About Christopher’s lost time

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Previous essay: From Berlin to B5, via Portland.

I knew Elana might not have many years left, but we both thought any kind of hospice arrangement was years away and we both had hopes for some degree of recovery, despite her being increasingly shut in and sleeping half the day. Her death was extremely sudden, unexpected and traumatically shocking. Her oncologist’s words to me were, “What the hell happened?!”

I will write more about this another day.

Within weeks of her death I noticed a small lump in my groin but tried to not think about it too much.
It took a few months to get my own cancer diagnosis and surgery for what had become, in half a year, a four inch (10 cm) tumor.
Fortunately it was entirely removed successfully, and no lymph nodes were affected.
Follow up scans so far have been entirely cancer-free.

My oncologist said it was random bad luck that I had the cancer right after her death, that there were no discernible risk factors involved.
That may be true scientifically but I suspect that the combination of grief and poverty may well have had something to do with my own cancer experience!

While I had my own little place to live for a while, up til the chemo, a community food bank was a life-saver with healthy food. But, it was three hours by bus each way! I was only able to bring home what could fit in my bookbag:
foodbank finds

To reduce my lifetime risk of recurrence from over 20% down to around 1%, I underwent chemo.
Unlike what she went through, it was a fairly moderate kind of chemo, and did not cost me my hair. But, it was bad enough in its own way, especially affecting my nose and throat which made living in the dusty desert that much harder.

Going back to before we became a couple, I had some long term health issues (unrelated to cancer) that were lifelong challenges. They did not keep me from a career but they did make me too depleted to have much of a life at all outside of work.

When I was out of the workforce to be her caregiver for her cancer and her PTSD (which was far, far harder to deal with than the cancer), I only got some of the health care I needed. This combination of factors, as things got worse for her through our years together, led to my inability to sustain a part-time freelance career while doing what seemed needed to help her.

As I got no practical help and next to no moral support from my own highly dysfunctional, screwed-up family of origin – unfortunately a reason Elana and I were able to understand each other so well – I wound up destitute.

I was able to have some time staying with friends, and then was homeless for more than half a year, staying in awful skid row shelters and, for a couple of truly terrible weeks when the shelters were all full, riding night buses to the end of the line and back just to not be literally on the streets all night.

I was able to hang on to my laptop and tried to write all this at McDonald’s and the library, but the conditions were too scattered, unhealthy and depressing to accomplish much of anything, let alone to launch a new business or do professional networking to restart a high-tech career.

The effect of bedbug bites on my arm from an infested shelter:
bugbites
Antibiotics cleared up the infection but months later my arm still has colored blotches where the bites occurred.

An extremely kind and generous old friend of Elana’s learned of my plight and suggested I relocate to his spare room through the winter, so I could finally have a solid opportunity to rebuild my health, restart this new version of Elana’s site, and ease back into the workforce. With great gratitude I accepted, packed a couple of suitcases, shipped a few boxes of Elana’s archive to him, and relocated – less than a week ago as I write this from my new home town in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota in late 2015.

The total extent of what I was able to ship to start over in life:
boxes

I’ve been where there is some snow, but this will be my first time finding out what Real Winter is truly like.

I have not put my or Elana’s last names here because my concern is that this difficult but heartfelt, forthright discussion of cancer, death and hard times might be used against me in my return to the work force: seen by personnel departments as too negative, although it does not affect my competence to do good work now. When I have a satisfactory resolution to these issues, I will update the site with her and my full information.

Although I’ve had lifelong ambitions towards a multifaceted creative career myself, with music as the cornerstone, I decided early, upon meeting Elana and our becoming friends before I knew about her newsletter, to not make any attempt to use her contacts for my own benefit. I held to that commitment while she was alive, but it is time now to let go of that reticence to ask for help that might be available in order to honor and complete her life’s work, and in order to build a new positive life for me as I know that she would have lovingly wanted to see.

She was involved at a crucial time in the history of a new approach to musical art, and this legacy will likely outlive me and all who are reading this during my lifetime.

To contact me with a kind word and to learn what practical help would be most useful, click here to continue.

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