranks away.  I went on to study Brazilian Juijitsu, and round out my MMA game later on, a few other weapons styles.  In college, I joined a mixed martial arts fight team.  In NYC, I trained with a world champion.  Aside from martial arts, I've always been very active.  I was on both the baseball and basketball teams all through grade school.  I ran, sparred, lifted weights, and generally kicked ass.  In college, I met the best shape of my life, working out with the fight team and going to the gym daily with one of my best friends in the world -- a shape I still have yet to get back to, although there's still time.  After all, there are all those commercials about 40 and 50 year old doctors who are in better shape than their 18-year-old sons.  They're all full of shit and trying to sell you something, but we can pretend.

After my corporate job was over, I started training seriously again.  My goal was to get back into fighting shape.  I even had a fight scheduled for the fall of 2011, before I was diagnosed with cancer and had to move home.  I was feeling good at that point, and perhaps more importantly, I was looking good.  I won't deny that I took a great deal of pleasure from the fact that I had a firm and toned musculature, and that the opposite sex generally appreciated it very much.  That made me happy.  More on this later perhaps... ;)

For now, I want to discuss physical fitness post-cancer.  It, in a word, sucks.  Immensely.  And I'm sure anyone who's had a period of forced sedentary behavior can understand and appreciate how daunting it is to get back into shape.  As I look over my shoulder now, back to a time when I was in pique physical condition, I get upset when I turn my head around and look at the path ahead.  Getting back to the point where I once was may never happen, and it might not even be very practical to do so.  But I'd like to think that with effort and discipline, I'll be there soon-ish.  And I plan to pursue formal training again, as soon as I can.

In the meantime, I need to get myself back to the point where I can compete with others again.  And that's all up to me.  Through treatment, I tried to keep up some degree of physical activity, but it was irregular and not very intensive.  I tried to follow a workout program while undergoing immunotherapy, and after a week of it I found myself lacking the ability to stand up.  So that experiment was scrapped.  And even though all that is over now, it's tough to know my limits, and also frustrating to admit that I have any in the first place.  Because I never had before.

Since treatment ended, I've been using the elliptical regularly, and increasing the duration and intensity as I go.  Recently though, I've decided to get back to basics.  This philosophy, if you don't already know and apply it to your own life, is the most important you could ever entertain.  Period.  There are certain things in life a person can't live without. And if denied these things, that person will undeniably cease to function at an optimum level.  It's sort of like suppressing a part of your very soul.  And you can't expect to hobble along with much functionality if you're lacking pieces of yourself.  Mine are writing, martial arts, and music performance.  If I go without any of these for extended periods of time, I get grumpy in a very fundamental and existential way.  So, I've started shadow sparring again.  I started slow, doing three rounds of Thai/boxing, the first round with weighted hand wraps, and concentrating mostly on regaining proper form and testing muscle memory, which is, fortunately, intact.  Then today I picked up the Kali sticks and the nunchaks and did drills until I was sweaty and exhausted and my hands were covered in blisters.  It was a hard blow to realize my hands aren't callused anymore, and it makes me worry about what other kinds of conditioning I've fallen out of.

All this falls far short of hours of training and round after round of drills and sparring with cardio intervals capped off with a death-defying ab routine, but it's a start.  Even the most impatient of us (myself included) have to start somewhere, even if we've already been there.  We have to find the strength to understand that physical fitness is not a goal to accomplish, but a lifestyle.  Physical fitness can never be "accomplished."  It's a daily battle of willpower, a daily decision.  You act as your own drill sergeant, conditioning yourself to revel in bodily punishment.  For me, it's been almost a spiritual journey, rivaling that of the Indian ascetics or the Shugendo practitioners of Japan.  The satisfaction of physical punishment in exchange for self-improvement was once the greatest satisfaction.  Now though, being out of practice for so long, I complain about my muscle aches and pains like everyone else.  I feel average, in an area where I've always felt superhuman.  And it will take great effort to pick myself up and gradually climb back up the ladder, rather than give in to the urge to give up and forget about it, and remember fondly the days when I could move heaven and earth with the strength of my physicality.

If you have a similar situation, or if you're getting in shape for the first time, or simply looking for ways to improve yourself, let's do it together.  I could really use the motivation.  I want to get back into fighting shape, but whatever your goals are, let's help each other.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

"A domain of evil it is. In you must go."

Fear and dissatisfaction are the enemy.  If you're afraid, face it.  If you're dissatisfied, change it.

It's really that simple.  I did it just now, and I do it every day.  More often these days than in the past, but that's alright.  With more exposure to the world at large we generally expect to find more things to be afraid of, and to be dissatisfied with.  It's a numbers game.  I would never have thought to be afraid of dying before my thirtieth birthday before my cancer diagnosis, for instance.  I also never worried about being hit by a subway train before I moved to NYC.  I was never concerned about paying for sub-par deli meat and bagels before finding out there's life after Boar's Head.  And I most definitely never imagined how nervous I'd be that someone would find me out while masquerading as a marketing account manager for a beer company at a VIP signing party.  But hey, these things happen.  Also, a quick thank you to my bro Velasquez for smuggling me into that party.

This may be an obvious conclusion, but it's easy to remain unafraid of that which you have no knowledge.  It's easy to remain unconcerned with questions you've never asked and doubts you've never entertained.  Sometime, though, you will ask questions and have doubts.  And it's okay to have doubts and fears, because everyone does, and it's an unavoidable aspect of the human condition.

What isn't simple is preparing for these preexisting or sometimes unforeseen fears.  The difficult part is rising to the level of self-control it takes to be able to adjust your attitude and emotional state with relative ease.  It requires a great deal of personal development and self-knowledge.  Here is my step-by-step guide for $19.95!  No, I'm kidding.  Everyone acquires personal development from different sources, and self-knowledge is as subjective as there are "selves."  And there's no handbook to any of this.  People will tell you there is, but what they're really doing is trying to sell you their own handbook.  As a general rule, I'd advise not to trust anyone who won't allow you to find your own way.  As Basho reminds us, "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought."  No one can hand you inner peace, everyone must find their own.

My way is easy.  I consciously analyze my fears.  It's bizarrely effective to understand the roots and facets of your fears or dissatisfaction.  Maybe this is also fairly obvious.  But that doesn't mean it's accomplished very often.  For the most part, these things take the form of subconscious emotions.  They hide deep in the shadows of your mind, where they can't be fought.  They put up barriers that redirect and confuse your ability to confront them.  The minute you are able bring them to light, however, you can figure out how to deal with them.

I'll tell you a story.  After my year of immunotherapy treatment ended, I was very excited about things getting back to normal.  And I'd tell myself this every minute of every day; "Man, I'm so excited that this is over, and that now I can go to grad school and write another book and get a job and date."  I told myself this constantly, repeated it in my head like a mantra.  And if I had the courage at that point to take an honest look at what I was doing, I would have realized right away that I was in severe denial.  Justification mode was fully engaged, and I was making excuses for my behavior, which did not at all reflect the mantra I wanted so much to believe.  I wasn't ready for "normalcy," I was neurotic and terrified of everything.  The moment I realized this however, I was free of it.

One of my favorite quotes of all time, regarding the subject of confronting fear, comes from Michael Crichton's memoirs, Travels.  It describes a trip to the African Savannah where he comes to find out there's a giant elephant outside of his tent in the middle of the night.  It deals very nicely with the subject of true conscious awareness of fear as a way to quell it.  I'll post it here:

"We can all work ourselves into a hysterical panic over possibilities that we won't look at.  What if I have cancer?  What if my job is at risk?  What if my kids are on drugs?  What if I'm getting bald?  What if an elephant is outside my tent?  What if I'm faced with some terrible thing I don't know how to deal with?  And that hysteria always goes away the instant we are willing to hear the answer.  Even if the answer is what we feared all along.  Yes, you have cancer.  Yes, your kids are on drugs.  Yes, there is an elephant outside your tent.  Now the question becomes, what are you going to do about it?  Subsequent emotions may not be pleasant, but the hysteria stops... the minute we look, we cease being afraid."

I try very hard to challenge myself into examining my true fears, as well as my true desires.  The minute we admit to having them, we immediately find suitable avenues to pursue or deal with them.  Most people have fears with easily-identifiable sources.  Some people hate their jobs, but are afraid to quit.  Others are no longer in love but are afraid of breaking up.  And we can sit around complaining about our dead-end relationships, soul-sucking jobs, or whatever the case may be, or we can stop being afraid that the world will end if we deal with these things and actually get what we've wanted all along.  Maybe you want a better job or a better significant other.  You have to respect yourself enough to know that your time on the Earth is valuable and irreplaceable, and it simply doesn't pay to spend it not doing what you want.

These days, I have very clear goals.  It's been a long journey for me, but I've pinpointed my fears, and my desires.  I'm going after what I want.  I hope you will, too.

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."  - Joseph Campbell

Friday, February 15, 2013

I am Awake

As it once was uttered... so too do I now say, "I am awake."

Once there was a man who had everything.  It was taken from him in an instant, and in that instant he found himself awake for the first time.

Soon afterward, however, the dream faded and was replaced by a nightmare.  It swallowed him down into depths he'd never seen, and once more he faded into darkness.  After what seemed like aeons, sinking into the dredge, he began to wish earnestly for freedom.

And then, inexplicably, there was a light that shone in the dark.  He began to tug on it like a rope.  Testing it cautiously at first, he pulled himself along.  When he came to the end of the rope, he realized that someone was at the other end, and that really he'd been pulled to the surface by someone else.  When he crawled out of the deep, he looked beyond the beautiful face of his savior, and he saw another face, and another behind that one.  On and on as far as he could see.  He walked the Earth to follow the line of souls til the end.  There he came face to face with himself.

And it dawned on him in that moment, that once again, he was awake.  He had found the light, he had forged the will, and he had been blessed with those who had invested in his resurrection -- himself included.  All of what he had once learned when his soul had first been fractured, became etched into his heart, and served as a catalyst to his recovery.

And so I say again; this man was me.  And I am awake.

There are many crests and troughs in life, some more extreme than others.  And I can't and will never proclaim to understand how one pulls out of the toughest of circumstances.  Nor do I claim to have lived through "the toughest of circumstances."  But I have felt my share.  I know how it feels to be oppressed and paralyzed by your own fears.  I just hope in my heart that all of you are as lucky as I am in life.  That when I find myself up against insurmountable odds, there are those in my life who are there to drop some light on me.  And they are willing to wait patiently, while I sit, alone in the dark, until I decide it's time to hang on once again, while they pull me up.  Through factors both internal and external, we skate by as best we can until the universe, in its infinite wisdom, decides that its had enough of us.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I almost died once; Nice to meet you.

Let's talk about sex.  Well, in a minute.  Why don't we get to know each other first?  Let's talk about where we grew up, what clique we fell into in high school, and what sports we watch.  What kinds of things do you like?  I like turtles, and chocolate chip pancakes.  How about you?  Let's engage in the long-standing tradition of courtship, and marinate slowly in the developing bond of our sprouting romance.  It'll be fun.  Hmm... that kind of talk makes me hungry.  So maybe we can cook together too.  I like dinner dates -- the kind where you go out of your way to cook some exotic dish together.  Some assembly required.  Which is alright, because some assembly is required in budding relationships to begin with, right?  We'll do sunsets, carriage rides, stargazing, and Eskimo kisses.  As long as we have each other, and these butterflies, what could go wrong?

I bet you can almost see where this is going.  Almost.  You see, I didn't have a significant other going into my diagnosis.  Sometimes that was sad, but mostly I felt lucky.  I thought it was a fortunate turn of events that I didn't have a girlfriend, and therefore had one less person in my life to worry about me.  I was lucky not to have to drag someone extra down into the depths of my suffering.  I'm not the kind of person who would forge an extreme bond with someone in order to distract myself from a terrible situation.  I couldn't star in "A Walk to Remember."  If anything, I'd rather "Sweet November" the shit out of someone, but I doubt I'd ever be able to, in reality.  A) I don't think, realistically, that anyone is strong enough to do something that intense, and B) Keanu Reeves is not my type.  And so it's better off leaving well enough alone, and keeping my distance from any potential emotional bonds on the horizon.

And that was my attitude, for a year and a half.  In some ways, it still is.  Because it's very hard to allow yourself to connect with someone when you think you might die.  Or, at the very least, when you've been bumped up a few spots on the list.  Connecting with people I find interesting has never been my strong suit, anyway.  I've always had an easy time winning over people I don't care about.  I could do that all day.  I could just turn on the charm as easy as if I were flipping on a light switch, and people would fall for me.  It was a tough realization when I figured out that isn't how you generally begin a relationship that's wired for success -- by seducing people you couldn't care less about, in order to make yourself feel better.  It sucks, I know.  But there comes a time when you have to learn to be okay with yourself long enough to find someone who might also be okay with you.  The real you.  Not the one you put on, like a mask, to serve your own narcissism.

Most of the relationships I've had, and the people I've met, in the last few years are a mystery to me.  Aside from the friends I've had growing up, the ones I can trace all the way to the backyard days of my youth, I really don't know how I've made any friends at all.  But it seems to me that I know a lot of people, and a great deal of them like me.  I've been told I'm "likable," and that may be true.  I like to appreciate and dissect the issues and concerns of others before those of myself, and I unconsciously focus on other people in conversation or action.  I also try to be funny.  At one time I was very funny, but I'm no longer as outspoken or extroverted as I once was.

When you go through something like this, something life-threatening, all of your quirks and character traits become multiplied by a thousand.  You become almost a caricature of yourself.  You double down on your principles and your deepest wants and needs.  Since my deepest feelings are for those closest to me in life, I stopped talking to anyone who I viewed as extraneous.  And I developed greater bonds with my family and close friends.  The people I included were genuinely needed at the time, and still are today.  However, the problem lies in the nature of my rejuvenated loyalties.  It seems I've forgotten how to connect with people in general, and I don't have the easiest time convincing myself that it's even necessary to do so.

Sometimes, the greatest depths of solitude are found in the eyes of the person across the table, whom you have no interest in saying another word to.  Since my diagnosis, I've had different opportunities to meet and talk with various people.  And every time, I walked away disappointed.  Mostly with myself, because I legitimately can't find the energy to connect with someone on a superficial level.  It's devastatingly hard to make small talk -- poking and prodding at the psyche of the other person in order to gain insight into what makes them tick.  Figuring out body language, and nonverbal messages.  That's something I used to love doing: character analysis, behavioral analysis.  It was always easy for me, and always enabled me to say exactly the right things at exactly the right time.  It gave me great satisfaction to be able to do that, in many more ways than one.  Maybe I'll get back to that someday, I don't know at this point.  Or more likely, there's a balance to be struck somewhere.  I'm realizing that possibly, just possibly, it matters a great deal more that you represent yourself in the most genuine way possible, rather than worry exclusively about how to make the person across the table swoon for you.

Honest communication, with women or otherwise, isn't a new idea to me.  I'm an adult, and I've had adult relationships.  But the concept, like all of my psychological anchors, is now multiplied by an infinite magnitude.  The pressure to be honest and the bold-faced luck it takes to find someone who actually appreciates what you're offering is probably terrifying enough for anyone.  Add to that a year and a half of post-terminal-illness neuroses, and you have yourself a cornucopia of obstacles.  Although everyone has issues, and many relationships are defined by who decides they can put up with each other, there are certainly other factors.  Perhaps most importantly, one has to be a voluntary participant.  And that includes several things.  One of which is, like I said before, being okay enough to find someone who is okay with you too.  And that shit takes guts.  It also takes time, energy, and other intangible resources that involve a stable psychological bearing.  When someone pursues a relationship but doesn't have these things, that relationship will fail.  People like this generally hop from one relationship to the next, never pausing for a diagnostic check or to evaluate their own self-worth.  Or they date superficially, turning on the charm like a switch, always making sure to say the right things in order to distract from the fact that they aren't actually letting anyone in, much like a magician uses slight of hand to hide his true actions.  You wouldn't hide your true self from someone unless you either didn't think yourself valuable, or you didn't think that person valuable.

I hide myself in public all the time now.  Because my true self is wounded.  And I have no desire to spill those wounds out onto the ground.  I'll hold my severed guts in with my own two hands for now, thanks.  But someday I plan to figure this out.  It's easy to assume I've permanently altered my ability to connect with people, because that implies no work needs to be done to correct my current attitude.  And I think that's the wrong way to go.  Because other people have had problems, and other people have found a way to love and friendship.  And I'm still very young, and I have a lot left to do.  I have many more people to meet.  I might as well do it on my own, principled terms, which include appreciating them for who they are, for what their minds and souls reflect, and not for how they can make me feel, or what I can get out of it.  Other people are enriching enough on their own, without having to make a game out of your relationships.  That's a conditioned response I'll have to work on.  I have pursued relationships with women and with friends for many reasons: because I was in love, in lust, I was bored, because once it was the greatest game.  It remains to be seen how I will do so in the future.

But hopefully I've uncovered something valuable to anyone who reads this.  Hopefully I've given a reason to reevaluate any relationship, even ours, and polish off some piece of it we can keep in our hearts, untainted, until the end of time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

David Cancerfield

Hello there!  Kevin here.  I hope you're all doing well.  The plan for this post is to supply a little background.  I wanted to explain to you a bit about myself, do my due diligence and get the "David Copperfield kind of crap" out of the way.  A lot of you might already know who I am, but it never hurts to have a refresher.  Besides, a lot has happened in the past few years, and I hardly recognize myself these days, so I think it proper that I try to explain exactly how I got here.

I'll tell you in advance that I hate introductions, and I hate talking about my self.  Any time we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves, whether at school, work, or wherever, I always tried to make a joke out of it.  When it came to be my turn, I would dismiss the exercise by saying something humorous or outlandish.  I usually brought up a funny aspect of my life or an unusually entertaining interest.  It ended up making people laugh, or at the very least raised a few eyebrows, but it never was very informative.  Although, in my defense, you could easily make the argument that defining yourself as a vocation is much less informative than what I offered up.  A person could know a lot about me by the kind of answer I chose to give.  And I gave people direct insight into my character.  As if saying, "Hello, this is precisely who I am and what I can offer you.  If you aren't interested, I wish you well regardless."  

Or maybe that's an excuse, and I really just have issues talking about myself.  That's more likely than what I just said, isn't it?  Yes, it's true, I have trouble letting people in.  Well, unfortunately for me, in a story like mine, it helps to have some background.  In particular, we need a setting, a character history, and a plot synopsis.  That's a lot for one post, and a lot for me to divulge without breaking out into involuntary ticks, so I'll try to keep it brief.

I have lived an incredibly fortunate life.  My youth was glorious, high school was even better, and college opened my eyes to the nature of the world, and the contents of my soul.  But I will save all of that for a later post.  Because it's young adulthood that really concerns us, as it's the backdrop to this story.  And New York City, is the setting.  It's the place where I came into my own and tightened, for the first time, a lot of the nuts and bolts of my character that until then had careened around artlessly in my head.  I squared the free stones of my nature, and built a new and exciting life for myself.  One to be envious of.

Let it be known that I despise braggarts, and openly narcissistic personalities.  Bragging reveals more about one's fears and inadequacies than it does about one's achievements.  In this case though, it's necessary to talk about certain accomplishments in order to uncover the disparity between my former life and the one I find myself leading at present.  Showcasing my life pre-diagnosis will hopefully serve to paint a more comprehensive picture and candidly reveal the broader circumstances surrounding my fight.

By the age of 25, I had worked on campaigns, managed a city-wide project and 130 employees, written for a celebrity client, been invited to join a secret society, attended VIP parties, had a fight scheduled by the producer of UFC, been in a music video, played live shows at music venues, hung out with celebrities, and more.  I had been a lover, a fighter, a world traveler, a rock star, a poet.  There were pool parties, expensive liquor, bars where everyone knew my name.  And there were the greatest of adventures.  I explored my environment relentlessly, with the finest company.  I was on top of the world, in the greatest city in the world.  New York was more than an oyster, it was a playground for the soul.  And I quenched my soul deeply and often, underneath its lights and between the five hearts of its boroughs.  The blackened canopy of lustful nights became as much a home to me as the house of my youth.  There were one-night stands, power struggles, and drunken arguments with cops.  It was, in fact, the life I'd always dreamed of.

My New York friends will laugh at this.  Especially the natives.  They grew up there, and they know it all -- the culture, the accessibility, the diversity.  They laugh at the starstruck tourists, the transplants, and the bridge and tunnel club.  I admired the ones who could navigate the intricacies of a complex machine that I had only until then dreamed of.  And a handful of them seemed to be in possession of certain secrets, or answers to questions I'd obsessed over all my life.  I attached myself eagerly to these few, for good or for ill. What no one will tell you is that New York is abuse, from the minute you wake up to the minute you pass out, drunkenly, in the apartment you can barely afford.  Surviving there is its own career.  And those who choose to try are either out of their minds or, like anyone else, simply conditioned to their environment.  But all of us dream of something more, and wherever we claim citizenship, it isn't fair to say that it's the most courageous of us who act upon that dream.  It could the most curious, the most ambitious, the most cold-hearted, or the most dreadful of us.

Of course, life in New York, as with anywhere else, is sometimes very simple.  Sometimes the most important thing is finding a place to pee on the way home from the bars.  Sometimes the most important thing is finding out if the eyes across the room are for you.  I had explored those things and plenty more.

My last few months in the city were some of the best months of my life.  And I know this because I don't remember much of them.  The number in my savings account warmed my heart, and I had no responsibilities.  I had just finished managing a project at Yankee Stadium, and I was doing what I wanted -- I was writing.  My friends and I began to embark on a series of adventures that would put Odysseus's journey to shame.  I wasn't afraid of anything.  Nothing in the world could scare me after I'd conquered the most intimidating location on the planet.  And then, after a few months of living like a prince, with friends that have come to be family, it all fell apart.  At the age of 25, I was diagnosed with cancer.

I'm not writing these words so that you'll feel sorry for me.  Mine is just a story.  Other people have stories too.  In fact, we all do.  Some of these stories are very similar to mine, some of them very different.  Each of us lives through a torrent of abuse in the time we are granted.  And we are all of us tested -- and not in any divine sense -- for the right to be warriors against insurmountable odds, for the right to exist.  Everyone fights, and everyone's battle is extreme in its own right.  As members of the same family, we should strive to try and make the battle as painless as possible, with all of life's benefits and opportunities as accessible to others as they are to ourselves.  Because we're all in this together.  And if we do have any God-given rights, the most important of them is, without a doubt, that we have the right to be nice to each other.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Metastatic Memories

I've put this off for a long, long time. In fact, I've put it off for a year and a half. I mostly discouraged myself from even considering the attempt, from the very beginning. I saw other people doing it, and I thought that although in some cases they were very successful in their undertakings, it simply didn't appeal to me. Something about it makes me squirm. It inspires me to fight to uncover any excuse in the book in order to justify my inaction.

What am I talking about? What is this terrible and ugly thing that I'm resisting with every fiber of my being? Because there are many things in life that I choose to resist. Things I refuse to take responsibility for out of fear or an inability to face the emotional and psychological consequences. As with us all, I too abandon certain nagging thoughts to the dark recesses of my mind. As with us all, I accumulate pain and guilt through a series of encounters with forces either beyond my control or not. And as with us all, I have many pervasive and lingering fears. In this case, however, I'm talking about the decision to write publicly about my experience with cancer.

Perhaps publicly isn't the right descriptor. Because, in fact, I've actually written a book about it that's currently being shopped around for publication. And there's hardly anything more public than that. I suppose what I mean, specifically, is the actual act of blogging. Blogging is a more accessible form of media. It's a series of intimate details about the blogger's own life. A projectile vomiting of unfiltered ideas that can be interpreted and analyzed with little effort. Constant postings that explain the character defects and neuroses of the author. Blogging constitutes a window into the blogger's very soul. It's a very public enterprise. I've always wanted my accessible thoughts, my public thoughts, to reflect a particular attitude or brand. I never wanted to be the cancer kid. Yet that's what I am. I wanted to be the carefree, mildly eccentric, live-life-on-his-own-terms, rock star personality that I so admire. I want to make people laugh. The last thing I want to do is make them uncomfortable. In fact, I don't even want to make myself uncomfortable (who does?), even though I've been in a constant state of discomfort, albeit unconsciously at times, since my diagnosis.

My decision to finally offer up a public record of my cancer fiasco is in fact an act of great personal courage. But I'm not asking for your admiration. Others may not find writing about their cancer to be very difficult. But they might struggle with something I find easy. That's the nature of being human. We all have our wars to wage.

And so my reluctance to blog about this has been covered by layers and layers of justification, buried deep with no hope of discovering why the resistance is present in the first place. Any time the topic is broached, I find myself saying, "Blogging? Well, shit, I wrote a book, for God's sake -- isn't that enough?" And I don't know the answer to that. Maybe it is enough. Or maybe, as a cancer survivor, I have a unique obligation to increase awareness and fight for those who can't fight for themselves. Possibly, and I plan to post more on this later.

But why the resistance to blogging? I did write a book. I wrote it while undergoing immunotherapy for stage 3 metastatic melanoma. A good bit of it, probably a third, was completed during my first month in the hospital, where I received the lion's share of treatment intravenously every weekday for four weeks. Days when I cried myself to sleep most nights, and struggled desperately to keep my sanity intact. But those images and feelings, those metastatic memories, are distant. My diagnosis, my surgeries, my treatment, all passed in a blur. And likewise, most of the actual writing did as well.

It's the paralyzing fear of revisiting these memories that keeps me from blogging. Now that I'm thinking clearly, and enough time has passed, I've gained the capacity for perspective. When something traumatic happens to you, it's very common to shut down emotionally in order to avoid the most terrifying aspects of your ordeal. And that's what I did. I functioned entirely on autopilot for a year and a half. Ostensibly, that isn't even a bad thing. In fact, I did very well. When you've severed all emotional connections to your circumstances, you can be anything you want. I was very courageous, and I'm told I was the glue that kept my family together after my diagnosis. I spouted contrived wisdom and used romantic ideals to comfort those closest to me, hardly realizing what I was doing. Some of the things I said or did are offensive to me now, due to the absurd oversimplifications I entertained or encouraged. Cancer is not romantic, and the smell of death circling above your head can never be effectively aerosol-ed. The mere suggestion that it can is offensive. And I was at one time the worst offender.

And so, after "waking up" from a year and a half of autopilot, a year and a half of embedded trauma, and a year and a half of drug-induced cognitive suppression, it's almost unbearable to look back over the events of the last year and a half without overwhelming terror. I've woken up to find myself alive, in working order, and surrounded by love and support. It's my responsibility to carve out a path from there. That in itself is terrifying -- what is life supposed to be like after cancer? How fulfilled can it really be? Do you stop taking shit from anyone, or anywhere? Do you adopt a no-shit policy? Is it okay to finally be selfish? Is it alright to ignore certain responsibilities, because you finally have your priorities straight? These questions and more are certainly worthy of extensive examination.

Personally, I suppose blogging will be an outlet. It'll allow me to finally free myself of some pervasive negativity, and maybe even relieve enough of my recently adopted neurotic behavior to once again function in the world at large. It will certainly serve to garner awareness for cancer, and that's a primary goal in my life these days. Because, as much as my experience has pained me and set me back in my own life, the thought of anyone else undergoing the same level of suffering is very hard for me to think about. I find myself tearing up every time I begin to read the account of another cancer survivor. Awareness is important, because suffering is only alleviated when there is enough manpower present to alleviate it. It isn't magic -- it's math. And all the publicity in the world won't help unless enough of us decide to act. Action manifests itself in several ways, and that's part of the reason I've finally decided to blog about this.

My account is detailed in my book, "Cancer Kid." But that isn't enough. I have certain goals I've sworn to meet, without excuse, and I plan to meet them. Blogging was not originally one of those goals, but it's going to help in several ways. It will hopefully help the public at large be more informed about the goings-on of cancer survivors. It will help me create a platform for myself and publicize my work, which will in turn increase awareness and further the fight. It will allow me the resources to fund the foundation I'd like to build. And, perhaps most importantly of all, it will free me from the fear I've buried so deep in my subconscious, and allow me to remember the important things in life.