Godard Wins

godard wins is a statement of fact and a zine about Godard’s Masculin Feminin. It might contain some of my most beautiful and restrained writing. I think I’m proud of it.

Godard Wins
Zine, color thermal transfer, 40pp


This is a zine in 3 parts: a Travelogue, a Diary and a Dialogue. It tells some secrets and a few lies. It’s from a time when I wasn’t able to articulate myself clearly. I was reaching for something beyond what I could easily say. I needed to get it out, consider it said, and move on. It’s what I tried to do. It might be better look at than to read.

Zine, color thermal transfer, 50pp

In Advance of a Broken Person

Zine I made in 1998, written for the incoming graduate students at Temple University’s Film and Media Arts program. A manifesto but also a love letter. A deployment of the language of fury. At once a kind of hyperbolic understatement and a snapshot of my state of mind as a graduate student.

In Advance of a Broken Person
Zine, color thermal transfer, 8pp

I Weep for Some Part of Every Day

Zine from the CancerGram 18 of 18, in which I depict my death vision.

By the end of radiation, weeping had become a daily event. A deep and abiding sadness and come over me. I felt like I was grieving a lifetime of hopes and dreams and goals.

With friends I wept so deeply, so comprehensively, that it changed things. Close friends became closer. A few distant friends sent me books about death and dying. I received several gift cards. Some people who I thought were friends drifted away. Others tired of my emotionalism or couldn’t handle it. Overall my world got smaller.

At work, my fatigue was obvious and the sudden hot flashes were obvious. I walked out of a work event drenched in sweat, and I knew they noticed. I didn’t know what they thought until I received my first year evaluations. They wanted me to be more energetic, more vocal, more in command. I could see I was disappointing them. Was the cancer the reason? An excuse?

In my last week of radiation, I had a dream. It was a vision. A kind of digital world of blues and browns. It felt like a beach. There were crashing, faceted waves. It fluctuated, roiled, flickered. It was beautiful and strange.

I felt separated from my body. It would stay here, on the big ball of mud and rock spinning and rotating around the massive ball of fire. My energy was everywhere all the time, part of the vast, irregular network that continually causes things to pop into and out of existence.

I had the sense that I would pass on into this energistic plane, myself and not myself, part of everything, everywhere.

Cancer Always Comes Back

Zine from the CancerGram 16 of 18, related to the research I started doing about my specific cancer in the spring of 2017.

I never knew that solid mass cancers are incurable. It was my radiation oncologist who explained this to me. Surgeries can remove discrete cancer tumors, but mine had already spread to the lymph nodes. They couldn’t be cut out. Radiation kills tumors and cells, but some of the cancer cells aren’t in the areas that get irradiated, and others are in places that can’t be sufficiently irradiated. Chemotherapy poisons your body, disrupting the cancer’s reproductive ability. Hormone therapy deprives the cancer cells of their food and fuel. All these methods try to buy you enough time to die of something else before your cancer comes back and kills you.

Friends and acquaintances started to call to offer their bon mots. I’d never been told before that I had a lot to live for, but I quickly got sick of it. When cancer changed my life it also changed my body. It removed from my possible futures many hopes, dreams and goals — things I was living for.

The first information I found on the American Cancer Society website showed the survival rate for stage 4 prostate cancer to be 29%. At first it was a shocking unreality. It was hard for me to imagine dying, or what that would look like, but my chances didn’t look good.

My whole idea of my future changed. My long term goals were wiped off the table. Even if I lived, I knew that some things were over for me. I always figured I’d live about as long as my parents, both of whom were still alive at 76. I thought I was a little bit over half way through an 80 year life.

As the new reality set in, it changed the shape of my life. Instead of being half way through a longer life, I was near the end of a much shorter one. It made sense. There would be no happy ending. I’d lived a life of principle not for a reward, but for the experience.

I Want Out Of This Body

Zine from the CancerGram 15 of 18, concerning my inner life as the radiation treatments progressed through February and March, 2017.

The things I hadn’t accomplished in my life — in love, family, career, service — those goals felt lost. Tired and irradiated, I couldn’t imagine finding love, making a family, building a career or being useful to others. A kind of finality fell over me.

I understood that I might survive, that the treatment would work and maybe I would rebound. Nevertheless, it became clear that my old life, with my old hopes and dreams, was over.

As I considered it, I felt somewhat indifferent to life. I wasn’t filled with any powerful desire to live or to fight, or to do anything in particular. I would write no bucket list. As I gave up, I felt relieved. All the pressures and expectations I’d put on myself, and been driven by, melted away.

This body, that I had always occupied restlessly, with some discontent, was spoiled. As it changed, ached, fattened, cooked and melted, I became less attached to it, less connected. It smelled different, moved more slowly, felt weaker and less capable. I no longer recognized myself. I wanted out.

Hormone Treatments

Zine from the CancerGram 14 of 18, covering my the changes to my body as a result of androgen deprivation therapy, which started in November of 2016 and continues to this day.

Probably the first thing I noticed was the daily weeping. At first I thought I was falling into self pity, but then it occurred to me that it might be the hormones. My body started drying out. My skin was less oily. My elbows and knees got super rough and my skin got flaky. The inside of my nose got really dry, making it feel like I had shards of glass in my nostrils. The headaches were almost daily and always terrible.

One day that winter, after a two day headache, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to take it.

I didn’t sleep well. I was up to pee in the night multiple times, and I couldn’t stay asleep very long. I was exhausted, but couldn’t do more than doze. I slept better around dawn, once the sun started to rise..

I was getting fatter. Strangely, the new fat was on the outside of my body. It was as though my old fat body was being encased in a new layer of exterior fat. The hot and cold flashes were extreme. I was constantly ping-ponging back and forth between burning hot and freezing cold. I started wearing sweats all day to deal with the fluctuations.

I came down with a terrible sweet tooth. While I have always enjoyed a proper dessert, I was never a candy person. Suddenly, I was obsessed with skittles. During radiation, I started eating them in bed. I’d be wiped out, but unable to sleep soundly. I found that the sugar put me to sleep. Could that be real?

Every time I would wake in the night, I’d put a few skittles into my mouth and chew them just enough to flood my mouth with sweetness. As I floated between awareness and dreams, it gave me warm, comforting, almost happy feeling.

My nipples became very tender. Hypersensitive even to soft cotton clothing. I bought vaseline and moisturizers and balms. I was sticking chapstick up my nose, coating my knees and elbows with silicate goo, and generally trying to buffer myself from the daily nuisances of discomfort. I had Advil, Tylenol and Midol on rotation for the variety of aches.

I started to feel that I was sliding away from masculinity. I’d always understood that I wasn’t the manliest, but now I felt untethered. I was drifting into some kind of unknown, the territory of the chemically castrated.

Second Opinion

Zine from the CancerGram 12 of 18, outlining events of December, 2016.

It made sense to get a second opinion. The diagnosis was severe and the proposed treatments would be life-changing. Growing up in Ann Arbor, my family trusts the University of Michigan. We decided that if they came up with the same diagnosis from the tests, we would feel much more comfortable.

Mom and I went to the appointment together. It was rough. They said that I’d get the same level of treatment in Memphis or Ann Arbor. The results were clear. The cancer had spread and treating it asap was necessary.

It was the semester break and deep winter. Back in Ann Arbor and seeing a few old friends made it all feel too heavy. That’s when the weeping started. Most likely due to the hormone treatments, I felt as though I floated on an ocean of emotion. The vast reservoir of tears was just behind my eyes at all times.

Prostate Cancer and Testosterone

Zine from the CancerGram 11 of 18, describing events that happened in November, 2016.

I never knew it before, but some cancers feed on hormones. Breast cancers and prostate cancers are among them. As a result, the treatments involve hormone suppression. The oncologist wanted to start me on androgen deprivation therapy immediately. I researched the list of side effects and it sounded terrible.

Side Effects of Androgen Deprivation Therapy:

The hormone treatment would shrink the tumors in my prostate and lymph nodes, which would be necessary in order to take higher resolution scans to identify exactly which areas needed to receive radiation. I had done some reading about radiation treatments for prostate cancers and how non-invasive they could be. I wanted a treatment that would restore my sex function and make eliminating normal again.

None of the options guaranteed future functioning. The more advanced the cancer is, the more radiation is needed to treat it, the greater chance there is for permanent side effects.

At that point, just before the treatments started, I felt better than I had in years. I was working and enjoying Memphis. As I settled in, I could see myself staying there a long time. I seemed to be a good fit at school and I made a few friends in town. I got a video and a zine into a little art show at a local gallery. I liked my new life.

I considered refusing the cancer treatments. Why should I take a treatment that would cause so many terrible side effects when I felt fine? The answer, of course, is that the cancer would kill me if I didn’t treat it. It might sound crazy to think that I didn’t want the treatment, but part of me didn’t. It was prideful and selfish, but I didn’t want to live on those terms.

It’s peculiar how the cancer doctors go out of their way to be hopeful and convince you that you’re going to be fine. Even when your diagnosis is bleak. Right up until you say you’re considering refusing treatment. Then it gets grim. My radiation oncologist told me the truth about how dumb and painful it would be to let myself die of cancer. It was very sobering.

Walking out of the doctor’s office after the first Lupron shot it dawned on me that I would have no children. I don’t know if the cancer had already destroyed my reproductivity, but the androgen deprivation therapy would certainly affect it, and the coming radiation treatments would mangle any sperm I might produce forever.

It hit me hard. I felt some dreams die. That fantasy of someday meeting a woman and building a partnership that could create and support a family of our own was gone before I realized it.

Do I Deserve It?

Zine from the CancerGram 10 of 18, considering ideas that were on my mind through the second half of 2016.

Is that when the pessimism started? As the cancer situation clarified, it started to make sense. I felt that it explained some things about my life for which I couldn’t otherwise account.

Did I do this to myself? Did some god do this to me? Was this a punishment? Did I deserve it? I could feel the cancer rearranging me, my thinking, shifting my ideas about my life. It wasn’t a totally sudden re-ordering, it was gradual, but pronounced. It was a spiritual experience.

I realized that I was changing in ways that might not be good for my personality. I could feel it making me harder, more cynical, more suspicious. I started to notice things about my body, some shapes and sensations that were new. Was this the cancer? Was it eating me from inside?

I came to understand cancer as a kind of life. The same genetic malleability that allows for human adaptation also allows cancer cells to adapt and thrive in a variety of environments. The thing that was killing me was doing so by living. Cancer is life. This idea gave me some peace and understanding.

How Far Had It Spread

Zine from the CancerGram 9 of 18, describing tests that were done in the fall of 2016.

I stayed in town to have the CT scan, pick up the results a few days later and drove to Memphis. I had a new job and plenty to do. With the tumor gone from my urethra, I could eliminate again with more ease. I felt kind of normal.

I told my family and close friends about my diagnosis, but decided not to mention it to my new employers. I didn’t know how bad it was and I felt fine. I figured that if it started to effect my work, I would tell them and they would understand.

We did consider giving up the job and staying in AZ. I wasn’t ready to do that. I was still chasing the dream of the academic career and the Memphis opportunity represented the culmination of a lot of work. All I wanted to do was to go work my new job. I wanted to teach and make art and mentor students and have a nice life in Memphis, TN. That was it.

I had to wait for doctors appointments for a couple of months so that my new insurance in TN through the job would kick in. I was afraid to use it too soon, since I’d had issues before with insurance companies trying to deny claims made in the first month of coverage. I used the time to get connected with a local oncologist who would take me through the next steps.

When he saw the scans, he was worried. It looked bad. They scheduled a bone biopsy. I definitely didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. I was busy at work and felt more or less ok. It turns out that prostate cancer is generally a slow growing cancer. But when it spreads, it tends to spread to the bone. That’s bad. If it gets in your bones, it’s essentially a death sentence. Also bad: that if you get prostate cancer in your 40’s, it’s generally not the slow-growing old-man type. It’s much more aggressive.

The bone scan showed a spot on a hip bone. They performed the bone biopsy and it turned out negative. Only then did I get the full picture of how devastating a positive test would have been. The higher resolution CT scan showed that the cancer had already gotten into my lymph nodes. Luckily, only to the nodes in my pelvic region.

Officially, it was stage 4.

I Wept Alone In the Car

Zine from the CancerGram 8 of 18, depicting events of my diagnosis date, June 30, 2016.

As I walked out of the medical center I started to weep. It was a hot hot day in Phoenix so I got in the car and ran the AC. I just wept. I thought about how sad it would be to tell my mother. I thought about calling other people, but I knew that I needed to call mom first. I just couldn’t yet. I sobbed over the idea of dying before her.

I needed some time and some lunch. I decided to go for sushi. I had been weeping so I kept my sunglasses on and sat near the window. I ate alone and wrote in my journal. As I found clarity, I looked up the American Cancer Society. I saw they had a helpline.

After lunch I went back to the car and called. They were super nice. I cried and cried. I read them everything on the pathology report and they told me what it meant. It was bad. It didn’t say what stage it was, because staging cancer is about how far it has spread. The details of the report were about how big the tumors were and how dense or well developed the cancer cells had before. It was bad news. Cancer in all three biopsy samples that were each 8/10 gleasons — well developed. They stayed on the phone with me for like an hour and answered all my questions. It made a huge difference.

When I understood it all better and had calmed down a bit, I felt like I could call mom. It was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had. But she loved me through it.

The Tumor Was Removed

Zine from the CancerGram 7 of 18, showing images related to the biopsy and diagnosis from late June, 2016.

It turned out they were able to remove the tumor during the biopsy. They hadn’t called it a tumor until after it was removed. It felt a little shocking to consider it that way, but still no mention of cancer.

I had the catheter again as there was some healing process to undergo. I was getting used to the catheter life, but I was still impressed by the big bag of bloody pee. Then the blood clots started to form. I saw them in the catheter bag, but after that was removed, I was passing them out my penis. They weren’t painful, just shocking. It would feel like I needed to pee but I would only leak. As I relaxed to encourage the flow, one of these big clots would slide out painlessly and expand in the toilet. It blew my mind.

Some weeks later I had an appointment to get the biopsy results. I had just signed a lease on the new place in Memphis and was preparing to start a new semester, new job, new life. It was an exciting time. Maybe that’s why I went into the appointment so blind, so unconcerned.

I remember after being led to the examination room that I was left alone for several minutes. It was only then that I considered the possibility of bad news for the first time. I thought quietly to myself about whether I had cancer. It seemed improbable. I had a secret thought that maybe it would be really bad news and I would die soon. Then I felt ashamed for even entertaining the morbid fantasy.

When the doctor came in with my pathology report and told me I had cancer, I was mostly in shock. He explained that prostate cancer was one of the most survivable and treatable cancers and that I would be fine. I told him I was leaving town in two weeks for a new job. He encouraged me to stay longer to have a few more tests done. He seemed think it was important to know if it had spread.

I didn’t feel any strong emotion. It all felt vaguely unreal. When I walked out of the examination room to make the next appointment, I noticed that none of the nurses would look me in the eye. It was noticeable that everyone kept their gazes down. That’s when I started to feel it.

Then They Found This

Zine from the CancerGram 6 of 18, covering tests in May and June of 2016.

The tests at that point still largely assumed that my problem was a swollen prostate and ED. That’s the profile for a guy with my issues in his early 40’s. When they put the scope down my urethra this time, they found something surprising.

The urologist in AZ didn’t know what it was. He described it as “weird.” He said, “I’ve seen plenty of cancers and they don’t look like this. It’s just weird.” Once they found it, they ran a lot of tests. That there was something in my urethra made sense — no wonder I couldn’t pee.

The doctors decided on a biopsy. They needed to go in and get a sample of this weird thing. It was further determined that I should have both a transurethral and a transrectal biopsy at the same time. That meant putting me under. It would allow them to test different parts of my prostate.

By that time my brother was driving truck for a living and out of town for long stretches. I went to all the doctor’s appointments by myself. For the biopsy I had to ask a friend to give me a ride home. I remember it feeling awkward to explain that I was having a biopsy and telling her it wasn’t a big deal. The reality of it was incongruent. I thought I was just getting my reproductive health sorted out right-quick before I moved to Memphis for a new job.