Emerging from the Dark Aether
Feb 05, 2024
Hello, my friends! I’m happily still among you, and I am grateful to finally feel ready to share some updates and other thoughts.
I remain pretty astonished by the condition in which I now find myself. Back in December, I had plenty of ideas and ambitions about what I would be doing in January, February, this new year, this fresh chapter in my life and career. Colon cancer did not feature among them! It has been unprecedented in my experience, to have the momentum of my life come to a crashing halt, all of my priorities and activities abruptly scuttled in order to focus on a very concerning health crisis.
I have been fortunate to enjoy exceptionally good health throughout my life, and wellness is something I delight in pursuing. Having personally never experienced a Serious Health Crisis before, I guess I never really expected to. My doctors assure me that where my treatment and prognosis are concerned, everything is going beautifully. But this assurance comes only after three exhausting and harrowing weeks in the hospital, during which I underwent three significant surgeries. I remain quite weak, and I can still do very little for myself. I am only now beginning to feel clear-headed enough to write, and physically strong enough to sit up and type. All of this represents a striking departure from my usual sense of self, and the qualities of strength, clarity, competence and agency that I was able to take for granted just a month ago.
In our culture, when one suffers a sudden physical, career, or life setback, the narrative that usually begins to emerge has to do with courage, strength, determination, fighting the good fight, and so on. But as I gradually recover from the significant and sudden changes that my body has recently experienced, I find myself much more inclined to embrace and fully experience the stark reality of my condition.
This is what it is like, to feel weak. This is what it is like, to be suddenly and unexpectedly dependent on more able-bodied companions to ensure I am clean, fed, and continuing to heal.
This is what it is like, for my body, aka my physical instrument, to have been altered and reorganized in a way that will necessitate significant rehabilitation and retraining so that I can resume singing and teaching others to sing.
I’m channeling Samus Aran, the protagonist of the Metroid video games. Samus is a badass bounty hunter with an arsenal of high tech weaponry and mad skills at her disposal, but no sooner does she embark on a new contract that an epic mishap befalls her that knocks all of her stuff offline, necessitating that each chapter in the series involves not only whatever mission she is pursuing but also the need to re-acquire all her high tech weaponry and mad skills. Eventually, she not only gets them back but augments them in various ways, and that process is at least as significant a part of the game as defeating space pirates and metroids.
This is kind of where I am right now—Samus Aran, stripped of her gear and superpowers, highly motivated to build it all back and get the job done.
At the moment, I cannot breathe deeply or phonate with much focus beyond a very narrow range. I required multiple surgeries to my abdominal area, first to drain the abscess that alerted my doctors to the presence of the colon cancer in the first place, and then to remove the cancerous masses themselves. While everything will eventually knit itself back together with little to no permanent changes, at the moment my breathing anatomy is all kinds of freaked out: This is what it is like, to experience significantly diminished range of motion for breathing. And without access to better breath coordination, my laryngeal anatomy is also all kinds of freaked out: This is what it is like, to not be able to get through a complete sentence without running out of breath, to only be able to access a small fraction of my usual vocal range.
Now I get to recondition my body and re-coordinate my voice. I expect to learn a lot from the process, and I hope that it will augment my pedagogical skills and understanding in ways that will also be beneficial for my students and followers. But first I need to make like Samus Aran and track down my arm cannon and my bomb-ball functionality.
I am more grateful than I can possibly express for the extraordinary outpouring of support I have been receiving since this all began, and I look forward to sharing my progress and discoveries with you as I am able. If you would like to contribute to my medical expenses and support my ongoing recovery, please do so through the GoFundMe site that has been created on my behalf.