Thursday, November 13, 2014

Five Rounds

Recently, I started in on another workout routine.  I say "another," because I've been starting them for a while now.  It hasn't been easy to keep in shape since my diagnosis and subsequent treatment.  And this seems to apply to a significant portion of young adult survivors.

So today I did five rounds of shadowboxing, plus a mix of cardio and calisthenics that I used to get in shape before my Thai Boxing Association Assistant Instructor test when I was 16.  Yesterday I did three rounds.  I'm exhausted, but I'm working my way up.  It's important to do something that you're comfortable with.  It's the best way to shed the pounds.  In my case, I'm totally lucky.  And I recognize that.  Not everyone has spent 22 years in the martial arts.  I started studying a very physical art (well, five of them) when I was seven years old.  Some people have always led a sedentary lifestyle, and so exercise is much harder for them.  I get it now.  I really do.  It's so much easier, post-cancer, to be sedentary.  I don't like to move around much.  It's odd, but I notice it.

For one thing, it's a positive.  I've started to fall into my work more.  And that's taken me to places I never would have gotten had I never been diagnosed.  I know myself pretty well, and I honestly believe that to be true.  The downside of working too much is obvious -- actually there are multiple downsides, but we'll start slow.  The worst being that, as a writer, I sit around a lot.  Even though I've been meaning to purchase a stand-up desk.... well I mean to do a lot of things and I haven't.  So there's that.  The chub grows.  And not the good kind.

I'll continue to make an effort to get back what I've lost.  Not just the physicality, but the mindset and lifestyle as well.  It's hard to recognize the worth of getting back into shape after facing the trauma of a life-threatening disease.  Doing so places only the most immediate and worthwhile needs in front of you to the exclusion of all the rest.  Regardless, I'll put on my best workout garb, play some tradition Thai Boxing tunes, and jam out with my fists out until I get back into fighting shape.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Upcoming Writing Guide

I realize it's been a while since I've posted.  I sincerely apologize for my absence, prostrating myself before the altar of public forgiveness (If you're interested in the literary blooper reel, I almost typed "prostating" just then.  In fact, I actually did type "prostating," but caught it just in time).  As with all things, there are crests and troughs -- just as moon waxes and wanes, and the weevil scuttles across that leftover bag of rice in the cupboard, so too, does creativity grant only the briefest of audiences.  For me, that means I have so much going on that I'm generally too overwhelmed to think at all times.  Yeah, it's fun being a writer.  

Which brings me to the subject of today's post -- I wrote a new ebook.  It's called, How to Write Like a Badass.  Check out the cover here:  

Image copyright TheCatchMode

The book serves as a guidebook for anyone who's thinking about taking the leap into professional writing.  It also gives pointers to others who may have established writing careers already, but haven't yet realized the level of financial comfort they'd been hoping for.  Hell, you should read it even if you think you know what you're doing.  I think I know what I'm doing after several years of peddling my literary ramblings, but now and again I discover whole realms I knew nothing about.  

Don't worry if you've never written anything before.  Now is the time.  Don't worry if you've only been published on the web, or in High School.  If you want to write and make money doing it, then this book will show you how.  

Right now I'm in the final round of edits, and the book will be available for purchase later in the week.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Another Year on The Blue Marble

It's crazy to think that not too long ago my future on this planet was in serious jeopardy.  I guess that's not entirely accurate.  I'd still be on the planet, just not hanging out and rocking my jam as usual.  And if I was, then you should run.  Fast.  Because I'd be a zombie and your brains would for sure become my breakfast.  For sure.

For those of you following along at home, I recently had one of those birthday thangz all the cool kids are getting into.  They seem to be almost unavoidable these days.  No matter where you look, people are always having birthdays.  Some people have so many birthdays that you have to wonder just who they think they are.  I once wrote that you should always be glad to have another birthday.  That you shouldn't fret growing older, because every new day was a gift.  I don't know from where, or from whom, but the gist was that you should appreciate the time that you have.  Since I'm a regular human person like anyone else, my thought patterns and opinions wax and wane like a desert moon orbiting a lonely rock at the outskirts of the galaxy.  I don't know exactly what I believe about birthdays anymore, or even about existence, or about appreciating the gift of tomorrow.  Is it really a gift?  Some people's tomorrows will be unquestioningly awful.
There are those in this life whose tomorrows are always filled with very sad things.  Suffering, disappointment, hardships.  Some people will never have a chance at a normal life -- they'll never have a shot at the best things this place has to offer.  And, according to the credo to which you choose to adhere, it's entirely possible that they won't get another chance to try again.  I'm not elevating my experiences to rival those of what could only be described as an earthly prison -- not at all.  I have a great time, as a general rule.  Because, if I'm not enjoying myself, then I strongly feel that I should move over and make space for someone else who will.  I think I'm just suddenly unsure about how to take my ongoing survival.

I used to have plenty of questions related to surviving cancer.  "Why me?" is a trusty standard.  I used to have zillions of feelings and micro feelings relating as well.  And then, after a while, it all kind of just stopped.  And I was allowed to be normal again.  Only I didn't know how.  And to some extent, the normal I've chosen is someone I don't recognize when I really stop to look.  I suppose the bottom line is; I don't know who I am anymore, or who I want to be.  I don't know exactly what almost dying and suddenly having more birthdays has done to me.  And I think I'd better figure it out if I want to justify the potential gift of being granted even more birthdays.  I owe it to myself, and the people who are taking for granted that I'm always going to be here.

Photo credits: Top -- Cover art for Metastatic Memories© 2014 Kevin Lankes and TheCatchMode

Monday, September 22, 2014

Life Emulates Art, and Emulators Emulate in my Bedroom

In the past week I have downloaded an NES emulator, as well as a Super Nintendo emulator, and I have close to 2,000 classic games from my childhood to work through.  Though it won't be much work -- not in the traditional sense of the word, anyway.

Lately, I've been easing through my normal routine.  After I finish a major project, I wander aimlessly for a while, picking at new ideas like they were scabs in the recesses of my brain (brain scabs are nasty).  While I do this, I need to keep my mind occupied with fresh material and concepts.  So I consume.  A lot.  Any creative input will due.  Emulators are at the top of the queue at present.

The most eagerly-tackled game in the bunch, by far, was the original, the classic, the most awesomely awesome, "The Legend of Zelda."

Hear that Overworld theme playing in your head.  Relish it.  Bathe in its epic tonal quality.  Now do some more relishing.  Mmmm.  
I admit that I'm using a walkthrough for this one.  Because, even though I played it incessantly as a kid, I'm not entirely convinced I ever really knew what I was doing.  And therefore, I can't be sure I ever actually beat it.  And I really, really want to.  The sequels, and games I can reasonably figure out on my own (things are mostly handed to modern gamers these days, or at the very least, are extremely intuitive), I'll play through without any extra help.

Like this one.  I'm already a decent way through it.  And things are coming along well.  It's amazing what you remember from when you were seven (in cases that aren't Zelda).  
The cool thing about emulators is save states.  So you don't ever have to lose your place in a Nintendo game again and start all over.  Unless you mess with the F keys by accident... I still haven't figured out how to fix that mistake.  Oh well.  Project nostalgia is well underway, with zillions of classic titles poised to meet the sweet bioelectric feedback from the tips of my gaming thumbs.  This on the heels of the 125th anniversary of the founding of Nintendo.  I'd say that's an awfully cool coincidence.

Anway, I hope you all have a successful writing routine (or general work routine) that works for you.  Something that helps you optimize production.  And, something that's just plain fun.  Takes the stress out of life for a while, and helps to further your goals at the same time.  So, to this point, I say emphatically, happy birthday Nintendo.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It's Been a Busy June

The lady friend and I signed a lease last night.  We'll be moving in together in August.  That sort of thing is a little scary, of course, but ultimately in life it's important to choose to be around the people who make you happy.  It's a simple thing, and it makes going through all the other superfluities of life so much more tolerable.  I will remember I said this when she eats the last of the Ghirardelli chocolate chips and I want to rage.

In other news, I'm on chapter 24 of my novel, and I'm aiming for about 30 total chapters.  So the first draft will be done soon, and after a round of editing I'll be looking for beta readers.  I'll post more on that soon, but get in touch with me if you'd like to help -- I'm looking for people who have opinions about things.  If you do some honest self-analysis and find that you genuinely don't have opinions, this is probably a serious medical condition and you should be evaluated by your physician.

"Oh, I remember back when I first read a book by Kevin Lankes.  ....It was yesterday.  We just threw on an old-timey filter like the kids do on the Instagram.  Ahem."
I have some upcoming new freelance writing contracts for July, which is great, because otherwise the above two points wouldn't be going so well if I didn't have the means to fund them.  That being said, I could always use more clients.  If you or anyone you know has a writing or editing project, check out the fee schedule on my website, or get in touch with me to discuss the details.

Otherwise, the month of June has been spent finally tackling Latin, which has been a long-standing interest of mine.  Last Christmas, my girlfriend bought me an immersion-style coursebook written entirely in Latin that I've begun to steadily work through.  Also, failing to avoid heated facebook arguments has become a favored pastime of mine in the month of June (not that it ever wasn't).  I've become quite addicted to reading facebook and article comments, especially when the subject matter is controversial.  The level to which people can be unreasonable is fascinating.

My sincerely held beliefs require me to write exclusively in cursive Latin from now on.
So, the year moves on and Time cuts down another month.  I'm excited to finish this novel in the upcoming days and get to finalizing it and sending it out.  I'm probably more excited about this project than I've ever been about anything.  But a reasonable excitement -- one that says, "You know, I think I pretty much got this right on."  And there's a sense of satisfaction that goes with that, a level-headed contentment that makes me feel like this really could be something special.  And with that, I'll keep clicking the Chiclets until it's done, and keep pounding Latin vocab into my head (some of which are English words that mean completely different things, like "it"), and keep funding the lifestyle that allows me to achieve the goals I've set.

Tonight I'm traveling to PA to be with family for the holiday weekend.  I hope everyone's 4th of July is filled with an abundance of fun.  Until next time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Every Book Has a Soundtrack. What's the Soundtrack to Your Book?

Music is hella great.  I've known this my whole life -- I've been performing music since the summer before fifth grade, when I picked up a trumpet for the first time under the watchful eye of my teacher, the late Ray Detweiler.  He molded me into quite the musician, capable of living comfortably in an expansive, magical new world.  Because music is magical.  It brings out emotional responses like nothing else.  It can be inspiring, uplifting, even terrifying.

A lot of people are terrified when they see things like this.  #TabCulture
Image Credit: melintelinas via deviantart
Currently, the novel I'm writing has no soundtrack.  This makes me terribly sad.  I plan to remedy this in the near future, so that I can increase my odds of crafting it into the killer story I know it so rightfully is.  My next novel, however, has such an epic soundtrack that has never before been heard by man nor angel.  It's a combination of Sir Christopher Lee's first operatic metal album (yes, this is a thing), and assorted music from Two Steps From Hell.  This particular lineup is what you call a surplus of epic.

Music is so influential that it even has the ability to irritate the shit out of us, as is the case with my upstairs neighbors producing a criminally monotonous, half-baked rap album above my head as I write this.  The most powerful part of music, however, is that it inspires other art.  It can also be inspired by other media as well, but the quality of art created while under the influence of music is powerfully profound.  And remember, if you or someone you love is under the influence of music, and can't seem to find their way back to a normal life, I have a twelve-step program to sell you.  It involves buying my books.

For now, I'll continue to search for an appropriate soundtrack to my current project.  It must needs be inspirational, hopeful, tragic, but with an air of uncovering a new dawn.  Recommendations are welcome.  Do you have a soundtrack for your book or other art?  If so, what is it?  And how did you come by it?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Defining My Direction

Good morning, everyone.  Though it isn't morning as I write this, and chances are it isn't morning while you're reading, either.  "Good morning" just sounds welcoming.  So that's what I'm going with.

As some of you may know, my new book, Metastatic Memories is out.  You can find it here, in both paperback and Kindle editions.  My six-month-old nephew reviewed the book (spoiler: it's adorable).  You can find his review here.

It's been quite the week.  Metastatic Memories was released, I picked up leads on new freelance clients, I found out my chances of the cancer coming back are down to 15%, I had a mini-breakdown, I reflected a lot on friendship, and what it's like to be a young adult cancer survivor attempting to function as normal in the real world.  All of this happened conveniently during Young Adult Cancer Awareness Week, and they all deserve their own posts.  For the time being, I'll leave you with a small shred of wisdom, which is -- life is what you make it.  You can be all kinds of things, and have all kinds of things happen to you.  But it's how you respond to your circumstances and how you go about accomplishing the goals you set for yourself that define your direction.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Metastatic Memories is Out! Read About my Young Adult Cancer Memoir Here!

Pick it up here!

Wow.  It's been a long journey.  A very, very long journey.  But Metastatic Memories is finally published.  I hope you'll pick up a copy and share my story.  Because it isn't just my story; it's the story of 72,000 new young adults each year.  It's the story of untold millions worldwide.

Writing this book was easy.  The editing was the hard part.  I had to go over it again and again, making changes and rewriting passages until it reflected what I honestly believe to be a true account of my brush with untimely death.  And now it's done, and I hope that everyone will take something from the book.  I hope it will help.

Recently, while my family was passing the review copy between them, my nephew, the Creature, somehow managed to get his hands on it...

I may have had to coax him into it.

The Creature was not impressed with my efforts to bribe him with tickles.

Eventually, he got into it.

The Creature likes it!  "Hey!" he might have said, had he been able to form sounds other than Glar Glue Glar Gwwaaaa, at the time. "My uncle tells a pretty good story!  This might just be my favorite book."

Why thank you Creature.  Your uncle is proud to have such a dedicated reader in the family.  Creature, you even make a short cameo at the end of the book -- it's possible that you're reading about yourself here.  Or it could be that I've made that up, just like I've staged this whole post to serve as promotional material for the book.  What a low thing to do, using such an adorable creature as a prop!  Well, the truth is that I'm kind of attached to you, Creature, and I'm glad you're my nephew, and that one day you'll grow up and read my books, and tell me how much you don't agree with my version of events, just like your mom.  I can't wait for that day.

Until then, I'll just keep reading them to you, and pretending that your gurgles and smiles are rave reviews on content and sentence structure.  They're definitely more valuable to me than any other kind of review.

Buy your copy of Metastatic Memories here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Take a Peek at the Review Copy of Metastatic Memories!

The review copy of Metastatic Memories is here, and I couldn't be more excited about it.  Feel all my excitement through your screen.  Feel it.  It's exciting.  Exciting!

I have to say, the book looks great.  I mean, really great.  It feels good, has a nice heft to it.  The formatting turned out well.  The cover is exceptional -- it was designed by my good friend John Langan at TheCatchMode.

I'm in PA for my upcoming six-month checkup at UPMC's Hillman Cancer Center, and had the review copy shipped to my parents' townhouse.  My family has hijacked the book and have been hoarding it since it arrived yesterday afternoon.  Apparently it's good.

Check out a few pictures of the book in action.
My mother raves, "Don't post those pictures of me in my bathrobe or I'll end you."

Metastatic Memories will be available for sale in the next week or two.  The paperback version will be up first (which looks great, by the way), followed shortly by the kindle version.  It'll be enrolled in the Amazon Matchbook program so that you can buy both and get a solid discount.

I can't thank everyone enough for all the support.  Writing this has been quite an adventure.  I can't wait for it to be out, and to share my story with the world.  See you all soon.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Back Blurb for Metastatic Memories

I've been steadily at work on the back blurb for Metastatic Memories, and I think I've finally hit on something solid.  With the help of my dedicated editors and volunteer readers, I've come to a rough draft of what could become the finalized content.  Read it below.

Metastatic is a word that describes cancer that’s no longer contained to a single site, and has spread elsewhere.  Which is bad.  

Metastatic is the kind of cancer Kevin Lankes was diagnosed with at the age of 25.  At only a quarter of a century long, Kevin’s life began spiraling out of control, ushering him helplessly toward the unknown.  

This is a heart-wrenching tale of pain, loss of innocence, and the will to go on.  It’s a candid recounting of the events following the collapse of a life barely lived.  By the time he was 25, Kevin had managed a city-wide project, hung with celebrities, joined a secret society, and otherwise made his mother proud.  He was a New York City transplant with a powerfully bright future.  This is the story of his most challenging obstacle yet.  In and out of several appointments, whirring machines, and emotional states, he describes just what it’s like to be a young man whose world was swept out from under him in the prime of life, and what it’s like to find the courage to press on.  

Does this make you want to read the book?  Let me know in the comments!  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Miley Cyrus Shows Off Her Sunburned Parts

Miley Cyrus came out with revealing pictures recently (what's new?).  Only these pictures showcased a nasty sunburn she'd gotten during her latest tour stop in Florida.  All of the media attention is on her skin... but in the erotic sense, and not the healthcare sense.  All of the advice is focusing on aloe to cut some of the pain she'll be subjected to at present.  While no one is mentioning the likelihood of much great suffering in the future.

I see this as a golden opportunity for her to make a positive impact by discussing the rising rates of melanoma in people in their 20's.  It's now the leading cancer in our age group, and kills one person every hour.  But, ya know, I guess we can just keep looking at her lady parts and making light of sunburns.

The reason for posting these latest pics is clearly to bring further attention to her loose cannon marketing blitz.  We all like to look at the crazy hot girl, and watch what she does next.  It's not surprising that you can find practically sixty-five million articles on these pictures.  But what you won't find are stats on her now elevated risk of melanoma, or stats on her risks of basal and squamous cell carcinomas.  If she comes down with cancer later in her life, though, it may bring us closer to my tongue-in-cheek goal of making cancer the next celebrity trend.

And here's an article from Huffpost about Miley's latest escapade.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

An Even Newer Cover! Could This be the One?

I'm getting even more excited about the cover for Metastatic Memories.  I didn't think that was possible, but my perception of what's possible has been completely shattered by this new version of the cover.  Here I am before you, a shattered man.  But, I digress.  This new version of the cover is pure awesome.  And I can't thank them enough over at TheCatchMode for continuing to outdo themselves.

Check out the new cover:  

I think this one really captures the feel of the book.  We'll see what they come up with next.  But for now, this one's my first choice.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Update: A Cover Story

The cover is coming along nicely.  My friend John Langan at TheCatchMode sent over a zillion versions for me to evaluate, and we worked through them all until settling on one.  It felt a little like a trip to the eye doctor -- better... or worse?  Better..... worse?  Is this one better?  Or worse?  And so on.

Here's the updated cover:

Friday, March 7, 2014

This Is What The Cover Of Over A Year Of Pain Looks Like

The cover for Metastatic Memories is done!  My very good friend, John Langan, designed it based on a drawing I did in Middle School.  John and I go way back -- all the way, like, a few years ago to college.  Okay, probably close to seven years.  Which can qualify as "way back" if you only have a span of 28 years to pull from.

I'm ecstatic about the way the cover turned out.  It holds a great deal of symbolism and emotion.  Transfixing, is a good word to describe the finished product.  It's the perfect image to reflect the feel of the words inside.  John and his fiance' own a design firm catering to a variety of needs.  Check out their website, or like their Facebook page.

Without further ado, here's the cover of Metastatic Memories:

And here's the drawing it's based on:

I'm happy to report that editing is going well.  You can expect the release of Metastatic Memories at the end of March.  Read more about the book here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Reworking A Memoir About Cancer: The Journey of Documenting Tragedy

It's been a long while since I finished the first draft of the book I wrote detailing the events following my diagnosis with stage 3 melanoma.  Recently, I've opened up the file folder, "dusted" it off (regular internal dusting of your computer files is highly recommended by the Department of Dusty Computer Innards, a Pentagon affiliate), and started rewriting.  There was some kind of road block in the way of this for several months, and, if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that there still is.  I don't really know how I wrote it in the first place, not to mention, while I was undergoing immunotherapy.  It remains a mystery to me, because any time I think about working on it now, I feel the motivation spilling from my body like I've been wrung like a sponge.

The past few days I've been able to push through.  But I still get easily put off and sidetracked.  I'm going to finish it though, complete with a new title, new Foreward and new internals.  I'm not changing all of it -- just the parts that I now realize are mostly unreadable.  This book, while representing a terrible time in my life history, has to be authentic, yet also entertaining.  That balance is crucial.  While I think it has great potential to reach many people and increase awareness for young adult cancer, it still has a short hop, jump, and skip to go before it crosses the finish line.  And I'm the one who has to usher it along.  There's no one else.  Writing is a very solitary profession to begin with, even more so when you're writing a book about an experience that made you feel isolated and alone.

New title ideas are in the works, but right now I have these in mind:

Metastatic Memories (the title of my first post, and the reason we're all here)

Zen of Metastasis (after the blog -- though I have an idea for a better use of this title)

Battlefield Me (though I'm not too keen on the war metaphors, the battle in this case would refer to the internal battle with myself throughout treatment)

Cancer Kid (former title -- feels gritty, but trite to me now)

Please leave your thoughts on the title change, along with any encouragement you'd be kind enough to impart.

Until next time (at which point I will hopefully have a finished product for you to read!)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Cancer Prevention From The Asbestos Cancer Victims' Rights Campaign

I received an email recently from the Asbestos Cancer Victims' Rights Campaign, asking if I wouldn't join them in spreading the word for National Cancer Prevention Month.  The Campaign is run by Susan Vento, an advocate for mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  Her husband, former U.S. congressman Bruce Vento, died of the disease.

The article I've been asked to share is a great piece, highlighting prevention and early detection as the key methods of avoiding a cancer diagnosis.  I couldn't agree more, and I'm happy to aid in Susan's message any way I can.  Because it's not only Susan's message, it's all of ours.  Here story belongs to many of us.  We've all had a husband, a father, a daughter, a sister struggle with or fall victim to cancer.  And it's about time we dealt with the problem head-on.

Take a look at the article here.  And please think about ways you can engage in cancer prevention too.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentines Day!

A warm hello to everyone on this, the day of the celebration of love.  Whether you agree with the consumer culture associated with the holiday or not, it's still a great time to refocus on positive energy and modes of thinking.  Today is the celebration of love.  

I especially wish all of my cancer survivor friends a Happy Valentines Day, because I know how difficult it is to be inspired by a celebration of something you no longer think you deserve, or can ever find again.  I hope that you are all as lucky as I am, having found that love again, and feeling all of the associated emotions along with it, like for instance, sometimes she's a huge (censored: most beautiful lady ever!).  Just remember that there are a lot of people out there, and you have something to offer all of them.  

And that about wraps it up.  Find your loved ones and have some fun.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

You Wish You Had What Kind of Cancer??

Recently, an ad campaign from Pancreatic Cancer Action has come under fire.  The ads showcase pancreatic cancer patients actively wishing they had other types of cancer with better survival outcomes.  The campaign has been widely criticized for being insensitive and disrespectful to survivors of the showcased cancers, and survivors of other cancers in general.  It's true that the issue seems pretty straightforwardly douchey, and calls into question the current sobriety of whomever green-lighted the ads.

The reasons for the uproar are probably more complex than a simple debate on political correctness, however.  Yes, it's completely unreasonable that Pancreatic Cancer Action chose to say something so insensitive, but the issue does highlight the ongoing need to reengage in a communal conversation about cancer.

It seems to me that people were upset for two reasons: 1.) Survivors were upset because their suffering was belittled, and 2.) Non-survivors were upset because something upsetting was said about an already upsetting topic.  I'd like to briefly address both of those, as well as discuss the underlying issue it exposes.

1.) Survivors, like myself, were disturbed by the ads' chosen content.  Making it seem like there are "better" cancers to have is unacceptable.  There are no good cancers.  Cancer is a terrible disease that causes unimaginable pain and suffering to individuals, families, and whole communities.  It's like a giant, tumorous Godzilla.  In fact, Godzilla was spawned from the larger cultural fear of the atomic age and its health effects surrounding post-WWII Japan, and is part of a whole sub-genre of film called Hibakusha Cinema.  Hibakusha is a Japanese word that translates to "Atomic Bomb Victim."

Anybody wanna play frisbee? No?

And that's what cancer is like -- having a giant, terrible monster stomp through everything you've ever loved and hold dear to your heart.  And sometimes, all the way to the end of your pain-stricken, chemo-addled life.  Occassionally, people survive their ordeal and go into remission.  At this point in our medical technological capabilities, the achievement of remission is still mostly random.  Though, yes, there are certain cancers that are easier to maintain than others these days.  This is another sore point these ads have decided to intentionally focus on.

Survivors are lucky.  Some of us know we're lucky.  And there's such a thing as survivor's guilt.  Maybe we don't want to be walking around as if nothing happened, while others are fading away in a hospital bed.  On some level, I think all survivors understand that cancer can kill any of us at any time.  The ones who survive are still just as upset about having gone through it.  Pancreatic Cancer Action's ads make it seem like we're better off, and no one is better off for having cancer.

2.) The public is upset BECAUSE CANCER!  Period.
Whenever the subject of cancer comes up in the media, there's a general sense of tiptoeing over glass while on thin ice next to a sleeping family of hungry bears with eczema.  When it's a good news story, anchors make sure to wear their biggest phony smiles, because they think it's what you want to see.  When it's a bad news story, they scrunch up their faces into a stony resolve, and throw on their biggest sympathy smiles.  It's human nature to not know what to do with someone else's suffering.

But we've spent too much time tiptoeing around the issue.  It's way past the point where we should have had an open conversation about it.  The biggest obstacle to discussing cancer is that people die from it -- a lot of people.  And death anxiety is probably the most influential force in people's lives.  They don't want to talk about, or deal with anything revolving around their own mortality -- the slightest suggestion or whisper that someday they too will cease to exist.  Until cancer deaths lower significantly, it's going to be hard for most people to address the issue head-on.

There's some overlap in this category, because survivors are not immune to death anxiety, and are, of course, in many cases much more susceptible to its effects.  We've already had a very real brush with death, and many of us retreat into a state a mind where it can never happen again.  Denial is the most powerful defense around.  Overall, it's an extremely complicated emotional response, and each individual achieves a different level of openness and self-introspection at different stages of their lives (if ever).  In terms of cancer, the level of public introspection is still relatively low, and so whenever the topic is breached in a negative light, there will be an immediate and forceful negative response.

The key is education, and communication.  Through communicating openly about cancer we'll all, slowly and steadily, crawl tooth and nail onto the same page.  It'll be a long process, and it starts with a few loud-mouthed advocates.  Those advocates are here, and I have complete faith that someday we'll be able to not only rid the world of completely irresponsible advertising, but also, not become completely grab-a-torch-and-burn-down-Frankenstein's-Monster enraged by it either.

Image credits: Top -- Lung Cancer Cells by Wellcome Images via Flickr; Middle -- Godzilla Cosplay by Telindra via deviantArt

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Tale Of Two Kellers

I've been following Lisa Bonchek Adams for quite some time.  She's a patient advocate and cancer truth-teller, discussing the details of her ongoing ordeal with stage 4 breast cancer in an open and honest way.  I found her shortly after my own diagnosis, when I was confused and disoriented, having stumbled into a world that no longer made sense to me.  People like Lisa are important for several reasons.  Let's make a list.

1.) They point the way for cancer patients.  According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1,660,290 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2013, roughly 72,000 of them were young adults, or people aged 15-39.  I was diagnosed at 25.  I had no idea what to do.  Immediately, I switched into handler mode, but quickly lost momentum and crashed into a sea of depression.  There isn't a lot you can do, lost and alone, to help yourself in the midst of a crisis.  Part of a healthy recovery includes a strong support network.  People like Lisa provided that for me, as I took to social media to commiserate and learn from those who had gone before me.

2.) They point the way for the rest of us.  Having cancer is awful.  But it teaches you things.  If you listen long enough to someone who has the disease, they might just convince you of what's really important in life, and you might just become a happier, healthier individual for it.

3.) These stories must be heard.  They contain hard truths.  Death, suffering, grief, depression, and the macabre are all realities in this life.  To ignore the truth means to become less adjusted and more easily taken in by falsehoods.  There are a lot of falsehoods when it comes to cancer.  Most everyone gets it wrong.  It's hardly ever represented truthfully, because the truth is too painful for the culture of ignorance we've created.  In one of my first posts, I discuss this idea in detail.  You can read it here.

In a recent twist on Lisa's story, two op-eds were published by Emma and Bill Keller.  Emma's ran in the Guardian (since pulled), and Bill's ran in the New York Times.  Emma suggested that Lisa's approach to disseminating information revolving her struggle was offensive.  Bill backed her up when the public outcry delivered a swift backlash.  There's a great piece summarizing the whole incident making the rounds.  It was written by Megan Garber and ran in the Atlantic.  You can read that here, complete with featured tweets from Jeopardy record-holder Ken Jennings and cancer patient advocates.

The question here is how we, as a society, would like to operate.  We can certainly choose to waltz through life peeking out from the wool over our eyes in some misguided attempt to preserve innocence.  That's the route the Kellers have chosen.  They're very adamant about the terminally ill keeping quiet, not ruining it for the rest of us.  Because the rest of us will surely never die.  Suffering will never touch anyone but Lisa Bonchek Adams, so let her do her suffering somewhere soundproof.  It's my firm belief that looking away never helped anyone, and the only way to move forward on an issue is to have an open and honest conversation about it.  And that's exactly what Lisa has been doing all along.  If cancer ever kills me, you can be sure I won't go quietly.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Upcoming Interview With CRI

I had an interview recently with the Cancer Research Institute, the leading advocacy group for immunotherapy research, about my experience with the treatment and my life since.  I won't spoil anything, but in my completely objective and unbiased opinion, I think it may be the greatest interview since Frost/Nixon.

When a cancer survivor does it, it's not a crime!

I kid.  But it's still a worthwhile read.  In it, I talk about my approach to life after cancer, my relationships with those important to me, and what I'm trying to do with my life now that it's been given back to me.  It's not a bad little tale, mine.  And it reminds me every day to try my best to realize all of the lofty goals that popped into my head immediately after I was diagnosed.  Most of them were common sense, but things that still seemed so impossible to take action toward.  That is, until the threat of impending death forces your hand.  When you realize you have a very concrete deadline to accomplish whatever it is you believe you're here for, you start working a little harder to get it done.  In my case, spending time with those closest to me, helping out as much as I can to make the world a little better than it was when I got here, and living life on my own terms are what's important.  There are many specifics involved in each of those, but we'll save that for another post.

The interview will run in print to subscribers.  And anyone can see the extended interview and extra pictures from the shoot on CRI's website.  I'll let everyone know when it's up.  Happy reading.