Can geofiction cure cancer? Probably not. But it makes surviving it more enjoyable, maybe.
Two years ago, on this day (Jan 31), I joined Opengeofiction. I had just finished a major cancer treatment a few months before. In surviving my cancer, I am thankful to five main groups of people:
- 1. My friends and family, in their many different countries - for supporting me emotionally
- 2. My colleagues, coworkers and my generous boss - for making it possible for me to undergo treatment without losing my job
- 3. The amazingly efficient Korean healthcare system and the kind doctors and staff at the National Cancer Center - world-class care, and cheap, too
- 4. My students - for keeping me intellectually and socially engaged and demonstrating the promise of humanity
- 5. OGF - for providing an escape from dull hours and discomfort, with its endless distraction in imaginary places
I'm posting this here because of number 5.
In June, 2013, I had been diagnosed with stage three cancer. I had undergone major surgery, a month-long hospitalization, and two months of radiation treatments. I was weak, I had lost 40 kg, and my chances of survival were still only 50%. I had returned to work only part-time, and was unable to be as mobile or as active as I had been before - I didn't have the same stamina to go hiking every weekend. I had a lot of chronic pain and a lot of time to kill. I needed a new hobby.
OGF rescued me. In my teenage years I spent my time drawing many, many maps, all on paper, of imaginary cities, countries and planets. All sorts of worlds, from fantasy to sci fi to "parallel Earth" styles. I decided to try to "recover" one of these old maps in this new, digital environment.
In January of 2014, there was no waiting period for a territory, but the vast majority of the territories were "owned" - mostly by inactive users (since then, a lot of these inactive territories have been freed up, as inactive users are removed). As I recall, when I arrived, there were only two territories available to choose from. I selected the username Ardisphere, and requested AR025, and began mapping immediately.
There were two towns already developed in my territory, but neither of them were very well mapped, and neither had names. One of those "legacy" cities became what is now downtown Caracol, and the other became the west end of Cabo Inglés. From the start, however, I had the intention of using the territory to develop the Ardisphere, a country I'd mapped on paper some decades ago. I didn't have access to any sketches of that country (or any of my other countries). Most of my old paper geofictions are lost, and what remain are probably in storage somewhere not easily accessible (i.e. on a different continent).
I have many of those geofictions in my memory, however, so I set out to draw the Ardisphere from memory, adapting it to its new locale. There was a lot of adaptation required - the original Ardisphere was a peninsula, and was rotated 180 degrees from its current orientation (Villa was at the northeast end of the country, at the point where the peninsula joined the mainland). But think I've managed to make it fit in pretty well (to the point that the country's current shape feels like "it's always been that way," and most of the original towns are retained (although rearranged), along with whole new additions, such as the two minority-language "Colonias" and the extensive work to flesh out the Tlonic, Albalongan and Altazorian native precursors that I hadn't thought much about in the country's original incarnation.
Over these two years I have touched more than 4 million objects (my recent survey effort showed 4195479 objects with my username - 3658907 nodes 533096 ways 3476 relations - the nature of OGF data means that is not everything I touched, only everything where I was the most recent user to touch them) in the OGF world. Mostly, this is work in the Ardisphere, but I have also taken some initial steps to recreate another of my old geofictions (Mahhal), I have dropped various details into some of the "blue" countries, and I have contributed to admin work in the Western Hemisphere. Additionally, I made and still maintain the OGF wiki's "main page" and I have become a volunteer admin on the OGF website. I have learned a great deal about GIS and about the OSM platform in particular, as well as the arcane arts of wikification and perl scripting.
I still have some health issues, and OGF remains a great way to kill time and distract myself. Last week I underwent a "bone-scraping" procedure to remove a small amount necrotic bone that was killed by the radiation two years ago. Whenever I find myself sitting in my apartment somewhat immobilized like that, I enjoy being able to "escape" with this creative enterprise.
Anyway, this is probably more than anyone wants to read. What I want to say to the OGF community is simply - thank you. It's really great to be a part of this collaborative hallucination we're creating.
TL;DR: I had cancer; I survived; Thank you, OGF people, for being part of that!