My Journey Back to Music

When the revelation of my diagnosis hit me, I wasn’t in a hospital room and I wasn’t sitting motionless on an examination table with a doctor asking me if I had heard him.

I was home. I was in the shower. I had plans to go out for dinner late that day.

There are very few things in life you can be sure of – yet somehow, this realization hit me with the clarity of a pair of perfectly tuned prescription glasses. I was going to die, and it was going to happen much sooner than I had ever thought. (My realization was later legitimized with a doctor’s nod and a rushed excisional surgery).

I had a bevy of reactions to my revelation:

1. Gratitude. By my count, not many people get prior notice of their impending demise. Many simply perish tragically in accidents or unforeseen trauma. I considered myself lucky to even have the opportunity to react and perhaps make something of my remaining time.

2. Relinquishment. I had so many plans and too many aspirations. Where would I find the time to be a film director now? Where would I steal moments to become game a designer and coding aficionado? And what about my music? I had wanted such bold things on a grandiose scale. But I couldn’t ignore the likely possibility that they would never come to pass. In this, I was forced to let go, so that I could go on living without regret and without turmoil.

3. Regret. There is one person in my life that I’ve majorly screwed things up with. One of the most troubling things through the time centered around my diagnosis was the idea that I would never be able to reconcile with this person. I was less concerned with dying than I was with making things right before losing the opportunity to do anymore. This thought was one of the most upsetting to me.

4. Haste. How much time was left? Who could accurately say? It was time to make hay while the sun shined. Or rather, time to make music while I still lived.

“I regarded my situation as that of a man trapped on an island slowly starving to death, with nothing but a pencil and paper to record his thoughts.”

These feelings and reactions washed over me during the entire month of my initial diagnosis. I regarded my situation as that of a man trapped on an island slowly starving to death, with nothing but a pencil and paper to record his thoughts (and maybe a bottle to release it in).

During the time, I had songs written and recorded – things that to me were half-baked and unfinished, even lackluster.

Knowing this, I decided anyway that it would be better to speak out by playing what I had rather than wait for a more perfect sound that I may never achieve, especially given my limited timeframe.

So, I began chemo – but more importantly I began assembling my album. I had been waiting to do a self-titled album, and now was the perfect time. I gathered the tracks that I truly appreciated, noted how I could improve them, then got to work adding polish, melodies, and effects.

The summer was a blur. After I began chemotherapy, one day bled into the next. Sleep became like clothes in a cluttered bedroom – scattered everywhere in my life, hard to move without bumping into something. The worst side effect of all was the head fog, a confusing and disorienting side effect which made it difficult to concentrate and keep a single line of thought without forgetting, zoning out, or giving up.

There were days during the summer when I brought my laptop into my hospital room, passing the time during infusions with production sessions, allowing me to temporarily forget the body I inhabited. Even these days are a blur now. Of the things I concretely remember, there are few:

– Kind, sympathetic nurses & staff.
– My family watching over me.
– A growing desire to cease existing. (Due to unending pain, nausea, ache etc.)
– One conglomerate hospital room comprised of many which I spent my infusion time in.
– My bed where I lay for ~70% of the summer.

By the end of summer, I wanted to die. I wanted peace.

“I didn’t know whether to trust someone handing me rays of hope, or if I was just setting myself up for more pain by believing.”

Fall began. Chemotherapy ended. My side effects slowly subsided. My oncologist spoke to me in a positive tone. He smiled, suggesting that I was showing signs of remission.

I knew nothing. I didn’t know whether to trust someone handing me rays of hope, or if I was just setting myself up for more pain by believing. To this day, I tend to avoid thinking about the possibility of a relapse – simply because there is not much I can do to prevent such a thing.

My album was done. I bought myself a new guitar to celebrate the end of treatment, and did several final passes on the album, adding guitar where I never thought I would want it.

It was finished.

Over the rest of the year, I connected with a new team over my upcoming album. We worked together on polishing the presentation of the album – culminating in a photoshoot based out of southern California. We had several different shoot locations planned.

During this time, raging fires among California brush had swept across the state, destroying thousands of miles of land – one of the catastrophes of 2018. These fires left behind nothing but mars-colored land filled with ash and the exoskeletons of defiant plant life.

When we shot our album cover there, we knew we were in a very symbolic place. The parallel between the fire cleansing the area of all life – and my disease cleansing me of mine – was too aligned not to share. Though it was the final location of the day and the whole crew was exhausted, we felt ourselves in some desolate otherworldly place – and pushing through, we created something special: the album art for Ark Patrol.

It is the present day. I am alive and healthy. My album, a sonic last-will-and-testament has just been released. I am surrounded by talented, hard-working creatives in the industry. I have embarked on my first tour the week of the album drop.

Maybe I died after all. Maybe I am in heaven.

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