On Surgery, Games Writing, and Writing

Published on Jun 15th, 2012 by

So here’s a thing. In January of this year, I thought I found a lump on my collar bone (on the sterno-clavicular joint, if you’re interested in such specifics). Normally I wouldn’t have been concerned, because it did still feel like part of my collar bone, just more prominent, but I’d also been having throat problems since September 2010, on and off (I’d visited the doctor but never really got an answer), and they’d been getting worse, with neck pain, a choking sensation and whatnot. I was referred to an ENT clinic at the hospital, but the appointment wasn’t for another three months through no fault of the hospital/the ENT department, but in the meantime my spinal surgeon wanted to do a CT scan just to be sure the collar bone wasn’t shifting due to any problems with my spine. This was very unlikely to be the case, but worth looking into.

[Note: I suffered from a severe spinal curvature from my early teens to early 20s, it was a pretty extreme case and there were a few aspects of it that were kind of uncommon (such as the fact my lower vertebrae had entirely fused together), so it was pretty debilitating. I had corrective surgery in 2005 but the metal rods holding it together snapped about 18 months later, and in 2009 I had a second bout of surgery - because of the complications and severity of mine, I still get a fair bit of back pain and while I've been given the all-clear in terms of regular spinal checkups, anything untoward still needs looking into.]

So the CT scan came back, and showed absolutely nothing wrong with my collar bone at all, which was nice. However, it did show something wrong with my thyroid on the right-hand side – a swelling. Thyroid swelling can be caused by a number of things, from a malfunctioning thyroid to a thyroid nodule. Thyroid nodules are pretty common, and usually don’t cause any problems at all, although it was very clear in this case that mine *was* causing me problems, as the symptoms (particularly the choking sensation) were getting worse.

So I had my ENT appointment in April, and the specialist performed an endoscopy and confirmed that yes, the thyroid was definitely swollen on the right hand side, and I needed an ultrasound scan to find out exactly what was going on there. A couple weeks later I had that done, and they found a single nodule in my thyroid, 4.3cm in size (for some context, the thyroid gland is normally around 4cm, so this has effectively doubled it in size). While thyroid nodules are normally benign and usually don’t require surgery, they’re more commonly problematic in males, and more commonly problematic if you only have one nodule rather than a few (and, from what I can gather by reading around anyway, they’re rarely quite as big as this). So I had to have a biopsy, and a few weeks later had an appointment to discuss the results. They did not find any malignant cells in the sample they took, which was a relief (although thyroid cancer, while obviously still very nasty, is one of the most treatable cancers, and is largely self-contained). However, there’s no clear results as to what it is at all, so they can’t be 100% certain either way just yet.

By this time (up to and including as I write this) the symptoms have been getting quite consistently worse, particularly the sensation of being choked, which isn’t constant, but comes and goes, and when it’s here, well, it’s like having something tied quite tightly around your neck – not enough to cause serious harm, but enough to give you the sensation that your throat is being uncomfortably constricted. This is because the nodule is pressing against my windpipe, distending it and causing breathing problems, discomfort etc. It also makes it very hard to talk at length at times, and it’s very draining when it kicks in.

The solution is to remove the entire right hand side of my thyroid, which I’ll be having done sometime in the next 10 weeks. I don’t have an exact date yet, but have been told it won’t be long, and the surgical notes point out that the symptoms are getting worse, so hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later. It’s a surprisingly simple op for what it is, I don’t need to even stay in overnight, but they advise a recovery period off work for a couple weeks afterwards. I’m not entirely sure what to expect, on one hand it’s quite a simple op, very little in the way of potential complications, unlikely I’ll need medication for life afterwards (removing the entire thyroid means this is required, but since it’s only half, the other side SHOULD manage to function normally by itself), with the main risk being temporary damage to my vocal cords (and this is a very small risk anyway). On the other hand, they’re cutting part of my throat out, so y’know.

So there’s that. At the moment, I’m fine at times and other times in a lot of discomfort, feeling very drained etc, and since I know I have impending surgery, I’m taking a hiatus from games writing and the games journalism industry for a while. It’s just not practical to keep it up at the moment, or fair on anyone who I might be writing for if I suddenly have to drop it to have last minute surgery. Instead, I’ll be working on things I can do at my own pace, such as the next part of the script for Richard & Alice, and a full length novel follow-up to Bright Lights & Glass Houses.

I’ve managed to get Bright Lights & Glass Houses released in digital and print form and it’s now essentially ‘out the way’ before all these medical shenanigans kick in, and hopefully sales from that will start to pick up now the print version is out, and at least go some way to making up for the loss of earnings due to the the games writing hiatus.

I’d like to thank everyone at The Telegraph games section, and GameSpot, and various other wonderful people in the industry who’ve supported me, given me a platform, paid me for my words and contributions and encouraged me to write about games, particularly Tom Hoggins, Nick Cowen and Guy Cocker who’ve all given me important, greatly appreciated opportunities that have set various things in motion.

Any support and help offered is greatly appreciated, and if you’d like to do so then >> buying my book << would be an awesome, helpful thing. It’s available in print and ebook form, whichever takes your fancy. All the details are on the link above. I’m hesitant to present it in this context, but the reality is every sale does contribute to me being able to survive off it for the time being. So if you fancy checking it out, it would be much appreciated, as well as spreading the word and whatnot.

- Raze

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Top 10 Favourite Games Of 2010 (Director’s Cut)

Published on Dec 22nd, 2010 by

Yes, I’ve used the same banner as the last post for consistency, and absolutely not laziness. Anyway, over on The Telegraph we compiled a list of what we consider to be the ten BEST games of 2010, and underneath them is our personal staff picks, namely our ten favourite games from 2010, which doesn’t automatically equal ‘the ten best games’. Ten. Originally the staff picks had text, and honourable mentions, and a colourful slideshow gallery of Tom Hoggins at a petting zoo, but these were scrapped after our lists surfaced on Wikileaks. Luckily I was able to salvage mine from the depths of the OpenOffice document in which I carefully saved it, and am reproducing it below, not because it’s interesting but because it makes it look like I’ve updated my blog today, when really I’ve just written a paragraph then copy/pasted something I already wrote. Okay, it could be argued that I spent the time writing it in the first place, and it isn’t published elsewhere, but let’s not be reasonable about this, it’s Christmas after all.

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You get me closer to God?

Published on Sep 30th, 2010 by

The Social Network is a film about Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, directed by David Fincher of Se7en and Fight Club fame. It looks to be a pretty interesting movie, and since I abhor the cinema with a fiery passion and only go to one when a Saw film is on, I’ll likely watch it on DVD a while after release. It does seem like it’ll be good though, and while Mark Zuckerberg isn’t someone I’ve ever really thought about watching a movie based on, I do have a Facebook account which makes me at least 3% emotionally invested in this film. Here is the movie poster, which I think is pretty cool. It’s true, you don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies. Just ask Kanye West.

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