Announcing the winners of the Be a Hero in the Fight Against Cancer raffle!

Posted: April 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »
As I announced earlier on the Facebook page, the winners in the Be a Hero in the Fight Against Cancer raffle have been selected! Thanks to their generous contributions (as well as those of others who chose not to be included in the drawing), we managed to raise a total of $454, and I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate that. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
 
And now, the winners are:
 
Asjha Stus — signed DCU Online posters, Wonder Woman bookmarks, and a Half-Price Books gift card
 
Kyle Jones — the Indie Comics pack
 
Tom Alvarado — the DC Showcase bundle
 
Rebekah Starnes — two Marvel hardcover collections
 
Virginia Childers Davidson — the Indie Hero pack
 
Peter Gaskin — the Sideshow Boba Fett figure
 
Ryan Steans — the vintage Hall of Justice playset
 
Thanks again to everyone who donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Cancer Society, Fuck Cancer, and LIVESTRONG — your generosity will help people dealing with cancer treatment, and will also go toward research that will help us take care of this sucker once and for all. And of course, big thanks to everyone who donated items for the raffle itself — none of this would’ve been possible without you!

BOBA FETT joins the battle against cancer!

Posted: March 2nd, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Another prize has been added to the raffle drawing, and this one is a doozy:

star-wars-boba-fett-sixth-scale-21282-02

Huge, huge thanks go to Peter Gaskin, who not only donated to one of the cancer organizations we’re supporting, but who also provided this brand-new, sixth-scale Boba Fett figure! As you can see from this description page, this is an amazing prize, and it could be yours with just one simple donation to one of the following groups:

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer

Livestrong

And remember, every donation is an entry, so the more donations you make, the more chance you have to win! Let’s be heroes, and join the fight against cancer.

See here for more details!


Announcing prizes for the Fight Cancer raffle!

Posted: February 19th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | No Comments »

After a couple of weeks of mostly silence, a flood of raffle donations have come in, and believe me when I tell you it’s a stack of really awesome stuff.

Donate to the American Cancer Society, Livestrong, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or to F*ck Cancer (the organization supported by Arrow star Stephen Amell!) and you’ll have a chance to win one of these great prizes. And remember, someone was generous enough to donate these items for the raffle, so please be generous when you donate to one (or more) of these organizations. A donation in any amount gets you in, and every individual donation you make counts as an entry. (See this previous post for more details.)

Not only would your donation help support cancer research and treatment, it might nab you one of these prizes!

Indie_bundle_TB_MR

  • An Indie Comics bundle, with titles including The Rack: Year One (Mostly), 32 Stories (an Optic Nerve collection), Caricature by Daniel Clowes, Snake Pit Gets Old (by Austin creator Ben Snakepit!), and the Wild West Show anthology (signed by several of the artists and writers!). Oh, and I threw in a Dark Horse keychain for good measure. Most of these books were donated by pal Tina Brackins.

Showcase_collection_DCUO_SM

  • DC Showcase Presents collection, which you can see is a nice stack of goodness. One lucky person will get all of these books! We can thank SJ Mueller and DC Universe Online for this prize, as well as this next one. A collection of mini Wonder Woman bookmarks will come with this, too.

DCUO_Fights_Cancer1

DCUO_Fights_Cancer2

  • This is really, really great, and would be a fantastic addition to any comic book fan or gamer’s collection. As you might be able to tell, these are posters for the DC Universe Online MMO, signed by each member of the development team! These make for a very unique prize, and depending on the number of entries these might be split among two donors, or they might go to one entrant. Thanks again go to SJ Mueller and the dev team at DC Universe Online.

OK, people, hold on to your butts — this next prize is a big one.

Mego_HallofJustice_RK

  • Your eyes do not deceive you; that is a beautifully preserved Mego Hall of Justice! Generously donated by the inestimable Rob Kelly, this 1976 playset is gorgeous, and 99.9 percent complete (all that’s missing is the conference table accessory). It even includes the mini-catalog it originally came with for other Mego toys!The outer walls of the Hall of Justice feature images of Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman, Supergirl, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow. As you can see, it also comes in its original box, which is amazing.

Some other prizes that are also up for grabs (but not pictured):

  • A $20 gift certificate for Half-Price Books
  • Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee (hardcover) and Spider-Man & The Human Torch hardcover (by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton)
  • A Star Wars-themed prize to be named at a later date (but believe me, it’s incredible)

I’ll update this post as soon as additional prizes become available. Remember to donate to one of the following organizations, and you’ll be entered to win one of these awesome prizes!

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer

Livestrong


Fighting cancer takes balls (and donations)

Posted: January 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

A few months ago, I was talking to someone about their testicles.

I don’t remember exactly who, so I hope neither they nor their testicles take that personally. The important thing is I was telling this guy that he was young and so had a greater risk of developing testicular cancer. It’s a conversation I’ve had with a lot of men since February 2013, when I was diagnosed with it.

I’ve talked about that before, so I’ll just say that it was very scary, and I was very lucky, and I’m doing A-OK now. (If you want a little more detail, you can read more here.) Around the same time, a friend of mine also developed cancer, and a few months ago my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (both are also OK). And just recently the world lost rock legend David Bowie and beloved actor Alan Rickman. It’s easy to lose sight of the way cancer affects all of us until it becomes personal.

My point is, I’ve been thinking lately that I’d like to do more to help cancer research and treatment efforts, and maybe get my friends involved. That’s where you guys come in.

A while back, Kevin Church did a raffle-like fundraiser in honor of his birthday, and I’m totally ripping off the idea. Between now and March 6, 2016, I’ll be asking everyone to donate to the American Cancer Society, Livestrong, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or F*ck Cancer (you don’t have to donate to all of them — just one is fine), and email the receipt for your contribution to me. That contribution, no matter how small or large, will be your entry. Each individual donation will count as one entry, so if you donate to all four organizations, that’ll count as four entries. On March 6, I’ll randomly draw the names of the people who’ve entered and hand out hopefully awesome prizes.

But I need help, so I’m asking all you writers, artists, collectors, fans, and comic book store owners to contribute comic book and pop culture items to be raffled off, items that would encourage others to donate to any of the charities listed above. Anything that anyone would be willing to contribute to the raffle — big or small — is very much appreciated, and indeed, will be vital to this little fundraiser even happening. And as soon as raffle items start coming in, I’ll post them here so everyone can see what they could win!

I chose March 6 as the day for the raffle because, almost three years ago, that was the day I had the surgery to remove the malignant tumor, along with the testicle where it had decided to set up house.  (I was diagnosed in late February, had the surgery, and started radiation about three weeks later.) That was also when my doctor told me he was 99.9 percent sure that they had gotten all of the cancer out. It was the day I felt as if I could stop holding my breath, and get back to living my life.

Seems like a good day to me.

If you’ve got some cool stuff that could help me raise money for cancer awareness and treatment, please consider doing so. If you’d like to donate for a chance to win that cool stuff, consider that, too. Help me get the word out by sharing this post on your social media of choice, and keep an eye out for updates.

Thanks.

How To Donate Items for the Raffle

Contact me at maxoromero [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’ll give you the physical address. You can also DM me on Facebook and Twitter.

How to Donate to Charities Fighting Cancer

One more time, here are the organizations I hope you’ll contribute to:

American Cancer Society

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

F*ck Cancer

Livestrong

Hey, Let’s Talk Testicles

Testicular cancer is, fortunately, a fairly uncommon type of cancer that affects about 1 out of every 263 men annually. Unfortunately, it usually develops in younger men (the average age is 33), and can spread quickly if not treated. In a sense, I’m lucky to be middle-aged; my doctor told me that since my body is generally slowing down (er, thanks), that meant the cancer was slow, too. Younger men, with their bunny-like metabolisms, tend to see their cancers develop and spread faster.

So what should you be looking for? The next time your down there — c’mon, you know it won’t be long — thoroughly check how your testicles feel. They should feel like a peeled, hard-boiled egg, with no bumps, lumps or protrusions. Don’t go by whether or not there’s any pain; my tumor didn’t hurt at all, and this type of cancer actually only becomes uncomfortable if the tumor is allowed to grow to a huge size. (My doctor told me that he’s seen more than one guy come in with growths the size of a navel orange. That is CRAZY.) And hey, if you’re not sure something is out of place, get yourself a partner and have them give it a feel — who says a self-exam can’t be fun?

If you feel anything, ANYTHING, odd, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. No excuses, no time to waste. Hell, that’s good advice for just about anything. So let’s take care of ourselves, and if we can, let’s take care of each other.

Find more information on different types of cancer, their symptoms, and how they’re treated at the American Cancer Society’s resource page.


Riding shotgun with the Ghost of John Wayne

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

When I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2013, I was scared.

It’s hard to describe what that really means. I have the usual apprehensions most people have – How are we ever going to afford that thing we need? Am I going to get in trouble with my boss for that mistake? Should I go to that thing or stay home? But this was different. This was, literally, a matter of life or death, and it was overwhelming.

I should tell you now, this isn’t about cancer, at least not really. It’s about John Wayne.

Once I went through the whole process of diagnosis, confirmation, and surgery, the final step was getting radiation treatments (I was very lucky – a combination of early detection and quick responses from my doctors meant I got to avoid chemo). When Sandy and I were taken to one of the doctor’s exam rooms, we were surrounded. Staring laconically out at us from nearly every wall space and flat surface was The Duke.

Posters, studio stills, and memorabilia wrapped us up in a virtual John Wayne blanket (which I would not have been surprised to find). Along with my doctor’s laid back, hippy, Hefner-meets-David Wooderson vibe, it was the first time in the whole process that I allowed myself to feel that everything was going to be OK. John Wayne – and anyone who obviously found so much inspiration in him – wasn’t going to let me down.

Before this, I most closely associated Wayne with my mom. She’s a big fan, and back when I was younger we would spend a lot of weekend time watching his movies on cable. At the time cable was a new thing, a young and wiry version of what it is today, full of promise but frustratingly lacking in depth. We had maybe a dozen or so channels, about half of those being local. But we did get KTLA, a station out of Los Angeles that padded out its programming the same way a lot of channels did then – with lots and lots of old movies and serials.

And that’s how I got my education in John Wayne. Mom wasn’t as big on his war movies or the few noir and romancey films he made, but of course that still left plenty of the cowboy movies that made him a towering icon of popular culture. “Stagecoach.” “Rio Grande” (his first film with Maureen O’Hara). “The Searchers.” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.” “True Grit” and “Rooster Cogburn.” All these and more made me a fan, too, and gave me an enduring love of westerns that I’ll always associate with Mom. I have a soft spot for all of them, but none occupy a space a big as the one reserved for “The Shootist.”

“The Shootist” is, without a doubt, my absolute favorite John Wayne movie, and probably one of my top 10 favorite movies, period. Wayne gives the best, most nuanced, and heartbreaking performance of his life in this movie, which co-stars a young Ron Howard, a still-captivating Lauren Bacall, and the quietly raging James Stewart. The cast alone is a powerhouse, but Wayne is the rock-steady center of a film on life fading away.

The movie is about an aging gunfighter (Wayne), who’s name alone still has the power to set people on edge; when J.B. Books is in the room, everyone else starts looking for the exit. For the most part, though, Books just wants some peace and quiet because, after surviving a lifetime of shoot-outs, cancer is killing him. He wants to drift into history without fuss like the Wild West itself,  and finds a small town where he figures he can live out what’s left of his life. But Dr. Hostetler (Stewart) tells him his death will be as ugly as his past – Books can expect his body to painfully betray him, to the point that even laudanum won’t see him through anymore.

New to town, Books finds a room at a local boarding house, run by a widow and her son (Bacall and Howard). Bond Rogers knows who he is and doesn’t like having a killer under her roof one bit, but her son Gillom is fascinated by the gunfighter and wants to follow in his footsteps. Meanwhile, word has gotten around that Books is in town, and people have come gunning for the legendary shootist.

One of the things I like best about this movie is how low-key the whole thing is while also accomplishing an underlying tension that comes from knowing tragedy is inevitable. That tension becomes palpable when you find out this is John Wayne’s last movie, and that this was an undeniably personal film for Wayne. He had already lost a lung and some ribs to an earlier bout with lung cancer. Three years after this movie’s release in 1976 he would die from stomach cancer.

In the 70s, when I was growing up, that’s what cancer did – it killed you. Diagnoses would tend to come much later in the cancer’s growth, and treatment was almost medieval compared to today. Cancer was practically a death sentence, it seemed, and survival was at best a coin toss. It didn’t matter if it was his six-pack-a-day cigarette habit or his exposure to highly radioactive soil while on location for “The Conqueror;” cancer finally brought down the Duke.

The irony of seeing a couple of dozen images of a man who died of cancer while waiting to be treated for cancer wasn’t lost on me. Still, for whatever reason, I found comfort in it. And when, at the end of my radiation treatment, the doctor gave me a plaque with a John Wayne quote on it, I cried.

The quote is short and simple. It says:

Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.

I hung that plaque above my nightstand, and I see it every day. And every day, I saddle up.


It’s got a good beat, and you can get irradiated to it

Posted: April 26th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Getting radiation treatment is a lonely sort of thing.

It’s not for a lack of people being around. At any given session there were at least two to four (and, once, five) radiologists, technicians and nurses hanging around while I became more and more comfortable with essentially being naked from the waist down in front of strangers*. But that was the flurry of activity before and after. In between, during the actual treatment, I was alone.

Just me and a radio.

This is what happened every weekday for three weeks. I would show up at the oncology center, sign in and wait a few minutes. Then I would be escorted to one of the rooms where a radiation machine was waiting for me, filling a large, darkened room with its bulk. Attached to it is a narrow rack to lay on, while the rest of the machine hunches over you and lasers in the walls and ceiling help line up the machine’s radiating eye. The room is dark and cool, and directly above where you lay a couple of the flourescent lighting panels have been replaced with a translucent image of a pretty stream running through a well-manicured park. Something to relax you.

I think that’s what the radio is for, too. Without it the only sound in the room would be the air running through vents, the clunk-whirr of the machine as it rotates into place, and then the cheap-microwave buzz as it cooks away any stray cancer cells that might be lurking in your body. The total time for treatment was only 10 to 15 minutes, and most of that was prep; minutes are used aligning the machine, and only a few seconds at a time are spent getting irradiated. But during the few minutes alone, I was glad to have music.

Quiet time is empty time, and whenever that happens my mind tries to fill it. Usually that’s good since that’s often when I’m most creative. But when I’m worried or anticipating something stressfully beyond my direct control, my imagination runs wild. Without that radio – tuned to an 80s station mostly, sometimes to country – I wouldn’t have had anything to distract me from the machine driving radiation into me. Nothing to help me ignore the awkwardness of laying there, vulnerable. Everything a reminder of the cancer that had pushed its way into my life and the bodily soil I was salting to make sure it doesn’t come back.

The first song I heard on the first day of treatment was so cheerful, so peppy, that it took me aback. So much so that the treatment was over before I realized it, and now “We Got the Beat” by The Go-Go’s is my own Fry-like “Walking on Sunshine.”

After that I decided to keep track of the music playing while I got my radiation treatments, and now I’m sharing it with you. This list was formed completely by chance; I didn’t have any say in what music to listen to, and I didn’t necessarily like everything that was played or even know the artist playing. But this is the way it happened. And now this is music that will always, in some way, be part of my personal soundtrack.

Day 1
“We Got the Beat” – The Go-Go’s
 
D2
“Gone Country” – Alan Travis

(I stopped listening to new country music sometime in the mid-90s, which is why I was still able to recognize this one.)

D3
“Promises, Promises” – Naked Eyes

(A lot of 80s songs remind me of my wife Sandy, which makes me like them more; this is one of them.)

D4
“Two Princes” – Spin Doctors

(A song from early in our relationship; Sandy and I had just started dating a few months after this was released.)

D5
“Stayin’ Alive” – Bee Gees

(Nice one, Bee Gees.)

D6
“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joan Jett & The Blackhearts

(Kick-ass song from a kick-ass lady; I probably sang along to this one.)

D7
“Only Prettier” – Miranda Lambert

(I had to ask who this was, though I got the idea she’s a Big Deal.)

D8
“Paper in Fire” – John Cougar Mellencamp

(I’ve always liked this song.)

D9
“Don’t Leave Me This Way” – Thelma Houston

(Great song; don’t worry, you know it even if you think you don’t.)

D10
“Some Like It Hot” – Power Station

(Pure, 80s supergroup; this one makes me think of Sandy – the biggest Duran Duran fan I know – too.)

D11
“Footloose” – Kenny Loggins

(Confession: When “Footloose” hit the dollar theater, I must’ve seen it seven or eight times.)

D12
“Sledgehammer” – Peter Gabriel

(This was played into the ground when it was released; all these years later, I still like it.)

D13
“Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” – Train

(Sandy and I have dozens of “our songs,” and this is one of them.)

D14
“Small Town U.S.A.” – Justin Moore

(I’m sure Justin Moore is a very nice guy.)

D15
“Holy Diver” – Dio

(I’m cheating a little bit here, because this was actually playing in the car when we left after my last treatment. But I have a history with this song – one shared with Sandy and some close friends – and its pure, undistilled, classic heavy-metalness has always been a source of head-banging joy. I couldn’t have picked a better song to end on. Except maybe “Rainbow in the Dark.”)

If you’d like to listen along, here’s a playlist I put together on Spotify. Weirdly, neither “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” or “Sledgehammer” were available, so here are the original videos (along with “Holy Diver,” because it’s Dio).

* I should point out that the staff at the oncology center were fantastic, and very literally lifted my faith in human beings. Every single person was kind and friendly, taking time to talk to me not just about treatment but about my day and my life. They took something that could have been scary and stressful and smoothed it down into something easy to handle. They are amazing people. If this was a mixtape, I’d dedicate it to them.

Adventures in Sound: A sigh of relief

Posted: March 6th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 6 Comments »

I must have come up with a dozen different ways to say this.

I thought about being witty. I thought I could be funny. Or somber. Or brave. Strident. Shaken.

Finally, I decided it was best to just say it: Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

The only way I can keep everything straight is from the beginning, so I’ll start there. About three weeks ago I noticed a bump on my testicle. It didn’t seem to be very big — around the size of a small pea, maybe — and it wasn’t painful; I’d had a slight groin pull around the same time and thought that might have had something to do with it. But when it didn’t go away after a week I told Sandy and together we decided that I should go to the doctor. On Monday, Feb. 25, I went to see my GP.

The doctor didn’t like it, saying it felt like a solid mass. Our doctor, thankfully, has always been very proactive both in terms of treatment and prevention, and she sent us to get an ultrasound that same afternoon. She also told me to get an appointment with an urologist, who would take a closer look at it and make a more definitive diagnosis. In the meantime, an ultrasound is essentially giving real-time images, so my doctor’s initial assessment was confirmed immediately — the mass wasn’t a cyst.

When I called her Tuesday to let her know I had an appointment with the urologist for the following Monday, she said, “Mmm, no, you need to call back and get something sooner. Something no later than tomorrow or Thursday.” Luckily, there was a cancellation, and I managed to see him that same day.

I think that’s when things started getting scary. Things were quickly going from abstract to concrete, and it was a reality that frightened me more than I could have expected. My mom and both of my grandmothers had cancer, and in a way I always kind of thought, in the back of my mind, that I would get it someday. But that is a long way from actually getting it. Unfortunately, that’s what the urologist confirmed, and that’s when he diagnosed me with testicular cancer.

It’s an awful experience, in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Waiting for answers is one of the worst things; worrying about what it could mean for Sandy the absolute worst. For the next few days we alternated between being positive and crying in each other’s arms.

Things had already been moving fast, and it just got faster. That afternoon I had blood work done; two days later, on a Thursday, I got a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread. The CT tech, like every one else I had dealt with to that point, was nice — cheerful, positive, careful not to promise any results one way or the other. I had a follow-up with the urologist the following Monday, which meant a long weekend of being desperate for answers but dreading a phone call from the doctor. We figured if we didn’t hear from him, that was a good sign — otherwise it would mean things were worse than we’d hoped.

Friday, while we were out for dinner, we allowed ourselves to relax just a little because we had arbitrarily decided that if we made it to 6 p.m., it probably meant the doctor’s office wouldn’t be calling. A few minutes after 6 the phone rang; when I answered, it turned out to be a wrong number. I didn’t know whether to laugh or spend the next half hour cursing at the girl on the other end of the line.

The weekend slowly came and went without a phone call. On Monday we worked until it was time to go to the doctor’s, and then we waited some more in a tiny examination room. When he came in he said, “The CT scan was clean. The blood work didn’t show any of the proteins we talked about. It’s clean. This is very good.” I had to ask him again just to be sure – did he mean that the cancer hadn’t spread? Yes, he answered, the cancer was isolated to my right testicle. My liver, my kidneys, my pancreas were OK. We cried again, this time with relief.

My surgery was planned for Wednesday, just two days later. Usually it’s considered too risky to just remove the tumor, so standard procedure is to take out the testis completely. I was no exception and my testicle was removed in what was, amazingly, an out-patient procedure. Thanks to my urologist I’m resting comfortably at home now, sore from the 3-inch incision slashing diagonally across my pelvis but getting by with Tylenol, ice packs and plenty of TLC from Sandy, my mom, and my nephew Pato (who lives with us while he goes to college). My mom flew down for the surgery as soon as it was scheduled; when I told her about the diagnosis, I could hear her starting to hyperventilate over the phone with shock. No parent wants to hear their child has cancer, even if that child is 43. Later she told me that until we started getting test results, she felt as if an elephant was sitting on her chest. “I feel like I can breathe again,” she said.

Two days ago, a Friday, I saw my doctor for a post-op follow-up and to have a drainage tube removed. The doctor said the surgery went well, and he didn’t see anything that worried him. The pathology report showed that the tumor was a classic seminoma, which is the least aggressive form of testicular cancer and the easiest to treat. He is recommending a couple of radiation treatments at a very low intensity just to make sure it’s gone, and I’ll be scheduling appointments with the radiologist in three weeks. Just a precaution, he said, because he’s sure we caught it early and that the surgery removed whatever cancer was there.

That’s fine. Whatever it takes.

It still amazes me how fast everything happened. In a little less than two weeks I’ve gone from primary diagnosis to surgery to recovery. In two weeks I’ve gone from cancer patient to cancer survivor. And I’m so grateful. Grateful for the quick response of my doctors. Grateful for the strength and love of my wife. Grateful that when we first started freelancing she insisted one of the first things we budget for was health insurance. Grateful for the support, the fierce affection, and inappropriate jokes shared with family and friends. Grateful for whatever made us decide to get a simple bump checked out instead of ignoring it.

If you take anything from this, let it be that. Pay attention to what your body tells you. Nothing that seems odd, or different, or just uncomfortable enough that you “can live with it” is worth ignoring. Don’t be completely paranoid, but don’t be afraid to be a little paranoid. See your doctor, and ask every question you have when you do.

And then, when you’ve taken care of yourself and your health, take a breath. Take a loving look at this life you’ve been given. And be grateful.