Distress Signal

The year is 1978 and the U.S.A has just launched a team of astronauts into space. The United States was happy to see the launch on their color T.Vs in that month of May.

The NASA Houston Port receives a distress signal and a mid-level employee picks up the call.

“This is Houston Port, we hear your loud and clear Astronaut Goldman.”

“Hey guys, this is Astronaut Jim Goldman On Space Shuttle 602.”

“Yes Astronaut Godlman, we are aware”

“Please, just call me Jim.”

“You got it Astronaut Jim. Please inform us of your reason for a radio distress signal.”

“Oh right, um, well I don’t know how else to tell you this but…I am..

Astronaut Jim gulps. You know, one of those gulps that seem comically enhanced. Except this time it was real, and Houston Port was tuning in.

..afraid Houston Port. I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what Astro Jim? Your shuttle seems to be cruising along nicely and all of our readings are perfect”

“ Yes, that’s good. But I am afraid of this. All This. Being an Astronaut, going in space. This whole situation terrifies me and I am now just realizing it.”

“Astro Jim, you do realize that you’re about 113,000 mile outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, right?”

Astro Jim checks his dashboard and sees his mileage from Earth constantly going up and fidgets in his seat nervously.

“Yes Houston Port, I can see that on my radar.”

“Where has the rest of your crew gone? Why haven’t they tried to assist you?”

“Well Houston..

Astronaut Jim gulped again.

..they made fun of me.”

“Sorry could you repeat that? We believe we heard you say that they made fun of you.”

“That’s correct Houston Port. Those guys can be real jerks, but they have good hearts. So please don’t tell on me”

The mid-level employee looked around looking for assistance, his team all shrugged.

“Don’t worry, we will omit it from our recordings. Is that what you’re afraid of? Being bullied in space?”

“Sort of but not completely. I mean, what if we blow up, you know? That’s scary to think about.”

The Houston Port crew all looked around at each other as if they didn’t have the answer. One entry-level scientist from Houston Port grabbed her personal radio.

“We have done several thousand tests to ensure you that you will not blow up.”

Astro Jim leaned back in his chair a bit.

“Phew, I knew that was true its just great to hear you guys say it.”

The entry-level employee gave a thumbs up to her crew, they smiled.

“No problem. Are you comfortable enough for radio silence?”

“Um. Yeah. I think I am good. Thanks Houston Port.”

“It’s what we are here for. Now go make the USA proud.”

“Copy that Houston. Over and out.”

(12 Minutes Later)

The distress signal at the Houston Port begins to ring and buzz again. Both sounds are equally annoying. A senior staff member answers on his personal radio.

“Yes Astronaut Goldman, how can we assist your distress signal?

“Please, just call me Jim.”

The senior level employee shakes his head disapprovingly.

“How can we assist you, Jim?”

“Ok, so I’ve been thinking.”

The entire Houston Port looks at each other and begins to get comfortable in their seats. The senior staff member clears his throat and continues with protocol.

“What have you been thinking about, Jim?”

“Well, what if we encounter something unknown?”

A mid- level scientist chimes in on his radio.

Well, Astro Jim, that’s sort of the whole point to space exploration. To discover the unknown.”

The mid level employee smiles as if he always wanted to say that.

“Good point. But what if we discover something unknown that we really shouldn’t have discovered?”

The senior employee begins to reply but the mid level scientist stops him and puts his hand up like “I got this.” Which pisses off the senior employee but he realizes that it’s for the best because he doesn’t have an answer.

“Astro Jim, can you elaborate?”

“Well, say you’re in the woods and you discover a bear. I’ve never seen a bear in the woods but I know I shouldn’t get closer and poke it in the name of science. You follow me?”

Everyone at Houston Port begins to shake their heads and rub their temples, mostly because they saw all the senior employees do it and thought it was protocol. But everyone truly knows that this is the most action they have seen in a while so they all still listen in as the mid level scientist calms Astro Jim down.

“Yes, Astro Jim. We follow you. However, we sent you up there to explore the unknown and we wouldn’t have done it if you weren’t the best man for the job.”

“Thanks. I knew I was worrying too much.”

“Are you OK for radio silence? We have a lot of paperwork to do here down on Earth.”

“You got it, gang. Radio silence from here on out.”

The mid level scientist smiles and looks around for compliments but everyone seems to have started their paperwork.

(4 Hours Later)

Astro Jim clicks on a radio recorder from the dispatch control panel. The device was designed to record the last radio signal from Shuttle 602 in case of a deathly emergency.

“Ok, I know I am not supposed to use this device for any other reason other than certain death, I’m sorry.”

Astro Jim looks around the shuttle and crawls under the control panel so no one hears or sees him. Even though he is quite loud and bulging out from under the control panel.

Astro Jim clicks the red button he was trained to press.

“It’s just that I feel a little guilty out here. I am pretty sure I agreed to be an astronaut just because I went through all of the steps.

One day I am an upper level scientist working in the lab and I get the opportunity to be trained by NASA, what scientist wouldn’t want that?  I would be a dick to say no.

Only now I am afraid and isolated in space I am starting to realize that maybe someone else would enjoy this more.

I’m a steak and eggs, simple scientist from Tucson, Arizona. I don’t need the unknown to be amazed. I just need my wife Darlene and my son Junior. Heck, I’d even add that ol’ smelly Chihuahua of ours. I just hope I make them proud. That’s all I think anyone should ever do. Make their family proud.”

Just then, Astro Jim’s entire consol begins to light up. It’s a beautiful glow, not exactly blue but that’s the best way he can register it. The glow was growing bigger and more fantastic just outside his window.

Astro Jim looked at his monitors and sees the rest of the crew messing around in the kitchen making space burritos. He doesn’t feel the need to radio them.

Astro Jim stares at the Unknown Glow and feels that he shouldn’t be recording it. He got the feeling that if he recorded his findings, it wouldn’t be as unique. He felt that he should only be feeling it. Perhaps Astro Jim was the one who was supposed to experience The Unkown Glow on that entire Shuttle 602 all along?

After a few more seconds of heavenly glow, Astro Jim had to say something.

“I just want to say on record. That life itself is better than The Unkown It’s important to recognize what’s in front of you, rather than what’s out there.”

Astro Jim didn’t really know what that exact moment meant, he sort of felt like he was supposed to say something, anything. So that’s what he said. And just as he said it, the heavenly glow was gone. Nothing was left but Jim and the recorder.

Only he didn’t record the message into the control panel last-words device like he thought. No, Astro Jim recorded his sentiment to Houston Port radio. Had he known that all along? Fortunately a lower intern who was hired to work the night shift, wrote down Astro Jim’s words and put them in a desk because at this point, everyone had grown tired of Astro Jim’s voice.

(3 minutes later)

Shuttle 602 was blown to pieces by an unknown glow.

(30 Years Later)

NASA decided to clear the Houston Port unit for lack of funding and discovery. The desk was offered to the lead janitor on call and he gladly took it.

The lead janitor took it home and quickly realized it wouldn’t fit in his studio apartment. So he decided to list it on Ebay. It sold for a modest amount of money to an eager buyer.

The buyer was excited when his “Official NASA High Level Desk” arrived on the front porch. He knew exactly what it was when he saw it online. It took two deliverymen to take it out of the truck and drop it on the front steps of:

 “Junior Goldman 157 Echo Creek, Tucson AZ”

Junior Goldman set the desk up near the window where he could get proper sunlight and feng shui. Junior Goldman wasn’t an astronaut like his dad, but he enjoyed space.

Curiosity ran in the Goldman family, so Junior explored every crease to the desk to see if any etchings or info from his father’s time at Houston Port were still left in the over sized desk.

After kicking away some old pencils and a red NASA visitor’s button, Junior snagged a corner of something in the way back of the drawer, the area where things get lost and no one remembers, or cares if they find it.

Junior pulled out the crumpled piece of paper that was stuck between the drawers. It was his father’s last words scribbled down by an intern. It’s like Junior had known it was there the whole time. He framed the note and let it sit in the glow of the sun for years

NASA never figured out the Unknown Glow that took the life of Astro Jim and the crew. Mainly because after that phenomenon, may of the entry to mid-level employees quit their jobs to spend more time with their families. The case was quickly closed and never opened. Perhaps the exploration and words of one man- meant the world to another?

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Imagine That

 

Christopher, a young boy sits at the edge of the bed and begins to talk to his best friend.

Hi, Mr. Jinksy thank you for seeing me today, would you like a cookie? My mom made them fresh and I told her to burn them a little bit, just how you like them. Oh you don’t want a cookie? You sure? Because I am only going to offer it once…

Christopher sets down the tray of cookies next to him and wipes his hands. 

Now, lets get down to what I wanted to talk to you about. As you know, we’ve been friends for, well since I could count. You’ve helped me through thunderstorms, cleaning my room, and even offered me advice on what clothes I should wear and I can’t thank you enough.

(sigh)

But it needs to stop Mr. Jinksy.

You see, I know you’re real but I also know I imagined you.. I think it’s time to say goodbye. It’s not that I don’t love our time together or that I imagined another friend, not at all. The reason for this parting is because I think you and I both knew this day would come and it’s up to me to be the one who breaks the bond.

Listen, this isn’t completely goodbye. I wouldn’t mind it at all if you dropped by every once in a while on holidays or for big life events, just give me a heads up so I can make myself available, I’m almost 8 and I have a lot coming up.

I hope you didn’t think I was just going to cast you off into the dark world alone. No, I set up some meetings with younger kids in the neighborhood that would love your company; most of them have the same sense of humor as you so it’ll be a great match.

Thank you for everything Mr. Jinksy. Good luck in life and I hope to see you again soon.

Christopher performs an intricate handshake with his imaginary friend and waves goodbye after wiping a tear from his face.

Wait Mr. Jinksy. I changed my mind! I’m not ready to lose a friend. Come back! I was wrong!

Christopher looks around the room

Mr. Jinksy?

Checks another spot

MR. JINKSY?!?

 Finally under the bed. Nothing.

(Sigh)

*Christopher kept his promise and set up those meetings. Mr. Jinksy was matched perfectly with a 5-year-old girl down the street named Penelope. Mr. Jinksy kept his promise as well; he visited on holidays but couldn’t make it to Christopher’s graduation because he already promised Penelope to be there for her driving test.

Christopher went on to create “Imagine App” A full service application device (with parental controls) that pairs young kids with imaginary friends that are available and nearby. He now owns a luxury condo in Boulder, CO with his wife and daughter whom he shares his slightly burnt cookies with on special occasions.

 

 

 

 

Recovery Road

July 22nd- 2015

The train made its way into the station, running right on time as always. The train on the Recovery Road makes its stops and picks up those who are ready to make their way to a better place. Before they can get there though they need to rest for a while and heal for the better part of the weeks ahead.

“Tickets please. Tickets!” the Conductor shouts.
“I’m sorry for yelling everyone. It’s just that some of you have hearing impairments and I need to have things running smoothly now. TICKETS! TICKETS PLEASE! Again, I am sorry for yelling. Just doing my job.”

Mark took his ticket to Recovery Road out of his back pocket where he keeps all of this paperwork for safe keeping, knowing full well that this is probably the worst place to keep something that he doesn’t want stolen.

“Ah, Mr. Alderson. We’ve been told of your arrival and want to thank you for making it to the trip to Recovery Road.” the Conductor winks and punches Mark’s ticket. It seemed a little creepy but it was probably because he was an older man and winking wasn’t always creepy when he was younger.

“It doesn’t exactly feel like recovery road. I threw up a few times already and my body is in a lot of pain.” Mark replied to the Conductor.

“But the cancer is gone, yes?”

“Well. Yeah. But I am pretty beat up and not that strong mentally.”

Mark tried lifting his baggage but was weak from surgery. The Conductor smiled and helped him with the heavy baggage.

“Beat up, A bit depressed, still nauseous, in pain, and weak. But cancer free, huh?”

“Yeah.”

The Conductor punched Mark’s ticket.

“Welcome to your trip towards Recovery Road, my friend.” The Conductor winked again and began walking down the aisle.
“TICKETS! HAVE YOU TICKETS READY! AGAIN- SORRY FOR YELLING!”

Mark settled into his seat. Normally he chooses a window seat to look at the landscape but the chemo therapy left his body weak and unable to calm his bladder for too long and he didn’t want to annoy anyone else in his row by having to pee every hour. The aisle seat wasn’t so bad. Plus they had episodes of “Friends” playing in standard definition on the TV screens and if you squinted just right, you could see the ridiculous faces they all would make. The 90’s TV show made Mark feel a bit nostalgic.

Nostalgia was an emotion that kept coming up in Mark’s limbic system lately and he couldn’t quite figure out why. Perhaps it was because he was depressed and wished for a better time. But he had a wife-to-be and a great family so why would he be nostalgic? And why the depression? Without coming up for an answer, Mark just realized that he was on Recovery Road and the feeling wouldn’t last forever. Beating cancer is tough. Mark didn’t know that recovery was just as tough.

“This seat taken, young man?” A middle aged mid-western man with a weathered face asked Mark.

Mark looked around and saw multiple seats available but didn’t want to be rude.

“Not at all.” Mark moved his iPad and put it in the overhead compartment. It was making him feel seasick anyway.

“Mighty kind of you to give up your seat like that. My name is George. But most people just call me Cowboy. Don’t really know why, maybe it’s because I talk with an accent. However, most of America talks with an accent and we don’t call them all Cowboy. I feel like it’s akin to calling my friend just “Mexican” because of his heritage. Funny, his name is George too, except he goes by Jorge. Either way, people have been calling me Cowboy most my life and it sort of grew on me”

“Oh, I’m Mark. Named after my great grandfather. I guess that’s all to my story.”

“Oh I’m sure that ain’t all there is to your story. You’re on the road to recovery. There must be something else to ya.”

Cowboy sat right next to him in the middle seat. Had Mark known that Cowboy was going to sit right next to him, perhaps he would have said that the seat was taken. But Mark doesn’t like to lie and clearly Cowboy would have found out.

“What are you in for?” Cowboy asked while he grabbed a handful of beef jerky from his pocket.

“Cancer. Second time. Feeling pretty beat up.”

“Ah. The big C. I remember my road to recovery from that nasty disease. Have you hit the point where you hate your doctors for making you feel disgusting but love them for saving your life?”

“Yeah. Sorta feeling that right now. I guess I feel swindled because they said all I had to do was relax during recovery but I can’t stop vomiting and feeling pain. And the depression has been really getting to me.”

“Yeah, I betcha thought you were going to be ready to run a marathon after surgery and chemo, huh?”

“Well. Yeah, I’ve been so down for months and I figured I would be able to go into high gear after chemo and surgery.”

“You ever drive a tractor, Mark?”

Mark actually thought about this question for a bit. He knew the answer but he felt like he should check his database to see if he had or not.

“No. I haven’t”

Cowboy swallowed his handful of jerky. He even made a slight gulping noise.

“If you take a tractor that’s been parked for so long and throw it into high gear, you’re gonna break down faster than a new ride at Disneyland. You gotta give your body time.”

Mark knew that Cowboy was right. Even the expert imagineers at Disneyland can’t seem to make a new ride work. Even after years of tests and millions of dollars spent, Disneyland still can’t make a new ride work in high gear! Just look at the Rocket Rods incident of 1998!

Mark mentally allowed himself to go into first gear and lean into the relaxing of Recovery Road.

“What are you in for, Cowboy?” Mark asked mimicking Cowboy’s accent. He didn’t mean to but it just came out that way.

“Well, I figure I should tell ya since we may be here a while.”

Cowboy rustled in his seat a bit and pulled out a picture from his wallet and showed Mark.

“That’s my boy. He passed away recently.”

Mark started thinking multiple thoughts. Wasn’t this the train for cancer patients? Was Cowboy sick too? How did his son pass away?

“I’m sorry to hear that. How are you doing?”

“Well. I’m on this train aint I? No one wants to be on the Recovery Road but it’s something we all have to go through.”

“So um, you don’t- have cancer?”

“Nope. Not anymore at least. I kicked the stuff about 12 years ago. Nah I’m on this train for my boy.”

Cowboy grabbed another handful of beef jerky and kindly offered some to Mark. A lot of food lately still made him nauseated but dehydrated meat with a stranger sounded pretty good right now. Mark stuck his hand in the bag and got a good piece of jerky.

“So, you’re telling me that this train isn’t just for cancer patients?” Mark said with his mouth full.

“No sir, a lot of people are on Recovery Road. In fact, most people you encounter are recovering from something. Some people get off the train before others and some are travelling for what seems like forever, but what is for sure is that one time or another- we all go for a ride.”

Cowboy gulped his jerky. Mark gulped his as well but realized he probably should have chewed it a bit longer because it was a little rough going down.

Mark heard the faint sound of a laugh track and was startled by Cowboy’s instant laugh.

“HAHAHA! Oh man, I love that Chandler Bing character. He’s always good for a laugh.” Cowboy said as he held his belly just above his belt buckle in the shape of an eagle.

“Yeah. He’s good. Hey, um, do you ever feel guilty about laughing during Recovery Road?” Mark asked in a whispered voice.

“Hell no. Absolutely not. Heck, if no one laughed during recovery, we’d all be fucked. Sorry for my language. I just wanted to get my point across.”
“What’s the point of not feeling laughter and joy? Why deprive yourself of something that makes you naturally feel good. Heck, I try to laugh from my gut at least three times a day.

Mark tried to remember the last time he laughed 3 times a day during his battle with cancer. Without coming up with a time, he made a mental note to make sure to laugh more. Usually he writes his notes down on his phone but the anesthesia was wearing off and he was getting sick again.

Mark excused himself and rushed to the small bathroom in the back.

Cowboy winked and looked out the window.

Mark wondered if he should start winking more because lately it seemed pretty charming. Before he could make up his mind he started dry heaving.

Mark rushed to the bathroom just as Phoebe Buffay said something quirky to ignite an uproarious laugh track. He heard Cowboy laughing loudly as he pushed the Conductor aside to make it to the bathroom in time.

________________________________________________________________________
The train had come to a stop just as Mark was cleaning himself up from seeing his beef jerky again and was able to make his way back to his seat.

“TICKETS! I NEED YOUR TICKETS! SORRY FOR YELLING BUT IT’S MY JOB!” the Conductor shouted just as Mark passed him on the way to his seat.

As Mark returned to his aisle he found an elderly woman sitting where Cowboy had been.

“Excuse me. Did you see a man sitting here before?” Mark asked the kind Old Woman.

“Yes… but he got off at the last stop.” the Old Woman said to Mark.

“He got off? I thought Recovery Road was a one-way trip?”

“Oh, only if you’re lucky dear. Your Cowboy friend got off where I got on. Grief Relief Station. It’s a necessary stop on the road to the Recovery Road if you’ve lost someone close to you.”

Mark sat down next to the old woman just as another episode of “Friends” began to start.

“Do you like taffy?” the Old Woman asked as she offered Mark a freshly wrapped piece of blue gelatinous candy.

“Sure.”

Without Mark asking his new senior friend the reason for her being on the Recovery Road he figured he would just settle in and make a new friend.

Recovery Road for Mark may be a few months. He had a lot of pain to deal with, multiple follow up tests, and some catching up on life to do but he couldn’t wait. He smiled and was happy to know that he made it on the train.

Mark popped the blue taffy into his mouth and had his first gut laughter of the day when he saw Joey get his head stuck in a turkey.

“This is my favorite episode. My husband, God rest his soul, always let me know when it was on.” The elderly woman said as she wiped a tear from her eye.

“He sounds great. Tell me all about him.”

The Elderly Woman smiled and began reminiscing about all the good times she had with her late husband. Mark learned that nostalgia wasn’t a bad thing as long as you were looking back with joy. Recovery Road is sometimes long, but at least he was lucky to share the journey with new friends and family was just a phone call away.

“ALLL ABOOOAAAARD!!” The Conductor shouted as the train left the station.

“So where are you getting off, son?” the Old Woman asked with blue taffy in her teeth.

Mark had is second laugh of the day at the site of the blue toothed elderly woman then smiled wide while thinking about his bride who was waiting for him at the end of Recovery Road.

“Wedding Way. That’s where I’m headed.” Mark said with a slight accent. He didn’t mean to but for some reason it felt natural.

“ohhh you’re a lucky man.”

“Yeah. I guess I am.”

Mark sat on the train for as long as he needed to before he could arrive at Wedding Way on October 3rd at 4pm where he would begin his new journey on the Happy Trails.

Mark made a note to remember his camera gulped the remains of the taffy.

Welcome To Chemo Land

A lot of dear friends and family have been asking me “how is everything going?” And it’s a very innocent question but sometimes it gets tiring for someone going through cancer. It’s not because I don’t want to answer, but mostly because I don’t always have the energy to.

So I have decided to shed some light on what it feels like to go through Chemo Land.

After what feels like a swift diagnoses from your doctor, you are requested to take your ticket to the cancer train and get on it. Yes, you could miss your train but it would be beneficial if you got on.

You ask your doctor if relatives and friends are allowed to enter Chemo Land.

“Yes, but this is mostly for you to see. We promise it will help, even when it doesn’t feel like it.”

With fear in my bones, I arrive at my cancer train, Gate Stage 2. I look around in hopes that I can maybe find a new friend right away. After a quick look around the gate, I’ve realized that most of the passengers are nothing like me. Yes, most of us are bald and carry our scars but there’s really no one that I see myself in. It’s probably because I don’t want to admit that we are similar but trying to stay unique through this process.

Everyone waiting at their gates have their emotions running from 1-10 and good-evil. It’s a tough crowd but no one says a word.

The Chemo Land Train pulls up to our station. I stall a bit to get in but remember all of the love I have supporting me so I take a deep breath and step on.

If you’ve ever been to Chemo Land, than you know that no one is there to help you with your baggage on the train. Most of the passengers arrive on the train with a bunch of baggage. The amount you think “shouldn’t have they left that behind?” But on the train to Chemo Land, not many people judge each other.

The train arrives at the destination faster than you’d think. But it makes me glad that the cancer train is faster than I thought it would be.

Patients or “guests” as they are called in Chemo Land, arrive to their labeled care packages. It took me some time before I found “Mark Alderson” because I had to stand in a line of “Mark’s.” And if you’ve ever met someone else with your name that you don’t like and you spark a conversation with them, it could ruin your day.

I felt loved when I saw the fantastic cards and care packages that family and friends sent me. The stack of mail was so big, that I was given 2 free “Chemo Land” reusable bags. This little win got me happy to enter.

Chemo Land is not what you’d expect it to look like. While there are roller coasters that go up and down, sweet tasting food, coffee shops, and multiple books stores, you can’t forget that doctors and the health system run Chemo Land, which can be relaxing and scary at the same time.

Before I can go far and explore for a bit, I have to check in with my doctor and get routine blood work; this is a must in Chemo Land. I learn quickly that I am going to get tired of getting poked with needles before I can go anywhere but I try to see the advantages of this place.

After my routine blood work I noticed a “Hall of Fame” exhibit being reconstructed. As I take a closer peak I spot a lot of Lance Armstrong stuff coming out and Steve Jobs stuff going in. There wasn’t much else to see because the rest of the exhibit was closed until 2016. I move along because I hope to not see the final exhibit in 2016.

With the sun still shining, I decided to go to the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Library and silently open up my care package mail.

I enjoyed and even tried at a lot of the care mail that I received because a lot of them were full of good treats. With each delivery I opened I felt so much love and inspiration that it fueled my body and prepared me for the rest of my time here.

All care mail is good care mail when you’re in Chemo Land. But I make a note to respond quicker to the ones that had chocolate and gift cards in them. I appreciate people praying for me, and I believe in prayer, but chocolate can taste better than a prayer on a bad day in Chemo Land. I take a bite of a Mr. Goodbar and hope that no one will have to understand what I mean by that.

After a nice sit down, I realize that I should go explore what Chemo Land has to offer. And when you’re in Chemo Land, you should always get up and do what your body allows you to do because there are restrictions when it comes to your energy level.

I head straight for the The Realizer, a roller coaster simulated to take you through a journey of cancer. It’s a tough coaster to ride but some say that if you can keep your eyes open, it’s the best ride in Chemo Land.

I was happy to find out that the wait time for the ride wasn’t very long. I realized quickly that it’s because they shuffle you in to your cars like the ones at “The Haunted Mansion” in Disneyland. It’s very efficient and just as spooky in Chemo Land.

At first it’s a slow ride to get going, you see colors that represent certain energies that you’ll realize through cancer and how to avoid the darker colors on bad days. But it’s not totally lame because Chemo Land uses great special effects to keep everybody engaged. Every character even knew my name throughout the epilogue!

Then came the coaster part of The Realizer.

 You are strapped in fast. It’s almost painful but you forget about all of that when you see the big drop coming.

You climb and climb up to what is an inescapable fall. You wonder how you got yourself into this mess and hope that this ride will give you answers.

You fall. A type of fall that is hard to describe. Not one of the ones where the pit of your gut is rising but you get euphoria and forget all about it. No, this fall was headed straight down and left you numb. This was the first time that I realized that Chemo Land won’t always be fun. There will be a lot of ups and downs and I was headed straight down, along with 19 other strangers that signed up for this ride.

The Realizer takes you through twists and turns and a tunnel that repeats positive mantras until you see the light at the end of the tunnel until you come to a complete stop.

I step off the The Realizer a little more prepared for what Chemo Land was going to bring me. Pain, Loss, Love, and Recovery was what I felt I was in for but some guests came off The Realizer with different feelings, especially the younger ones.

I looked at my watch and realized I could spend some more time in Chemo Land before I get too exhausted and have to head off to Recovery Road. That’s when I spotted a sign up for a cancer 5k. I’ve been known to run in my past so I figured I would check it out for a good cause.

“Each spot is $35 and we ask that you fundraise for the event.” The man in the orange “We Support Cancer” hat informs me.

“Sorry, seems like a good cause but I don’t have any money. I spent all my savings just to go to Chemo Land. Maybe next year.” I lie to the volunteer.

I hate lying, but I also hate paying to exercise plus there was a line forming behind me full of enthusiastic Chemo Land guests that wanted to take the 5k challenge.

I take the free orange hat that was offered to me and put it on my head. Not because I like free stuff per say, but I needed to stay out of direct sunlight while chemotherapy was coursing through my veins. Doctors orders, you know?

I notice a well shaded over hang that has television screens and bright colors. I am a millennial so this catches my eye immediately and I go and see what it’s all about.

I quickly learn that it’s a station where you can video chat with any of your loved ones and friends for free. A service sponsored by Evian Water.

I grab a free bottle of water and called my family. Luckily they were all together in Arizona for a family reunion which is good because the Evian worker said to make all phone calls to a “10 minute minimum.” Or else I had to sign up for a year of Evian delivery.

I say my goodbyes to my family just in time and tell them all that I love them. Some of them cry but I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two either. It was hardest saying good-bye to my fiancee, Jade. But I know she’s always with me, because I can find her in my past, present, and future any time I want. Just not during my time in Chemo Land and that got my sad.

I purchased a quick bite to eat, which consisted of a loaded turkey sandwich and French Fries. I always get French Fries, even if those chopped and salted potatoes cost extra, I am always on board. Luckily I used my cancer card and get a free side item with my purchase.

All off a sudden I hear a siren go off in Chemo Land. Immediately I think something is wrong, but a frequent visitor assured me that it was just time for more blood work.

“They don’t let the ones with low counts stay out too late, doctors orders, you know?”

I nod and tell him that it isn’t my first time in Chemo Land, but the sound never gets less harsh to hear and the needles never get easier to take. Plus I dropped by food and that kind of bummed me out.

We all see our respected doctors and most of us get the go ahead to finish out our cycle in Chemo Land if we choose, but we have to get on the last train back to Recovery Road because that’s just as an important stop during cancer as Chemo Land.

My blood work turned out OK (given my situation) so I was cleared to stay in Chemo Land until my cycle was up. I tried to make the best of it but my brain was making it harder and harder to focus on anything the later I stayed.

All the rides made me nauseous and the on site pharmacy wouldn’t renew my anti-nausea pills on account of me wanting to over exert myself during my time in Chemo Land. They recommended that I rest, but my brain didn’t want to turn off to relax just yet. So I wandered around to see what I could do without feeling sick.

I notice an arcade and I figured that it would be fun a place to end my cycle. A lot of the games were named after various Chemo Land themes like “Cancer Blaster” that resembled “Asteroids” and “5k Runner” which was a rip off of “Temple Run” but with more ads for cancer supported companies.

I decided to play “Chemo Combat 7”. It was a gory fighting game where you battle different personifications of cancer, like Tyrannosaurus Tumor. It was cathartic, totally freeing, and full of cancer carnage.

I realized that it was my first time getting a lot of my aggression out after hearing my cancer diagnosis, I guess we all vent in different ways. Plus all the games were free and free stuff makes anyone happy, even if it’s orange hats.

I was almost finished with my one player campaign mode in the arcade when I felt a gurgle in my stomach. It was time to poop. Or not poop? Chemo Land makes it hard to do both so it’s hard to read your body most of the time.

As I rush to the bathroom I see signs for advertisements near the restrooms:

“Gotta Go? Use Colace!”

“Need A Push from your Tush? Use Sena!”

“Need to Stop Going? Try Fage’ Yogurt!”

I sit in the stall and realize that they keep this place pretty clean. It’s always nice to do your businesses in a clean environment.

After some false alarms I realize it’s just gas and maybe I should check in to see when my train leaves to Recovery Road. I was getting tired and didn’t want to be exhausted for my next visit to Chemo Land.

I run through the gift shop and bought some organic peppermint tea, the volunteer said that it would help sooth my “tummy.” Her face was nurturing as she said it and who am I to say no to anyone that says “tummy” over “stomach?” Hearing the word “stomach” always makes me feel heavy.

I grab all of my care mail and get ready for the train to Recovery Road. Another alarm goes off. This time it made me nervous because I thought I was done with my blood work and IV treatment for the day. Another guest headed toward the train notices my face of concern and helps me out.

“It’s the last call for the in-patient visitors. Aren’t we lucky we get to leave Chemo Land and come back? Some of us have to stay here until all of their cycles are up.” He bows his head and says a quick prayer that I couldn’t quite hear, that was probably the idea though.

I look back and see handfuls of in-patient visitors shuffle back into a large, not so pleasant building inside of Chemo Land. I bow my head and say a prayer because I was one bad test away from meeting new friends in there and seeing a different side of Chemo Land.

Before my train to Recovery Road arrives, protestors litter the gates and pass out flyers from unnamed blogs that cover just about everything- from proper diet routines, yoga studios, and magical healing pills. I stopped collecting them when I realized that most of the flyers slandered Chemo Land as a government con to make money off of hard-working citizens. It seemed like all of these protestors believed in this info with very little proof.

I’ve given up on feeling anger towards these unhelpful people. Attacking someone with your opinion who is in such a vulnerable state could be one of the lowest things you can do. I would never wish cancer on anyone, but I hope they reflect on their actions if they ever find themselves visiting Chemo Land.

I find my designated chair and put all of my baggage next to me so I can safely carry it with me to Recovery Road. I look around and notice that most of the train is lighter than when we first arrived. I tried not to think too hard as to why but before I could stop the conductor punched my ticket and said:

“Some of us don’t make out it of Chemo Land. Congrats on making your way to Recovery Road.”

I didn’t know how to exactly digest that sentiment but I also didn’t have too much time to think about it because I was ready to sleep before the train began its trek to Recovery Road. I was already picturing it in my mind, but still aware enough to know that I have one more visit to Chemo Land after my current Recovery Road visit before I can be deemed “cancer free.”

As rough as this whole cycle has been, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones.

I try to relax and focus on what this all means; I know I won’t find an answer now so I say a quick prayer before I fall asleep. I guess this is the part of Chemo Land where prayer beats chocolate.

Next stop: Recovery Road.