Category Archives: 1

Blastcount (the novel)

OctamusPrime

Some may know that I’ve been working on a book as of late, it’s about halfway through now and I’m really excited about it.  It relays my experiences with the Hollywood machine and my current screenplay (777), which at he moment is being looked at by some production companies (bounced around like a pinball is more like it, just as bells and whistles seem to sound with some great reward, the steel orb falls back past the flippers….ahhh, the life of a picture scribe), and my dealings with a life threatening Cancer diagnosis…there’s also some aspects of  quantum mechanics thrown in for good measure (Hugh Everett/Parallel worlds theories/Schrodinger’s Cat/etc.) and the LA party scene as I remember it…

The Novel is called Blastcount.  I was lucky to have met a wonderful author through my experiences at the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte, CA (Julie Davey, Author of “Writing for Wellness”) who was working on a book about coincidences (Coincidence or something elese?) .  A fascinating tale of how she met another woman across the globe also named Julie Davey who was a writer as well, they even share a similar family background (they teamed up, coauthoring this new book).  I told her the story of my life and she was interested…she asked me to contribute a chapter to her book.  I was more than honored.  I contributed the Prolusion from my book “Blastcount”.  It will be published in Julie’s book, due out in two weeks!!

Here’s the website for the book:

http://www.coincidence.name

My name appears under “contributing authors”

Here’s the prolusion to my book:

——————————————————————————————–

I was a screenwriter in Hollywood for 5.5 years before it happened…”more like an errand boy sent by grocery clerks”.  Every oddjob you can imagine…retail clerk, legality insurance phone broker, pen salesmen…and every industry job fathomable…PA, talent agency assistant, dishwasher.

 Then I signed with The William Morris Agency over the first draft of my latest script…777.

 I got Leukemia the same week.

 CML…Chronic Mylegenous Leukemia in its earliest phase, the chronic phase.  A pill a day controlled my counts.  Back to writing.

 2.5 months later a producer at a famed production company attached himself to my script.  During this week my disease had a reaction to the medicine I was on called Gleevec, this highly uncommon side-effect boosted me into the final phase of CML…what’s called the terminal or blastcrisis phase.

 I needed a bone marrow transplant.  It would have to be unrelated, my brother was not a match.  I had 2-3 months time to find a match before the disease would overrun me.  I was 28 years old.

 My survival odds were about 10%, I had leukemia in every lymphnode of my body.

 After the first round of induction chemotherapy my odds sky-rocketed to 10-15%.  Later I would run the gauntlet of more around the clock chemo at higher doses and full body radiation 11 times, for 11 minutes each session.  (*11:11 had always been a special number in my family because of it’s spiritual implications and it happened to be my father’s birthday. We always saw this number on clocks and license plates and I could feel him watching over me throughout my whole battle with cancer…he had died of Renal Cell Carcinoma (kidney cancer) two years prior to my diagnosis…the wound was still fresh and ran deep into the subcutaneous emotional strata of my closest family members). 

 I slowly felt I was becoming a character in my own script.

 See…my script was loosely based on an actual clinical trial conducted by the CIA with regards to the drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide…or LSD.  LSD was invented by the famed Swiss pharmacological company SANDOZ  in 1943.

 I was asked, at the onset of my disease to Participate in a clinical trial for the newest kinase inhibitor drug developed for CML (which is currently the most researched cancer of all, the only known cause of the disease is ultra high doses of radiation, it was found most prevalently in those that survived the original blasts of Nagasaki and Hiroshima)…a splitting of the 16th chromosome occurs…the Philadelphia chromosome.  Anyway, the drug was called Nilotinib, created and manufactured by the drug company giant NOVARTIS…a 3rd generation kinase inhibitor, barely out on the market.

 My friend and Manager, who helped get me signed with an Agent and take meetings all over town, and who had read my script several times was quick to point out…”You know Novartis absorbed Sandoz a while back, they’re the same company now… they hold all their old patterns”.

 Script pages started to re-write themselves in my head. Staccato finger jabs rang out, new scenes played with the nostalgic fuzz of an old phonograph.  Were my Doctors molded into the Doctors in the script, had I become #7, my hardboiled protagonist…was he playing my life or was I playing his…did the mental and physical horrors I had exacted for him, the wires spliced inside, the chemicals, the mind-control, was that what awaited me in my so-called “treatment”? The more I learned about the new ways my disease would be combated, the more parallels I drew…

 The script imprisoned me, the brass brads held me tight in a cell I had created…and was at this very moment creating, like watching myself in a mirror with brick, mortar, and trowel, encasing myself with my own words…sealing my fate.

 FADE IN:

 A DISHEVELED MAN stands alone in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard.  It’s dark, street lamps BUZZ, faded stars attempt to twinkle under the grime on the sidewalks in his periphery. He walks past what appears to be a ghost town with relics of movie theaters on either side…Grauman’s Chinese, the El Capitan, the Egyptian, the Kodak…

 JUMPCUT

 A stark hospital room…tubes, wires, chemical bags hang like sickly party balloons.

 SLOW ZOOM ON THE DISHEVELED MAN

 CLOSE ON HIS EYE

 PUSH IN SLOWER ON HIS RETINA

 HOLD

 A beat.  Another.  A HEARTBEAT.

 Dilation…

 

                                                  DISHEVELED MAN/ME

                                                            (incredulous)

                                                            What?

 

                                                                                                                          FADE  OUT:

 I contemplated the teeming coincidences, I’d have to scramble to re-write the last act of my script, a story that right now was aiming to finish part way down the 28th page.

 Here’s my story…

 It’s all true…except the parts where the prism of memory bends light here and there on reality.  Some fuzzy shards of embellishment.  Scraps of lore thrown down to the rats below the neon sewers of Hollywood…to “keep the butts in the seats” as some passionless slob once said.  Nourishment for the soul…or maybe just bones to choke on.

 But the DISEASE and THE SCRIPT and the PAIN and the PRAYERS and the HEALING…those are all true.

 Thank you to my team of Oncologists…

Dr. Rodriguez

Dr. Cai

Dr. Spielberger

Dr. Kogut

Dr. Saheebi

 My Nurses…Chemo, Bone-Marrow, and other.

 Robin Gammill (my counselor, bone marrow nurse, nurse practitioner, social worker, friend, and SNIP trial coordinator)

 Kathy Patene (my bone marrow coordinator)

 Kathy Nevis, head of the unrelated bone marrow donor search at the MUDD office.

 Anne Chae, social worker.

 CITY OF HOPE HOSPITAL

 KAISER

 MY MOM, SARAH, FAMILY, FRIENDS, FELLOW CANCER FIGHTERS, AND TOTAL STRANGERS.

 THE WHOLE TOWN OF LEOMINSTER, MASSACHUSETTS

 AND MOST OF ALL…MY STILL ANONYMOUS UNRELATED, 10 OUT OF 10 GENETICALLY MATCHED MALE BONE MARROW DONOR.  I YEARN TO SEEK YOUR IDENTITY AND THANK YOU IN PERSON FOR SAVING MY LIFE 

(**The only thing that I do know about this person, besides his sex is that he was 54 at the time of collection/donation of his stem cells, the age my father was when he died and within pounds of my father’s healthy weight before he got sick with cancer, more synchronous cogs clicking my psyche forward in proper guidance).

 LOVE TO EVERYONE AND ALL…THERE’S ALWAYS HOPE.

——————————————————————————————–

To anyone interested in the book (information about pre-ordering, publishing, etc., or anyone who has a question or just wants to chat) I’ve created an email address to contact me directly:

blastcount@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading and Love to all!!

Jonathan


The Pass Line

craps

A few weekends ago I ended up making that infamous pilgrimage that many So-Cal residents make several times a year…the “Vegas Bender”.  Although this time I was not planning on imbibing (as my  liver won’t allow for it because of the 20 something pills I take a day) and I didn’t really have the bankroll to gamble, but two of my close friends invited me to stay with them…they had two comped suites at Caesar’s Palace and room and board would be of no expense on my end.  Feeling the need for a trip I agreed.

Soon we were tearing down that asphalt dagger that cuts Death Valley in two, that torn shred of macadam known as the I-15…the sun was at our backs, two other carloads of mutual friends would meet us down later that night (8 total).  We were all buzzing as the film “The Hangover” had just come out a few days prior to our trip, since the movie takes place at “Caesar’s” we all went out to see it, by the time we got to the hotel the movie was #1 at the box office and the casino was already doing “Hangover” promotions, we couldn’t help taking on some of the character identities as we roamed the packed casino floor readying ourselves for check-in.

Friday night we took it easy, somewhat…then Saturday came.  Unknowingly I would have my first introduction to the game of chance known everywhere, whether played in back alleys in the slums, dice bouncing off cardboard boxes, or from behind velveteen ropes sporting raffish high rollers, as CRAPS.  The game with the best odds in the casino and as I would quickly learn the most camaraderie amongst players too!

We decided that Caesar’s was a bit too lavish for our style of play…we needed tables with smaller minimum bets, we walked across the street to the Imperial Palace, a tiny Casino that boasts single deck black jack and low minimums on all tables, also one of the last places you can get decent food deals…basically a seedy casino where people don’t bring their kids…they bring their wallets to do one of two things, usually both at the same time…gamble and drink.  The element surrounding us had the pathos of a penitentiary field trip, but we sidled up to a craps table anyway…I was just going to “watch”, learn the game…well that’s what I thought anyway…

I stayed close to my friend, observing his play when another bounded up to me, slapped $10 in chips in my hand (the minimum bet) and told me I was going to roll next.  I was stunned, I tried to hand the chips back to him as he walked away.  The table was surrounded not only by my 8 friends, but about 15 others, they were all staring at me.  The dealer pushed the dice in my direction with this “L” shaped stick of sorts.  I froze.  Screams and jeers echoed from the table.  Slowly I came to my senses, in a geriatric fashion selected a pair of dice, looked around and rolled….

THE DICE CLACKED TO LIFE….TIPTOED JAUNTILY ACROSS THE GREEN VELVET SEA…BOUNCED UP SLAPDASH OFF THE BREAKERS OF THE BACK HORESHOE SHAPED WALL…TUMBLED DOWN… TO…SEVEN (which is one of the two forbidden numbers you never speak of at the table I would learn, seven or eleven, it’s only good to get these on the first role, then everyone wins…and they did!)

The table came alive.  The rest is mainly a blurr for me…I was too enthralled to make any other bets, off that one $10 dollar pass line bet I made close to $100, that was over a half an hour later and without doing anything except continuing to roll, others at the table made hundreds (off $10 dollar bets mind you!)….strangers were hugging me, people were betting on me as a roller, I HAD THE HOT HAND.  Later my group would tell me it was the longest they’d ever seen someone stay on a “roll”, that it was like “an episode from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or something, just unreal…”.  One friend made a $5 dollar snake eyes bet and I hit it, that’s 30 to 1 odds, he made $150 on that single bet, he must have hit his “point” over a dozen times while I was at the table.  The group next to me was “playing the field” and must have hit 15 times in a row at least….people were making money and I was feeling great.  What an experience!  I walked away from the table, the praise ringing in my ears louder than the bells and whistles of the surrounding casino…then I began to wonder, why was I asked to roll in the first place?

I found out later that the mutual friend who had “sponsored and urged” my roll had been wanting to get me on a table all weekend, he could feel this “positivity” surrounding me like some sort of white light, his explanation to the others was something like this….”He just beat Cancer, he’s in top form, kid’s practically glowing…” (by the way that’s the same guy who hit the 30 to 1 bet).  I was taken aback…

I will forever look back on this experience and remember the warmth I felt at a CRAPS table of all places…I did beat CANCER and for one night the IMPERIAL PALACE too!  Have a great holiday weekend everyone, be safe, and KEEP THAT POSITIVE OUTLOOK ALIVE….777…11:11

And as always, thanks for reading!!

Jonathan

The New Life of a “Free Man”

South Pasadena

 

The past two months I’ve settled into my new apartment in South Pasadena.  Most of my friends still live in Hollywood and the surrounding areas and I’m in town in a flash down the 110 south anytime I feel like it.  I can’t say I miss the grime and traffic of Hollywood…well, sometimes, but lately the serenity of Pasadena has been a comfort.  I’ve got wild parrots in the trees above my apartment and  an old fashioned soda fountain within walking distance that serves the biggest banana splits I’ve ever seen (lime rickey’s too).

I’ve been writing like a fiend and just finished the re-write of my screenplay…I’ve also been working on a novel that is entitled “BLASTCOUNT” which will relay my personal experiences with screenwriting, Hollywood, Cancer, and life.  It’s going to be a collection of stories, not unlike the blog.  I just found out that a teaser/summary of the book is going to be published in another friend’s novel about coincidences.  See my screenplay is about a CIA clinical trial, patients that endure torture through treatment of a certain chemical, a drug created by the pharmacology  giant Sandoz…strangely I was asked at the onset of my  diagnosis to do a clinical trial by Novartis (the company that absorbed Sandoz a few years back and holds all their old patents).  Essentially the book is about how I slowly became the lead character in my own screenplay…things were so weird, at times I was literally living torture sequences I had written in the script almost a year before (see pics from the blog “The Irradiated Man” to get an idea).  More on this in blogs to come…I intend on posting the prolusion or an excerpt from the book in a later blog.

Anyway, life has been good to me as of recent, I’m a new person with close to normal bloodcounts and no sign of disease. I try not to let the little things bother me the way they used too…ohh, traffic sometimes still gets in the way, but stepping out into the sun with a fresh brewed cup of coffee and breathing the Pasedena air….it makes me feel good, relaxed, and glad that I’m still here.

Thanks to all for reading….

I’ve set up an email for this blog, the book, and for anyone who has personal questions on Cancer, Advocacy, or just wants to say hi and relate their life experiences.

blastcount@yahoo.com

Thanks again,

Jonathan Goss

THE CABBAGE AND THE BULLET…

Wow…it’s been a long time, lots of changes…as you can see from the above two shots, many extrinsic, but actually more emotionally, an iceberg of depression that plunged like a dagger deep into the pith of my soul.

The first picture I’m 172lbs, slightly pudgy (more so maybe), with the ridiculous iconic “Travis Bickle” haircut. This is a few days before I started treatment back in October, some four months ago. I didn’t know what hell awaited me behind those doors, but I was going to be ready for battle, just like the character in the blood-splattered finale of my favorite film.

The Second picture, I’m about 118lbs, was not allowed to shave…this was two weeks ago after being released from the hospital (after my third trip back inside) this time for acute GVHD (graft vs. host disease) a common side-effect for those with unrelated bone marrow transplants.  I had lost more weight and this was really the hardest thing for me…to go back into the hospital after being out for a month. I’m proud to say that now I’m on day +93 and am doing much better, but it has been a long road, many compare it to Heart Break Hill in the Boston Marathon and I definitely crawled up on all fours and then rolled down.

I’ve pondered these pictures for so long and contemplated how different they are from each other, I’m not the same person anymore that’s for sure…the mohawk and sunglasses look so buffoonish, I started to wonder about Paul Schrader’s motivation for writing this in the TAXI DRIVER script. Then I remember an interview with him talking about WWII soldiers who would adapt this haircut before they were going into a battle…a battle where the odds were not going to be in their favor, a “suicide mission”.  The custom actually went way back to the Native Americans and war raids.  My mind continued to click (as the steroids I’m currently on really don’t allot for much sleep and leave me feeling like a meth addict part of the time, organizing sock drawers, talking way too fast, and thinking about epic topics for hours on end).  This specific night it was an old family story about my Great Uncle Meb, a WWII POW in the Bataan Death March who probably looked much like I do now when he was finally released from Japanese captivity.

Here’s his courageous tale, one of enduring odds, a credo that no matter what is happening around you to keep moving forward, always MARCHING FORWARD…it was inspirational to me while I was in the hospital and although he hardly ever spoke of the war, last summer during a visit to his home town in Pennsylvania with my Grandmother and Great Uncle Leroy (the only two surviving members left of the original 10 sibling family), they recounted the one thing he told them about the BATAAN DEATH MARCH.

THE BATANN DEATH MARCH took place in 1942 in the Philippines after the three-month battle of Bataan when the Japanese overran the island.  The march involved the forcible transfer of 75,000 American and Filipino POWs captured from the Bataan Peninsula.  Since there was no space in the prison camps to accommodate this high number of prisoners, the Japanese marched the captured soldiers for nearly a week back and forth in the tropical heat with no food and or water.  Beheadings, cut throats, and casual shootings were the more common and merciful actions – compared to bayonet stabbings, rapes, disembowelments, and numerous rifle butt beatings.  Falling down on the trail was a death sentence and 1 in 4 did not make it, nearly 20,000 died in the 5-6 day trek.  The story my Uncle Meb told is what I’ve titled this blog…

He remembers an American soldier a few paces in front of him and a whistle.  The G.I. looked up into the jungle just off the marching trail and a Filipino bolted out and threw the soldier a cabbage…a kind free sole who had escaped capture and was trying to help the others.  A Japanese soldier saw this all take place.  He shot the Filipino in the Jungle who had thrown the nourishment, then shot the American who had caught the cabbage as well.  I’m sure my Great Uncle saw worse than this…but he kept his strength, he kept MARCHING FORWARD, he survived.

This story was one of the straws that I’ve grasped at through my whole 4-month hospital stay, through the bouts of chemo, the radiation, through the hardest times.  I realize it’s a gritty story, but sometimes it’s the grit that gets you through.  They tell me next week on day +100 I will technically be called a “survivor” too…

Thanks everyone for reading, for the love and support, the prayers, comments, cards, and well wishes!

I love you all!

Jonathan

Waiting Room Stories

The Waiting Room has become, for me, as with any Cancer patient I’ve talked to, an eerie place….an ethereal realm where acquaintances and bonds are born, a place where uncertainty lurks in shadowy corners behind doors that open into a sort of afterlife…a life after Cancer, a new world where statistics and blood count levels have come to plague me once again.  I go to clinic twice a week and have learned more about living from these people that sit nervously in chairs next to me, awaiting their futures too, than from any previous experience.

I keep seeing parents, with their little kids…kids with bald shiny heads battling their Cancers with smiles on their faces and toys in their hands…it’s when they’re smiling, that’s when I’m really brought to my knees by their strength.  Children, they are the toughest fighters on earth, I’ve learned the most from them.  Maybe they’re just more mentally tough because they don’t know any better, but when I look deep into those smiling eyes I realize they know something I don’t….

I’ve decided to share two waiting room stories, I picked them up as a fly on the wall…

A mother tells how her child had a small M&M sized bump behind his ear.  She took him to the family’s primary care physician for a checkup.  The Doctor said everything with the child was fine and that the mother should stop worrying, this was of course her first child and she was just being commonly over-protective.  She took her son back home.  Her husband returned from work and was upset at what he felt to be callous behavior on the doctor’s part…the family’s dog had just died from leukemia and he felt that the growth, along with the child’s discolored red gums was a sign.  He called the doctor and the next day went with his wife to bring the child back in.  Upon arriving at the doctor’s office the husband demanded bloodwork, which the doctor laughed at, he refused, how dare a patient demand something so ridiculous…the husband kept pushing and there was almost a physical confrontation, he was sure his son had leukemia.  The doctor, just to prove a point, ordered bloodwork…later that day the results where in, the child did have an acute leukemia, now he is at City of Hope getting treatment along with countless others who’s stories are just as strange.

The man the mother was telling the above story to was a 20 something who listened intently and talked to the child about Star Wars toys, the child’s favorite was Darth Vader, he liked the bad guys best.  The man turned to the mother after and told her his story…how he crashed his motorcycle badly and underwent a CTscan, which revealed he had lymphoma, he was completely floored, his foot still in a cast from the fall.  I remember him saying “What a strange world it is”….I nodded silently to myself, pulling my small notebook from my pocket and scratching everything down with my fountain pen.

Thanks for reading everyone.  I’m day +41, this week brings more tests including another CTscan and engraftment bloodwork, I’ve got my fingers crossed and will be back in the waiting room on Friday…

Love to all.

Finally well enough to write 2

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve written…my counts are coming back so quickly I’m tired most of the day.  My white cell count was 9,000 today, that of a normal person, but I found myself in bed watching the pats win, then lose playoff hope, becoming only the second team in NFL history to be 11/5 and not make the playoffs…it sucks.

Slowly I’m being weened off many types of IV medication, meds are changed to pill form, it’s scary they’re getting ready to send me on my way.  No more Mother Morphine and her Magic drip, no more shots of Benedryl a la syringe.  They’re even cutting back on the Atavan.  I’ve had some wild nights mixing these three when pain, nausea, and anxiety had quite some hold.  

The drugs can contort your dreams, but sometimes, I feel, stimulate your subconscious.  I’ve been having lots of dreams, some meaningful, others abstract.  Everything from my dead father sitting down with my girlfriend and me, the lot of us throwing pie-plates in the desert to visions of frozen orange juice from concentrate melting slowing on the kitchen counter.  Sometimes the symbolism is so strong in the dreams and they move me so much I have to share them…here goes.

I call this one THE BIG HOUSE:

I’m in a jail of sorts, not sure why, but I’ve been wrongly accused of something, something awful.  It’s a rough workman’s camp and you can just tell the place was built on hard knocks.  I’m contemplating all this while sitting at a gray metal desk in a small cell, the bars casting noirish crosses on the walls behind me.  I’ve got an antiquated rotary phone to my ear and have someone on the line…it’s my Cousin Adam Goss.  It becomes quickly evident that Adam is helping me file an appeal, serving as my legal counsel, telling me firmly what I needed to do to survive in this place of horror.  “First empty your pockets”, he said.  I dumped out shiny trinkets onto the desk.  “You know what to do”.  I nodded to myself, sweeping the items off the desk, into the trash.  “The watch”, he said.  I hesitated, but then pulled off a gold watch from my wrist , plunked it into the trash.  “Now take off your shirt and write this on it”, he stated sternly.  I put a sharpie to my prison issue white T and wrote the words he dictated to me over the phone, “I am not a free man, but I once was free.  I still have certain unalienable rights that must be looked after, even in this place.  I have legal counsel currently looking after my personal freedoms should they in any way be trampled…

The last thing I remember about the dream was my cousin telling me to now put on the T-shirt.  The dream has an obvious significance to me and I’d like to explain this to the reader.  Since I was diagnosed last May with Leukemia my cousin Adam has done more calculated research on my specific disease than anyone.  He’s constantly calling me or texting me about the latest treatments, he gives me lists of questions to ask my doctor, questions plucked from his Oncologist friends at school and his  wife (Janis) who is a Vet Oncologist treating this same disease in animals.  He’s gone through Archives at the University of Florida, scoured the internet, inquired about the latest clinical trials.  Finally my questions got so intense that my Oncologist asked me what other team of Oncologists I was working with…my information was up to the minute.  For a while it was like a weekly quiz with questions about Aurora base inhibitors, vegf cell receptors, various vaccines in various stages of developments.  Adam taught me very early the most important thing about being a Cancer patient…that you must be your own advocate…you must research your disease and understand it if you’re going to beat it…I want to thank him for that, i’ve gotten better treatment down the stretch as a result of it, being my own best personal advocate has certainly saved my life so far.

Thank you Adam for your unwavering support and research…and thanks to everyone who’s put me in their prayers, sent me a comment, a text, a card, or a call…it’s helping me get through and I’m getting stronger by the day.

The Irradiated Man…

After eleven, 11 minute blocks of radiation and two days of chemotherapy I’m finally ready for my transplant (tomorrow, Dec. 10th).  What a wild ride it’s been…I haven’t eaten in 5 days and the pangs in my gut keep me up at night, I’m hot one moment, chills the next, but all the pain and strife, it will be worth it, because like Little Orphan Annie said, “Tomarrow, New Marrow, it’s only a day away!”

Below are some pretty cool pics of the surrounding village of City of Hope and the radiation treatments.  Many times I felt like Spock…at least they let me blare mix cd’s overhead while I stood completely still for 11 minutes (sometimes forward, sometimes backward).  You’ll also see pictures of my lung blocks which were made out of lead and blocked my lungs from radiation, I thought they looked like angel wings.

Thanks to all for reading and the support…what wonderful people you all are!