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.
To add insult to injury, my already small benefits from the state of New Mexico have been reduced for no reason. Social Security likes playing cat to my mouse. They denied my claims and then mocked me by requesting more documents for a case they have already denied.
This is the life of the so-called "mildly" disabled. We aren't missing arms or legs. Our damage is inside, where the cancer ate at us. Constant pain, the never-ending threat of re-occurrence, lack of function.
I have no idea what will happen to me in the near future. I won't die on the street. But as to the rest, I don't know.
This is a lesson for you. I did everything right and I still ended up here.
As to my life, still the same as a month ago. The docs wait and watch for the cancer to return. The left side of my face aches. I go to work at my part-time job. I take generic advil to get through my five hour shift. I come home, I write, I sleep. At least my mind is clear, though some days I do miss the relief from pain that morphine gave me.
Take care, my friends. Let us hope for positive change.
As to the cancer, or lack thereof, we wait and watch. My body likes to remind me that recovery is ongoing. The other morning I lost another tooth while brushing my teeth. Don't freak out, it didn't hurt. The radiation therapy that saved my life killed the nerves in most of my teeth. It just...fell out. Still, it's a little freaky when parts of your body fall off.
On to other things. I'm thinking of setting up two more gofundme accounts. One is a writer's tip jar, the other for my private campaign to help the local homeless. I'll still keep Cancer Survival up, since it's an ongoing battle with no clear winner so far.
The writer's tip jar grows out of my fiddling with patreon.com. It was a very unsatisfactory experience. I only want a way for fans of my work to send me a few dollars if they enjoy my stories and articles, not some big production involving monthly subscriptions, "gifts," videos, and other time-consuming nonsense. I have a part-time job, I sleep a lot (still worn out - I wonder if I'll always be that way), so time to write is precious to me. I'm not fooling with things that aren't writing just to please my hypothetical supporters. Would you rather I fool around or write? I want the virtual equivalent of the glass on the piano at a lounge, or the open instrument case of a musician on a street corner...this song just popped into my head:
A tip isn't supposed to be a lifelong financial commitment. It's a freaking tip! This seems to be a good fit for gofundme.
I still give small amounts of money and snacks to the homeless. I was going to give out stocking caps and gloves, but someone, I suspect a local church or the Salvation Army, has been giving out winter gear to the homeless. Some of the coats are very old-school in appearance - but hey, even an out-of-fashion coat from the 1980s still keeps a person warm. So as not to duplicate their efforts, I've switched back to giving out little snack packets and a few dollars. Since a large number of homeless ride the bus, I figure the small amounts of cash I hand out is a good thing to do. Even the homeless have to come up with bus fare. As to the snacks, I think the right to snack is in the Bill of Rights. Just kidding. Everyone's hungry, hopefully my little packets can cut that hunger in the homeless a little.
That's it for now. I will keep to the struggle. Stay safe, my friends.