Hey guys, it's been awhile. Four months have passed since my surgery, and they have gone like a whirlwind. I have been working almost every day since August 2013, and I am thrilled to see EX3 on the horizon. I'm pushing forward to the next hardback (Dragon-Blooded), staying out of school to clear it in record time. That's part of why I have been so quiet, but I've also been struggling with the financial and emotional aspects of my life that seem to eat up all the time when I'm not working on this game.
As for my health, my neck’s been in much better condition since the surgery, and I can't thank you enough for your help. I think about you all on a daily basis—about how lucky I am to have such unbelievable support, from so many people who are out there pulling for me. It gives me strength every time I sit down to work. Every time I think I've got nothing left to give, I remember all the people who gave so much to put me here. It has kept me going in more than just making it fiscally possible for me to keep working. I refuse to let you down.
Unfortunately, I have to ask for help again. The doctor’s bill for the surgery has arrived at last. This should be the final medical bill. After wrangling with the doctors and hospital for charity deductions, it’s down to a final bill of $990, which I have adjusted upward ($1069.20) for the 8% Gofundme takes out.
I was hoping my charity discount would reduce the entire bill, but this is one of those doctor bills, part of the overall charges for service that is never negotiable; I have had to pay every single one of these in full using your donations. The bill also came at a predictably unpredictable time; between living expenses and paying student loans, I don’t have the margin to cover it. You have my enormous gratitude for any help you can give, and my ongoing thanks for all the help you’ve already given.
A few things, and probably my last word on the topic before I go in for surgery—I am lucky in that I have had so much help fighting off these medical bills. I have been able to cover not only the cost of a biopsy, CT scan and blood cytology, but also numerous follow-ups and medical prescriptions since then. Still, I kept the money that was left over and saved it because it was my suspicion that things would get worse before they got better. They have. The swelling has come back and has had the added effect of causing throat constriction. I have not had a good night sleep in three weeks. I put off doing the drastic thing and having the recommended surgery to get this lymph node excised because I knew what kind of hysterical costs would be involved. But here I am.
So, I just got off the phone with the office of anesthesiology that will be handling half my pre-op. I will need to pay $600 to the ENT on site, and another $603 to the anesthesiologist two days before the surgery. These are "foot in the door" prices. I tried to negotiate them downward, but they informed me that these are the lowest they are going to get. If I don’t pay, they don’t play. Luckily I have enough saved to pay both of these bills—the support you have given me has been overwhelming and I thank you very much. My next update will be to let you all know how the surgery has gone. It’s my hope that this will finally put my year-long medical issues to rest and let me focus on getting back to a healthy place. I couldn't have gotten this far without all of you. See you in a week.
A short update on my status. About two months ago, the pain and tightness started making its return. I have been to the doctor four times since then, and have been put on antibiotics three times. Two barrages of Amox Tr-K and one of levofloxacin. This amounted to over $500 in medical charges, but I was able to cover it all with your help.
The pain has only been getting worse, and about two weeks ago, the swelling began again for the first time since it went down. The lymph node has swollen out of my neck to a lump slightly larger than a robin's egg.
My last visit with the doctor was to schedule a surgery to have it removed. I was given this option months ago, but I dearly wanted to avoid the cost associated with the procedure. I believed it would go away, but it has been almost a year. The doctor gave me the option to do one more biopsy and then wait and see, but a biopsy would be just expensive as before, and then what? I might still need to get it removed and looked at. As much as I don't want to face this bill, I don't want to face this and the cost of a second biopsy.
My surgery is scheduled for September 11. I will have a consultation and a checkup before that. The surgery will be on a Thursday. Wish me luck.
Hey guys. I haven't forgotten you. I just wanted to stop in to say I am still working very diligently to finish the EX3 core. I recently finished the Craft Charms, which means the whole first draft of the Solar Charm set is now complete. Now I am cleaning up some Charms to add to the playtest, which will bring the test to its third and hopefully penultimate phase.
The aforementioned literary definition of magic that I have been constructing:
"Magic has one certain form, that you may know it when you see it: energy that gets stronger rather than weaker; power that produces more power, in direct opposition to the second law of thermodynamics. This is the essence of magic." -Ø
It's been about a week since I finished my antibiotics, and I thought everything was cool, but I have started to feel some unpleasant action in my neck. I need to schedule another visit to the ENT. Fortunately, I have enough to cover the visit, thanks to your help.
The meeting with the college president went well. I was able to voice some long-standing complaints with the system, mostly with the hypocrisy of only recognizing my grades after I graduated. I was invisible to the system, and completely voiceless until I became a useful statistic.
I am almost finished with the Solar Charm set. I still have more than a week before I am back in classes. I am optimistic that the end is in sight. Once the Charm set is done, everything else will fall like rain, and this book will drop like lightning.
I have much else to say: a number of unlicensed book ideas swirl through my mind. I am working on a compilation of original short fiction. I have college ambitions, as well. I hope to construct a new model of masculinity that is defined by the construction of arguments, ideas, and language which aids women in breaking free from subjection. I have also been working on a literary definition of magic. In the last seven months, I have gone through yet another transformation. Every time it seems like I have reached the bottom, the bottom falls out and I find my well is deeper than all imagining. There can be no end to how my mind builds and rebuilds, focuses and refocuses, until the beam is perfect, fixed and firing into new atmospheres of thought. New dimensions open before my eyes like a flower, and nothing can stop these revolutions from taking place, except my own extinction. But I fear not. In the darkness I am created. In the darkness I fade away.
Thank you all for your support, for keeping me going. Expect big things.
I am going to be scheduling a return visit to the ENT soon. I finished my latest prescription and I am feeling much better. I can actually turn my head all the way to the left now; I haven't been able to do that for months. Here's hoping they take surgery off the list of things they want to try, and that I won't need another biopsy. I still feel a little tightness in my jaw, but no pain, and no spreading sensation like before.
Tomorrow I have a meeting with an academic adviser to lock in my summer classes, and then I need to make sure my financial aid is all in order.
Tonight, I brought Solar Lore almost to its conclusion. Which leaves me almost two weeks to clear the last piece of the Solar Charm set--Craft--before classes start.
I wouldn't be able to keep up with all of this work without your help. You have really kept me going, in every possible way. Thank you all. A big special thanks to Angela, who loaned me the thousand I needed to go back to school. Hopefully I will make some headway after EX3 is done and be able to pay you back, Ange.
As a follow-up to the last message, here is something made possible with your help. I was able to complete my final AA classes with high enough grades to get invited to a lunch for honors graduates with the president and vice president of the college I was attending.
I also have almost completed the entire EX3 Solar Charm set, and managed to keep my grades high in my first two university courses. I just finished my last final exam today--I am hoping it is an A--so we'll see if I am able to keep my 4.0. It has been a really rough semester. To be honest, I may lose it. But the fact is, I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish even though I have been so sick, so exhausted and so depressed for the last four months.
Even so, I was able to make it this far only because you helped me. I really appreciate it. Here's hoping to more good news.
Invitation to honor graduates.
Attached to this post are pictures of the bills you guys have helped me clear. Not pictured: the cost to get my foot in the door of the hospital, the cost of the ENT visits, the price of antibiotics, the price of Wellbutrin and Celexa which I just started with medical recommendation, the price of gas to make it to my appointments. Needless to say I would have been crushed without your help.
Now, for more good news: I think this last battle with the infected node has done the trick. It is no longer hurting, no longer tight. I don't feel it moving anymore. I can also turn my head. It is quite possible that I spent three to four weeks horsing through a potentially fatal infection rather than going to the doctor. In any case, once I finish this antibiotic, I hope to have nothing but good news to report. I have one more ENT visit ahead of me, after which I am hoping he gives me an "all clear" and I won't have to have another biopsy or worse.
Thank you all for your support through this terrible time. Any continued support you can give me would be very welcomed, as this has drained my resources quite a bit, and I am trying to keep my head above water long enough to finish the Exalted core.
I plan to do one more post tonight, I just can't fit another picture into this post. Have a good night, everyone, and thanks again.
The emergency room bill.
The pathology bill.
The hospital bill.
Hey guys, this is Holden Shearer, Exalted co-developer. John is ill, exhausted, and too busy to post this update, so I am typing it up to keep you informed.
I'll start with the bad news: he's still not in the clear. There might be a second biopsy and a lymphectomy on the horizon. The good news is, his ears, throat, and nasal passages are still clear of any obvious problems, and the swelling in the lymph node isn't as pronounced as it was in November, though there is still swelling present. The doctor has prescribed antibiotics in case this is an infection he's dealing with. The ENT specialist is still watching the lymph node and the cause of the swelling still isn't certain, so he's not in the clear just yet.
John's been spreading all of his time between university and Exalted writing and development. This hasn't left time to pursue other writing jobs and expenses are piling up, and will continue to do so as he pushes to the end of the core book's development. There are also going to be more doctor visits in the future, to follow up on the current treatment. We continue to watch the lymph node's progress.
Any financial assistance you could toss John's way right now would be much appreciated.
Shaved head and face: check. Shower: check. Shades: check. Pants: ... Why does it always have to be pants?
Heading to the ENT now.
Appointment to see the ENT is for Friday at 2:45 PM.
Don't let me forget.
I don't know how to begin.
The swelling in my neck has become a small, invisible knot. It doesn't appear in the mirror, but I can feel it. Meanwhile, a swelling has emerged under my left armpit.
I have decided not to go back to the hospital in March.
My only focus is to finish Exalted: Third Edition and move the game forward into production. Whatever else happens is whatever else happens.
I don't know how to say this without causing alarm, but you deserve to hear it. I don't understand losing. It is against my nature to give up. And yet I...
...I am losing my health, I am losing my ability to sleep, I am on the verge of losing my 4.0 GPA after 39 courses. And none of it matters to me compared to what I really lost, to what I let slip right through my fingers.
What I stand to lose is nothing compared to what I have already lost. The loss I have suffered is incalculable. And there is nothing I can do about it. There's nothing I can say. No atonement I can make. No turn around. No saving throw. And it is destroying me.
As has always been the case, but now more than ever before, all of my time, all of my energy, and all of my determination must be bent toward finishing this work, and the next, and the next, such that, when all is said and done, I will have created a monument of victory and triumph that says, "Here was one who never settled for second best, who never gave up, and who did not know how to lose."
I will do this in Exalted. I will do this out of Exalted. Let it be my epitaph.
Come oh new era.
Today is the last day of finals. Then I get a few weeks before I start classes at university. I want to thank everyone for their well wishes and support.
Today I got very little sleep. Bad dreams, stress, doubt: everything jumped on my back this morning. I just want to finish the day with my 4.0 in tact. Then we'll see about everything else.
No change on the medical issue. I haven't decided whether I will take the knife or the hourglass. I guess it's hourglass by default. I continue to watch.
I had a pretty good dream. I was talking to someone I miss dearly. But then I woke up and she was gone, and it was just a dream and yeah, there's no going back.
They say "yesterday ends at midnight", but for me the old years keep on passing over and over in my head, while the world outside moves on. I am Lantern Jack and Bill Murray from Groundhog Day, and maybe a bit Faust, because I'd pay the devil for some god damned sleep.
Today I went back to the ENT expecting to get scheduled for another biopsy. Instead I was told I needed to have surgery to cut out my lymph node so they could search for cancer. The risks involve potential nerve damage to my face and shoulder. Of course, the hospital bills will be staggering.
My other option is to do nothing. This option removes my power to strike early. I have been given a list of symptoms to watch for as lymphoma manifests. So far, I have shown none, but that doesn't count for much. Otherwise, they wouldn't have put surgery on the table.
Now I get to gamble. Perhaps if I sit and wait, this will go away, and I will evade a much larger hospital bill. Or perhaps the operation will end up saving my life. At this point I have been suffering so long that I can't see any good in either outcome.
Obviously, I have a lot of thinking to do. But I don't have any time or energy for thought. Work is the only thing I have to distract me from the pain and loneliness I feel. Grief is my only counselor.
I hurt. I suffer. I write.
I had a dream.
I was riding my bike. The wind was cold, the night was black. Every lamp I passed went out, darkness eating the street. The lane narrowed. Headlights were coming at me, but I didn't try to move. The car passed through me, its taillights disappearing into the darkness.
I pedaled harder, urgent to be gone. I was riding faster than it was possible to go. I passed through many cars, leaving my neighborhood behind. The streets vanished behind me, and I was in parts of the city I had never seen. I was scared and exhilarated. I couldn't stop riding. I was racing for the edge of the city, fleeing with all of my speed, urgent to be gone.
The lymph node in my neck, the one that started to swell up on September 16th"”my 33rd birthday"”was twitching. Soon, I knew it would burst, and I did not want to be here when it did.
Today I was supposed to call the doctor's office. I looked in the mirror, hoping to see some sign that the swelling had gone down, that I could pass this one by and say that my condition was changing for the better. But when I saw my reflection, I knew there was no good news. I put off the call. Told myself that I had enough on my plate"”class, work, and more writing tonight. I have stress enough for ten, I reasoned. Stress to burn. I just got back from the gym.
I will call the doctor tomorrow.
Tomorrow, I will still have work to do, but no class. Maybe tomorrow the swelling will have gone down, but I know that's not true. Problems in dreams are always easier to solve.
Things have been going well, and I am moving forward with optimism. My university application was recently accepted, and I managed to clear all of my registration holds in the last week, so I will be starting classes on a much larger campus in January. Tonight I finished writing the War Charms of the Solar Exalted, completing the Charms of the Dawn Caste.
My lymph node has not changed.
It has neither grown smaller nor grown larger, nor is there any pain. As directed by my physician, I will be scheduling an appointment with an ENT (Ear / Nose / Throat) specialist on the 25th. I don't expect this to be a huge bill. Thanks to your support, I have more than enough to cover it.
I am certain that the specialist will schedule another biopsy. I'm afraid of the biopsy, but I think of it as just one more item on a long list toward putting my life back together.
Your help has meant the world to me. You cannot know the extent to which this is true. Maybe one day I'll talk about it.
Well, a full six weeks after I received my medical bills, the hospital sent me another bill for 1351.00. Thanks to the help of my amazing supporters here, I can pay this bill. Hopefully it will be the last surprise bill they pull on me.
Earlier this fall, I began experiencing swelling of the lymph node at my jaw, and severe neck pains and inflammation of the face and jaw. After it got bad enough to drive me to the emergency room, I was put through an antibiotics treatment and a battery of tests, including a biopsy to search for lymphoma. Their results have been inconclusive, and the swelling in the lymph node remains. If it doesn't resolve itself by December, which it shows no signs of doing, I'm looking at another biopsy and a fresh round of medical bills.
I have no insurance and the current bills amount to more than my total savings.
This Gofundme campaign is to raise funds to cover my existing medical bills, which include: Radiology-ultrasound and lab cytology ($298.14), basic metabolic panel and blood count ($46.00), CT Maxillofacial w/ dye; FNA W/Image; Echo Guide for Biopsy ($545.00), and CT scan / IV treatment and ER diagnosis ($736.00). I've submitted an application for charitable relief for as many bills as I can, but several aren't eligible, and I don't know if the applications will be accepted. The goal set on this Gofundme page is for slightly more than the total of the bills, to account for Gofundme's standard deduction and withdrawal processing fees.
Any help that anyone can give will be very much appreciated.
"”John MÃ¸rke, 11/8/13