Picture of self with cane in restroom before medical procedure

The Cancer Scare

I guess my life is one of those never-ending comedies of error now, each day an echo of the last, a rattling noise that gets louder and louder as we wind back to the day I had my accident. I haven’t kept count, but the frequency with which my health care providers offer me what can be summarized with the template phrase “the ______ scare” has given me little rest these past 11 months.

The first sign of something being wrong was extreme back pain. Imagine getting kicked in the back. Now hold that note for hours at a time. That’s what it was like, a grinding, soul-crunching physically impossible pain that made doing anything that required standing, walking, breathing, eating, drinking, or otherwise being alive extremely difficult.

I went to the ER, got some scans, the scans were abnormal. Aside from tears in my spine, which was now also curved to the left, I had a hiatal hernia, and my gastrointestinal tract just looked wrong. I got blood tests, other tests, and then they took a look inside and got samples. Things kept coming up wrong, inflammatory markers were high, I had an infection, and even more inflammatory markers came out on the high side of abnormal.

“Well, there’s a few things this could be,” my gastroenterologist said to me just before my testing, listing off a few things before saying it. “There’s also a chance it could be cancer.”

So, when my post-consult tests came back abnormal, I held my breath. What if it’s true? What if I had to deal with something I haven’t got the money or time to handle? Was this going to end my school career for a while? Could I die? The latter question was answered when I got notified that an advanced directive questionnaire was available to me.

What are some facts that would help me get the best care? Who do I designate to make decisions for me? I like peaches for dessert and turkey with rice for dinner, and music by Annie calms me down, especially “Bad Times” and “Heartbeat,” specifically the Alan Braxe remix of the latter.

Refreshing my test results over and over, I finally worked up the urge to email my care team to ask how long it takes. One to two weeks, they said, but it seems they just got some of the results in. Soon thereafter, my doctor emailed with the results of those, telling me they found nothing cancerous.

I was relieved, mostly.

I can’t say I’m happy with the current state of my health, but one year into such a dramatic change I’ll take what good news I can get.

Traveling in College

by Ragan Love

This past Veteran’s Day , I traveled to Saint George, Utah, to see my younger brother perform in a national marching band competition. I knew this trip was coming, but I didn’t realize how quickly the school year would go by. This past week I felt as if I was scrambling to prepare myself for the trip. As students we have a habit of biting off more than we can chew, and that can cause stress on vacation and get in the way of spending quality time with your family. I was determined not to let that happen. The first thing I did to prepare for this trip was to compile a list of homework I needed to get done and prioritize assignments. My main focus was working on my Honors 101 summary of argument essay. After that, I planned to work on scholarships, read for University Studies and practice. I told my family that I wanted an hour each day to work with no distractions. I also planned to use any free time to study. . 

As a music major, it’s more difficult for me to bring my homework on the road. It is easy to bring a flute on a plane, but when you spend your whole day hanging out with your family, it’s hard to make time to practice. When I am on the road, I bring the pieces that I am working on, find a good quality recording on YouTube, and then air and finger along with the video on a pencil. I don’t work on improving my skills or increasing tempos, I focus on keeping the music in my fingers. This allowed me to show my family some of the repertoire that I get to play this quarter.

For non-performance majors, I suggest taking your notes and reading through them when you have free time. This time is not about gaining knowledge, it is about retaining knowledge. 

I also suggest that you create a buffer time when you get back to get yourself reorganized – even if it’s just a few hours to recheck assignments and finish up any loose odds or ends. 

By sticking to this plan, I was able to enjoy the time with my family.  NowI am back at school, and I do not feel like I have fallen behind.I hope my experience can help you learn how to balance homework with vacation time.

Portland State tackles food insecurity

By PSU Social Media Contributor

Millions of students, including a staggering 42% at PSU, are food insecure. That’s why Portland State University offers many resources on campus to provide access to free food and assistance.

Food Pantry
The PSU Food Pantry is available to any PSU student taking one or more credit hours. Hours are Mon., Tues., Fri. 12:30-3:30 p.m.; Wed. & Thurs. 2-5 p.m.

Free Food Market
Everyone is welcome to come to PSU’s Free Food Market, held on the second Monday of each month, rain or shine. The market has given out over 321,000 pounds of food since April 2015. All are welcome, and volunteers are needed.

Meal vouchers
Students may get up to 5 meal vouchers per term, good for free meals at Victor’s and Ondine. There are only a few vouchers left for fall term, and more will be available for winter term.

Help for students with children
The Winter Wonder program, coordinated through the Resource Center for Students with Children, provides crucial support to our PSU students with children, many of whom struggle to make ends meet during the holiday season. 

SNAP food benefits
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal and state-funded program providing food benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families. Special criteria exist for higher education students, and it’s now easier to qualify.

Hardship funds
Hardship Funds offered to students in School of Business, School of Social Work, College of Urban and Public Affairs, the College of Education and other departments. The Student Financial Wellness Center can connect students to resources and assist with navigating financial hardship. 

Other basic needs assistance

  • A Home for Everyone offers a list of emergency shelters.
  • Showers are available at the Rec Center for students.
  • Call or text 211 to find more resources or go to 211info.org

Someone Pinch Me

It’s been a month and a half since I moved,

And I’m still amazed at the beauty of what is Portland.

A city built within nature,

So many colors and scenery.

As I walk with my friends through the forest,

I marvel at the beauty.

This place that I never knew about up until this year,

Has a type of wonder to it. It pulls you in, hypnotizes you and won’t let you go.

Some days it hits me like

“Whoa I’m here, I’m actually here.”

Other days, like today it hits a little different,

“Someone pinch me, I must dreaming.”

“This is so beautiful and gorgeous!”

“I can’t believe I get to spend the next three years out here!”

You can get lost here,

And not the bad lost where you wonder around and forget where you came from.

The type of lost that just makes you appreciate what’s out here.

City and nature,

All in one.

What more you can you ask for,

In a place that has me say “someone pinch me”

-Krystal Figueroa

Historic 1965 College Bowl victory gave PSU national visibility, local credibility

The original team that put Portland State College on the map.
Jim Westwood is bottom row, second from the right.

By PSU Social Media Contributor

In 1965, Portland State College was virtually unknown on a national level. Then a group of nerdy college students rose up and shocked the TV quiz-show world.

Starting in January, the team made an undefeated run through the New York-based G.E. College Bowl quiz game — one of the nation’s most popular TV shows at the time — by beating every one of its opponents in record fashion.

The climax came on March 8, when the team defeated Birmingham Southern “in what NBC producers said was the ‘most outstanding team performance’ in College Bowl history,” according to the story in The Oregonian the next morning.

Afterward, the state legislature invited the team to Salem, and team member Jim Westwood (’67) addressed the Senate and House. Later that month, Time magazine ran an article on how the College Bowl victories helped change Portland State College’s image. “The floodgates opened for higher education funding and the college became PSU a few years later,” says Westwood. “I think the College Bowl really helped turn the corner for PSU.”

This fall, Portland State invited Westwood and other alumni back to campus to re-live the glory and excitement from the historic win.

This fall’s College Bowl event featured PSU friends and alumni, including Pulitzer-winning columnist Jack Ohman (’99), third from the left, who interviewed Westwood, second from left.

Hitting the Punchline

by AJ Earl

In December of 2018, a bus I was riding struck a cow and proceeded to skid down the road before coming to a stop.

I was in an accident in December of last year, I was on a bus and I was thrown down the aisle when we wrecked.

These are two true statements, and they’re the cause of a lot of my physical problems today. The difference between them is the little detail of hitting a cow, something I’ve learned the importance of since the accident. Although without the cow there’d have been no accident, a retelling of the same without that cow makes people visibly uncomfortable.

When I enter the room, my cane clacking or my walker squeaking, I reveal a lot about myself without ever speaking. I also don’t speak, so I reveal a lot about myself without doing that, even. Every little movement, graceful or not, is followed by people looking to be reassured about what’s wrong with me.

Their unease grows when they see that I have to type things out, and so when they ask what happened to me, I can see the narrowing of the eyes, the tightening of the brow. They’re waiting for something that will absolve them of their gaze and pity. The fact that I was in an accident doesn’t help, of course, but then the cow shows up.

I have to make it quick, since the revelation of my accident is like the cow itself, life-stopping. How can you really move on from the realization that you’re looking at someone whose whole life is now changed after an accident? The cow gives them permission to do so.

The bus looked terrible, but you should have seen the cow!

The inertia of the bus I was riding is much like the momentary anxiety of others when I talk about my past, it all seems to vanish when the cow shows up. “Oh no” and hands raised to mouths in shock become “oh dang” and a slight, polite chuckle.

At least my accident is amusing, I suppose.

Hi, I’m the Antifa Protester You’re Afraid Of

me! by Julien-Pierre Campbell

I was on the proverbial front lines. Black bandanna pulled over my nose and mouth, sunglasses and beanie hiding my identity, I ran. The knife fixed to my belt (clear plastic with a heart-shaped buckle) bounced against my leg as I dashed across the parking lot. 

“J, you with us?” my friend Danni (an alias, of course) huffed. They looked back at me, eyes flashing behind their dark glasses. 

“Yeah,” I panted. “I’m here. I’m with ya.” 

The rest of our party was spread out — Danni’s boyfriend Ty, with his backpack full of medical supplies; our friend Asher, lithe and smiling, even with black paint around his eyes; and our other friend Joey, so tall he could hold his own. I was the youngest by far, and definitely not built for this. Nineteen, small, and physically disabled, I wasn’t exactly imposing. I was, after all, wearing a shirt with a cartoon cat on it. 

But I was an antifa protester. I was fighting for what I believed in, so it didn’t matter. 

We made it through the parking lot, skirting around the wall of riot police keeping us away from the Proud Boys. We had been separated from the larger half of our protest. We were fenced in by heavily armed men on one side, traffic to our backs. 

I was exhilarated. Running from cops will do that to you.

In the back of my mind, however, was some kind of heartbreak. People on the sidewalk were looking at us like we were the monsters, not those that I believe to be literal fascists. The police were menacing us with guns so large I didn’t know the names. They were arresting people and throwing them to the ground. I saw a woman zip-tied and held down for dancing. 

I suppose I wrote this to achieve relief. Hi, Portland: I’m the antifa protester you’re afraid of. I’m the villain “just as bad” as those who I call neo-Nazi Proud Boys. But I’m also a full-time college student, a lively barkeep, and a cabaret performer. I fight for the rights of the oppressed because it’s all I can do. Times are dark for those persecuted by both the Trump administration and our society at large. 

I educate where I can. Antifa is short for anti-fascist; nothing more, nothing less. I take to the streets as a form of catharsis, I suppose, and as a statement: this city will not tolerate fascism in its streets. Oppressed minorities shouldn’t live in fear. I use what privileges I do have to stand up for the voiceless. And if the bandanna over my mouth makes me a villain to polite society, then call me a villain. 

I’ll be antifa for life, and I’m proud to say so.