RP's Cancer Survival Fund
Sometimes I don't want to admit to myself just how debilitating this condition can be. The pain and fatigue can grind me to dust, it can smash any plans I might have for the day, driving me down to nothing. I would not wish this kind of pain, this horrid fatigue on anyone.
I'm R P Bird. That's a recent photo of me. I'm sixty years old. You can see that something's wrong with my face, one side is swollen, distorted. I had been told that it was temporomandibular disorder...well, maybe it isn't. There is a high degree of probability that it is cancer. What my doctor finds alarming is the massive fatigue I suffer from, making it almost impossible to work, to even drive for Lyft. I can drive for Lyft on days when the fatigue abates a little, but now Lyft, in a feud with the state of New Mexico, has decided to "pause" operations on May 14. So even those limited funds are denied me. My minivan's too old for me to drive for Uber. I've tried to sneak it by them in the application process - no go.
Here I am before the disease process warped my face.
No one seems to want to do something about the incredible pain, the numbness, and the fatigue plaguing me on a daily basis. My doctor won't even refer me to a specialist. I have insurance, so that isn't the problem. I guess I need to find a new doctor. Any cure or treatment is several months away. I want to work, to write, but the fatigue, the pain...I don't want to end up homeless because of this disease, that's my first priority. I have a deep fear of dying alone and cold, or being murdered for my belongings. What does it serve me to be cured, or to have whatever it is wrong with me put in remission, if I'm on the street?
The small amount of savings and earning from various sources has begun to dry up. I'm down to my last few dollars, the intense pain in my face a constant reminder of my poor health, the limits of my life.
I can't stress enough the power of this pain. Currently my left temple is swollen. The pain radiates out from there down my jaw line. My teeth feel as if they are being squeezed out of their sockets. What makes it worse, the fatigue has hit me as well. I can hardly keep my eyes open. This is an evil joke, because if I lie down, despite the fatigue, I won't be able to sleep.
As it stands now, I will have trouble making my rent. I ask you, I beg you, to please donate a few dollars to keep me afloat. I set the limit at $9000, that's about six or seven months - yeah, I can squeeze pennies until they scream. This is more of an act of wishful thinking than a real goal, to be honest. I don't have much hope that this will work. I'm not the kind of guy who attracts attention, who can pull on the heart-strings of others. I'm a nice guy, but it's just too painful to smile most days.
I once was loved. I take comfort from that. My parents, now gone. Even Truman and Maxine Nash, our next-door-neighbors when I was a child, who loved me as if I were their own, also gone. Speed, my cat, my wonderful companion through many adventures, gone two years now. I knew him for seventeen years. My parents had me when they were older. They didn't ask for the debilitating diseases that made them dependent on me. I didn't mind. First it was part-time, then full-time. Twenty years passed in the blink of an eye - and then they were gone. Here they are in better times.
I love them still. They were the best parents anyone could want. Caring for them was a daily act of love. There was a down side. I had to discard all my attempts at career enhancement. I passed up college teaching jobs for part-time adjunct work. I had to put ideas for novels on hold. As I said, twenty years in the blink of an eye.
My parents about a year before Dad died. You can see from Mom's eyes that the dementia already has hold of her mind.
Here is Speed as a kitten, back in the 1990s. He died of cancer two years ago.
The job still isn't quite done. I care for Mom's old cat. Bright Eyes knows I'm in trouble. She's by my side constantly now, worrying over me like a mommy cat over her kittens.
Bright Eyes on my work bench.
This isn't what I hoped for in the last years of my life. Dad passed in 2002. After Mom passed, the dementia having eaten her mind, I worked on my fiction, on projects I had delayed again and again while caring for my parents. I wrote five novels and a short story collection, but so far, despite the incredible praise readers heap on my books, despite the four and five star reviews, I cannot for the life of me penetrate the puzzle-palace maze of modern publishing. Out of desperation, I put them up on amazon.com. They bring in a tiny amount of money each month, varying from the very tiny to the merely small.
To be homeless is the death of everything I hold dear. Perhaps this is why I give money to street people, why I am kind to them, because they daily confront what I most fear. No more creativity, no more writing. No more books, no more reading, no more learning - only raw survival. I won't die on the street. I refuse that fate. I will not submit to such a horrid indignity.
Please help me to live, to continue to write, to afford the chance to get well. Thank you for reading this.
As you know, I have some immune system problems due to my last battle with cancer. Ended up in the ER hooked into many devices. But my heart fought back. My bent immune system and something I caught --- I want to say the flu but I had my flu shot --- made me really sick. The disease had somehow affected my heart. I was hooked up to heart monitors of various sorts, also multiple X-rays, multiple blood tests. They thought they'd have to do heart surgery on me, so I received nothing to eat or drink for almost an entire day. Then something unusual happened. My heart and my body began to fight back. My heart's rhythm returned to normal. They released me from intensive care a day later. At four a.m. Hospitals... A nurse walked me out. Told me I have a strong heart. Bed rest for several days. No work for the week. So I am lying in bed. The lymphodemia in my face acting up, but hey, I have a strong heart.
If you can spare a few dollars to help me compensate for lost wages this week...oh, that would be marvelous! I bless you for it. Also, next week, more scans. This time it's to check to see that the cancer hasn't returned. And I'll try to set up appointments again for my teeth and the lymphodemia therapy.
I speak the truth to you. I am so worn down by all this, so beaten into a corner. I do feel defeated. I have been trying to return to writing, to hope for a better life. All is smashed up. I had to break all my appointments for lymphodemia therapy and dental work because of this. I feel like a soldier at Dunkirk. Yes, I survived, but everything is wreckage around me. I have a dream, but that dream has been now pushed far away. I want to turn my dismal life around, to raise some money by my writing, by being able to work more, to write like a maniac...but that is so far away now.
But I am still fighting the good fight...or doing my best. All my love and my best wishes to you. A line from Casablanca keeps running though my mind. It's at the end. The man Bogart has saved turns to him. "This time I know we'll win."
All of you take care and have a joyous holiday season...Have a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!
This isn't the first dud of a doc I've had in this nasty cancer/post-cancer journey. I won't quit on you, though this is a heavy disincentive. I want to thank you all for all the encouragement and the gifts, thank you so, so much. I will keep trying.
Take care. Have a happy holiday, my friends.
Oh, wait, a tiny bit of good news, courtesy of the nurses today. My blood pressure is fine, almost perfect. My bloody nose is not sinister. They inspected it well, nothing suspicious, just the result of some minor injury (I can't feel the left side of my nose, so something might have happened with my cane banging into my face) or dry winter air. A tiny bit of good news, but nothing about the pain and discomfort from the doctor. I yelled and complained to the nurses after the guy left.
I'm sorry about the dismal story. Next time, I hope I'll have more positive news. I still haven't found a dentist who will take on my mouth, but I will keep trying. I had hoped the doc might access the big clinic's database to find a dentist along with other docs. But I am not giving up.
Let us persevere in our difficulties. May we all triumph.