Monday, July 27, 2009

The (OTHER) Big C

My name is Matt Bergin. You may know me as the co-creator and writer of Division 18: The Union of Novelty Costumed Performers, as the moderator of the Comic Blog Elite toplist, or from my geek-parenting column Pop on Pop over at Forces of Geek. I learned to read from my older brother's hand-me-down comic book collection. I learned about economics by selling those comics to my local comic shop for pocket change. I learned about friendship from Greens Arrow and Lantern, love from Clark and Lois, and responsibility from Peter Parker's Uncle Ben. My sense of humor grew out of Groo, with a hint of Fred Hembeck and a twist of The Tick. I've been reading, writing, and drawing comics for as long as I can remember--not for a living, just because they are my life.

So it was particularly jarring for me when I was yanked out of my escapist Neverland by the news that I have cancer.

There I was, worrying about Dick Grayson's chances as the new Batman and trying to decide whether my almost-2-year-old daughter's first movie should be G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ; meanwhile, cancerous tumors were growing in my thyroid gland and the surrounding lymph nodes.
Talk about a reality check.

But then about a reality check! Cancer or not, I still want to know how Dick does as Batman. I'm still thinking of taking Alexa to that movie. I'm still curious to see how Dark Reign and Blackest Night play out. I want to know if the resurrected Steve Rogers will take back his shield from Bucky...or if he will just take over S.H.I.E.L.D. And there are so many comic-based movies--animated and live-action--on the horizon that I am not only looking forward to, but counting on seeing.

This is who I am. This is what I do. After all, there is no cure for comics.

So let me clarify a few things about myself and this site to get things started:

1. MY OUTLOOK: I am not dying. I mean, we're all dying, but I'm not dying from this cancer. The specific type of cancer I have is called papillary thyroid cancer, and it is both common and curable. I am at home recovering from my complete thyroidectomy as I write this initial post. The cancer had also spread to some of the surrounding lymph nodes, so I had those cut out, too. But all of the experts involved with my care have told me this kind of cancer is incredibly treatable. In fact, my endocrinologist told me that, if God came up to him (I guess in a bar or at a Yankee game or maybe between sessions at a medical conference?) and told him he had to have cancer but could pick which type, this is the one he'd choose. That is so comforting, right?

Seriously, though, the odds are very much in my favor that they cut all of the bad stuff out of me, and a quick follow-up zap of radiation in a few weeks time should take care of any microscopic hangers on hoping to cause me any continued grief. The bottom line here is that this blog isn't some morbid death trip.

2. MY ANGLE: For weeks after finding out that I had cancer and leading up to my surgery, I really had no idea how dire my situation was or was not, and I had an almost impossible time trying to keep a positive outlook on things. Potentially fatal disease aside, I'd never had major surgery before! Plus, it was almost a year to the day of my father dying that I got my diagnosis, so I was in a particularly strange place mentally and emotionally. The only constant for me during this time, besides my wife and daughter, was my weekly comic jones. But I couldn't just escape into these books anymore. The stakes of my life were too high and my time was suddenly very precious. I was suddenly looking at my weekly pull list with greater scrutiny and deeper cynicism. Did I really need to spend what might be my final days reading about Congorilla's cries for justice? Could I rest in peace never knowing the identity of the Red Hulk or the final fate of Spidey and MJ? Would I have died as happy if I had never lived to see JH Williams' recent work in Detective Comics? Every book I read, I asked myself, "What if this is the last comic I ever read? Is it worth it?" And this is the angle from which I'm going to look at things on this site. This might lead to a lot of snark or a lot of sincere affection...we'll see.

3. MY OPTIONS: Cancer doesn't define me. Neither do comics, necessarily. So, from time to time, I'll post about my own projects or other stuff that amuses me. I may even do some doodles for the site. I've got plenty of time to figure it out.


Anonymous said...

Wait a minute... Steve Rogers is resurrected?


Matt Bergin said...

One post in, and already I've enlightened someone. Point, me.