CS and my Life (Long Read)
Just to preface; this is going to be a lot to read and this is not meant to make anyone feel bad for me or get sympathy from the community. This is only meant for me to get my thoughts out there and explain my situation so hopefully I can find a healthier balance in my life that is more than just Counter-Strike.
So anyone that knows me personally knows that I have cancer. This isn’t something I just tell everyone I meet online or everyone that has been on any of my teams for that matter. It might come as a shock to some people who follow me, but I think it’s probably time I put my thoughts out there. As I said before, this is not so people feel bad for me or anything like that. I have a very supportive family and friends and I’m not looking for a whole community to feel sorry for me, it’s more of a therapy for me to express how I’m feeling.
To give some context and backstory; I found out I had cancer a few months after I graduated from college in 2019. I was 22 and still job searching so finding out I had cancer was obviously a big shock and essentially put my life on hold. I immediately had to start going to many different doctor appointments so that they could figure out the best course of treatment. The type of cancer I have is called liposarcoma and it’s a very rare form of cancer, so treatment is tricky. Just so this isn’t too long, I’m gonna try and keep this as concise as possible describing the treatments I’ve had. For the first several months, I had radiation therapy to shrink the orange-sized tumor that was in my chest pressing on my left lung. After that, they performed open-heart surgery to resect the tumor and remove it. Then there were a few more sessions of radiation to hopefully keep the cancer from regrowing at the site the tumor was at. After a few months of recovery and trying to get back to normal life, unfortunately my cancer came back and spread to some problematic areas. It was now in my lungs and compressing my spine. This led me to having emergency surgery on my spine to remove a tumor that was compressing the cord and led to loss of function in my legs. On a side-note, this all happened during my first season of ESEA open in season 33, so around March of 2020. I remember being in the hospital more worried about when I could go home because I didn’t want to miss the playoffs with my team. Unfortunately, I would be stuck in the hospital for around two months following my emergency surgery. This was also right when the pandemic started, so for most of the time I was there, my family couldn’t even come visit me because of covid restrictions so I was by myself until I was eventually discharged. During this time in the hospital, it was very difficult for me. I couldn’t walk and was essentially bedridden for two months. I spent a lot of time watching Counter-Strike on my phone. I had to go to in-patient rehab in order to try and regain function in my legs so I could walk again. I was also receiving chemotherapy to fight the cancer so I felt even worse because of this. In May of 2020, I was finally able to go home after 2 months of hell being in the hospital. I still couldn’t walk and was wheelchair bound and on a lot of painkillers to manage my back pain.
The next few months I would spend mostly focusing on physical and occupational therapy. My therapists would come to my house several times per week to help me regain my strength and hopefully my ability to walk. Thankfully, I made progress and was able to start walking again, although with assistance in the form of crutches. I still do physical therapy today, but I am in a much better place physically now than when I first got out of the hospital, which I am thankful for. I also was receiving chemotherapy throughout the rest of 2020 and the first half of 2021. This was every Tuesday for 2 weeks, then I would have a week off. Unfortunately this led to me feeling like shit for several days out of the week that I had chemo, so it wasn’t easy. I guess this leads me into Counter-Strike.
A few months after I got home, I continued playing Counter-Strike. It’s one of the only things I could do from before I got sick that I could still do after everything that happened to me since it was just sitting at the computer. Although I could still play, I noticed I was much worse at the game now that I had taken so much time off and physically didn’t feel well a lot of the time. Despite this, I wanted to find a team again and start competing in the ESEA league once again. So that’s what I did.
I started playing again in season 35 and it’s now the end of season 39. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout playing again, and I’m going to address some of them here. I qualified for ESEA Intermediate after Season 36, which was a goal of mine at the time. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to qualify for ESEA Main, and I’ve been very close twice now but have barely missed out on it. This might sound like a low bar to clear for some, but for me, qualifying for Main has been something I’ve been working very hard to do. This most recent playoff series that my team lost has been difficult for me to handle, to say the least. I feel like a huge failure because I cost my team some crucial rounds during the last map on Nuke and we ended up losing 16-14 in a heartbreaker. Just like in season 37, we lost by the narrowest margin and I feel like it’s all my fault. I haven’t performed well individually the past few seasons. I’m well-aware of this and it isn’t because of lack of trying or bad practice or anything. I play the game generally at least 60 hours every 2 weeks, if not more. I usually try and play as much as I feel I’m physically able to due to feeling bad because of the chemo. I’m not using this as an excuse for why I have been playing badly, but it’s just the truth for why I can’t play as much as I would like to. Some days I have to force myself to play practice or league matches while feeling really ill because of chemo and it sucks. I never want to tell my teammates this though because I hate making excuses. I never want anyone to think less of me or what I can do in-game because of my cancer. I guess that’s the main reason I’m writing all of this now.
I realized part of the way through this season that I am putting too much pressure on myself in-game and it isn’t healthy. Obviously anyone that plays a game or sport competitively puts pressure on themselves to do well and has high expectations. This is normal. The difference for me is that I don’t have many other hobbies in my life anymore. I can’t do many of the things I could before due to my physical limitations. I can’t go workout at the gym, or go out drinking with the boys. I can’t go to concerts easily, or even just go out and drive somewhere by myself. Outside of playing CS, the only things I really do are physical therapy and spend time with my girlfriend and my family. I see my friends occasionally, but even then I sometimes have to cut that short because I made a commitment to practice with my team. Anyone that plays on a team knows how much time is dedicated to practice, and no one likes being that guy who doesn’t show up for practice and wastes everyone’s time. You sacrifice time with your friends and family to try and be the best you can at the game, and that’s just a choice people are willing to make, myself included.
For me, losing in CS feels especially bad because it’s really all I put my time into. I don’t have the same outlets that I used to, and I have realized this is taking a toll on me. Losing in heartbreaking fashion once again in IM playoffs feels so horrible and I think I need to take a step back. I put everything I had into winning that series but still fell short. Even though in-game, statistically I’m one of the worst players, I’ve tried in other ways to help my team. I picked up being the in-game leader. I watched demos of our opponents, and I put in time on the server with the team to try and improve us. Despite all of that, we still came up just short and I take most of the blame. To top it off, many of my close IRL friends were watching the stream and watched us lose. It was just a horrible feeling. As a result, my team is probably splitting up and the past few months of work feels worthless. I don’t blame anyone for wanting to leave at all. If I were in their position, I would do the same thing. How can I in good conscience ask them to stay and try for another season to make Main through IM? Especially when there are better opportunities out there for them right now, better than I can provide.
I’m not sure what’s next for me in CS. I would love to keep playing with the right team. Maybe I go down a different route and try to coach a team or create content around the game. I love pro CS and have followed it for years, so I feel like I could provide good insight into that if I put my mind to it. What I do know is that I need to take a step back and find some other things in my life that I can invest my time into that feels productive outside of CS. That isn’t to say I’m gonna quit playing entirely, I doubt that I will ever truly quit. I love the game too much. But I need to find something else.
I’d like to say thanks to my friends I’ve made through playing CS and who I’ve told about my condition. They’ve never told anyone else and kept it private, so I really appreciate that. Ian, Nick, Caleb, Mark, Andrey, Andrew, I love you guys and I’m glad I met all of you playing CS. Also thanks to my team and Sacramento Uprising for this season. We were very close to our goal and it was a good run. No one is more upset than me that we fell short in the end, and I’m sorry.
To anyone that read all of this, thanks for reading and sorry it was so long. I never intended to write anything like this and kinda just started typing so it’s probably way too long.