The Most Important Tuesday of My Life…

by Brandon

Yep. 2014 was a helluva year.

In February of last year, I was diagnosed with cancer. In April, I had to undergo an emergency surgery, which saved my life but (ironically) also almost killed me. I was basically in a coma for a week. The surgery absolutely saved my life, but the weakened state of my body almost didn’t recover. For around a week, I was kept alive by a ventilator and I was unable to regain consciousness.

The doctors were pretty much certain I was going to die. The primary surgeon (a great man) recently told me that – back when I was unconscious – he didn’t expect me to make it through the first night.  I was very, very close to dead, and the only thing keeping me breathing was a machine.

But a week later – on my birthday – I woke up. Eventually, I’ll tell you all about my time in the coma, but that’s a story for another day.

I woke up on my birthday, but I was still in rough shape. I could barely talk, I couldn’t walk at all, and I had a bag on my side that was connected to my small intestine. I was also delirious to the point of constant hallucinations.

It wasn’t fun.

I was eventually able to walk again (with a walker) and after some physical therapy, I was released from the hospital.

Once home, my chemo and radiation began. At first, the doctors weren’t sure I could handle the chemo. The considered refusing the treatment because I was in such bad shape. They were afraid my body couldn’t take the treatments. They were afraid the chemo and radiation would kill me.

They ultimately decided to take a chance on me, and – according to my doctor – it paid off.

I went through some rough chemo and radiation through the spring and summer, then I had a second round of chemo through the fall and winter.

Through it all, I never lost sight of the ultimate goal: Getting healthy enough for the second surgery.

I learned to walk without a walker or a cane, and amazingly, I somehow managed to gain about 40 lbs.

In my most recent meeting with my oncologist (also a great man), he said, “I’m glad we took a chance on you.”

Me too, Doc. Me too.

So yeah… 2014 was a helluva year.

I faced “certain death” twice. That’s terrifying and humbling. Twice, the doctors didn’t think I would live, and both times I managed to stick around. Facing death in that way certainly makes you respect just how fragile life is. It also makes you realize just how precious life is.

Really, 2014 was the year I learned to truly respect life. It’s the year that forced me to see the beauty of this world with fresh eyes. It was a hard year, but I’m thankful for the personal growth 2014 brought me.

As strange as it sounds, I didn’t know how much I wanted to live until I faced death.

So now that 2014 is over, it’s time to make sure 2015 is better.

And on that note, the surgery that will save my life has finally arrived.

On Tuesday (February 24), I’ll be undergoing an 8 to 10 hour surgery that will hopefully make me cancer-free, once and for all.

It’s a pretty big surgery. They’re more or less gutting me. They’re taking out my colon, my bladder, and my prostate. After it’s all over, I’ll have two bags attached to my sides, but hey… that’s a small price to pay for life.

Speaking of life, it will be different after the surgery.  My wife and I are definitely going to have to adjust to a “new normal”…

And adjust, we will. Because that’s what humans do.

We adjust. We adapt.

It’s why we’re the dominate species on this planet.

So yeah… I know I’m going to get through this surgery just fine.

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

Hell, I’m terrified.

But courage isn’t a lack of fear. Courage is pushing forward, despite the fear.

And that’s precisely what my family and I are doing. We’re pushing through the fear, because we have no other choice.

Of course we’re afraid. But we’re stubbornly holding on to the belief that this surgery will cure me of cancer and I’ll eventually be fine. I’ll be different, sure… but I’ll be fine.

My family and I have faith, but it’s not a blind faith. We have every reason to believe this surgery will be a success. We’ve suffered together, just to make sure I’m ready for it.

The chemo and radiation beat the hell out of me. It really did.

The radiation burned me from the outside in and the chemo burned me from the inside out.

The skin on my hands got so dry that my knuckles just split open. My hands often looked like I regularly got into fist-fights with brick walls.

My feet constantly tingled to the point that walking was very… uncomfortable.

I had to wear Depends undergarments because I was leaking from pretty much every orifice. Sorry to be so gross, but I promised to take you with me on this journey… so you asked for it.

Even with the powerful pain meds, my entire body hurt so badly that sometimes all I could do was curl up and cry for days at a time.

And then there was the “chemo brain.” My mind was pretty much mush to the point that writing was impossible. Some days, my wife had to give me my pills because I couldn’t even remember which pills to take.

And speaking of pills…

I rarely use the word “hate.” I save my hate for the really bad stuff.

That said, I have always hated pills.

I’ve seen some beautiful people die because they overdosed on perfectly legal drugs prescribed by their doctors. These people weren’t “junkies.” They were good people who were in a lot of pain and needed the meds to help manage that pain.

That’s the thing with pills… they can help you with your pain, but if you forget you’ve already taken them (which is easy to do) and end up taking too many… you pay for that one mistake with your life.

Pills can help us, but they’re also deadly little monsters that can ruin lives and devastate families.

Before this cancer, I avoided pills of all kinds. If I had a headache, I refused to take a Tylenol, because I preferred the headache to having a pill in my body.

After the cancer, though, the pain was so unimaginably bad, I had no choice but to get over my hatred of pills. Because of the cancer, I take about six different types of pills every day, some of which I have to take multiple times a day. On my worst days, I’ve had to take over 20 pills in a single day.

So yeah… the chemo and radiation was a rough ride. Probably the roughest time of my entire life

But it was worth it.

Because of the chemo and radiation, I’m now healthy enough to undergo this upcoming surgery. Like I mentioned earlier, through it all, I’ve managed to gain about 40 lbs. This is largely due to my wife’s perseverance (she basically force-fed me on my worst days). It’s also due to my mother’s wonderful cooking. When she and my Dad came in from Texas, she pretty much lived in my kitchen.

Also because of the chemo and radiation, my pain is now a hundred times more tolerable. After a year of treatment, the tumor has shrunk to the point that on some days, my pain is very, very low. Now, I can get by with fewer and fewer pills… which is a wonderful thing.

I no longer have to wear those damn Depends, and most importantly, now that the treatment is done, I have my mind back.

Chemo and radiation treatment is one of the few times when the journey is shit, but the destination is glorious.

And that brings us to today…

Tomorrow, we’re leaving for northern Virginia. On Monday, I have my consultation with the surgeon and on Tuesday, I have my surgery.

And with a little luck, a lot of faith, and a talented surgeon, on Wednesday, I’ll be cancer free.

Make no mistake, folks, I need your help to survive this.

This is the part where I sound like a crazy man, but I don’t care…

You see, I fully believe that your faith, prayers, and good vibes played an important role in bringing me back after my last surgery.

I’ll talk about it more later (when I write about my near-death experience), but I heard your prayers and well-wishes.

I really did.

Whether it was delivered to me by God or some ethereal tether or just the strength of your collective minds, I have no idea.

But I know I heard you.

On my birthday, hundreds of you sent me prayers and good vibes. I was still unconscious at the time, but yes… I heard you. And I am absolutely certain those prayers and good vibes played a major role in giving the strength to wake up.

At the time, I thought I had imagined them, but later, when I was catching up on Facebook, I saw the hundreds of posts about sending me good vibes and prayers on my birthday… and that’s when I realized I hadn’t imagined them at all. I had heard them.

Again, I’ll go into this in more detail after my surgery, but for now, just believe me when I say I need your support through this. Your positive energy will absolutely reach me and it will absolutely help me pull through this surgery.

So please… whether you believe me or not… do me a huge solid this coming Tuesday and send me as many good vibes as you can. I don’t care if they come in the form of prayers, healing incantations, wizarding spells, or simple well-wishing. If you want me to pull through this, please think of me on Tuesday and please send those positive thoughts my way.

Because they matter. They really, really do.

Guys, thank you for your support through this. From my friends and family (which includes the folks in the writing community) to my fans, your support has meant more to my wife and me than I could ever adequately express.

I love you guys.


So thank you all… for everything.

And look forward to seeing my “I’m cancer-free!” post later in the week. :)

And shortly after that, look forward to seeing the continuation of the Day Soldiers series. There are two more books left to write, so I have to get through this just so I don’t leave you all hanging. :)

Again, thank you.

And again, I love you all.

Take care.


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