Zines

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
2000

Trilozine

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.

Trilozine
Zine, color thermal transfer, 50pp
1999

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
1998

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 contained cancers, but mine had already spread. Radiation kills tumors and cells, but since 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 of my 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 prostate cancer to be 29%. 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.

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, that means 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 at all 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 to 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 would describe 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. It seemed to explain a lot to me. 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 with the idea that I was just getting my reproductive health sorted out right quick before I moved to Memphis for my new job.