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Okay ... So, last journal update, I'd mentioned that I had some art I'd put in storage and was considering taking out.

Truth is, I've been having cold feet over it.

See, in 2012 I started working on an idea for an original series of sorts that would involve personified ships, after being inspired by the likes of "mecha musume" artists such as acea4 of Taiwan, who has been doing a graphic novel titled Shermanga Wars (a wordplay on "Sherman" and "Manga," I think). I've come to dub my own project "The Oakenhearted," as you can see in the teaser/preview comic that I've taken out of storage. I had uploaded that on October 21, 2014, the same day that the ship featured in said preview (USS Constitution) was launched in 1797.

You'll notice that in the commentary for that picture, I mentioned that Kantai Collection launched in 2013 and how popular it's become. That's the reason I kept having second thoughts about doing anything with The Oakenhearted, putting up images only to either put them in storage or remove them. Not because KanColle "did it first," mind you—personifying war machines has been a thing since at least the 90's, so it's not like either title is breaking new ground here.

However, people have a tendency to look at anything that has similarities to something they like (or something that is popular) as a ripoff. Taken to the extreme, you get cases like the one fan who sent Universal Studios a nastygram accusing them of ripping off of Twilight with their 1940s film "The Wolfman." That's where my apprehension kicked in: I don't want The Oakenhearted to get dismissed as "a lame American imitation of KanColle," or a "me-too," or something like that.

If I keep going with this series, I want it to be judged on its own merits, not in comparison to more popular titles. I'd been worried it just wouldn't be possible. I'd passed around some of the work I've done on The Oakenhearted to people I know, and some of those who play Kantai Collection bluntly told me "yes, they're going to call this a KanColle ripoff." That's why I've sat on this for several years at this point.

Recently, though, some other friends have encouraged me to go through with it. And ... well, I figure now might be a good time as any: Fallout 4 was released today. Since it takes place in Boston and features its own take on USS Constitution, maybe it'll spark some interest.

I hope.

I'd really like to hear feedback on this idea—if you'd like to see more or what. I have other artwork related to The Oakenhearted I'd been doing in recent years (and more recently) that I may put up as well.

That's all I've got for now, gang.
... Well, for a certain value of it, at least.

I've had some really, really demanding classes this entire year, summer included. I don't really have much of a life outside of working on all the assignments that pile up; in the Spring semester I jumped at the chance to take a Game Design course that specialized in Unity. Unfortunately the professor teaching that class (who was only at this university for a semester) had very, very short deadlines for projects. Case in point: He expected student teams to present their work at Oklahoma Research Day. Other Cameron students I spoke to while at ORD told me that their departments gave them a year or so in preparation; our professor gave us, at best, a few weeks.

I don't regret taking that class as it bootstrapped me where developing in Unity is concerned, but when it came to the assignments ...

Anyway, my department has another professor who is a big believer in making students spend a minimum of two hours on assignments outside of class for every hour spent in class. Said professor will assign a lot of different things all due at once to ensure this. I was in one of that professor's classes this Spring, and now I've got two of their classes this Fall. Had no choice; their classes are required for my degree plan.

Suffice to say, I've been pinned down pretty hard. It's actually really frustrating, because I've been so busy that I haven't even had time to start looking for a job once I graduate this coming Spring, to say nothing of working on my resume and portfolio. A full-time job would be far less stressful or demanding than this. And I'd be getting paid rather than paying to do work, which is another plus.

I did have a brief reprieve just before the Fall semester started, though, and that thankfully coincided with Tree of Savior's first English closed beta. I was phenomenally lucky, because I wound up getting in on the beta test. Here's proof of that!  Since all of the first closed beta testers are guaranteed a spot in the upcoming second closed beta starting October 29, I've been in overtime trying to see if I can clear my schedule enough that I can actually spend time playing the second closed beta.

If all goes well, you guys will see me there.

To that end, I've got some art I'm trying to find the time to put up in my gallery. There's also some art I've had in my gallery for a while that's been in storage, which I'm considering taking out ... it'll make sense if I actually get enough time to get things in order here. Classes come first, and I've already been pulling allnighters (or short-sleep days at least) just trying to keep up.

Medically ... well, no news is good news for now, I guess. My oncologist wants me to get a CT scan to make sure everything is okay, but since Cameron University no longer offers insurance to local students, there's just no way I can afford that. I need a job, preferably with its own health insurance plan, before I can think about that. Trying to finance a CT scan without insurance would gobble up all the remaining money I have.

The recent news that TotalBiscuit's colon cancer didn't clear but instead metastasized into his liver is a reminder that I can't just blow this off, but I simply have no choice for now. And even if, in a few years, I'm confirmed to be cancer-free, I may not be out of the woods. Yesterday, my father informed me that he's found out his family suffers from Reed's Syndrome, which is a rare inherited condition that raises the risk for kidney cancer. Most of his siblings tested positive. My father is going to get tested to see if he has it; if he does, I need to get tested, because there's a 50% chance I will have it as well. I'll have to get regular screening if I do have the syndrome.

Hopefully I'll be making some more updates before the 29th. See you guys later!
Been a while since my last update. I've been spending most of what free time I had this year and last year trying to get better with Adobe Illustrator. I'm hoping that with Illustrator, I'll be able to achieve some actual quality CG that is also completely resolution-independent, what with it being vector-based and all. I think I've got a long way to go, though. Some of the stuff I've done in Illustrator so far is ... really sloppy looking in terms of coloring. I'm still figuring out what tools will be best for what job: you can do some amazing things in Illustrator with just line styles, but Gradient Mesh hasn't exactly been the holy grail I thought it'd be. I've also found myself still using Flash MX for making the actual lineart, because Illustrator's own shape creation tools just feel clunky and difficult to use efficiently.

So, the big news on the street is that Microsoft released Windows 10 today. A little over a year ago, I made some artwork concerning Microsoft's rather brutal (in my opinion) campaign to off Windows XP. Back then, Windows 10 was still known as Windows 9. It's going to be interesting to see what Windows 10 being absolutely free will do to XP's market share (as well as Vista's, 7's, and 8's). Still, I'm still of the same mind today as I was when I made that artwork; I'm sticking with my XP64 desktop for as long as is feasible, and I'd like to think I'm enough of a power user that "as long as is feasible" will last quite a ways.

Ironically, July 29th also happens to be the date that (19 years ago) I got access to my first IBM PC. To commemorate that in a way, I was working on another OS-tan related picture: concept artwork of Marin, the personification of that PC. Seeing as I've had Marin's design in mind and on paper since 2007, it feels good to start doing stuff with all this.

And that's not all. Hopefully, there'll be more to come (provided I can find the time between medical, financial, and educational pressures ... things haven't changed much on those fronts from my last few updates, but I'll get to those another time).

Until next time, gang!
Hey guys,

It's been a long time since my last update; I didn't mean to leave you all hanging, and I'm really sorry to have worried the people who've expressed their concerns.

Life's been a roller coaster of ups and downs since the Spring 2014 semester. A lot of things have gone right, and a lot of things have gone wrong, the consequences of both which have left me little time to really pursue anything I want to do in my spare time. Going into detail about the the past half-year would make for a really long story, and some of it I'd rather not get into. I can share some of the good (and bad) though:

The good things I'll cover first. Medically ... So far, I seem to still be in remission. So far, there's been no sign of any lethal side effects of chemotherapy (the secondary cancer, heart toxicity, or pulmonary fibrosis). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that nothing happens.

Academically I've been keeping the course. I got out of the Spring 2014 semester with straight A's, but more importantly, I entered into the CGI Federal 3D animation competition with my final project for AP & 3D Video Effects. I had a series of false starts with that one, leading me to spend a week sleeping very little, chugging down a lot of coffee and energy drinks to fight off the effects of chemo while I worked on my entries. The competition this year had several categories for entries: Team Animation, Solo Animation (in which you must create a video using audio from a provided clip of sound), and Modeling (anything you want, but it had to fit within a tight limit of polygons).

The end result wasn't really that good compared to my absolute best, but! I won the Modeling category. The CGI employees were impressed with how I much detail I was able to cram into a model with such a comparatively low poly cap. My main regret is that, because I had to start over multiple times to get it right, I didn't leave myself any time to properly skin and texture the model as I would have liked. Still, though ... winning the competition won me several prizes, including an interview for a summer internship with CGI Federal. A paid one!

That was one big reason why I hadn't had anything to say over the summer; up until June I was doing a lot of paperwork post-interview considering CGI Federal is a government contractor. It was also, practically, a full-time job. The internship really helped make back some of the money I'd had to spend over the previous two semesters. Not all of it, not by a long shot, but enough that, if I didn't have anything else to worry about, I would be set for at least two more semesters in terms of paying university fees, tuition, and books.

Which leads me to the bad stuff ... the financial stuff. On August 7th, I received a notice from my university that they were canceling my health insurance. I had gotten coverage from Blue Cross Blue Shield through Academic Health Plans, which Cameron University handled. Now, I have no insurance. When I received the notice I went to Student Development to find out why; I was told that the health care had gotten "too expensive" for the university to maintain (but by law they are forced to provide coverage for foreign students).

I was instead directed to talk to a health care agent, who quoted me insurance plans from the Healthcare.gov Marketplace (AKA Obamacare) whose monthly fees (premiums) were all three times as expensive as the Academic Health Plans coverage at their cheapest, and much less beneficial. These plans would have done little to help pay for the actual costs of health care while extracting thousands of dollars out of me per year. If I had taken one of those health care plans, combined with the university fees and costs of living I would be forced to drop out in a year at most.

I'm in the process of trying to reapply for the Uncompensated Care Plan with my hospital and the Cancer Center. Over the summer, I also applied for (and was granted) financial assistance from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, so I have a little buffer against the raw cost of health care (my most recent visit with my oncologist last month, plus a blood test, already added a few hundred dollars to my debt). In the meantime, I continue to struggle with creditors. The company that handled my bone marrow and lymph node biopsies last year, NeoGenomics, billed me $10,500 recently for that work. I'm currently trying to get that sorted out, and I hope it all goes in my favor. If not, well ... I'll DEFINITELY not be in college for more than another semester.

In the meantime, I'm continuing to look for scholarships (I've applied for dozens and have not been granted any) or further part-time work (no such luck) to help cover the cost of higher education. I've been having some really frustrating dealings with Student Housing which have proven to be a highly time-consuming and unpleasant distraction from both this, addressing my creditors, and keeping on top of my school work.

And this semester has been keeping me extremely busy where school work is concerned. Because my concentration for my Multimedia Design major is Animation, I'm required to take two classes from the Art department: Drawing I and Figure Drawing. While Drawing I has been useful in helping me improve my techniques (since I've never actually been formally taught how to draw), it's been EXTREMELY time consuming (as well as annoyingly expensive, for students must spend well over $100 in supplies in addition to paying a $50 fee). Students are expected to spend tens of hours' worth on assignments outside of class. All my other classes are also heavy in the projects department, which (combined with everything else) has kept me from putting much work in on anything I personally want to do.

Nevertheless I've tried to put in some time to actually finish some things I've wanted to post for years. Almost a decade, in some cases. I hope I'll be fortunate enough to get them up in due time.

Until next time, folks.
I'm almost through with chemotherapy!

Monday was my second-to-last infusion. In two more weeks, I'll be done. The side effects will linger on for a little while, though I've not taken as sharp an inventory of my state as I had planned to at the beginning to monitor for chemo brain and the like.

I'm still really surprised that chemo hasn't been as harsh on me as I'd worried would happen. I never actually lost all my hair (some, but not all of it ... no bald spots at all), my immune system didn't completely vanish, I didn't become super-sensitive to sunlight or grow so weak that I couldn't get to class on my own (most of the time). The nurses had predicted that I would be reduced to taking a single class, if that, due to the chemotherapy; while that hasn't happened, I did wind up cutting my class load almost in half since 16 credit hours was just too much last semester.

I don't yet know if that light at the end of a tunnel is a genuine end to all of this or if it's actually the light of an oncoming train. Monday I discussed what's going to happen from here on out with my oncologist. For roughly five years, I will have to continue to go to the Cancer Center and CCMH for regular checkups to make sure that the cancer remains beaten, and also to monitor me for any belated "surprise" side effects from chemotherapy. Like heart and lung toxicity, and AML.

As I'd mentioned at the start of this, one of the drugs in ABVD has a chance of causing a secondary cancer: acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This sort of cancer is not as survivable as Hodgkin's Lymphoma, and if it's going to happen as a result of chemo, it could happen up to five years from now. So I'll have to go in for blood tests and the like to ensure they get the jump on it if it shows up. The somewhat good news is, medical research is looking into targeted therapies for AML ... but as far as I know there are no such therapies approved for use yet.

This also means that I will continue to have hospital bills pile up. I am continuing to deal with creditors threatening to turn me over to debt collection (or claiming to have already done so), and each time I've called to notify them about the Uncompensated Care Plan. So far, I've yet to have to pony up any more dough ... but another bill just came in as Spring Break ended, and Uncompensated Care will cover me for six months from the point of approval, so it won't last forever.

As much as I've been trying to look into further financial aid options, Cameron University hasn't provided me much of a breather to do so. I thought cutting my class load in half would give me enough room to focus on financials ... but it turns out that one of my classes is more physically demanding than I would have expected of a Multimedia Design class, and the instructor has been somewhat difficult to work with (there have been some problems concerning how my chemotherapy makes me miss a class every two weeks). My spring break wasn't much of one, as I had to put in entire days of work (like, early morning to late at night) at the CETES lab just to keep up with the demands of the class.

If I'd had a better idea of what this class was going to entail I would have waited a semester before taking it. But ... I'm hanging in there. I think. Not as well as I'd like, given my performance last semester, but I'm hanging in there.

So that's where things are for me right now. Stay safe, guys.
The morning of February 19 last year was the day when my mom died.

With all that's gone on over the past year, and the way my life has changed drastically, I've not had much time to think about it. I guess in a way, that's helped keep me from dwelling on it. Sometimes it's been hard, like during the Winter Break when I had more time to myself.

There's a lot of things I regret, things I wish I did that might have kept things from turning out this way ... but I have to tell myself that none of us, probably not even my mom, knew just how bad of a state her heart was in. Regardless ... that she died so close to Valentine's Day, and that it turned out to be heart failure, has made that holiday extra-awkward.

Anyway ... Here's a recap of what's been going on with me.

I still haven't heard back from the Cancer Center on whether or not they have approved or rejected me for their version of the Uncompensated Care Plan, but they did throw a bill at me: If they don't approve me for the plan, I will owe them over $1000 so far. The bills are going to get worse, of course, since I'm not done with the chemo yet.

Meanwhile, the Hospital business office did approve me at 100% for their Uncompensated Care Plan, which I don't recall if I've mentioned in previous updates. This has been a huge relief, as I've been forgiven of over $5000 in debt. Unfortunately, to my dismay ... I have been billed by a number of creditors outside the hospital network that do not accept the plan. I have been spending this month calling these creditors, discussing with them my situation, faxing them copies of the acceptance letter ... and despite all that, I was still turned over to a debt collector by one of them. Another threatened to turn me over if I didn't pay up. I've already had to fork over $600 to two different creditors.

Between college and hospital fees as well as costs of living, I've already used up a fourth of the inheritance my mom left me, and there's no end in sight to these payments. I hadn't been approved for any of the scholarships I applied for outside of the Pell Grant (which has helped, but not helped enough as you can see). Come next semester I need to try and get a part time job with the university.

That's about where things stand now. Stay safe, guys.
2014 wasn't getting off to a good start for me. There's been a lot of disappointments, technology breaking down on me, and financial issues which may not turn out in my favor. I'm not gonna go into detail about them right here, though, as it's a pretty lengthy list of things that haven't been going my way.

Today, however, something finally went right. Big-time.

As I'd mentioned at the start of the new year, I've had a second PET scan due. Last week was when they finally decided to reschedule it (adding to some of the "fun" mentioned earlier). Today I met with my oncologist to get the results.

The cancer is gone!

I was utterly, utterly shocked to hear that. Here I'd been preparing myself for bad news: I was expecting to hear that the cancer had resisted the chemotherapy, or that it wouldn't fully destroy the tumors by the time the six months of treatment ended. Getting told that there is no evidence of the disease only after only three months of chemotherapy (and mind you, we're talking about a cancer that was staged close to metastasizing) was beyond my wildest expectations!

Judging from how the oncologist was acting, she was just as surprised. She showed me the report; there is absolutely no cancerous activity that the PET scan could detect. However, she wants me to finish the chemotherapy regimen in its entirety, so I don't get to stop early. This is to make sure that absolutely nothing of the cancer survives, because if even a few cancerous cells ride out the therapy they can grow more tumors. This also means I still have financial issues to consider. I've not had very encouraging news on the Uncompensated Care Plans that have been offered to me, but I'm going to wait to talk about that in detail until I know more about what's going to happen there.

So, I'm not out of the woods yet, but at least I can feel some relief knowing that this cancer isn't going to be the end of me so soon.

So ... Tired, but relieved. Stay safe, guys!
Not much to say I haven't already said back on Christmas; I had my fifth ABVD infusion this Monday and I'm still feeling like crap from it. The anti-nausea medicine had me sleeping most of New Years' Eve, and most of today as well. I've also got this weird combination of feeling ill at ease, like a fluttering heartbeat, and mild queasiness. Hopefully it goes away before the week is out; I've grown accustomed to these side effects kind of petering away by the second week, giving me some kind of reprieve.

It's almost been a year since my mom died ... and it doesn't feel like it should be. I find myself thinking more about it partially because of how she died, and how some of the drugs in this chemotherapy regime put me at the same risk. Not fun to think about when you have this funny feeling in your chest almost all the time.

To my chagrin I didn't manage to get my second PET scan done before the 2013 closed. It was scheduled on December 30, and ... I totally blew it. See, before the PET scan, you have to avoid caffeine for 24 hours prior, not eat anything six hours before, and your last meal has to be high in protein and low in carbs. I forgot about all of this and had to call the cancer center to ask if they could reschedule me. Thankfully, they did; it was supposed to be done on the 31st, but when I went in to the Outpatient Center for the appointment, I found that I was due for a pulmonary function test instead.

Long story short; after conferring back and forth with the outpatient center and the cancer center, I went through with the PFT. The PET will be done ... sometime this month, not sure when. And I'm also not sure if said PET scan will be counted by Blue Cross Blue Shield for 2013 or 2014 (that whole "maximum amount of PET scans covered per year" thing). The Cancer Center seemed to indicate it would count for 2013 since they just managed to get it cleared (and said they were actually going to call me about possibly canceling the PET slated for the 30th of December because they couldn't get a hold of anyone at BCBS).

Well, I'll just cross those bridges when I get there.

I was actually going to show up on iRO for New Years' Eve last night, joining Corigan in the celebrations, but alas, I was too tired. I was waiting for my client to patch and next thing I knew my morning alarm was going off. D'oh!

Anywhoo, that's all from me. Happy New Year, guys; I'm hoping this year will be better than the last.
Since the semester ended I've been really busy trying to get things organized and easily packed up in preparation for the move. Unfortunately I didn't get to spend Christmas in the new apartment; after finals week, everyone in Student Housing but two employees took off for Christmas, something they said never happened before. So, they couldn't check on the apartment they plan to move me to or get anyone to help me move.

Blah. Ah well, they plan to move me in the week of January 2nd, and that's not too far away.

Initially I wasn't going to worry about Christmas decorations, since I'm living on my own in this small university apartment ... but you know, with the way this year has gone, I needed some Christmas cheer. That, and Cameron University's  Programming Activities Council had a ornament-decorating thing going on I attended back in November, so I had some ornaments lying around with no place to put them. I couldn't really spend Christmas out of town with relatives (for various reasons), so I couldn't decorate someone else's tree with them, either.

So, I bought and put up a small one in my room a few days ago and decorated it to resemble the one my family used to put up in previous years. The stocking ornament has a picture of my mom in it, a copy of the one we used for her headstone.

I might keep the tree up even after the new year's; maybe not with all the ornaments on it, but the way the tree's fiber optic lights cycle between colors is soothing to watch.

As for my plans for the new year ... I'm not sure how things are going to shape up for me outside of university matters. Cameron Unversity and the Great Plains Technology Center are having their annual animation contest next Spring, with the application deadline sometime in April. I'd like to get in on that, if I'm not too wiped out by the chemo by then. I'd also like to try and get back into the groove with artwork and Ragnarok Wisdom and the like, but I'm hardly in a position to make promises (and Load knows I've made plenty of empty ones in recent years ...). I might spend my free time on a lot of non-RW art first.

Gut Funk and the RW crew gave me a really touching present for my birthday earlier; enough money for my own copy of Adobe Illustrator CS6. (I explicitly avoided getting the Creative Cloud version because I want to own software, not rent it.) Taking Computer Graphic Design this semester really demonstrated to me the power and potential of that program, and I'd like to see what I can do with it. I'd love to be able to make some high-quality vector art, maybe even suitable for prints.

So ... that's how the closing of the year is going for me. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, guys.
Monday was my fourth infusion of ABVD, and that completed the second of six cycles. So far I don't feel any worse than I already have been, though for the purposes of the semester that was plenty enough.

First, the great news. I met with my oncologist two weeks ago, and she felt my neck for any signs of the tumor present there. She can't feel it at all now! What I had thought was a remnant of the tumor is actually my neck muscle, she says. I'm a lot more optimistic about my chances now; she has me slated for a second PET scan on the 30th of December, so I'll know for sure how much damage the chemo's done to the cancer overall after New Year's.

Last week I submitted the applications to the Cancer Center and the hospital business office for uncompensated care. Some good news and bad news on that; the Cancer Center rejected my application on the grounds that I need to provide different tax information than what they requested. The Business Office contacted me to let me know they require the same thing in my case, but gave me time to get it for them. They'll also send the completed paperwork over to the Cancer Center, so hopefully if the Business Office approves me for uncompensated care, so will the Cancer Center.

If not ... I will definitely have to launch a fundrasier for sure. At the rate these bills are piling up, if I were to pay all of this out of my own pocket I doubt I would have enough money to stay in college for another full-load semester.

Speaking of full-load semesters ... I took 16 credit hours this semester, spread amongst five classes (and one lab). You have to take 12 credit hours to be considered full-time. The past two weeks have had me overwhelmed by two final projects and six separate finals. Studying for them was hard, not just because of the final projects that needed finishing, but because the anti-nausea medicine they pump in me during each infusion makes me very tired and unable to stay awake.

I still don't know how I pulled it off, but I finished this semester with straight A's.

Oh, I didn't actually get straight A's on my finals, which is what amazes me that I still got A's overall. I guess my coursework grades (as well as the final projects) were high enough to keep me on the "A-side" of the line. My final exam scores range from a perfect 100 in Fundamentals of Multimedia Design to a 95 in Computer Graphic Design, an 89 in Western Civilization I and the lab final for General Biology, and an 86 in General Biology's lecture exam. (Not sure what I made in Instructional Design's final.)

Western Civ I's final was the hardest to study for, given that it required full-written responses to all questions (and two complete essays). I spent a whole day prepping for that one ... but I am so glad I switched to taking that course online though, because if I stayed in the lecture variant I would have had to write all that out by hand. It's just so much easier for me to put my thoughts to a monitor, and I can get it out much faster.

So that's how my first semester this new university wrapped up. Glad it's over with. Next semester I'm going to run a lighter load, though I did wind up adding a third course instead of the two I planned to take. One last "general education" course required by the university, and two lecture courses for my degree: Multimedia Production Techniques and 3D & Video Special Effects. I had to add the latter course because it's only offered once every three semesters. If I don't do it now I won't get to do it for a while, and they're going to be covering some valuable topics like camerawork that can really help me with my animation projects.

I'd been warned that this rotation thing happens at Cameron, but man. Oh well ... if it turns out I can't keep up with three courses, that general education course will be the first to go. I can always take that later, ugh.

So that's how things are wrapping up this year.  Cameron's Student Housing department still hasn't enacted that plan to move me over to another apartment in the Village, but I hope they do so before the week is out. It'll be a nice way to spend Christmas.

So ... that's all from me for now. Stay safe, guys!
Hey again, guys.

Finals for this semester are coming up; each class I have has been pouring on the heavy coursework. A research paper, an instructional design document, several graphic design projects ... I'm in for a rough time these coming weeks. Today, though, I got one of the big projects done; a presentation for my Fundamentals of Multimedia Design class, in which we are supposed to relate a story about our lives.

Among the possible topics we could cover was "your development as an artist." That's what I picked; the presentation is online at Prezi, if you guys want to check it out: Cardboard, Scotch Tape, Let's Put on a Show! There's a bunch of stuff in the presentation you guys have probably never seen before, especially the early stuff.

If you check it out, leave me some feedback; I've still got some time to change it up if need be. Be sure to play the presentation full-screen; there are a few embedded videos in the Prezi as well, and you have to play them manually by holding your mouse over their images until video controls show up. Prezi won't mute background music while a video is playing, you'll have to do that manually by clicking on the mute button (not the Prezi logo!) in the bottom left of the control bar (it pops up if you leave your mouse at the bottom of the screen) before watching a video.

Now, as for the medical stuff ...

Today I was supposed to go in for my third round of chemotherapy. However, they decided to postpone it for a week after they did the routine labwork; it turns out that my white blood cell counts are still low (last week they recovered slightly, but they're back down again this week) while my platelets are way low; something like a third of the minimum amount for normalcy.

I've heard before that, if necessary, they can inject patients with blood growth drugs that encourage production of red and white blood cells, but I guess there are some side effects I don't know about because my oncologist has been reluctant to do that. Well, either way, I guess I get a brief break from the side effects. My hair hasn't fallen out in great clumps yet; I feel more like a dog shedding its winter coat, and I haven't developed any bald spots (yet). It'd be nice if I wasn't hit with the worst of the side effects, but the nurse who helped me today said that she's seen other college kids with cancer; they start out thinking they can continue as normal while on chemo, but are quickly forced into dropping all but one or two of their classes because they're just too weak to continue.

(It's funny, almost EVERYONE who meets me thinks I'm in my early or mid 20s. Apparently I look really young for my age. I certainly don't feel like I should be 30.)

I have some good news on the financial front, or potentially good news. I met with the hospital business office and discussed my financial situation; they can put me in an Uncompensated Care program, which waives most of the bills I'd need to pay (I think all they get is the 80% allowable charge from the insurance company). However, I need to be approved for that first, and I need to supply them with some documents proving my financial situation by December 15. I'm trying to focus on that, but with college classwork putting the squeeze on me, I hope I can find the time to do so.

That's all the newsworthy stuff I've got for now; stay safe, guys, and for my fellow Americans, happy Thanksgiving!
I was going to make this update after my second infusion this Monday, but I've been under a bit of pressure this week with university coursework and exams, so I had to hold off until I could get a breather. The second infusion completed my first round of chemo. I also met with my oncologist that day, and got a melange of good and bad news.

First, some good news: The bone marrow biopsy came back clean. No sign of metastasis.

And now, the bad news: The PET scan discovered small tumors in my lymph glands below the diaphragm. That means I do not have Stage II Hodgkin's Lymphoma; it's actually Stage III.

However, there's some more good news in that the chemotherapy is actually having an effect! Before the second infusion, the oncologist checked my neck and said that the swollen lump has indeed shrunk significantly. So it's not my imagination! The chemo seems to be really working. However, to really know for sure how much of an effect it's having, they'd need to do another PET scan. And because Blue Cross Blue Shield will only cover so many PET scans per year, they're not going to do one right away; probably wait until halfway through the treatment to see how things are working out.

The fact that I had Stage III cancer going into this, though, affirmed my oncologist's belief that I need to get the full six rounds of chemo done, rather than finishing early. Not too happy about that, but we'll see how it goes.

Since the second infusion Monday I've been hanging in there. There is one troubling new development; the weekly blood test they do on me revealed that my white blood cell count has gone below the normal threshold. I am now officially immunosuppressed, meaning I need to be REALLY careful about exposing myself to infectious crap. As my white blood cell counts go down, even the common cold could be fatal untreated.

That's going to be nigh impossible in a campus environment, especially when you get so many people who like to just cough or sneeze obnoxiously out in the open. But that's why they gave me antibiotics to have on hand, and told me I NEED to check my temperature three times a day now. If my temperature ever peaks over 100, I'm to start taking the antibiotics immediately. I still worry, though. I've seen the stories of people with Hodgkin's who died not because of the cancer, but because they got an infection while immunosuppressed.

I haven't noticed any other dramatic new side effects, but I am starting to see some. For example, my hands feel prickly more often than not now; I'm pretty sure that's chemo-induced neuropathy, the nerve damage to the hands and feet I worried about before. I'm going to talk to the cancer center next week to warn them about that. They said that if I notice it, they can cut back a bit on the drug known for causing it. Hopefully the damage is not permanent. I haven't started shedding hair, but I am starting to notice more stray hairs than usual coming out when going about my business. Not enough for me to want to go and get my head shaved; I'll wait until I actually see chunks of my hair coming out before I resort to that.

On the upside, I don't itch nearly as much as I have been earlier this year. I still itch and bleed occasionally, but for the moment I think it's finally getting under control. Couldn't have come at a better time!

Aside from that, Cameron University is going to some incredible lengths to help me out as the chemo progresses. I've met with Student Housing and Student Services over the past few weeks concerning my cancer, the chemotherapy, and the side effects and what assistance I may need as time goes on. They're already doing some assisted-living things to help me out, and some more are planned in case I need them--for example, they might start doing meal deliveries as I grow more neutropenic so I don't have to worry about exposing myself as much, and Student Housing has volunteered to help me get around campus using the university karts if I get too weak to walk to class. (On my busiest days I walk like a mile in total!)

In fact, I was just approached today with an offer to move me from my current apartment to one that was recently refurbished and cleaned, rooming with an RA (the same guy who gave me a tour of the campus this summer in fact). I'm gonna take them up on it; this apartment I'm currently in was kind of grody to begin with.

That's where things stand for me right now. My hospital bills are mounting, though; I owe several thousand dollars already, and the bills keep coming in. Once already the hospital called and tried to get me to pay in full, up front. Tomorrow I plan to try and meet with the hospital's business office to try and work out a payment plan; in fact, I was advised to see if I can get some sort of discount for being a university student. Still, I don't think that's going to be enough. I may really need to set up that fundraiser, but finding the time to do it with finals and final projects coming down the line is going to be tough ...
AKA adriamycin, AKA doxorubicin, AKA Cherry Kool-Aid of Death.

Turns out the first drug in ABVD--the one that has a chance of killing heart tissue and causing heart failure--looks very much like cherry Kool-Aid. Or any red-colored Kool-Aid. It'd be funnier if I weren't so worried about the side effects.

But I spent something like six hours down at the Cancer Center today, completely missing class (but my professor for that class is very understanding and has been kept in the loop from the start). First they drew my blood to establish a baseline indicator for my blood cell counts, platelet counts, and other indicators; they'll be doing this weekly. They also changed the bandages and dressing for my PICC line; another weekly ritual. After that, they administered a ton of anti-nausea drugs and then went to the ABVD.

I worried that I'd have a serious adverse reaction to any of the drugs, but so far things have been reasonably smooth sailing. I've mostly been feeling tired, with a somewhat gnawing feeling in my stomach, and like my lungs are more of a blow-up balloon than lungs (I can take a deep breath, but it doesn't feel like they want to expand TOO easily). The sailing won't be smooth for long; this dose of ABVD will be working over my body for two weeks, and I can expect to feel pretty lousy in a week or two when the NEXT infusion of ABVD happens, completing the first of six cycles. What side effects I'll develop will remain to be seen, but I am really hoping that November is the last time I'll be tearing my skin apart from itching.

I saw someone in the Cancer Center's chemo infusion rooms who may or may not be my age, may be in his teens or twenties, who sported the Naked Mole Rat look. No hair at all, no eyebrows, no body hair. That's what I get to look forward to. If only that were the only side effect of chemo ... that and fatigue, that would beat lung, heart, nerve and brain damage by a light year.
So, the crisis with the DMV has been averted. I won't be stuck at Cameron without a license. The cost of it was having to push back all the appointments the Cancer Center made to the coming week, but that worked out in my favor. I was able to contact MD Anderson, have CCMH send them all records and data from the point they discovered the cancer to the current time, and get some solid answers.

I contacted the Proton Beam Therapy Center directly rather than going through MD Anderson's Lymphoma Center, but they have been very helpful. More helpful than the Lymphoma Center, I think. The nurse I spoke to offered to take the data sent by CCMH and have Dr. James Cox (he's the first doctor in this video: www3.mdanderson.org/streams/Fu… ) take a look. It wasn't a formal second opinion (that would require me to fly down to Houston and make an appointment), but they agreed with CCMH's plans to put me on a full six cycles of ABVD. If the tumor responds to treatment but doesn't completely disappear, the Proton Beam Therapy Center could mop up what's left. Depending on how much is left.

The nurse also offered to forward that data to the Lymphoma Center, and I agreed. The Lymphoma Center never contacted me; I had to call them, and they sent me a digital mail-in review packet to fill out. They'll probably want me to come down to Houston to get a second opinion or discuss possible alternatives to ABVD.

At this point though, I think I'm going to go ahead with getting the chemo at CCMH. I at least know now there's no alternative. I looked into an alternate chemotherapy regimen, Stanford V, but I can't really tell if it would put me at more or less risk for permanent side effects than ABVD. It also looks like they specifically use standard radiation therapy to mop up what remains in Stanford V regimens. I wonder if MD Anderson does differently, if they DO use Stanford V? Alas, I'm not going to get that answer by the time chemo starts.

Beyond that though, I've got something to say:

I'm seriously touched by you guys.

The amount of support everyone's shown me once word about the cancer got out has left me flabbergasted. Even from Gravity LLC, the Facebook announcement they've made concerning what's happening to me, it's just ... WOW. Until this month, I was convinced that I'd faded into obscurity given my inability to make good on promises about updating Ragnarok Wisdom. I seriously underestimated how much concern and compassion you all have. Especially to the point that a lot of you have been badly wanting to help me out with the bills. I've had a number of people personally request that I open a fundraiser, and I've seen open discussions about holding one for me.

To get all Tolkien geeky about it, it's like being at the Battle of Pelennor Fields, thinking it's hopeless and you have no one to aid you, then seeing the Rohirrim show up on the horizon ready to assist.

I've been trying to assess how much money I would need to have on hand to pay for all of this. but there are a lot of unknowns. Hospitals like to charge different prices for the same medical procedure and supplies; a hospital a few blocks away could charge ten times the amount as one you're visiting. There's also the question of whether or not I'll be one of the Unlucky 20% ... the ones whose tumors don't respond to treatment and are in for a desperate battle to just prolong their lives by a decade or more.

But for now, I think a good ballpark estimate is that the six cycles of ABVD and related supportive care, office visits, yadda yadda yadda, will cost $10,000 after insurance. I can probably expect Proton Beam Therapy to cost $12,000 after insurance. Since MD Anderson estimates a seven week stay for Proton Beam Therapy, I can expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a stay at a hotel during that time. Depending on where I stay ... I haven't looked into it seriously yet.

So ... I'd need $22k to start. But it could be way more, or way less. I don't know yet. If a fundraiser could pay for even half of that it would be a great burden lifted off my shoulders ... I still need to think about college, after all. I have to remain a student at Cameron to get insurance and the Federal Pell Grant; probably a full-timer. Depending on how things play out though, I could wind up going to MD Anderson during next summer to mop up whatever's left of the tumors, so maybe it won't be an issue.

It's a lot to think about. But I'll see about opening a fundraiser for anyone who wants to pitch in and help me out. I would greatly appreciate whatever assistance you all could give me.

For now, that chemo can't start soon enough. I itch like crazy a lot of the time now, even while taking antihistamines (so far I've tried Zyrtec, Claritin, and now Benadryl). I've torn open my skin almost everywhere, and now I look like someone attacked me with a cheese grater. At this point ... I'd take chemo brain over this itching, because it's so relentless you can't focus on anything.
Friday was a stressful, hectic day; after weeks of my internist, the surgery ward, and finally my own calls to the CCMH Cancer Center to get an appointment, I finally had one scheduled for 1:00 PM. This made the day "fun" since i had to figure out how I was going to also drive down to Texas to get my license renewed (I won't get into that here).

The important thing is, I have a rough idea of what to expect in the coming weeks, and what will happen to me. But I also plan on contacting MD Anderson for a second opinion on some of this.

The oncologist is going to put me on chemotherapy; specifically ABVD. All things being equal it'll start on the 21st of this month just after my birthday. But first, on the 14th she's going to do a bone marrow biopsy on me to make sure that the cancer hasn't invaded my bone marrow. If it hasn't, then it will be confirmed as Stage II Bulky. She said the specific subtype of Hodgkin's Lymphoma is classic nodular sclerosis, but she didn't specify which flavor it is. Apparently there's two forms of it, and one is more resistant to treatment than the other.

The surgery ward will also install a PICC Line in me on the 14th, which is a catheter that goes into my blood vessels at the arm, and snakes its way through them until it gets near my heart. Knowing that makes me a little squeamish, but the alternative was a permanent implanted Medi-Port. I'm not ready for that yet. If the tumor resists treatment and they have to go on to other chemo cocktails, then I'll get one installed ... but not yet.

On the 16th I will also have to have a PET/CT Scan and echocardiogram performed on me; the first will determine exactly where all the cancerous cells are by way of a radioactive sugar (cancer cells eat up stuff like glucose faster than other cells, so this lets them see where they all are) ... the latter test will be to determine the current state of my heart. Which brings me to the important part ...

Chemotherapy will permanently damage me, and cause me a lot of temporary grief during treatment.

During treatment, I can expect for certain the following to happen to me because of the cocktail of drugs they're using: Fever and chills, skin reactions (peeling, ulcers, thickening, darkening or reddening, stretch marks), complete hair loss, fatigue and weakness, low blood counts (my immune system will be shut down, and I'll be anemic), nausea and vomiting, poor appetite, mouth sores.

I may also, during the treatment, develop sensitivity to the sun, body and headaches, jaw pain, shortness of breath, and changes in taste.

But the thing that bothers me most are the permanent side effects.

There is a very real possibility that ABVD will cause nerve damage to my hands and feet, which will manifest as numbness, tingling, prickling and even impaired motor control. This was what worried me the most initially, until I found out that one of the drugs WILL destroy anywhere between 2% and 15% of my heart. It depends a lot on the dosage, but I could wind up having heart attacks and heart failure up to eight years down the road.

Both of these side effects are irreversible with current medical technology. There have been some encouraging medical studies done using cardiac stem cells to repair hearts with cardiomyopathy, but like most medical research, it'll be 15 years or more before it's approved as a standard treatment.

(EDIT: Even worse, a day after posting this I just found out that I can expect permanent brain damage, as well. "Chemo-brain," they call it. I can expect taking a hit in multitasking, reading comprehension, short-term memory, remembering words, and more. This is going to be devastating to me as a university student and in the career I want to pursue.)

Oh, and ABVD will put me at an increased risk for developing secondary cancers; leukemia specifically.

I can't help but think how lucky my mother was. All she had was a radiotherapy; they didn't do chemo on her, because the tumor was isolated on the side of her neck. Me, I'm going to be trading certain death at the hands of an untreated cancer for possible death in the coming decade and permanent damage from the chemotherapy. Assuming, of course, the chemo kills the tumor. The oncologist seems to think ABVD has a good chance of ridding me of the cancer entirely, no radiation therapy needed. I guess we'll see.

When I asked the oncologist if they can cryotherapy to help protect my scalp, hands and feet (cryotherapy uses a cold cap, as well as cold mittens and booties, to restrict blood flow and lessen the dose received by those parts of the body), she said they won't, telling me that she had been in a recent meeting where studies said cryotherapy may reduce the effectiveness of treatment.

That's one thing I plan to talk to someone at MD Anderson about. I know for a fact that MD Anderson does use chemotherapy before proton beam therapy, so even if I resolved to go down there I would likely still be put on ABVD and face the same problems. I may also ask if they do Stanford V, and if it's less damaging than ABVD (which was the impetus for its development).

So, that's how things look for me now. While I am on the treatment I'm going to be like a naked mole rat, hairless and easily burned by the sun. I'm also going to have to take my own temperature three times a day, since my immune system will be offlined by the drugs and I won't know if I may have an infection. I've also been advised to avoid large crowds and sunlight. Both of these things are impossible on an outdoors university campus, but I'm going to be talking with the university employees about things they can possibly do to help me there.

Coping with this while handling my near-max load at college is going to be really hard.
Well, guys, it's confirmed. I have cancer. Hodgkin's Lymphoma. What a present to get for my 30th birthday, huh? In the same year as my mom's death, at that ...

Here's a rundown of the past few weeks. After the initial CT scan on September 11 revealed I did indeed have swollen masses in my neck, I had a followup appointment with my internist on the 18th, where he gave me a copy of the report.

It was worse than it sounded over the phone. It's not all in my neck. The "larger mass" they saw "behind" my swollen neck lymph nodes is actually in my chest lymph cavity (an anterior superior mediastinal mass) and it's larger than 10 centimeters in measurement. Long story short, on top of the large lumps in my neck I can feel, I have a grapefruit-sized sheet draped over the top of my heart and greater vessels.

On the 23rd I had more extensive CT scans to determine if I had more tumors in my body, and if there was any signs of organ invasion or metastasis. I made sure to get the report back ASAP; thankfully, the rest of my body is clean (for now).

On the 27th I had a biopsy. Not a needle biopsy; they put me under, cut me open and took out several lymph nodes for analysis. It was only today, after making repeated phone calls throughout the week, that I got a response back confirming what I suspected was going on with me.

I'm being referred to a local oncologist to set up an appointment, get a more precise prognosis and staging (I'm predicting Stage II unfavorable because it's in two places and fits the "bulky" definition) and discuss treatment options. Hodgkin's Lymphoma is actually a cancer with a very high cure rate, something like 80%+. However, it's still Russian Roulette; if the tumors don't respond to treatment (it can happen) or if they return, my days will be pretty much numbered.

For now, I've been looking into my options. Since I have a tumor in front of my heart, I really don't want to get standard radiation therapy since that will irradiate my heart, lungs, and other healthy tissues as much as the cancer itself. I may see about flying down to Houston to get treated at MD Anderson, where they have Pencil-Scanning Proton Beam Therapy, a very accurate form of radiation therapy that uses protons to deposit radiation right within the tumor, causing much less collateral damage.

However, proton beam therapy is way more expensive. And even though I now have insurance and MD Anderson is in my insurance provider's network, I still have to pay 20% of the total cost of whatever Blue Cross Blue Shield haggles with the hospital. I've already spent several hundreds of dollars just to get this prognosis. Since I'm a near-max load full time student, I have no means of income, and the entire cost of treatment as well as flying down to Houston and staying for several months could easily dwarf what money has been left to me.

That's not even considering I still nave to pay for tuition, books, room and board and all the other university fees, and I HAVE to remain a student in order to keep my insurance plan.

So financially, I'm in a bad spot. While I've kept my teachers and professors informed and discussed possible options for distance learning if I go to Houston, I may not have the money to ensure I get the safest possible treatment while still having enough money to continue my studies. MD Anderson may have payment plans to break down the full expense, but even then, there are presently a lot of unknowns.

Things look kinda bleak for me at the moment.
Hey guys, short update.

This Wednesday I was finally able to see a doctor about the symptoms I've mentioned having since June. He confirmed that there is definitely something there in my neck, and it's not just a tendon or my imagination. He was able to get a CT scan as well as a variety of labwork ordered for me immediately after the appointment.

Although I was scheduled to see him again next Wednesday, he called me back on the lab results.

While he says that my lab results are good, the CT scan is consistent with lymphoma. They saw a large lymph node and a larger mass behind it.

While this doesn't mean I have lymphoma for sure, they're going to need to do a biopsy on me to determine what exactly it is they're dealing with. They're also not sure what kind of lymphoma it could be, whether it's Hodgkin's Lymphoma (which my mother had before she had me) or if non-Hodgkin's.

I'll keep you guys informed, but I was honestly expecting an outcome like this.
Hey, guys.

A lot has happened since the death of my mom. In May, I finally graduated from the college I was attending, earning an Associate's Degree after so many years of admissions hijinks. I graduated magna cum laude and as a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, to boot. Yet despite that achievement, multiple times throughout the summer I came very close to winding up on the street. I'd rather not elaborate on it publicly because it delves into unpleasant family issues, but I will say that if it weren't for my (maternal) grandparents' intervention, I wouldn't be here today. I owe them a lot, and I'm very thankful they're still here.

So, where I stand now: I'm currently living in Oklahoma as a full-time student of Cameron University, pursuing the Bachelor's degree in Multimedia Design program as I'd planned to do since 2009. I live on campus, and almost all of the expenses (tuition, books, fees, etc.) are coming out of my pocket. Thankfully, I've got some financial assistance (not student loans!) that have helped take much of the edge off the cost.

I'm not out of the woods yet. In fact, things may get worse. I've had some distressing health concerns crop up mid-June that haven't gone away. Thankfully now that I'm living here at Cameron I actually have medical insurance and am trying to see a doctor about it. At present I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop; if I do get diagnosed with something serious, I'll make an update about it.

Beyond that, what this means for you guys: I can't make any promises about Ragnarok Wisdom. I really do want to get back to getting that expanse of missing comics uploaded like I promised on the 10th anniversary last year, but the summer and most of my time since moving to Cameron back on the 11th has been devoted to a lot of running around, taking care of loose ends in financial aid and admissions, things I've had to take care of in the student housing apartment, and trips back down to my former home to retrieve things I'd need up here. Heck, I almost had no time for coursework. It's been that bad.

I'm hoping things will normalize soon. Which brings me to something else: my new situation should allow me more financial freedom. I may actually, for once, be able to take commissions and even make Ragnarok Wisdom merchandise (not that I expect anyone will buy RW merch nowadays). Considering the expenses I'm shouldering now, in addition to the semiannual upkeep to my website, every bit of money will help.

So ... that's what 2013 has been like for me so far. I'll try and keep you guys up to date on any new developments.

Peace.
Hey guys.

I apologize for the lack of activity on Ragnarok Wisdom or updates on my status. I won't get into what was going on for the past few months, but I wanted to let anyone who's still keeping tabs on me to know about this.

My mother died earlier this morning.

I don't really know at the moment what else to say except that things are going to be really hard on me now. My life has been turned upside down by this, and I'm not sure how things will shake out in the forseeable future.

See you guys later.
Hey gang,

I know I said I was going to try and get all those Ragnarok Wisdom comics I've had lying around put up on the site, but I'm not so sure I'll be able to do that in any sort of timely manner now.

Earlier today, in a bid to start troubleshooting an issue I've been having with my new video card since June (in which I am unable to watch videos or run any programs involving 3D without risking system freezes, BSoDs, and artifacts), I spent the afternoon blowing dust out of the case and in the video card slots. When I hooked the computer back up, I could no longer access my main hard drive--where all my personal stuff and projects are.

After spending most of the night investigating this, it appears my main drive is dead. On Black Friday, of all days.

I'm a bit paranoid about this kind of thing happening, so prior to today I'd spent the past few days backing up my data to a series of blu-ray disks. It's not everything that was on the drive, but it's the stuff that mattered to me most, including all my project files for Ragnarok Wisdom and the like.

I do have a secondary drive which I use for storing non-essential stuff like games and what not, and as far as I can tell it's still doing fine (though, its SMART data shows it as being LESS healthy than my dead hard drive. Don't know what to make of that)

But for now, I'm unable to use my computer or do anything with my projects. I'm looking into getting a new main drive--I may spring for an SSD finally, as I'd like to have a drive for the OS that WON'T get mechanical failures as some of my techie friends believe is the case this time. I'm not looking for a ton of storage space for a main drive anyhow; just one that's reliable. If any of you guys have experience with SSDs or can name some brands and models I should look into, let me know!

For now, I'll just be over here in the corner fuming silently.