Brain Dead Serious

Last Friday Night Was Wild But You Know What’s Wilder? The Chicxulub Extinction Event

Matt and Ray meet at the watercooler in the office:

MATT: Hey, Ray! What’s up? Where the hell were you last Friday? We were looking all over for you just before we headed down to the bar but you were gone! OH. GOD. You missed half of your life, dude! Bob and I went with Jackie from Human Resources and SHIT. GOD. WILD.

RAY: Oh yeah? That’s cool, Matt. But I left work early to get some much needed rest, and I was flipping through cable at home when I chanced upon this documentary on National Geographic about how dinosaurs went extinct–and it was AWESOME. It was called the Chicxulub extinction event!

MATT: Uh… the what now?

RAY: The Chicxulub extinction event, man, and it’s wilder than your party!

MATT: Bugger off! Nothing’s wilder than last Friday, Ray! Bob and I and Jackie got super friendly super quick in the car that we busted out this nasty bottle of Scandinavian vodka Bob’s been keeping in his glove compartment, and we halved that freakin’ bottle of pure gasoline even before we went inside the bar! And then in the bar, there’s this rich South African mofo who apparently got promoted in his job or hit the lottery jackpot or somethin’ and he was makin’ it rain free shots all night! We were so buzzed Bob was already starting a fight with three fellows all named Chet on the dance floor not 30 minutes had passed!

RAY: Huh. Sounds like a good time indeed.

MATT: A “good time?” It was INSANE.

RAY: Well, Matt, that kind of thing might seem insane to you but your Friday night’s nothing compared to the Chicxulub extinction event. See, Chicxulub? It refers to the town of Chicxulub in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. That town is the center of a huge-ass crater–and when I say huge, it’s freakin’ gargantuan–93 miles in diameter and 12 miles deep in the earth, Matt. That crater was dug there by an asteroid the size of a goddamn mountain hitting the earth at 40,000 miles per hour 66 million years ago! You know how big of an explosion that kind of massive asteroid produces when it hits a natural tinderbox of oil?

MATT: How big?

RAY: As big as 100 trillion tons of TNT or 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding all at the same time on your face, Matt! The impact was so powerful if you were within 1,000 kilometers of it, you’d still be killed by a murder fireball along with the dinosaurs in a snap! Now THAT’S wild!

MATT: Ok. Ok. I agree that’s kinda wild, my friend… But not wilder than my Friday night! See, last Friday night? We were so friggin’ hammered, I dared Jackie to kiss this girl she’s been rubbin’ butts with all night long on the dance floor. And you know what sweet, prim-and-proper Jackie from Human Resources did? She just went and grabbed that bitch by her ponytail and proceeded to devour her throat–gums and all! And the girl hungrily devoured Jackie’s molars and tonsils back! But it didn’t stop there. No, sir! I dared that girl to kiss another girl next to her–and she did my bidding like she was under a magician’s spell, Ray! Not long after that, me and Bob were staring at this glorious, sweating crowd of intoxicated females all lickin’ and slurpin’ each other! Your mass extinction event ain’t WILDER than that, Ray!

RAY: So you saw some women kissing and you thought that was wild? What are you, twelve?

MATT: What?!

RAY: How about this–the Chicxulub Impactor–that’s what they call the dino doomsday asteroid–hit the ground so hard that the resulting explosion, rain of fire, and climate disruption killed off 80% of all plant and animal species on the planet! Eighty percent! This wanker was so deadly that nine seconds after impact, an observer watching this shit from a thousand kilometers away would’ve been roasted by a savage blast of thermal radiation! It was so strong that herds of Alamosaurus–you know these long-necked behemoths belonging to the sauropod clade weighing some 80 freakin’ tons and standing 52 feet–glowed like goddamn transparent light bulbs when hit with that radiation blast! Forests, valleys instantly burst into flames and almost every poor living creature in the vicinity suffered third-degree burns all over their bodies in seconds! Can you imagine that? And that’s just the beginning of it, Matt. This end-of-days phenomenon produced a lingering impact winter that halted photosynthesis in both plants and plankton. Photosynthesis STOPPED. Means plants stopped eating. How can some women kissing compare with that, Matt? THEY CAN’T.

MATT: LAME! Last Friday? I left Bob drinking his mind out at the bar as I was grinding this voluptuous mass of curves that turned out to be an 85-year-old hairy man who had lost his dentures in the dark! And then suddenly, people just came crowding around the bar and I heard everyone laughing, and lo and behold–it was Bob! You know what that dolt did? He dropped his pants to the floor and he was peeing on top of the goddamn bar, Ray! He said he thought it was the bathroom! I pulled him back and almost swiped my hand against his pecker as he was trying to stuff the horrific thing back into his pants, and I think some golden droplets actually landed on my palms! And I didn’t wash because I was so drunk! Security arrived and the Rock and Stone Cold dragged Bob’s ass to the exit as the bartender yelled that he was banned in that establishment forever! But I didn’t care! I was laughing my ass off because I was hammered as hell and, as far as I was concerned, the party was just getting started! That’s what you call WILD, Ray! Not some goddamn–

RAY: To hell with that! The Chicxulub extinction event produced infernal fires from the heavens and a deluge of death! Scientists estimate that the massive blow to the earth’s surface kicked up a mega tsunami measuring up to 1,000 feet high! It’s like that movie Interstellar but it was here on Earth and it was real! The seismic event was so powerful it’s equivalent to all of the world’s earthquakes for the past 160 years going off SIMULTANEOUSLY! Bob peeing is not anywhere–

MATT: Jackie was so drunk she got a bottle of ketchup from the counter and chugged it down like it was chocolate milkshake! I threw up some melted fries on the neck of some guy who then threw up tuna sandwich on someone’s eyes, so shut up with y–

RAY: The Chicxulub shock waves blew winds that tore through everything at 600 miles an hour! That sonic boom roared at 105 decibels, like a jet flying over your goddamn cubicle, shattering the eardrums of T-Rex, triceratops, and all the doomed dinos that day! Your Friday night ain’t got sh–

MATT: I WAS SO WASTED I STAPLED MY NUTSACK TO MY THIGH FOR TWENTY BUCKS AND NOW I’M STILL LIMPING.

RAY: IT TOOK MONTHS FOR THE SOOT AND ASH ALL OVER THE GLOBE TO CLEAR AND WHEN THEY DID, THE RAIN FELL BUT IT WAS ACIDIC MUD.

MATT: I HELD MY BLEEDING CROTCH TO THE BATHROOM WHERE SOME PSYCHO PICKED UP HIS POOP AND THREW IT ON THE CEILING AND IT DRIPPED ON MY MOUSTACHE.

RAY: THE CARBON FOOTPRINT WAS SO BAD IT RELEASED 10,000 BILLION TONS OF CARBON DIOXIDE, 100 BILLION TONS OF CARBON MONOXIDE, AND ANOTHER 100 BILLION TONS OF METHANE INTO THE ATMOSPHERE ALL AT ONCE.

MATT: JACKIE FROM HUMAN RESOURCES WAS APPARENTLY UNDERAGE, AND AN UNDERCOVER COP ARRESTED THE BARTENDER WHO SERVED HER SOME DRUGGED TEQUILA, AND THE COP THREW HIS ASS DOWN TO THE GROUND WHEN HE TRIED TO RUN.

RAY: THE CHICXULUB ASTEROID CAUSED A NUCLEAR WINTER AND GLOBAL WARMING, NOW DINOSAURS ARE JUST CHICKENS, MATT.

MATT: THAT RICH SOUTH AFRICAN MOFO TOOK ME TO A MOTEL AFTERWARD AND NOW MY BUTTHOLE IS SORE, RAY.

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Brain Dead Serious

A Man Who Doesn’t Have Enough Space in His House for All His Existential Shit

DON: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. This is Don Fernandez, your host for yet another edition of The Human Condition, bringing you the most striking interviews of common people you wouldn’t normally think about if you had something better to do. Tonight–Mr. Theodore Gonzalez–a man who doesn’t have enough space in his home for all his existential shit.

Mr. Theodore Gonzalez–can I call you Ted?

TED: Yeah. You can call me Ted.

DON: Ok Ted. You called us for this interview bec–

TED: You can call me whatever you want. I could be Ted or Theodore or Mike or Richard. In the end, who am I?

DON: Uh-huh… Yes, I see that this is part of the personal problem you’d like to discuss with our audiences today?

TED: Audiences? Oh, you mean those presumed subjects watching me through their TV sets? I wish I could be sure there were really existences behind those eyes fixed on the screen because frankly I highly doubt it.

DON: Oh… kay…

TED: Yeah, I mean, I’m not even sure you’re here. Are you here?

DON: Well, I think I’m definitely here. You’re looking at me, Ted.

TED: Am I? Or are you just part of a simulation run by highly advanced beings in the 31st century and I’m nothing but a character in their sick version of a video game?

DON: Ok, ok. Wait a minute. Let’s stop for a second here, Ted. We’re already getting ahead of ourselves. Can you please give our audiences a proper introduction to your issue? You said there’s not enough room in your house for all your existential shit.

TED: Yes, there’s none.

DON: Obviously.

TED: Yesterday, I tried to fit all my existential shit in a box but it wouldn’t fit.

DON: How so?

TED: Well, I was about to put all my existential shit into the box, which I found under my bed, but then while I was doing it, I realized… I couldn’t find the box.

DON: So… so the box disappeared?

TED: That’s the funny thing. When I thought about it… it dawned on me that the box wasn’t even there in the first place.

DON:

TED: You see, I placed the box on the floor. And when I did that, the box was clearly on our wooden tiled floor. But when I opened the box and gestured to dump all my existential shit in it… it… “Poof!”

DON: Poof?

TED: Poof!

DON: C-could you please clarify? It’s a little vague what you’re trying to say…

TED: The box melded into the floor. The floor melded into the box. I couldn’t see where the floor ended and the box started. See–what do you call a box, anyway, and what do you call a floor? You’re going to tell me a box has eight corners. It’s a three-dimensional object made up of two-dimensional squares. And the floor is something you step on and it’s sometimes wooden, sometimes ceramic, sometimes plastic. But what if I don’t agree with you? What if I told you the thing you call a floor is a rooster and the thing you call a box is a pig?

DON: What??

TED: They’re a rooster and a pig. I couldn’t fit all my existential shit in a pig.

DON: I am… I am completely lost.

TED: People have agreed on calling a floor a floor and a box a box but what if I don’t agree with them? I mean, there’s no real universal rule that limits me to that strict definition. If I wanted to call your floor a rooster and your box a pig, what would you do?

DON: I-I guess nothing?

TED: You are a really good actor, you know, for a simulation.

DON: I’m sorry? Like I told you, Ted, I am NOT a simulation. I am not fake. I am here. I am interviewing you about your existential shit that you can’t find room for in your home.

TED: Yes… Because my home is overrun with roosters and pigs.

DON: Ok… Let’s run with this… Maybe we could get somewhere here… If you really believe that your floor and your box is a rooster and a pig, then why not just scare them away to make room for all your existential shit?

TED: Because they didn’t share my language.

DON: You don’t need language to scare away a bunch of animals, Ted. Just wave your hands and make scary noises and they’ll go away.

TED: No, these roosters and pigs are speaking a fourth-dimensional language that my three-dimensional ears couldn’t possibly hear. These things-in-themselves are forever out of my grasp, clucking and oinking behind a veil of reality that I couldn’t pierce… There’s a whole farm of there out there, Don. An invisible farm.

DON: Please… please stop.

TED: It’s not for lack of trying on my part, too. This morning I tried to store all my existential shit in a spare room in the basement. It’s pretty expansive. Even my old motorcycle is in there, so…

DON: So that must be enough space for your obviously huge existential shit, right?

TED: Nah.

DON: Dare I ask why?

TED: Because my motorcycle has turned into a blue whale.

DON: Goddammit.

TED: I couldn’t even step into the freakin’ room. This monstrous blue whale was squirming and spewing water all over the floor–I mean this floor made of pigs–and all the boxes–I mean roosters holding all my other junk–were really wet.

So in the end, it wouldn’t fit even there. Nasty business. I actually just sold the house this morning.

DON: Please don’t tell me why.

TED: Because when I tried to just leave all my existential shit there on the living room pig-floor, the walls became a troop of baboons, the carpet turned into Albert Einstein’s poop, and the sofa revealed itself to be none other than Michael Jackson.

DON: *Breathes heavily*

TED: So as much as I loved that property, having spent so many lovely days there with my ex-wife, I just had to sell that shit to the first man I met on the street. For chump change, mind you. I mean, shit, what would he do with all that racket at night? Pigs, roosters, baboons, and Michael Jackson trying to wake up the neighbors. Not to mention he’ll definitely step on Albert Einstein’s poop the next morning, slip, and maybe even injure himself. Hah. Poor guy.

DON:

TED: And to your audiences, I say screw you, you pieces of 31st century codes and pixels! You ain’t fooling me! Can you hear me out there in the real world, you 31st century alien bastards?! Screw you and your mothers or wherever the hell Big Bang conspiracy bullshit you came from! I never bought into this spacetime propaganda you’ve been trying to drill in my head! Science ain’t true knowledge! Wormholes and strings and multiverse my ass, you sons of big bang bitches! I think therefore, I am!

DON: I’m afraid we have to cut our program short again for tonight. ‘Til next time. This is Don Fernandez, host of The Human Condition, saying goodnight and good luck.

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Brain Dead Serious

This Article Will Try Its Best to Cheer You Up But Will Fail Spectacularly

Oh, do cheer up! You’re lonely? Miserable? Gloomy as a grey, cloud-covered sky just before a thunderstorm? It’s not the end of the world, you know? A lot of people are in the same boat as you are, many of them with way worse problems than yours.

But of course, there are also countless people out there who are incredibly happy at this moment that they’re almost literally glowing when sunshine bounces off their smiling face free of any negative thought or emotion… So, er… that kinda sucks for you, I guess.

But wait–so you were left behind by someone who’s not worth a bag of rocks? Get over them! They obviously can’t appreciate your worth because they have the IQ of an earthworm and are most terribly missing out on the best person they’ve ever been with…

That or they actually found someone kinder, funnier, more intelligent, hella attractive and blazin’ hot, and is an absolute psycho in the sheets! Fuck yeah!

*Cough*

*Clears throat*

Sorry. Got carried away there a bit.

But you know what I mean. You should stop crying in the corner and dwelling on these negative energies because you’d just be wasting your time when there are so many other things to do in the world.

Activities that are very productive and worthwhile like… like…  working nonstop 12 hours a day until your fingers fall off and stale saliva from not talking to a single soul droops down your mouth.

Or… uh… watching some mindless TV shopping channel while wondering if judgement day when the dead will rise to take over the earth and sacrifice newborns to the merciless god of the underworld isn’t such a bad thing all things considered.

Learn to love yourself.

Look up from your dreary desk in that empty office to the canopy of lights above you. Remember that you are made from the same material as the stars. Magnificent, giant balls of hot gasses whose light reaches the farthest corners of the galaxy.

Every creature that has ever lived on the face of this planet has looked up to see these very same stars and… died. They died, of course, like any organic being. Some in a truly horrific fashion like the dinosaurs, which were wiped out by a burning asteroid 10 kilometers wide. Fantastic animals, for sure, but they perished nonetheless and quite nonsensically, too, like all of us. Eventually.

But the worst thing you can think of is that you are unloved. You’re not. Your mother loves you… and… and… well, your mother’s love for you is greater than any other type of love out there; everyone knows that!

Your mother loves you so much she barely texts you. And she’s thrown away all your baby albums because in all honesty you don’t look a lot like others in the family and she has a growing suspicion that the nurse made a huge mistake all those years ago and swapped her real baby with another one who’s a bit ugly. And in truth, she’s forgotten about your birthday and she only remembers it on the day itself because you remind her. So she orders fast food to celebrate this cursed day but in reality, it’s such a fuckin’ drag and she would rather knit a jacket than celebrate the birth of her fake child.

So drop that blade and dump that silly rope you’re carrying into the garbage can. There’s hope. Better days await you. Breathe! Breathe deep! Step out into the world, down the tracks, and face the train coming at you at 100 kilometers per hour.

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Brain Dead Serious

If the World Were Fair, Evil Men Would Walk Into Posts All the Time

Think about it. Lots of people tell themselves there’s some sort of universal karma going on but if there was an invisible hand of justice moving the world like that, you would expect mean people to walk into posts all the time.

There are only so many combinations of bad things that can happen to bad people without the movements of the invisible hand of justice looking too conspicuous, so at some point those posts are gonna have their fair share of “accidents.”

That wild, feral woman who gnashed her teeth at you while bulldozing you inside the train this morning–boom! Hit a post.

Your officemate who makes her day by throwing shade at you with her evil swarm of grinning trolls–boom! Hit a post.

That taxi driver who took his sweet time handing you your change because he was wishing you would just get the frick out of his vehicle and leave your money–crash! Hit a post.

But these people almost never walk or run into posts, don’t they? Nope. Because the world is unfair and what goes around, doesn’t come around. There’s no cosmic justice.

Do you realize how many posts there are in the world? I read somewhere that there are around 80,000,000 roads in the world. Say there are about 12 posts in each road, you will have close to a billion posts in the world.

But guess what? Evil folks just keep on rockin’ without their heads knockin’ into somethin’.

So just give up. You will never get your cold vengeance by waiting for that person who did you wrong to make the wrong turn and slam their face into a nice, smooth, slender post. It’s not gonna happen, dude.

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Brain Dead Serious

The Growths On Just One Side of My Sinus Were Nasal Polyps, Not Cancer — But I Didn’t Know That For Weeks

NOTE: The author was diagnosed with nasal polyps on one side of his nose. The growths had a different look than usual grape-like polyps and surgery and biopsy were ordered by his doctor to rule out malignancy. It turned out the growths were indeed just rotted nasal polyps. This article is about his discovery of his illness, the arduous waiting game for the biopsy results, and his thoughts throughout the entire ordeal. The author apologizes if some sections sound like they make light of cancer and other serious diseases when the intent is the exact opposite. Nothing has made the author empathize more with patients of severe illnesses than what he experienced with the diagnosis and treatment of his nasal polyps. And it his hope that anybody going through the same issues finds some solace and reassurance in this story.

“Your polyp looks different. It’s a different color, black in some areas. It looks like it has veins and solid tissue. We really need to get it biopsied.” Those were the words I heard my ENT doctor say before life left me where I stood… or sat… It’s hard to remember because my mind swiftly drifted out of that room and floated up in the sky.

Mucus That Smelled Like a Stray Dog’s Butt

I’ve always been prone to colds, cough and other respiratory diseases. Sticky, green mucus–the kind that looks like the ooze that made the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who they are, and which healthy people would consider extremely gross–is more like a pet peeve to me. I’ve been living with it my whole life, usually a minor inconvenience but a constant reminder that my immune system unfortunately isn’t as good as others’. But some 5 weeks ago, my normally green mucus turned to brown, or more like the color of rust, obviously due to significant amounts of blood mixed with it.

My girlfriend, Erika, was horrified the first time I showed the specimen to her on a piece of tissue paper (I guess it’s a measure of intimacy when a couple can pull off disgusting stunts like this). She kept yelling at me to go to a hospital and have it checked but I tried to calm her down, saying I probably just had a wound in my sinus because of my sinusitis. No worries–it should go away soon like all other literally sticky situations before it.

A few days passed. One morning, I woke up, blew my nose, and what came out smelled like the maggoty carcass of a dead rat. Or maybe the butt of a stray dog. It had already been smelling off  and showing streaks of blood for a few days, but that morning the smell was so revoltingly strong I wanted to burn the shirt I used to wipe my nose.

I finally agreed to go to the hospital.

The Discovery

I entered the ENT’s clinic confident I would leave with a prescription for antibiotics and some advice to exercise (which I would most likely ignore because I’m a stubborn idiot). The ENT was a tall man with a calm voice but who was way less spunky than my pulmonologist (whom I loved because he’s spunky and always brought good news that my lungs are clear every year during the annual physical examination which the company I work for required). After describing my symptoms, telling him my mucus was smelly–although not honest enough to describe it as smelling like the maggoty carcass of a dead rat or a stray dog’s butt–he made me sit in a tall chair so that he could peek into my nose.

He sprayed something in my nostrils before sticking an endoscope down each opening. I told him the brown mucus and foul odor only came from the right side, so he started viewing from there.

“Oh. You’ve got a polyp.”

Immediately, my heart sank. Polyp? Did he say polyp? Where did I hear that before? It was such an unexpected development that he actually found something in my nose that shouldn’t be there in the first place that I found myself already panicking.

He definitely said “polyp” and I didn’t know what the heck a polyp was but even then, all I could hear was the “C” word.

“Uh,” I grunted because the long, thin steel instrument was still up my nose as the doctor watched the live feed on a screen.

“It’s big. We need to remove it by surgery. Don’t worry, everything will be done through your nostril. Nothing would be opened.”

There was a rush of images in my head of me lying on a cold table, wearing a hospital gown, and a group of unaffected medical people silently talking among themselves as they poke my nose with long instruments, longer than the one my doctor had already jammed up inside my nose. This was very bad, I thought. Erika would be worried sick and she’d kill me because my hardheadedness to see a doctor was already proving to be a seriously big mistake.

“Hm. It’s really just on this side. Your left side is clear,” said the ENT as he explored the left side.

“There’s mucus. We need to suck that out.” He told me when he went back to the right side. He proceeded to get another instrument from his drawer and switched it on, letting out a buzzing sound, which I assumed was a motor.

In spurts that were slightly satisfying, the instrument sucked out the mucus covering that side of my sinus cavity. All these procedures were new to me and I actually marveled at the fact that my nose wasn’t hurting even as the doctor kept poking it with the endoscope. Again, he expressed his alarm at the size of the thing he discovered.

“It’s huge. That’s why your mucus is smelly. It gets stuck in here and rots.”

Ok. That explanation clarified things. In fact, I had already read about that explanation before I went to the doctor because I did some online research about sinus infections to prepare myself for what I was going to find out. Sometimes, when sinus cavities get extremely inflamed, mucus gets stuck there, serving as plentiful grazing grounds for bacteria, resulting in smelly mucus and sometimes foul breath (which scared the hell out of me for obvious reasons).

“It’s really just the right side. We really need to remove it and have a biopsy done.”

My heart further sank into the floor.

Wait–biopsy? It’s THAT bad?

All of this already felt unreal to me. I could sense my brain trying to block the truth of these quick, unforeseen developments because that’s the only way it could protect itself from the deluge of dark thoughts and emotions trying to burst through.

Immediately after he slid the endoscope out my nostril, I asked him whether polyps are dangerous… Of course what I really meant was did it have any connection with the “C” word.

“Not really… usually. But it is abnormal tissue growth, so we need to do a biopsy.”

Right around this time, I realized how the mind tends to focus on certain words and phrases when it tries to cling on to hopes that everything is fine and nothing terrible is happening. The words “abnormal” and “tissue growth” echoed down the chambers of my being moments after the doctor uttered them, so did the words “biopsy,” “huge,” “surgery.”

“You also need to do a CT scan,” he continued.

All the words the ENT were saying were raising alarm bells in my very soul; he never said the “C” word but that was all I could think of. And I couldn’t believe I was thinking it, given that I arrived at the hospital thinking all I was going to get was an advice to exercise.

I had the CT scan done right after I left the ENT’s office. As the platform lifted me up and slowly conveyed me into that dome, I found myself remembering all those movies and shows I watched of people entering this cold, lifeless machine.

The worst thing was knowing none of those movies or shows ended well with regard to those characters. I was so terrified I’m amazed up to now that I didn’t pass out because there were definitely times that I felt myself trying to automatically shut down the swift unacceptable realities happening one after the other by switching off my own consciousness.

The Horrors of Online Research

Obviously, I didn’t wait ’til I got home to Google what polyps were. Searching the terms “polyp” and “nose” returned encouraging results, which nipped my worries for a short while. Multiple websites would tell you that:

“Nasal polyps are common, noncancerous, teardrop-shaped growths that form in the nose or sinuses. They’re usually found around the area where the sinuses open into the nasal cavity. Mature ones look like peeled grapes.”

“Common.” “NON-CANCEROUS.” Good.

That’s from WebMD and many other sites describe nasal polyps almost the exact same way–with that slightly amusing comparison to grapes (it kind of helps calm you down when you imagine these growths look more like fruits than something nefariously uglier).

The WebMD article further explains that:

Often linked to allergies or asthma, they may cause no symptoms, especially if they’re small and don’t need treatment. Larger ones can block normal drainage from the sinuses. When too much mucus builds up in the sinuses, it can become infected.

Unlike polyps that form in the colon or bladder, nasal ones are rarely cancer. Experts think that long-term inflammation causes them or that they run in families. Nasal polyps aren’t painful to the touch. Medications or surgery can treat most. They may come back, though.

“RARELY CANCER” (still good though the word “rarely” was unwelcome). “Aren’t painful to the touch.” Well, that’s exactly like mine. The doctor kept touching it with his instruments and all I felt was a slight tingling sensation. Again–that’s very encouraging that all I had was a simple, non-cancerous, nasal polyp. “They may often come back, though”–not a problem as long as I could get rid of this batch that’s making the air I breathe in and breathe out smell like the worst kind of infection.

I’ve always advised Erika against diagnosing herself using Google whenever she got sick because I’ve had numerous experiences searching mild symptoms and then finding out later that they exactly match a type of cancer or some other frightening disease, but usually cancer. It always happens. But given that nasal polyps were a mystery to me, I gave myself the license to break my own rule and I kept on browsing site after site, looking for more articles that could give me more assurance that I was all right, so I could actually tuck in that night and not have nightmares about chemotherapy, losing my hair, and losing all our money.

And then somewhere along my fervid online research, I stumbled upon something that stabbed my heart like a cold dagger:

However, there are growths in the sinuses and nose that may look like polyps but can be precancerous or very rarely actually contain cancer. These masses are often on one side of the nasal cavity only, while most true benign nasal polyps are present in both sides. Polyps present in one nasal cavity but not on the other, should be biopsied or removed if they are suspicious.

“Precancerous.” “Often on one side of the nasal cavity only.” “Should be biopsied or removed if they are suspicious.”

Immediately, I remembered with horror how my ENT kept on repeating “Yours is really just on this side.” I thought nothing of it before and actually kind of felt it was a positive thing that my polyp was just on the right side. If both my sinus cavities were blocked, surely that was more serious?

Turns out that was completely wrong when it came to these things.

Digging further, I found more and more articles telling me the same chilling fact: growths on just one side of the nose are unusual and may not actually be polyps (those friendly grape-like things I was just reading about minutes ago), but something else. I realized that’s why my doctor wanted mine to be removed and biopsied–he wasn’t sure he was looking at a benign nasal polyp.

Reading more articles as blood started to drain from my head, I also learned that polyps that bled were even more suspicious. Didn’t my mucus have a ton of blood in it? I was alone in the room because my girlfriend works night shift, but if she were there, I would’ve probably collapsed in her arms as I tried to digest all these dreadful bits of medical knowledge I was discovering.

I probably wouldn’t have slept that night if I didn’t stumble upon an old forum thread where a woman described her own diagnosis of nasal polyp. Hers also appeared on just one side of her nose. Like me, she thought she was totally fine until she checked the Internet and found out “unilateral” growths (appearing just on one side) are unusual and suspicious compared to “ipsilateral” growths (appearing on both sides).

The woman was so wrecked with worry that she maybe had cancer that she was begging for people on that message board for stories where unilateral nasal polyps turned out all right for the patient. And the kind users there did share stories of their friends or loved ones getting diagnosed with unilateral and ipsilateral nasal polyps that were completely benign. Some had theirs removed by surgery, others were able to shrink or cure theirs using nasal sprays, one guy said he was so fed up with his that he blew his nose out so intensely one day that his polyp came out. Gory but it worked (though he responsibly advised against doing it). The woman thanked them all for helping her calm down.

But the stories just weren’t enough. As days went by, the woman described how thoughts of cancer were consuming her day and night, and how she couldn’t wait to get her polyp surgically removed and biopsied. In her last message on the board, she shared the good news that her operation was over and her doctor informed her that her unilateral polyp was benign.

The bad news was she was so overwhelmed by anxiety that she lost her baby. She was pregnant.

It was probably the darkest thread I’ve ever read and I felt so sad for the woman, but perhaps unsurprisingly, her story was the only piece of writing that calmed me down enough to sleep that night.

‘Your Polyp Looks Different’

After a week’s worth of using a corticosteroid spray and tablets, while also taking antibiotics and spraying an additional saline spray into my nose, I went back to the doctor to see whether all those things I did had any positive effect on the growth inside my face.

“It’s still there,” said the doctor, again with the camera in my nose.

“It shrunk a tiny bit but it’s still there.”

I had already talked to my family about the surgery and biopsy in the horizon, while watching my mother’s face sink into worry. I was thinking it might be a while before I needed to do that because all those medicines I was taking could help shrink the polyp–maybe even get rid of it all together because based on what I read, in some cases, corticosteroids handily took care of business.

They didn’t. And the doctor (whom by then was already my least favorite doctor in the world, especially compared to my spunky, bringer-of-good-news pulmonologist) had more bad news to say to me:

“Your polyp looks different. It’s a different color, black in some areas…”

The endoscope kept on poking, turning side to side, looking at various angles.

“It looks like it has veins and solid tissue… We really need to get it biopsied.”

Life left me where I stood… or sat… It’s hard to remember because my mind swiftly drifted out of that room and floated up in the sky.

At that point, it was impossible not to say it out loud in my brain: “cancer.”

We maybe talking about cancer here.

In my nose.

Me.

Me?

Of course, me. Nobody else was in that room after all, sitting in that chair, with a camera up his sinus.

Using the term “C word” in my head was already ridiculous even though that’s what I called it the week before as I tried to push that possibility out of my mind. After the doctor said those words, I could only call it by its proper name, like a devil finally breaking you down so that you can yell out his monstrous name: “cancer.”

Everything turned grey. The ENT’s office with all the books and instruments melted into a haze and nothing was real anymore aside from that dreaded word and the reality it defined.

“Doc,” I asked him after he sucked the mucus out again. “Is this dangerous?”

For about two seconds, his face clearly worked up the best expression to tell me the facts without causing me to have a panic attack. He then said in his calm, almost vacant voice: “Well, we’ll have it biopsied. That could take 3 to 4 business days. Then we’ll know if it’s benign… or malignant.”

That last word squeezed the remaining life out of me.

Nothing Matters–Not Even Game of Thrones

Every single day leading up to the biopsy–not the operation, the biopsy–was torture of an inhumane kind. I still went about my day-to-day tasks, including working my day job, but I couldn’t muster any smile that was genuine. I held everything back from my friends because the thought of dragging them down into the depths of my worries with me was intolerable. My only source of comfort was Erika and my family who showered me with the best food when I came home. But even that food I could barely taste because the prospect of cancer only made you think of cancer. Nothing else.

Not even Game of Thrones.

This might seem like an insignificant detail but I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan and the fact that its most epic episodes were not having any positive effect on my mood was a great indication of just how deep depression and anxiety had sunk in. While waiting for my turn to do some tests for the surgery clearance, I remember watching the episode where Daenerys rode her dragon for the first time to burn a massive opposing army, but none of the epicness rubbed in. On the contrary, I found myself wincing inside as I watched fictional characters getting burned alive.

That’s when I realized that any thought of death bothered me, made-up and real. I just wasn’t comfortable thinking about death and I certainly didn’t enjoy seeing it onscreen.

Which wasn’t the case when I was healthy… or part of the fully living crowd. It was then I understood that fully living meant having the freedom to laugh at death while it played its themes safely away, usually behind a screen. Watching death on TV or in the cinema thrilled me, whether it’s characters whose lives are in danger or characters who were actually dying–sometimes the more horrible the method, the better.

All of that stopped the moment it was me whose very life was in peril.

There was a strange, eerie transition from being the audience to the object, feeling like your life–your tragedy–is playing out onscreen for someone to marvel at or cry over. And the worst thing was you couldn’t get out of the situation, like you’re trapped in your own story.

The title of the story would either be “Nasal Polyps” or “Sinus Cancer” but you just didn’t know because you’re inside that story and you couldn’t see the script or the credits.

I had read somewhere that sinus cancers were very rare, and many patients actually had real reason to develop them, such as mining workers whose sinuses were exposed to various harmful elements like nickel. I’ve also been inhaling pollution in the streets my whole life as I travelled to and from school and then later, to and from work; and since two years ago, living in condos had exposed me to more dust, triggering a seasonal allergic rhinitis, which prevents me from breathing normally for months. Living in a third world country was bad–but I was damn sure I wasn’t inhaling anything like nickel.

Despite that, death by sinus cancer still felt like a genuine possibility to me. One horrifying article actually described that your eyes could pop out when sinus cancer spreads, and I kept remembering this documentary I watched in my youth featuring a man whose face was operated on because doctors discovered he had a rare sickness that manifested itself through recurring colds.

Half of that man’s face was removed and replaced with a horrendous prosthetic.

I couldn’t imagine having to go through anything like that.

I couldn’t imagine death or the process by which one gets there.

The Longest Month of My Life

From the moment I heard a biopsy was needed to determine whether my growth was benign or malignant, the results were all I could look forward to. I marked the date on my calendar. I repeated it in my head like a mantra. Thursday, Thursday, Thursday. Then it changed. Friday, Friday, Friday. My life revolved around it, and there was nothing beyond it–no plans, no future, no nothing. It’s like a curtain of static has been pulled over my life and I couldn’t see beyond that day regardless how much Erika told me that it’s going to be all right and that we should plan a trip for our anniversary. I imagined myself reaching a fork in the road and one led to long suffering for me, my family, and friends, while the other led back to life where I left myself waiting a long, long time ago.

I’m not a religious man but it was God whom I talked to throughout this period. I implored him to spare my life and others in the same boat as I was (I kept remembering the woman who lost her baby in the forum thread I read), to give me the strength to face people every day even while I was on the verge of buckling underneath the pressure of it all. Pretending to live was mighty difficult when there was a real chance I already had one foot inside my grave, and I just didn’t know it.

There were times I actually wanted to drop everything all together. What if I just stopped all these checkups and tests? What if I just cancelled the scheduled operation? I mean–I could just live my life not knowing whether I had cancer or not. After all, the smell in my nose had been gradually subsiding since using the saline and corticosteroid sprays.

Perhaps I could just give up and continue my life?

Isn’t this like Schrödinger’s cat–I’m both alive and dead until I actually read the results?

Both alive and dead kind of sounded better than definitely dead.

These were the thoughts that occupied my mind throughout my waking moments but a lot of them were fantasies and an excuse to pass the time.

The day of the surgery (which is by the way called FESS for Functional Endoscopic Sinus Surgery), I almost didn’t even care what was going to happen, which was probably irresponsible of me. I didn’t think there could be any complications or that I could bleed severely or that I might feel excruciating pain. Somehow, I just knew that my ENT was going to pull it off without a hitch. I kept wishing I could jump forward in time to when I’m already reading my biopsy results–learning about my ultimate fate.

The operation took around 4 hours–or at least that’s the span of time from when my mind totally shut down because of the general anaesthetic to the time I opened my eyes in the recovery room of the hospital’s surgery suite. There wasn’t any pain at all although I was extremely thirsty when I regained consciousness. My doctor repeatedly warned me beforehand that I wouldn’t be able to breathe through my right nostril after the surgery because of the packing inside, but I could breathe in and out just fine when I woke up. There was some relief–but not because the operation was over, but because I knew I was one step closer to Friday.

I plodded through seven more days before I was finally in that room I imagined millions of times in my head, waiting for a hospital clerk to hand me the documents that would reveal my destiny. I was with Erika whom I missed terribly even though I was with her every day. Minutes from now, I knew I was either going to collapse crying or scream with joy… or maybe I would still collapse crying regardless of the results. Looking around the medical records office, it was haunting knowing that countless people have retrieved their results from that small room, many of them probably breaking down in the arms of their loved ones when they saw their future at last.

I was still putting my signature on some acknowledgement forms when the clerk handed Erika the test results. I didn’t ask her right away but I was watching her in the corner of my eyes, looking for any sign that spelled my doom. For a couple of seconds, I was almost sure that my nightmares had come true because she was reading the papers so silently–no smile or any sign that there was good news at all.

“What does it say?” I finally asked her, my voice cracking, as I took the documents from her hand.

I immediately scanned for familiar words. No mention of “cancer” nor “tumor.” Nothing said “malignant” or “pre-malignant” or “pre-cancerous.” Nothing.

To my surprise, I didn’t fall down bawling nor jumped with joy. Perhaps it was just my severe exhaustion after reaching the end of this long treacherous journey, but I simply smiled, embraced Erika, and said “It looks like I’m ok.”

We immediately went up to my ENT’s office and showed him the results. He confirmed the good news–the great news–that my growths (because there were two of them that were removed) were indeed just nasal polyps. My doctor had shown me pictures of them after my operation and they looked nothing like grapes. They were unevenly shaped shiny masses colored brown and red with some parts yellow. According to my doctor, the reason for that was because the polyps themselves had rotted (not only my mucus) because of the legions of bacteria that had thrived there.

The packing in my nose was removed by my doctor after another week. Once the ordeal was over, I saw my ENT in a different light–somebody who had saved my life by taking away the main culprit for my recurring infections, which I thought could’ve developed into something more serious had no action been taken to correct the situation. Needless to say, I was thankful to him, and to Erika, to my family, and to all my friends who supported me and expressed their concern for me throughout that dark period.

The truth is I was grateful for everyone and everything. Even people who never knew I was sick. People who never knew who I was. People in the streets. Stray dogs and cats. To God.

I was–I am thankful for life.

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Brain Dead Serious

Let me Just Say that, in My Humble Opinion, You Should Die in a Fire Alone and Unloved

dieinafire

Look. This discussion is obviously getting heated and emotions are running high, which is pretty understandable given the weight of the discourse and the various political /ethical /economic /spiritual /sexual implications of our opinions, but I would just like to state before things really get out of hand and we hop onto an even more complicated topic, that, in my humble opinion, you should die in a fire alone and unloved.

I mean, you are obviously a very well-read individual with some enviable knowledge of the relevant themes and facts around this particularly contentious issue before us, and by simple reasoning it’s not hard to realize that you deserve to live like other people many of whom aren’t even as knowledgeable and clever as you are, but I hope I don’t sound too arrogant or dismissive when I tell you that you being burnt to a crisp like a piece of meat that fell into a pit of fiery coals would make me supremely satisfied, indeed.

If it still sounds kind of rude, please don’t take it personally. It’s really just my honest, unbridled opinion on the matter. I assure you I do not harbor any other ill will for you aside from the fact that I wished your eyeballs were evaporating right in front of me at this very moment. Bubbles of sizzling fat popping on your face. Boiling blood frothing from your mouth and gushing out of your ears. Tongues of angry, red flames dancing all over your melting skin dripping onto the singed floor. These images in my mind are absolutely objective and I can assure you that I’m not hiding behind any agenda when I express categorically that I wished you were in a fatal smoldering situation right now.

And please also allow me to qualify that you should not only pass away horribly in a fire, but you should also be alone and unloved as this transpires.

For your information and the viewers reading my two cents on the subject, I would like to make it crystal clear that “alone and unloved” means you should perish without any real friends to comfort you or family to bid you farewell. Not even a pet. Ideally, you should have been in this extreme isolated condition for a prolonged period of time; and in fact were this fire to fail to ignite, you would still have taken your own life by some other means anyhow like drowning in a sea full of jellyfish or by a more classic method such as bathtub electrocution. I understand that these are all fair ways to cause one’s own demise but personally, I insist on my preference of you expiring in an inextinguisable inferno whilst you tear the night apart with your horrid screams of anguish.

Now that this little wishful thinking of mine is out of the way, please do go on with what you’re saying.

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Brain Dead Serious

Scientists Reveal Human Beings Evolving into “Self-Righteous, Book-reading Capybaras”

capybara

An artist’s depiction of the future human-capybara descendant.

ZURICH – In a stunning conference today in front of the international press, evolutionary biologists from the University of Zurich reported that their studies reveal humans are evolving into none other than self-righteous, book-reading capybaras.

“We all know human beings came from prehistoric apes, and these prehistoric apes in turn came from primitive unicellular aquatic organisms. As our 8-year research into the trend of human evolution concludes, we are confidently predicting that humans will eventually evolve into self-righteous, book-reading capybaras,” the team’s head scientist Dr. Florian Bircher said.

Dr. Bircher was quick to follow up his statement when a panicked buzz began to sweep the packed room in the Zurich Marriott Hotel.

“Settle down. Settle down. I know you were expecting people to evolve into big-headed bug-eyed, grey aliens or into something like the Kardashians, but there’s absolutely no scientific evidence that supports such belief. In any case, people are too fat and lazy to evolve into something beautiful,” he added.

Capybaras, the team of scientists explained, are amazingly like human beings. These giant rodents are extremely sociable with one male usually mating with two females (yes, like a lot of men you know). Semi-aquatic, they spend lots of time in the water but they can also run really fast on the ground much like your coworker who regularly shifts between jogging and swimming in his hopelessly predictable life.

“But the most striking similarity is that capybaras never stop eating plants because they’re hardcore herbivores. As more and more people lose their ability to eat meat without imagining the animal on the plate as their pet, you can see how vegetarianism and veganism will eventually lead to an all-grass, all-bark, all-day capybara diet,” Dr. Bircher said.

capybara 2

The future human-capybara race will be pansexual and in fact will “hump anything that moves,” according to scientists.

The big difference between capybaras in the wild today and these future human-capybara hybrids is that the latter will be very self-righteous. And they’ll read books.

“In all my years of debating with people as an evolutionary biologist with the highest academic honors, I still haven’t met one person who admitted they were wrong. In fact, the homeless guy I had an argument yesterday about basketball pretty much said I’m a moron and I should just kill myself because I don’t know shit about what I was talking about. Furthermore, all my friends think they’re better than me. This unique trait will definitely be passed down to our giant rodent descendants whom we project would rather commit suicide than admit someone else is right.”

“Plus they’ll read books, I should add. They wouldn’t want to be caught without a book in their webbed hands. It’s just going to be a sign of high capybara culture or something like that.”

“But in the end, they’re still rodents. So they’ll breed like rabits and live like rats, thereby pushing our kind to extinction. Oh, and by the way, they’ll be pansexual–actually, they’ll hump anything that moves.”

Dr. Bircher and his team’s study can be read in this month’s Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

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