April 9, 2022

Life After Cancer

by Jason Alan

It’s a Saturday morning here in Erie, Pa and I’m waiting for tonight’s show.  I’m working solo at  at “Kellars Magic and Comedy Club” while Stacy is working back home.   I came into the city thinking “what can I get myself into” and went to bed at 4. am after finishing  season one of Batman The Animated Series. I hope the hotel doesn’t kick me out.   I started looking through our website and realized that I wrote my last blog on September 7th.  Maybe it’s time for an update.

If I’m being honest... I couldn’t do it!  Life after cancer hasn't been great.  My last entry took place when I was 3 weeks into treatment.   I talked then about how I was able to handle the physical pain.  Things were going “okay”.  Week 4 is where things changed. I’m going to make the best attempt I can and writing this without having a break down.  Here we go… 

The weeks leading up to treatment my doctors recommended that I eat 3,000 calories a day.  By adding weight, they were hoping to keep me off a feeding tube.  By week 6, I was eating 200-300 calories a day.  I couldn’t eat anything solid, anything spicy, anything with texture.  100% of my calories were coming from BOOST drinks.  It was horrible…  

I’ve always had a dark sense of humor. Being the youngest child in a family gives you the ability to tune things out and just go numb.  I tried to apply this skill during my treatment.  No luck… 

The first few weeks of treatment I would walk with the Radiology Techs telling jokes, talking about the weather, and even doing a few magic tricks here and there.  From week 4 on all of that stopped.  I went from  “why did the chicken cross the road” to “ is it okay if I sit down”?   I could barely lift my head let alone tell a joke.  Things were getting worse…  

I think my second round of chemo is what really knocked me out.  I twice and the first round was horrible.   Stacy and I will be married 10 years this June.  I was hoping that she would be helping me go to the bathroom somewhere around 80 years old not 37.  You learn a lot about each other during treatment.  

I remember finishing treatment thinking “this hell is finally over”.   It was to an extent.  Even though the drives to Cleveland would stop things would get much much worse.  I had basically done a 6-week fast and now had to teach myself how to eat again.  Before treatment, I never had an issue finishing anything put in front of me. Even to this day, Chicken Noodle Soup is is to spicy to eat.     

When I initially started writing this blog my intentions were to write every other day.  I saw myself sitting up in bed and saying “screw you cancer” while typing away.  I don't want to act like not not writing was some moral choice by saying "screw the matrix I'm going to live in the moment".   Nope… I couldn’t physically do it. I couldn’t’ type, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t’ read.  I could barely watch TV… things weren’t great.    

If I learned anything from having cancer it would be this.  I don’t want to have fucking cancer again.  Seems simple… but it’s the truth. I didn’t expect it, I didn’t handle it well, and I’m still pissed that it happened to me.  But I went through it, and I can’t change that.     

When I first saw the lump on my neck I didn't know what to do.  I spent the mornings trying to convince myself in the mirror that it wasn't happening.  I never imagined how long it would take to figure out what was going on.  That we would have to wait for weeks before hearing anything.    I never imagined that I would have to sit at the dinner table and write out passwords for Stacy just in case I didn’t make it. These are the things nobody can prepare you for.  

But… a lot of good came out of it.  I initially struggled with whether I would wirte about my situation or not.  I’m glad I did.   It’s amazing who reaches out to you when they realize you are sick. I heard from people who I've  lost contact with over the years. People who I thought had forgot about me.  It's comforting realizing they didn't. It’s a beautiful thing. Cousins become brothers and parents do what they do best, they take care of you.  I had no choice but to lean on these people and I’m glad I did.  I owe everything to every one of those individuals.    

This will probably be the last time I write about my cancer.  It’s not that I’m ashamed of it or that I'm trying to forget about happened.  I am a magician.  My job is to entertain and that's what I want to do.  I plan on writing more about our  travels and performances instead. This doesn't mean I'm never speaking of it again.  Rather I've found a different approach.  

I  went back on stage in December, and Stacy had encouraged me to talk about what was happening.  We had performances lined up and I wanted to do them.  Even though  my hands weren’t working right.  I had lost the muscle memory in my hands that is required to do sleight of hand.  15 years of magic practice was gone and to add insult to injury my hands were tingling.  The wonderful side effects of Chemo.   

The first time I talked about it, I had numerous people come up to me and tell me similar stories. It’s as if we were both in a club that neither of us wanted to be in. We had some sort of respect and agreement between the two of us.  It's hard to realize but you never know what someone else is going through.   This is the thing you learned to remember.  

If I were to give advice to someone who is just starting their journey it would be this.  One day at a time. You will hear good and bad stories from people who have gone through it too but… you are a different person.  One day at a time.  

Okay… onto season 2 of Batman 

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