Help Spector Fight Stage 4 Cancer!
The T7 tumor had bored through the bone and reached my spinal cord; when it constricted the nerves by a factor of 50% my legs gave out and stopped "legging" -- I couldn't walk or stand or even crawl on hands and knees. That was around the time I finally figured out this was no pinched nerve.
After an ambo ride and eleven hours in ER, I was medical transported to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, because the have neurosurgery. I spent the next 12 days in Trauma.
The surgery was successful. I had faced the very real possibility of never walking again; as it is, it will be years before I am back to where I was before.
By the time I found out, it was already Stage 4 -- Stages 1-3 passed in stealthy silence, or were mistaken for something less life threatening, more mundane... only to realize that the fight of my life had just kicked off, and the dark dance it portends will last the rest of my days.
So be it. Now I know. And I fight. 'Cuz this battle may be mine, but the war is bigger than all of us. And it might be true that all we ever really get is today, and a dream.
But in the meantime, I fight.
The ringing of the bell in the photo is a tradition when you complete radiation treatments. I did ten in fourteen days, firebombing the bone spots where cancerous cells were taking root, and finished last Friday! Like Reese said to Ripley in Aliens: "nuke 'em from orbit, it's the only way to be sure." Yup.
My doctors told me my cancer scores 8 of 10 on an aggressiveness scale. Very ambitious, my mutinous prostate is.
I score 11 out of 10 on a fighting back scale, and 20 out of 10 on a go screw yourself scale. I am Spartacus. ;)
In one week I turn 58. Under the circumstances, I think I'm doing rather well. I gain a bit more strength each day, on the long road ahead. In addition to the radiation, I am into month two of Androgen Deprivation Therapy. And the fight goes on.
You hear a lot about Cancer Victims, Cancer Survivors... that's fine. I am a Cancer Warrior. I will fight this to my last breath. And I will live.
I am doing this GoFundMe to try to raise some basic operational funding, since the verdict on my application in the grand labrynthine maze of SSI SSDI Medicare Medicaid etc etc is months in the offing and I haven't worked since the beginning of May... and the employer in my day job as a medical and legal courier bravely responded to my condition by firing me (nice guy, Carl the owner is. A true prince.)
So essentially, I am running on economic fumes.
Specific goals of this fundraiser are:
1) To aid in my increased mobility: I have a walker (even the good ones suck), a HuGo Rollater (which is awesome, albeit fatiguing), and my trusty old Camry (which is a must.) I am seeking to get a Pride GoGo mobility scooter as an interim tool -- it runs on a battery, breaks down into five pieces, and will stow in my car. They cost about $900-1000.
2) To offset costs such as airfare for the trips my wife Tess has to make between her home in Winnipeg, Canada, and my current abode in Virginia Beach, VA. Even finding the cheapest fares, these average @$500US roundtrip, and these will spike if I have to undergo the other big C -- chemo -- in which case, she will be taking a medical leave of absence to help me through the process.
3) To pay for Rx meds prescribed for my treatment and recovery.
4) To cover basic costs like keeping my cellphone on, as it is my digital lifeline.
Much as I would prefer to quietly retreat to my dignified pile of cash to cover these expenses, I am woefully short of what is needed. So I'm calling on friends, fans, and strangers alike: if you can help, I will be deeply appreciative.
facebook: The ART of NOT Dying: Tales of Recovery on the Resurrection Road.
Been a while since my last update, here's the latest!
The fight goes on, and so far, so good -- my PSAs are down to below detectable and remain there, management of the pain and fatigue are ongoing, my onc doc wants to put me in a clinical trial of an FDA-approved series of radiological injections, but Tess and I are both wary of it -- it's supposed to go right into the bones and fight any cancer cells in there, but in my particular case, it may not do anything to help and may cause some harm. I have a new bone scan coming up, which will yield more up to date info, so stay tuned...
In other news: a few weeks ago I broke a tooth, #29 pre-molar, it just kinda of disintegrated. Mercifully I had no pain from it, but the entire tooth was sheared off at the gumline, so it had to be dealt with. My health care would cover extractions, so yay... but noooooo, because the oral surgeon informed me that, because I am taking Zometa, I run a heightened risk of developing osteonecrosis of the jaw from any invasive dental work. I don't even need to google that to know how bad that is. And if I DID happen to get osteonecrosis, trying to treat that would not be covered.
This left me with the choice of A) getting a root canal and crown, which is not covered and prohibitively expensive for me, or B) getting the root canal and capping the tooth off at the gumline -- also not covered and less heinously expensive, but expensive just the same, or C) do nothing and hope for the best.
I chose B. It went well.
In other news, there are fabulous new trade paperback editions of my books from Crossroad Press -- from old school Skipp & Spector titles like THE LIGHT AT THE END, THE CLEANUP, THE SCREAM, DEAD LINES, and ANIMALS, to the solo Spector titles A QUESTION OF WILL and UNDERGROUND... and TURNAROUND is coming soon, probably in December!
On my 60th birthday back in July I also released my second album in the ART OF NOT DYING cycle, called OUTPOSTS, and I've just wrapped tracks for album number three, KICKING CANS, which will be coming out in early 2019!
I am also wrapping my upcoming anthology, FREEDOM OF SCREECH, which features kickass stories from writers like Elizabeth Massie, Chet Williamson, Matt Hayward, Jessica McHugh, Tom Monteleone, Norman Spinrad, Jack Ketchum, Richard Christian Matheson, and more! That is slated for a 2019 release as well!
So I've got spanky new editions of books and two albums up and out there (on amazon and elsewhere), a new antho coming, and courtesy of my busted tooth, a spanky new big-ass dental bill to pay!
So support the arts, and help the artist! Every little bit is deeply appreciated!
It's been a while since I last posted an update, a lot has happened -- the good, the not so great, the rich tapestry of life.
On the good side -- back in June I took part in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, as a two year survivor (!) and a part of Team Addis -- it's a great event and we raised over $10,000, woo hoo! I also drew the team logo for this year's theme, When You Wish Upon A Cure. A fine time was had by all.
In July I celebrated my 60th birthday by releasing my second album, CRAIG SPECTOR: OUTPOSTS, which is a thematic continuation of 2017's RESURRECTION ROAD. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, and am already three songs into the *next* album, KICKING CANS, which is slated for a summer 2019 release (it's these little bits of optimism on my part that help keep the wheels turning.) You can hear more at www.craigspectormusic.com or on my reverbnation.com page, but both albums are out on CD and digital download and available from amazon, iTunes, CDBaby.com, Spotify, and pretty much worldwide distribution wherever fine digital is sold!
On the publishing front, my freedom of speech-themed dark fiction anthology, FREEDOM OF SCREECH, is nearly complete and will wrap in October, and has wonderful stories by writers such as Norman Spinrad, Elizabeth Massie, Richard Christian Matheson, Jessica McHugh, Tom Monteleone, Matt Hayward, Jenny Orosel, Chet Williamson, Trish Wilson, and more! The antho is slated to come out sometime in 2019 from my favorite indie publisher, Crossroad Press, so stay tuned for that!
There are also fantastic new trade paperback editions of my books coming out, also from Crossroad Press -- so far we've released A QUESTION OF WILL and UNDERGROUND, and also THE LIGHT AT THE END, THE CLEANUP, and I'm currently working on the proofs for THE SCREAM and other Skipp & Spector titles... these are beautiful editions and I'm thrilled to have them out there.
On the not so great front -- my ongoing treatments are doing well according to all my docs, but my blood glucose has been running high, and at my last trip to my PCP they wanted a blood test... which is no big deal, as I routinely give to vampire happy hour in blood work pretty much monthly from urology, oncology, etc. Except this time, the test comes back and they say congratulations, you have Diabetes! :O
I'm a bit gobsmacked by this, and Tess and I are also a little skeptical, since I didn't do any fasting or pre-test prep, and I've had blood tests hot on the heels of a large coffee and a cinnamon roll, so I think I want a second opinion. But the idea of stacking another serious disease on top of my ongoing stage four metastatic funfest does not thrill me much.
Speaking of not being thrilled, my September call-in to Social Security resulted in me losing my small but mission critical monthly SSI payments; I found out I could take a reduced early pension from the Writers Guild, so I did, while also choosing the plan which afforded something for Tess in the event that something happens to me, which reduced it even further. But that was enough for SSI to decide I wasn't destitute enough, and presto! A nice big wet hole in my monthly income.
But so it goes, the rich tapestry of life and all. I've got new editions of books for sale and two albums of original music out there; I also invite everyone who partakes to write reader or listener reviews and post them to amazon, iTunes, and CDBaby.com, to help spread the word. And of course, if anyone cares to contribute here, it is deeply appreciated, and thanks as always for your friendship, care, and concern.
I've listened to Paul Shugrue's Out Of The Box ever since I came back to the beach -- every weekday night a great eclectic mix of indie artists and music you just won't hear on the regular radio. I have wanted to be on his show for years.
So with RESURRECTION ROAD, I started emailing him: select tracks, and my story. In my travels in 2017 I dropped off a CD at the front desk of WHRO; when that somehow never made it to his desk he asked me to send him another, so I did that, too. Every so often I'd hit him up again -- a new song from my upcoming album, OUTPOSTS, or hitting number 10 or Number 2 or Number 1 on the reverbnation local indie charts. I always kept it short 'n' sweet and polite; I figured, I'd keep emailing him until he either a) responded, or b) sent me a message asking me not to email him anymore.
Finally with Etherium Delirium, he came back. He liked it, go figure; it was my first song ever experimenting with loops, constructed in the dead of one middle insomnia-drenched night. It sounded quite unlike anything else I've ever done... hell, in some ways it sounds quite unlike anything else I've ever heard. But he liked it and wanted it on the show.
Ta da. Then I didn't hear from him for weeks, until last night when I get back from a dinner out, and see an email from him that says he was playing it on last night's show. I called Tess and we checked the WHRO website -- I missed hearing it live by about twenty minutes!
Okay, so no Tom Hanks That Thing You Do run down the street, but pretty cool, just the same!
And hey, it's the digital age, show's in the streaming archives now, it'll be there forever. I sent him a thank you email.
It feels good, on this the second anniversary of my metastatic stage four diagnosis, and about six weeks before I turn 60.
Freakin' 60?? Yikes. Go figure.
There's a lesson in there somewhere, I think. And bonus: I'm Out Of The Box alumnus now -- so when my next album comes out, I'll hit him up again! Muahahahaha.
So it was two years ago that my journey down my resurrection road began? Wow. Two years ago today I woke up, stood up, and fell over -- my legs had stopped "legging", I could feel them but they didn't work anymore.
Turns out that pinched nerve in my back was a tumor on the T7 vertebrae of my spine that had bored all the way through the bone to wrap itself around the chewy nerve bundle that is my spinal cord, and it had started squeezing it. When it hit 50% my nervous system short circuited, and boom, I went down. I couldn't stand, nor walk, nor crawl. I grabbed my phone, dialed 911, and waited for the ambulance.
And that's how I found out I have stage four prostate cancer, metastisized to my bones.
A lot of changes in two years: I can walk again, though not very far or for very long. I don't need my cane anymore, but I keep it around just in case. It's been a long strange road, but bit by bit, I get a little
stronger every day.
My treatments are ongoing, and going well under the circumstances -- the pain is ceaseless but the pain is managed, as is the fatigue; we put out the dumpster fire in my errant prostate, and thru radiation, chemo, and sundry other treatments, we have arrested the little evangelical cells trying to go condo throughout my skeletal system. I take meds every day, get a needle in my gut once a month that make me sick for a few days, and every three months I get infusions that make me sick, too. I've been stuck so much I'm like a vampire happy hour. I've become somewhat a connoiseur of good sharps technique.
But whatever: just the cost of doing business. I have good days and not so good ones, but I have a great medical team -- Drs. Boggs, Kelly, Fleming, and Lappinen, and all the other fine folks in the Sentara medical system. We got this.
There will be no remission for me, no more cancer free days, ever. I will dance with this devil 'til the end of my days. Ah well.
So be it. I have family, friends, a wife I adore, and even a crazy little rescue pup who came along at the same time. It all happened so fast, I didn't even have time to be scared: I was just dropped headlong into the fight of my life, for my life, for the rest of my life. But as Vonnegut once wrote: so it goes.
As a lyric I'm currently writing goes: I ain't brave and I ain't shrewd, just a stubborn motherf*cker with an attitude. And I fight on.
I am Spartacus. Boo ya babeez.
I have an extra mobility scooter that you might be interested in. I comes apart also. I'm going to have my husband check it out to make sure everyting is okay. It has been sitting for a few years. I don't use it anymore and if we can arrange to get it to you , it's yours. I'm on facebook. Contact me there.
I'll share this. I appreciate the way you're facing this, and I'm so sorry it's happening. I am leaving a comment to wonder if you could reach out to your/your wifes preferred airline, and find out if there's any way that people could donate sky miles or something, in lieu of cash (if they're unable to cash). Best of luck to you.
I don't know why - just call me crazy - but the 4 a.m. surgery prep pic strikes me as an image that would easily fit into the tapestry of one of my favorite album covers...Harry Chapin's SHORT STORIES. If you've ever seen it before, you'll know why I said that... Hope everything is still going good, relatively speaking.
You inspire me. Thanks for the powerful and important words, Craig!
I'm so so happy to read this new good news!!! The Unclenching (which should be the title of your next novel) has to be an amazing feeling...and may it be a long, long time before the PSAs rise again! Love the photos of you guys...I've stood beside the base of ole Neptune many times and thought of the sea and life and mysteries. Love to you and Tes!
Way to go, Spartacus! I doubt you could ask for better holiday news than that. Congrats...Now you guys should find a great Thanksgiving dinner you can dive into...
Your March 1st update is wonderful news. Keep up the fight. It seems Cancer is afraid of you, Craig! ♥
That's great news Craig! I'm glad the treatments are working!
I hit post and cut off the last "s" of Tess' name. Oops....
You know I tried Go fund Me to help keep my Dad with Alzheimers out of a nursing home and raised barely 600.00. I am now facing incarceration because of unpaid taxes for the the thousands of dollars put out for my Dad. Is there any soul in the medical "system" here? If anyone reads this please know that there are good people who need help, and if you can afford to give any money at all, please do so. Craig is an amazing soul- Let's help out as much as we can- That is why we are here, to help one another.
Hi Marina -- that's a fantastic idea! We usually fly United or Delta, but mostly United... the trip is from Winnipeg, MB (YWG) to Norfolk VA (ORF), usually stops in Minneapolis or Chicago, sometimes pings to Detroit or even Atlanta (odd, but it's a hub!) We have a United Miles account... :)