This… will be a different sort of article than I usually post around this time each month. It’s going to be more of a personal update and a public statement as to why I have not been around the community as much, and why no content was published on the blog in August, despite plans and drafts being in place already. While I did not forsake the entire blog, things have happened that have required me to step away for a while and think of my own well-being. I have already mentioned this to my Patreon supporters, and because of their great support and understanding, I am making this a public post, so that people know what to expect from the blog in the coming months.
It isn’t easy to say nicely, so I’ll just say it: I have contracted cancer.
Now, there’s no need to worry right away, as it’s not a very life-threatening form of cancer, but as a 25-year-old guy with your life still ahead of you, it comes as quite the blow when the doctor tells you this. I was diagnosed on the 29th of July with testicular cancer and was rushed to the OR within 30 hours to make sure that the tumor was removed completely, along with one of my Arkenstones. The operation went well, and I healed in the following 2 weeks to nearly the same condition as I was in before it all started. I had hoped to start work again towards the end of this month and recover slowly both physically and mentally, being able to celebrate a full recovery during Con of the Rings.
Life had different plans though. During analysis of the tumor and my blood samples, markers of another tumor had been found, and a CT scan located a new tumor growing inside one of my lymph nodes. This one was a lot deeper and could not be simply cut out with surgery like the initial tumor. So a track was started for me to undergo one round of chemotherapy with urgency, hopefully being in time to stop the tumor from becoming too active to spread itself as well. This first session of chemo started on August 22nd and lasted 5 days. After 5 days, I was allowed to leave the hospital and recover on my own, which I am doing currently. Luckily the side effects aren’t too brutal aside from low energy, poor concentration, and the occasion nausea. This should all fade with time.
But now comes the real kicker, further blood analysis showed that the tumor was indeed already too active at the start of the first session and that two additional chemotherapies are required in order to ensure the tumor is killed off completely. And because each treatment takes 3 weeks before you can undergo the next one, this puts me out of commission until the end of October. I have to repeat the entire cycle two more times before we can be sure I’m clean again, during which the symptoms will likely get worse before things start to look up again.
Because of this planning, it is not smart for me to go to Con of the Rings this year. Not only because I have no idea in what sort of state I’ll be physically, but also out of safety concerns for the other people I come into contact with. Chemotherapy lingers in the body for a while, and during that time I am not allowed to share a toilet with other people, or else they might be contaminated with it. I really can’t have that on my conscience, and while perhaps a toilet could be reserved in my hotel and at the convention center, it will be a difficult thing to do on an airplane, twice, for 9 hours on end.
Aside from that, I have to understand that I have to take things slow and focus on my own health. A busy schedule in a foreign country with 6 hours of jetlag is not going to be an ideal state to recover in. Even under the best conditions, I prefer to arrive a few days early to adjust to the time and the food. But with me having some appointments in the hospital, I’m really constrained with time and have to be back early enough to start my final treatment.
So yeah, life has been tough recently. This all comes on top of the passing of my father, me having to move to another part of the country, and having to find a new job in the past year. And that’s not even mentioning the little things that aren’t going as they should right now. Despite all of this, I am trying to keep my head up and look ahead at the future positively. There are likely not many long-term problems after the chemo, and once the tumor is gone, I’d have to get really unlucky to get it again. And while I might not be able to produce any Durin’s in the coming years, none were in the planning anyways.
As for the blog, I am going to keep my productivity on it quite low. I might need the distraction of writing an article during the weeks that I have to recover, but that is difficult to quantify in an amount of time per week. It might be more than usual, because I’m off from work during all of this, but my focus won’t be on the blog during that time. Other authors have already mentioned that they wanted to produce some more content, so hopefully, we can fill September and October with their content, and perhaps the occasional article from me.
I am happy to live in the Netherlands during all this since labor laws dictate that I am to be paid my full salary, and hospital bills go straight to the insurance company. So don’t worry about me on that end. Let’s all hope that the side effects of the chemo remain mild and that I can swiftly recover from the second and third treatments, to which I am really not looking forward to. Luckily I now I have a good community to come back to, and I hope to see many of you next year during Lure of Middle Earth in February, or at Con of the Rings 2023, assuming nothing goes wrong…again…for the fourth year in a row…ugghhhhhhhh.
Many thanks to everyone who has been reaching out to me, your words of encouragement have really helped me to get through the entire ordeal so far. I’ll need the support for about another 8 weeks, and then the worst will be behind me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several friends in the medical field to ask questions to, and I’m being taken good care of in the hospital. Still, I like to be open about this entire topic, so feel free to send any questions you may have. If I’ve missed something major, I will update the article a bit.
Q: Will you go bald?
A: No, I have shaved my head, but only to 0.6 cm in length so far. The doctor says that going bald might be more efficient in combatting hair loss, but if it stays under 1 cm, I shouldn’t experience as much pain from the hair growing back. Looks a lot cooler too.
Q: Can I donate to your cause?
A: I appreciate the gesture, but there’s no need for this. Everything is being taken care of and I am financially stable enough to take the hit myself. If you want to support the cause, I would suggest donating to a cancer charity near you, to help those who have it harder than I have.
Q: What are the chances of survival?
A: They’re good, from what I’ve been told. They had hoped to get everything out as soon as possible, but that wasn’t fast enough. Still, since I went to the doctor so fast, there’s little chance of it spreading to other parts of the body and causing critical damage. Standard survivability is 90% for this sort of thing, but considering I’m still young and healthy, I’d put my chances a lot higher.
Q: What was the root cause of this?
A: Unknown, it could just be bad luck. This sort of cancer is hereditary, but as far as I know, I am the first in my family to have it. It’s quite common under young men though, so I could have just gotten it from a random cell mutation in the area. Doctors ensured that it wasn’t dependent on lifestyle or sitting with a laptop in your lap constantly.
Q: How’s your family dealing with this?
A: With everything that’s going on, they’re handling it surprisingly well, but I understand it isn’t easy for them. My brother is now worrying he might be next (the whole hereditary part), and the rest of the family is trying to take care of me, but that’s not easy with me living so far away from them. At least we’ll have plenty of reason to get together for the holidays.