After You’ve Gone

After you’ve gone… and left me cryin’,
After you’ve gone… there’s no denyin’,
You’ll feel blue, you’ll feel sad,
You’ll miss the dearest pal that you have ever had.
– Henry Creamer & Turner Layton

Well, today marks an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today, my thymus walked towards the light and left this mortal coil after being sucked through a tube and diced into little bitty bits. So long, sucker.

It seems a strange thing to commemorate, what with the regular birthdays and the stem cell birthday and the diagnosis anniversary and the first symptom anniversary and all, but for some reason, I found myself counting down the days until today. Maybe it was my subconscious way of getting myself to feel okay about sitting still and writing instead of working on some project or another.

I’ve always been at least a vaguely self-reflective person, and quite good at ferretting out the reasons behind why I am or do certain things. I seem to recall there’s something special about that quality and ADD. Either it helps your brain to do this, or you’re not supposed to be able to do this. Either way, it’s one of my more powerful and annoying traits. While I can see why I’m doing the things I’m doing, that doesn’t mean I can actually do anything about them, which makes it all the more frustrating.

Can you tell yet that this is going to be a long one?

I’ve had a lot of little bumps in the road as of late, and I’ve been getting the feeling that there’s something that floats around in the air with us Hodgers, as when I start to feel or think about certain things, someone always winds up posting about the same thing. In this case, we’re talking about those ol’ Post HL Blues that Paige brought up. I would’ve posted this over there, but as soon as I tried, the site went down.

Oh well, I’m used to muttering to myself. It’s comforting, and I always laugh at my jokes.

Back to the topic at hand – me. Anyhoo, I’ve been driving myself a little crazy for the past few months, both through my actions and my examinations of those actions. Like most things dealing with cancer, it’s worse at night.

For starters, I’ve finally come to a new realization, somewhere in the middle of reading that similar thread on the NHL Side that Kat posted a link to in Paige’s thread. I’m not totally sure it could be called a realization, since I knew it in my brain somewhere, but at some point tonight I suddenly new it in my gut.

The cancer claimed another victim. He was 32 years old, had his whole life ahead of him, and had no idea what hit him. Granted, it didn’t take him quickly – these things never do. But though he hung on for a year or so, his time of death can be placed right at the start of it all. On October 3, 2003, Brian Watts died.

If I were a drinker, I’d raise a glass to that old forgotten me. If I were a gangsta, I’d be sure and pour some of my 40 on the ground in his memory. But starting with that first infuriating itch, that Brian’s fate was sealed.

And now you all have to deal with me.

Sure, there are still ways that I’m the same. Times when people recognize the “old me.” It seems like other people see it a lot more than I do, though. Hell, there are lots of ways that I’m better that I was.

Brian Watts, Geek. A man barely alive. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Brian Watts will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.

Okay, so the “stronger” part hasn’t happened yet, unless they were talking about will or determination. But who wants that? I want that cool noise when I leap over cars. At the very least, I want to be able to walk two blocks without having to start limping from the L’hermitte’s. I want to be able to exert some physical energy, take a break, then get back to work, rather than just having to put my head down and grind because I know that if I stop to rest, I won’t be able to continue.

I want to look in the mirror in the morning and see me, not The Other.

Granted, being a new me isn’t necessarily a bad thing – our dearly departed Brian did have his flaws. Who doesn’t? But it’s not necessarily a good thing either. At best, I seem to have just traded in my old scuffed up luggage for a larger, heavier-duty set. Big Joe vs. the Volcano trunks.

Currently, my biggest suitcase contains “overworking.” Actually, a few of my larger ones carry that, as well as this carry-on and one of the fanny packs.

You see, I’ve been caught in a mental trap of sorts ever since the firing back in late February. One side of the trap goes like this: “You’ve recently accomplished An Amazing Thing. You beat cancer. Now is the time to appreciate life and all of its beauty. Go out and smell some roses!”

The other side of the trap sounds like “You’ve recently accomplished An Amazing Thing. There was obviously some Reason this happened, so you’d better hop to and get to work. You were put through the struggle and came out on the other side for a Reason, so you’d better not screw around smelling roses – you’ve got work to do! Go fulfill your DESTINY!”

Yet another side follows this line of reasoning: “You beat the Hodge – this time. This thing comes back and that first fight wasn’t all puppies and lollipops. It’s time to make hay while the sun shines. You’d better get to work and get those ducks in a row now, because you don’t know how much longer you actually have.”

I think that last side is what’s been bothering me the most lately. It’s bad enough knowing what Sarah and Anne-Marie are having to deal with and occasionally having the “that could be me” thought pass between my ears in the midst of all the usual static.

But I’ve found that it’s even worse when the thought isn’t cutting through the static. Because it’s there whether I hear it or not, screwing with my every action.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of home repair lately. I’ve embarked on projects that surprise some in their grandeur, but that I consider fully within my means and abilities. Yet, once I get started, they’ve all been spiraling out into madness of Lucy Ricardo proportions.

One late, late night, covered in grime and cobwebs and curses, the reason for this suddenly dawned on me. I was trying to make everything I did bulletproof. Why?

Because I might not be around to fix it if it breaks.

That’s right – my subconscious has been pushing me to work harder, faster and crazier, because it’s convinced I will die soon and I should make sure that things are taken care of. How messed up is that?

And what’s worse is, that’s only one facet to this new Brian’s screwy new life. Let’s go write on the chalkboard for a bit.

  • A Subconscious certainty that It’s Gonna Get Me, and Probably Soon
  • New job with ever-expanding responsibilities and needed job skills with ever-shortening amounts of time to learn and do it all (not the Death thing, but the Time Management Thing)
  • A new puppy (well, new since February) who, while she’s a bundle of joy in her life, does have her moments, like any creature, be they man or beastie.
  • The Baby Thing. I’ve had so many different chemicals pumped through me that I’m no longer a factor in the actual fertilization part of the baby process. That means that we can’t just go and get knocked up like most couples – we actually have to think about how we’ll make it happen, when to make it happen, and think about all of those “what ifs” and “whys” and “hows” and “should we’s”. Aside from the stress that all causes, there’s the added bonus of feeling like a failure. Not one of those male “I should be able to spread my seed far and wide” type failures, but a feeling of failing Barb, not being able to give her something she wants and truly deserves. Then again, what has she done that’s so bad to deserve a little Brian running around, right?
  • Aside from that failure thing, there’s also the lingering thought in the back of my head that always upsets Barb’s when she sees it in my eyes, but I can’t help it. So skip to the next bullet point now, Barb. Please. That other thing is the suspicion that I’ve ruined Barb’s life. Not that she’d ever think or feel that way, but while I can see a lot of good things that have happened in her life from me being around, I also see a lot of bad. And when the nights grow dark, the bad things pile up.
  • I know there’s a whole hell of a lot more going on in my mind right now, but I’m too tired to think of it. But I did ask Barb to skip down to the next bullet point, so that meant I had to write something, right?
  • Oh, here’s another – Responsibility. Responsibility as a Survivor. Responsibility as a Husband. Responsibility to my fellow cancer folk. Responsibility as a furry little girl’s Dad. Responsibility as a Homeowner. Responsibility as CTO of a small company that I could accidentally destroy with a few misplaced pieces of code. Holy crap – it seems that at some point in the last year or two, I grew up. How much does that suck?

So all of that has been weighing on me as of late and kind of driving me into the ground. I tend to not be able to think of all the possible problems at once, for much the same reason I’ve never been able to cry about myself. I can dissolve into a puddle watching a home makeover show because I know it’ll be over in an hour and the crying can stop. Today, it was an episode of Overhaulin’ that got me. And if that’s not pathetic enough for you, I’m actually tearing up a little right now thinking about it. But if I cry about me, when does the crying stop? So I can’t cry about me, but I can (and do) cry about all of you in your battles. And about movies where the rookie learns a valuable life lesson from the veteran. Or when Barb looks at me That Way. Or when they call the wind Mariah.

Anyway, back to the driving into the ground bit. Some days are better than others, some are worse. Lately, we’ve been swinging to the “worse” side. Why?

The Itch is back.

Originally, I thought it was because I had missed a couple of days of my Doxepin. I was so busy and swamped with work and home projects, that I couldn’t convince myself to drop it all long enough to go get a refill. I’ve been back on it for a couple of weeks now, and it’s not cutting through this time.

I would hope it’s allergies or stress or polonium poisoning or such, but it’s all too familiar. I already have the fresh wounds and hour-old scabs. I’m already down to about five hours of sleep a night again, interspersed with random wakenings, sometimes to scratch, sometimes just to stare at the wall and wonder why I’m awake this time. A couple of mornings, I’ve had the joy of once again having to clean the caked blood out from under my fingernails after I woke up. Joy.

I have a PET scan coming up next Friday (the 22nd if you’re still reading, and if you are, you’re my new best friend. I will quiz you before showing you the super-secret best friend’s handshake, though), and for the first time ever, I’m actually a little scared.

Aside from the ol’ scanxiety (which I never had before now, since I got so used to hearing bad results), there’s another thing I’m scared of and that’s my stupid subconscious. Aside from all of the typing it’s made me do tonight, there’s one other little thing it did. I was supposed to have my PET scan back in May. Somehow, I always managed to forget it until 6 or 7 at night. Or I’d be “too busy” to get away and make a phone call. Even with four or five voicemails from the onc’s office reminding me that I really do need to call and schedule that scan soon.

But I finally did it, so we’ll roll the dice again and see what happens.

And with that, I think I’ll post this and see how long I get to sleep tonight.

Weird as it may be, though I started the post with “After You’ve Gone,” (Benny Goodman’s version, if you’re interested) at the moment, my iTunes is playing the theme to The Great Escape. Odd, yet somehow strangely appropriate.

17 thoughts on “After You’ve Gone

  1. I’m just in shock reading this Brian. And I’m speechless….I love you and Barb, and I will be thinking of you non-stop until you get the good results from your scan.

  2. I wish I had the “right” words for you … unfortunately, I am speechless. My heart is aching for you right now — the fear, the anxiety — just hang on to hope. If I recall correctly, you aren’t the religious sort, but I’m praying for you anyway, my friend. May you find the strength and courage you need as you wait for the scan, and may those results be positively negative (as in CLEAN!). Please keep us posted — we love ya!!

  3. Sending prayers and hugs from your Scottish fans………….Damn Hodge better not be picking on you again…………………..x

  4. Oh babe. GOOD things are supposed to come in threes – NOT flippin’ cancer that won’t go away things.

    I wish I were right there to scrape the dried blood out from under your fingernails, because if that wouldn’t demonstrate just how much I love you, I’m plum out of ideas as to what would.

    I’m glad you have so many words, because I’ve got nothin’. Dammit.

    Hugs from Indy,


  5. Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you and Barb.

    Your ability to articulate how so many of us feel simply amazes me Brian, we’re there with you…..hugs

  6. Lots of hugs and prayers are with you and Barb as you worry again about a possible return visit from the Hodge. Wish you could get your scan sooner so you can stop worrying and know that all is still well with you and that the itch is from the “fire ants” that Bekah sent your way.

    You know you are in our thoughts and prayers, and we are waiting and worrying with you. Feel the power of positive vibes and love from all your forum family. xoxoox

  7. Brian, all I can say is that I love you guys and I hope that your anxiety is alleviated after the scans. I will be thinking of you every second.

    Many, many hugs,

  8. Brian,

    My third graders always used to tell me to wear my PJ’s inside out and put a spoon under my pillow for really, really good luck.

    I’m venturing over to my dirty sink now, but I’ll find a clean spoon till the 22nd, when all these thoughts will hopefully be pushed aside.

    All my Love,


  9. Brian, my friend, you’re breaking my heart. It’s really important to me that you stay ok — I need for it all to have worked for you. You’ll tick off these days leading up to the 22nd and then when you get the results you’ll hear, process and accept as you always have. I want with every bone in my body for those results to tell you — tell all of us who love you — that you’re still ok. Know that whatever news you get, ok or not ok, we’re all here beside you and all around you. I would HATE LIKE HELL for you to join Anne-Marie and me! Not YOU!! But I’m here for you no matter what.

    Much love,


  10. Hey you, you don’t know me, but I kinda know what you’re going through. When I had the “itch” after the first time thru cancer, someone told me that I’d figure things out. When I asked her how she knew, she said, “because all people that have cancer are extraordinary people.” I’m not sure if she’s right, but I will say that I think cancer makes us extraordinary people. I think maybe that metamorphisis into extraordinary is the itch we are meant to survive.
    I don’t know, that’s just my 2 cents.
    But I think you’re doing fine. You are surviving, and the way you are doing it is quite impressive.
    Keep it up. There’s a lot of people pulling for you.

  11. Hi Brian
    I came to your blog through Wullies blog actually and him through Chemopalooza. I just wanted to say my thoughts and prayers are with you.

  12. Hey Brian,

    I sincerely want your scan to be clean. There has been enough suffering already. I don’t want to see another survivor have to deal with another recurrence. So please, stay well.

    I’m thinking about you and wishing you well. I’ll check up with you very soon!

    All the very best,

  13. Hey Brian,
    It’s good to hear your scan is clean. I have my 2nd follow up scan in August (May scan was AOK, residual tumor actually was smaller then in January)

    I can completely relate to how you felt about so many issues in your other post. Fertility, survivorship guilt, feeling like you’ve let down the one you care most about. I feel like I should be doing so much, yet I am doing so little.

    A lot of people in my family expect me to just return to the old “Carmen” but the more I try, the more I realize there is no going back. I’m never going to be the same kid I was, but that doesn’t have to be a curse.

    Just take things one day at a time. It’s all that got me through two very bad, very long years.

    Being a survivor, it’s hard. I want to do so much, at the same time I want to do so little. I want to help people who have had cancer, or who have family members that have cancer, and at the same time I want to enjoy the time I’ve been given. I want to relax, I want to enjoy my life, and for once I don’t want to worry about stupid bullshit like money. I’ve finally decided to dedicate a little of my time to the local Guilda’s Club, and work with some children with cancer.

    I read a book recently and you might want to look into picking it up. The book is called “Don’t Die, My Love.” It’s about high school sweethearts, the boy in the story gets the Hodge. It’s a very sad story, but it really helped me come to grips with a lot of my feelings. By “reliving” some of the emotions I had through the book, it helped to ease my mind a little. I’d suggest you and Barb check it out, I’m making Emily read it when she gets back from volunteering in China.

    Hang in there bud. Here’s a nice poem I look at whenever I’m starting to feel blue.

    What Cancer Cannot Do

    Cancer is so limited –

    It cannot cripple love,

    It cannot shatter hope,

    It cannot corrode faith,

    It cannot destroy peace,

    It cannot kill friendship,

    It cannot suppress memories,

    It cannot silence courage,

    It cannot invade the soul,

    It cannot steal eternal life,

    It cannot conquer the Spirit.

    Good luck and god bless,
    Carmen Genovese

  14. “After Your Gone” was probably the most powerful thing I have read so Far. I felt and than I was you. Brilliant! Thank You! Going for my Post Salvage Pet/CT results tommorrow so I know that pain, but dare not cry for me.My Name is Eric, 43.. Long island N.Y. Reocurent HIV realted HODGKINS Stage 4b. Been loving and reading your blog and WEB Magic threads for months.( Not a stalker, I promise) I always read you prior to an appt., you give me strength and inspire me. Thank You Again! An “unmet” Friend….

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