The first snow finally fell here today, weightlessly drifting in the middle of the street and completely failing to stick to anything. But even this failure is at least announcing that winter is here, driving the last of the warm temperatures safely off until next spring. I've been longing for those first little flakes for a few weeks now, patiently checking the weather models and hoping that this silly indian summer would finally give up the ghost. Today is that day, at last.

Winter is the only season that I am truly happy with. Bulky sweaters and coats will cover up perceived physical defects. The weather will make me feel like I am truly alive and outside, a shell of ice and slush to navigate. A lap full of crochet will no longer have an oppressive feeling to it, instead replaced with a warm glow. The electric kettle will once again be put to full use, creating hot beverages as quickly as I can consume them. I have waited all spring and summer for the first snow to come, and peeked out my window every morning in the fall hoping to spot some little patch of frost or ice. The last few days have been taunting me, holding out the possibility of coming snow only to back up it's arrival with every check of the weather map.

Right now, I am sitting here and looking out the window at the occasional few snowflakes that are falling and feeling happy. Finally, back to the cold that reaches out to grab me the second I walk out the door. Finally, slush and ice to turn the regular terrain into something more interesting. Finally, a squall while I am in the car, to remind me of the thrill of driving. Finally, that feeling that washes over me when I look down the front walk and see the sun reflect off of a land covered in a white blanket.

Finally. Welcome home.

So lately I just seem to wake up crying.

It happened a few days ago, and again this morning, after one bout of being up. I managed fall asleep a second time, which doesn't always work, but then had an extremely odd dream.

I'm really grieving. This last round of no cancer/cancer feels like whiplash, and also has given me a real emotional smackdown. We had ten days. Ten days where we were told, and we got to hope, that I was be cancer free (or at least between treatments, and No Evidence of Disease). Neither wertperch nor I quite believed it. Then brain metastasis number two popped up.

And I wonder. Is this the new pattern? After the first round of breast cancer, and all the nasty treatment, I went on tamoxifen, and went three years almost to the day before a rediagnosis. That bumped me up to Stage 4, and metastatic breast cancer. Meaning we can treat it, but the odds of it going away all the way are slim.

I did chemotherapy again, and went another 9 months, and then the third round - and the cancer had travelled from chest, breast and lymph system over the blood brain barrier, and we faced up to brain mets and gamma knife surgery. I also repeated chemo for the third time, to treat cancerous lymph nodes in my shoulder, chest and along the trachea.

Since that surgery and chemo, chest appears to be stable, but the second bratty little brain squid reared it's little pointy head - approximately eight months after the first. HOWEVER - it appears to have popped up visibly on the MRIs in the space of about 6-8 weeks. Slowly, creepingy, it speeds up. It sneaks in, and takes over. Sooner or later, I stop hoping for a break, and start imagining continuous chemotherapy, more rounds of gamma knife, being on the steroid for the rest of my life...

Dearly beloved, I'm TIRED. And grieving. I'm grieving for my family, who never get to have NORMAL. They have me wired on steroids and irritable, exhausted from treatments and too many doctor's appointments, worrying about money all the time...

Denial, grief, anger, bargaining, acceptance. It's not once, but over and over that you recycle these emotions. I feel as though all my fuses are blown. The only two that are operative right now are grief and anger. I cry in the car. I cry in the shower. I cry over silly dramas that people create around me, and hurt feelings, and feeling misunderstood.

And I cry about letting go.

I don't think I get to see Tess dance the Nutcracker 10 years from now.

Most of the time, I am an optimist, a fighter, a person who is taking this on as a chronic disease. Who will handle the treatments they throw at me, try new stuff, do clinical trials, inject hamster proteins into my veins to fight this disease. But at best it's a stalemate. I no longer believe I can win.

And at what point is enough enough? Do I say, I can't take this any more, please let me stop? No more treatment. No more radiation, no more chemo. Now I just get to be comfortable, and enjoy the time I have left. It's not now. It's probably not soon. But it's coming.

I see the question that no one ever asks in their eyes. They ask about the prognosis, the treatment, the timing. What they really want to ask is, How soon are you going to die? Do you know? But no one asks, it's way too socially incorrect.

No, I don't. I know the stats. I know the pattern. Nobody knows when they are going to die, your doctors don't know when they are going to die. But the part I know that most people don't, is that with metastatic breast cancer, there's a choice. Most women do not exhaust all the options they have for treatment. With ovarian cancer, if it comes back, it's usually as refractory disease - in english that's cancer that does not respond to most or any chemotherapy. Breast cancer has dozens, and it is generally considered "responsive". But women...almost always, just run out of steam. Choose to stop treatment. And having seen two people through it, I know what happens next.

So it's possible that I have a much clearer idea of when and how I might die than most people. But I would have to make a choice. And that choice is affected by the people around me, who love me, who have strong feelings about the choices they want me to make, and the ones they don't.

And it is making me cry.

I cry daily right now too.

Today In...

Music

I heard this song by Blind Guardian. I couldn't make it through the whole thing really, but there was this vocal effect that made it sound like a huge choir. I've heard something like that before, and I think they were all a single vocalist, on maybe three or four different tracks, which were then all doubled and reverbed and whatever else. It's a cool technique. But the actual vocals kind of sucked. The guy could sing alright, sure, but as a matter of taste, the vocals sucked. And when I say "a matter of taste", I don't mean this is subjective. I mean if you have taste, then you can not unironically enjoy those vocals. But it gave me an idea, an idea that may have been done already and if so I will scream my agony to the heavens that my ears have not been graced by it already. For this idea, I recommend you take off your pants and any undergarments you may be wearing, and gather up a lot of towels, preferably old ones that you don't really care for. My words will wait for you. I'm even going to break the paragraph.


Okay, here it is. Death growl choir. There would be the rhythmic bass grunts, probably center-panned, and the higher raspy bellows and screeches setting the atmosphere, towering above. There may even be mids. It would be a massive, Earth-shaking, ear-splitting, pants-shitting DEMONIC SYMPHONY!!

That's really all there is to say on the matter. If you need more explanation, you need a transplanted imagination.

Delusions

Sometimes I imagine lengthy conversations in my head conducted as interviews, where I am almost always the interviewee. Or sometimes I imagine that I'm talking to my hero of the month, who is currently Henry Rollins. I think before it was J Mascis. (I never do this with Kurt Cobain, ever. In my wildest delusions I'm still not worthy.) I read once that you should determine your audience, and that your audience is really always a few people in your head, like heroes, failed girlfriends, dopplegangers... I rarely actually talk to myself in my head, though. But I wrote that down every time I tried to figure that out. There would be two or three girls I liked that I'd do the fancy poetic prose toward sometimes, and heroes/father figures that I'd direct either social commentary or music talk toward, and finally me, for when I realized absolutely no one else had any motivation to read this shit.

Sometimes I like to imagine what I will do when I am King. I always skip the highly improbable bloody coup that would overthrow representative democracy for monarchy somehow. I'm just magically the King. There was some really good stuff I came up with once, but I don't remember it. Damn. I figured that if I were President I would declare Free Ice Cream and Hookers day, and in the ensuing chaos I would plan some...thing. I guess I thought I'd be the mayor and plan my meteoric rise to power while the Columbian ho cartels and Baskin Robbins owners were trying to beat away crazed men, children, and possibly women.

And it's not really a delusion but I seem to see shit more and more often. Just out of the corner of my eye I see something crawl. I don't even do anything to bring that on anymore, and I only ever did once or twice, so what the fuck?

Art Farts

I think I have improved at portraiture. I successfully copied a Sad Keanu, except he doesn't look quite as sad. Just maybe slightly disappointed and maybe even a little angry. Rather than looking down, he's spacing out in the distance a tad. Overall, I consider it a success. I also made a Sam Elliot from a Big Lebowski still. I do not like the way he stares at me.

I got some Sumi-e stuff coming in the mail. Also, there was a Lightning Deal on Manga Studio Some Number for twelve bucks, so I got that, too. Yep.

Shirked Responsibilities

I have pawned off some of my hardest coursework, and now must only finish nine or ten projects. They mostly involve writing. They should be easy. After that, I will have no real responsibilities. I will have to invent things to procrastinate from and stop giving a fuck about, and maybe pawn off on other people. I'll make a game of it, maybe. 50 points for getting an arbitrary deadline extended, 100 points for playing video games up to the last minute anyway, 200 points for doing something you actually hate more.

Oh yeah, one day I have to go to the post office and get a certified envelope. I'm sick of not hearing back promptly about pretty much the most important shit in my life.

Glitch

I started glitching things a week or two ago, mainly images. Then I thought it was just like Christmas morning. It's like hacking without having to know what you're doing. And also maybe you get paid for it. I got bored with bitmaps fairly quickly. The coolest effect I found was opening one in Audacity and using equalization. I moved on to JPEGs then. You can only really glitch those with a hex editor and with the format description in front of you. Or, just search for FF (after the initial header). It will be followed by a one-byte marker and two bytes indicating the length of information that follows. So one thing to do is just change the number in those two bytes. Otherwise, skip ahead a bit and cut and paste some data. With Baseline JPEGs, it makes little multi-colored blocks. Part of the image might be shifted, too. You can open the original and the glitched with a program like Amamaker to make an interleaved 3D image, and then glitch that, and repeat the process. I've played with GIF and PSD a bit, too. I've been trying to advance through all of Rosa Menkman's Vernacular of File Formats, but it's tough to glitch a lot of things that far.

I also started importing files in Audacity just to find samples. Zip files sound pretty cool. A mostly empty MP3 had some cool noisy bass sounds, but a regular sound-heavy MP3 is just noise.

Video Games

Endeavor was pretty nice. It's an art/exploration game along the lines of many that have come to Newgrounds lately, including Loved, Redder, Level Up, Babies Dream of Dead Worlds and William and Sly, to name a suprising few. In almost all of these you explore a world and collect things, except in Loved, where you just do what the weird dominatrix voice tells you. Most of them even use gems. And this is only a subset of the whole art game genre, that also includes I Fell In Love With the Majesty of Colors, I Wish I Were the Moon, Apples in the Tree, Air Pressure, and arguably Tower of Heaven.

Anyway, Endeavor does have nice music and writing, even if it is pretty obvious that the deity will be evil. There are three different endings, and all of them can be completed together in around three hours. The game never gets old, even when parts of it are tricky and take a bit of repetition (the underground maze), and I think it was an enjoyable diversion. It isn't among my favorites, but it is at the higher standard of quality I've come to expect from Newgrounds, and have lately lamented. I'm trying to figure out why it isn't just that little bit better, and I think it's the graphics. Nearly all of the games listed above have nice graphics (exception maybe of Loved and Level Up). With William and Sly, a few things were incongruous, but overall it worked and worked well. The soundtrack tipped the balance in its favor, along with the fluid, dreamy gameplay. Redder was actually enjoyable to look at. Babies Dream... really excelled in its writing. Games like Aether had some combination of great graphics and writing. Apples in the Tree was just all kinds of awesome, between the vaguely gothy graphics, Megadeth
and Voltaire references, and unique elements (you can go to sleep and play mini-games in her dreams!) I guess the mechanics of Endeavor were pretty good, though, and the level designs were pretty great. Just not that unique.

Oh yeah, Undead End Hardcore was pretty sweet. Perfectly executed old-school graphics, design, and everything. It did have a few bugs, but they were minor. Pretty challenging, and pretty awesome, hard to do justice with words. It's like a 16-bit era arcade game, basically.

Sleep

Ha, wow, man. I slept my ass off! Doesn't look like I missed much, but still. I'll probably be up 'til six or seven tomorrow morning. Hard to remember my dreams now. My dog was being nicer. I was visiting people at some kind of orphanage run entirely by orphans. They needed me to have a number of things that would impress them in order to be let in. This is what I was told by two of the older kids that I found and accompanied as a guest. And I made it in fine with just the dog, but I wandered around wondering what else I had or could do. I remembered the few talents I had late in the dream, fading in and out of waking. I swear there must have been more to that. My dreams are hardly ever that tame.

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