Gaming is not just a hobby that I grew up with, but it’s become such a community embedded interest that it extends past just a closed group. Being an industry that profits more annually than any other entertainment industry, it’s safe to say that more gamers get involved each year. It’s a passion that led me to create a YouTube channel and help formulate two websites over time. So what happens when a life-changing event occurs that wants to interfere with this? This is my personal story about gaming with cancer.
Gaming With Cancer
Cancer is not something that anyone wants to hear in their lifetime. Hearing that you have cancer not only turns your world upside down but oftentimes those around you as well. It is something that makes you start to question anything and everything. It’s not necessarily something that means the end, but something that can delay life in general. For me, this is something I’ve heard twice in my life.
You see, gaming with cancer while out of work is actually less glamorous than it seems. It means unexpected tired spells mid-match with your buds. It sometimes means hoping you have a good save spot because you feel nausea getting the better of you. Sometimes that nausea doesn’t even present itself, so hopefully, you have a towel or bucket nearby. At times, fatigue just sets in and you want to sleep, or sometimes you’re not tired enough to sleep but nothing else is interesting to you. Other times, I found just being mentally focused to be an issue. Symptoms can be a bitch, even worse, they can meddle in your gaming time. I’ve been lucky enough to experience all that was mentioned.
In the first few weeks, gaming wasn’t something that was high on the priority of my list. It was almost as if everything I was doing was a blur between doctor appointments. Including being a father and thinking about what the future holds for my child, it’s hard to really get excited about new releases that I had been holding out for weeks prior. Borderlands 3, Destiny: Shadowkeep, Call of Duty Modern Warfare and various other titles were high on my list and I was ecstatic to play them. However, just like that, the enthusiasm was sucked out. The first few weeks were hard to deal with.
One thing I did get to have time with, was small indie gaming with my Nintendo Switch. It was nice to be able to have something I could pass some time with from my hospital bedside. The chemo I have to take requires in-patient stays and to be administered over the course of several days. So the Switch has been something that has allowed me to play indie titles and Nintendo games that do not require me to be plugged into a television set.
The Gaming Community
If there’s one thing I haven’t felt while dealing with chemotherapy and cancer would be a sense of loneliness. No one should ever go through cancer alone, no one. While at the home level that’s not the case, in the gaming community, it also proves to be far from the case. The amount of support has been overwhelming. From the Lords of Gaming and Iron Lords Podcast community alone, so many have reached out to ensure that I’m doing well. It has been one of the sparks that keep me doing what I enjoy doing the most.
Gaming also has allowed me to connect with friends that are at a distance. Some of which I rarely gamed with before, despite their constant party invites. It’s another marvel that gaming does gift to us. Nearly two decades ago, this would not have been possible, or at least reasonable.
During this time, I will admit that I have gained an appreciation for things that I would not have given time before. One being watching fun streamers, when before it didn’t really click with me. Why watch someone playing a game when I could be playing it myself? Well, remember when I said sometimes you are just tired and unable to focus? It was during this time, scanning around some various streamers on Mixer when I found KabbyT. I was hooked, and his community was great to chat with.
When I haven’t been playing or watching a stream, another thing I started doing was listening to more gaming podcasts. While normally my biases keep me viewing primarily the Iron Lords Podcasts (shameless plug), I started listening to others that I had passed on. Some of these podcasts have some of the most loyal fans’ that have been there for quite some time. I eventually started to chat with these individuals, who embraced me as a newcomer to the audience. This has been a way to be social when I have to remain cooped in a house or a hospital room with little outside interaction. Remember, chemotherapy and some radiations will wipe out and lower immune systems, so going into public could be a risky thing. To these shows, and they know who they are, I appreciate you and salute what you do.
Some of these podcasts have some of the most loyal fans’ that have been there for quite some time. I eventually started to chat with these individuals, who embraced me as a newcomer to the audience.
PS Now, Ultimate Game Pass, xCloud Oh My
Sometimes when you are with cancer, and going through treatment, you might find yourself out of work for the time being. This has been my case while I’ve been trying to get back to a healthy position. This also may mean, depending on your job, lowered income to no income. Luckily my position is the former, however, saving is a necessity. This also means spending money on my favorite hobby will not be the same as it once was.
Gaming services such as PlayStation’s PS Now and Xbox’s Game Pass have come to the rescue. In a situation where I can play a lot of games, many of which I probably wouldn’t have thought about trying before, it helps keep me current. On top of the fact that I also don’t have to spend money on new games for my son since he can just play what is available to these libraries. Whoever doesn’t believe these services don’t have their benefits haven’t been in this position.
The biggest surprise to me was how well services like PS Now and xCloud worked with streaming. Constantly I hear how the infrastructure in the United States is not ready for such streaming services. This can make anyone skeptical about trying a new service that requires internet usage to run. However, both worked fluidly with minimal input lag. Do you know how awesome it is to be able to play your Xbox games from a hospital bed without the need to drag my original, day one Xbox around? On top of that, I finally earned my first PlayStation trophy ever, for God of War playing PS Now through my PC. Despite these being new methods that worked, I stuck to the tried and true method, my Nintendo Switch.
A Quick Story About Gaming & Healing
One of my favorite gaming stories when going through treatment was back in 2006. Often times I would bring a console, usually my Nintendo Gamecube and PlayStation PSP since they were both small and easy to carry around. The hospital I was at, KU Medical Center in downtown Kansas City, would divide the room up for typically two patients when it was non-communicable diseases. My cancer then, and now, is osteogenic sarcoma, so usually is handled in the pediatrics departments, where they have much more hands-on experience.
I had been diagnosed the prior year, was going through chemo treatment and just coming off surgery shortly after Christmas time. I remember watching a story about a boy who had been hit by a truck and lost both of his legs in a hit-and-run. As fate maybe, he was my roommate. The boy was no more than 9 or 10 years old and had a lot of family visits, but they normally wouldn’t stay for long. Our room was divided with a curtain for privacy, but we could hear one another obviously. One day early on, all I could hear was crying.
At the time I decided to ask if he was okay, and he told me, yes but he was just lonely. I decided that’s it, time for that curtain to go away. So we pulled it back and I remember him asking if that was my Gamecube. It was an easy way for us to connect, for us to forget the pains we both were in. He was so excited to have something to do and something to play, telling me he didn’t have any consoles at home because they just couldn’t afford it. Days went by and it was time for me to go.
“You forgot your Gamecube,” I remember he was reminding me. I had already decided that it was something I was going to leave for him. I already had enough at home and gaming was something that not only brought joy to me but also to him. I remember giving him a hug and wishing him well on his path to recovery. Gaming helped us both during a time when we both could have used it the most.
So What Now?
It’s important to note that everyone’s experience with cancer is different. Different cancers, different treatments, different side effects. Others might not have had a rough time or experience like this, whereas I’ve seen others have it a lot worse. A close friend of mine who is also going through his cancer definitely has it a lot worse. No gaming appetite, and often times was just tired. Several times when we would talk, he would inquire about what I’m playing, but he just didn’t have the energy to spend on our shared hobby. It’s heartbreaking.
As for my case, it is still something I am going through as of the time of this article. Osteogenic sarcoma is an extremely rare form of bone cancer. Treatment to rid yourself of this cancer consists of some of the strongest, most bodily toxic forms of chemotherapy and surgery. Radiation is rarely used as the effectiveness is not something that is common. With chemotherapy, certain drugs such as Adriamycin has a limit on how much can be administered in a persons’ lifetime. I’ve exceeded that limit.
The second step being surgery is a very grueling process. The first time I had it located in my right leg. At the time I thought it was shin splints, but after a rough kick to the tumor area, I knew I had to get it checked. Low and behold, I won the cancer ticket. Since it was in the leg inside my bone pushing the bone outwards, they had to remove the bone and replace it with medical titanium. Other than the deformity due to moving the calf muscle, it looks like a normal leg.
Remember when I said this was a bone cancer? Well, osteogenic sarcoma most often comes back in the lungs. The tumor consists of the biostructure of the bone cancer but doesn’t necessarily have to be part of the bone at this point. In my case, the tumor grew to 22cm and pressed down on my right lung, almost collapsing it. Due to the size and damage, surgery would require complete removal of the lung as well, not to mention a rib just to get to the surgery section. However, after many tests, the doctors discover intrusions from the tumor along with my heart, esophagus and the lung itself. Oxygen distribution also plays a factor in the candidacy of surgery, which unfortunately in my case made surgery not possible. One lung working, the other pretty much trying its best.
That puts me in a weird position, a rare cancer on the rare chance that radiation is to be used. Speaking with my radiologist, he admitted himself this is a rare thing to see gauging about 3-5 years between a single case. Additionally, my oncologist now is looking to see where we might be able to get into a clinical trial to find a way to cure. It becomes a scary situation of will this next method work? If not, what do you do then? Is it possible that cancer that I beat before now becomes terminal? Possibly, but you have to fight.
If there’s one thing cancer cannot take away, it’s my love for gaming and the community of like-minded folks that have been there and joined the fight with me. I know that along this journey I’ll have the games to play with the services mentioned, my Switch when I don’t have the access to the internet, and the friends I’ve made that will be excited to chat with me about the latest in gaming. I couldn’t ask for more.
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