Dear readers, Jet Fuel Review has established a memorial page for our dear editor Steven T. Seum with some of his work as well as tributes from his peers and professors. This is work-in-progress as we will continue to update the page with pieces about Steve from students, faculty, and others. If you have anything you’d like to say about Steve, please send it to our JFR blog editor Michael Lane and/or Simone Muench, and we will post it on this page as we are able. If you would like to donate groceries to his family, there is information at the bottom of this page for a GoFundMe organized by Steve’s brother, Michael Seum, as well as a link to a food delivery service called Meal Train created by Amber Ruland.– Simone Muench
The Chronic Appeal
by Steven Seum
(Written for Dr. Jen Consilio’s Advanced Writing course)
“We are not to blame for our illness, but we are responsible for our health.”- Victoria Maxwell, BPP
Being overwhelmed by multiple, debilitating chronic health issues at any time in my life was mind-bogglingly unanticipated. My back has been sliced and diced twice (once through my back, and the second time through a six-inch opening starting at my navel and going down past my waist). I now have an artificial disc in the lumbar region of my back, I deal with chronic neuropathy, I have limited control over my right leg, and I have dealt with Crohn’s disease, an Inflammatory Bowel Disease, for the past twenty-six years of my life, all at the age of thirty-eight. Unable to anticipate each day bares an undesirable burden. I am incapable of anticipating when my back will seize up, as various muscle groups compensate for the injured region, or the surgically repaired and replaced areas of my back will ache a deep ache, pulsing in time with my heart, or if I will be stuck running, no, sprinting to the bathroom because of my Crohn’s disease and the side effects which come with it (the fatigue, the vitamin deficiencies, the joint pain)—a daily routine was ruled out long ago. This is how it is for anyone dealing with anything chronic or invisible, or those close to it—our family and friends—and the side effects that come with chronic illness and the depression, the lack of routine, and the inability to live a “human” existence (the “human” existence is simply a dream I have of a life apart from this dysfunctional body of mine). There is much I would like to say, to those new to these chronic issues, which would provide a positive story or feedback of a structured regimen, but even the best of us know that the struggle for remission is an overwhelming and intimidating burden of this disease.
“As far as I’m concerned, the entire reason for becoming a writer is not having to get up in the morning.” – Neil Gaiman
My morning involves avoiding getting out of bed, to reduce the immediate discomfort I have while waking (which, of course, is caused by my back problems), as I roll from side to side and bring my legs up into the fetal position. To this day, my team of doctors—a pain specialist, a neurologist, and orthopedic surgeon—have all been unable to eliminate
the issues I have in my legs, nearly three years after injuring myself. Each step I take is like the slaves of Egypt, building those ancient pyramids and dragging the casings of limestone up to the two-hundred and tenth layer of Khufu’s resting place, or like wearing fifty-pound weights on each leg while climbing the Aztec runes of the Pyramid of the Sun. What cruel gods demanded these steps? The feeling of pressure on my spine, as if there is a beastly wolf with its jaws locked onto my spine, and then the burning in my calves and feet as my nervous system slowly begins to wake. My legs, ah my legs, every day, like wasps stinging me internally. Before my feet even touch the carpet, I regret being alive, and I feel the instantaneous tingling and burning running down and into my feet. There are some days certain pants (specifically my running pants, which I of course never use for running) are unwearable, as the feeling of that unforgiving fabric on my skin adds to the already uncomfortable sensation of my neuropathy. Then I get up. I deal with the stiffness and ache that accompanies my already overwhelming discomfort. Control over my right leg is limited, similar to drop foot, but caused by my hip flexor. Despite the nearly three years of dealing with my back trouble, the doctors have still been unable to get me back to a hundred percent, or even fifty percent.“The Truth shall set you free…but first it’ll piss you off.” – Gloria Steinem
Have you ever pulled out from your driveway, as you leave for work, and then have the sudden and uncontrollable urge to use the bathroom, maybe two or three blocks out? I have reached red lights and seen my local gas station just a couple hundred feet away and questioned whether I could make it there and praying for a green light. Welcome to Crohn’s 101. There is no control. Accept that. Accept that at some point in your life, you will shit your pants, or pigeon walk your way to the bathroom. Accept that when you wake up every morning, your capacity of energy will be limited to making it from the bed to the couch, or your breakfast of Quaker Oats maple brown sugar oatmeal will make you run to the bathroom ten times over the course of forty-three minutes, or that the medication you take will sap the already limited energy from your body—or maybe your medications will give you the same cancer your mother had. Or people lacking knowledge of Crohn’s (or colitis) just thinking you should eat a healthier diet, maybe Paleo or gluten-free, all while judging you for the time you spent on the toilet after your first bite of an apple. Or that your chicken soup lunch, and your rice and baked chicken dinner will still make you shit deep red blood. Or pray you don’t see that same red as you look into the white porcelain toilet, our glorious throne. Accept for one moment that this could be your day—nicely done—you are about 13% there.
“When life’s problems seem overwhelming, look around and see what other people are coping with. You may consider yourself fortunate.” – Ann Landers
I have read through several chat groups or Facebook groups and have seen the posts that make my complaints seem mediocre. The stories of the person with their colon or small bowel removed, a bag attached to them to collect their waste, and their ass sewn up. I have seen those dealing with this same bag complain about insurance not covering fresh bags until the start of the month, or the issues with bags leaking. Even knowing it is a disgusting part of the body, a thoroughfare of waste, something not discussed amongst outsiders. Just imagine the absence of your asshole for a minute. Imagine not having one. One hole leaving another hole in the depth of your being, and reducing you to almost nothing. It is an amazing feeling when you realize that even though this is a part of your body which is private and partly (mostly) repulsive, losing it makes you feel less than human. I see the other people, those of you who refuse to hide the stigma of your pouch, and I am glad it isn’t me—because I’m unsure I’d be strong enough to carry myself with such confidence, that I couldn’t traverse the beach and flaunt my already insecure self in front of others. Because only prednisone was capable of reducing the inflammation and negative autoimmune response of this disease, much of my early twenties consisted of discussions with surgeons about removing my colon, I believe the sigmoid portion. I was saved by Remicade, what we refer to as a biologic medication, a medication that halts the immune system’s response using mouse antibodies of all things—I always like to picture a little brown mouse flexing its teeny arms, proud of its achievement in medicine. After decades of the same options for treatment, there was finally an alternative, and this medication must have saved a number of people at the turn of the century. I responded well to it.
“That survival instinct, that will to live, that need to get back to life again, is more powerful than any consideration of taste, decency, politeness, manners, civility. Anything. It’s such a powerful force.” – Danny Boyle
The real question, for those of us with these unforgiving chronic issues, or for the family members living with us, knocking on the bathroom door or helping us get out of bed, is how do we create a functional life which gives us hope? As I keep clawing my way out of this pit of despair and dysfunction, seeking some hint of light from above, my fingers cut and bleeding and fighting for a bright future just out of reach, all I can do is keep climbing. Sometimes the sun shines down, the dust particles floating there like little angels in the distance, reminding me of the bright possibilities that are unreasonable and impossible to attain as I lay with my feet up and an ice pack under me. I must hope, as must you, that the challenges we face, our health and our un-health, will only strengthen our will to live and laugh and love with those close to us. For the simple moments of sitting at the dinner table and talking to my wife and kids, asking how their day went and free from the burden of the pain. For the simple act of holding my daughter and hugging her tight as her feet dangle in the air, and not regretting it the next day. It is not just us who are affected by our diseases or disabilities—there is our family—we are attended in our suffering. While those who walk with us, our spouses or partners, our children or parents or friends, they make sacrifices to ease our stress and our troubles as we face the direct effects of our health. I can sit on my couch, watching my wife carry in two forty-pound bags of Morton brand softener salt, or ten Jewel grocery bags in a single trip from our Mazda. I must say I am sorry, as she sacrifices for me daily, sometimes with complaint, but sometimes not, for my inability to provide. The tears well up in my eyes, as I plan to do a project, only to fail and spend time on the couch or on the toilet—pissed at the failed opportunity—but often lifted by the reassurance from my wife—“it’s ok, I will do it tomorrow,” “I’m not going anywhere,” “I love you no matter what.” My tears breaking through the dam. Common reassurances that make all the difference while taking me out of my moment of melancholy. Even in the depths of my personal depression, I must never fail to confront my issues head-on, for those moments when I forget my woes—those moments when I can appreciate what is around me, and take pleasure in the life I have created—I have a responsibility to push myself.
To read Steve’s project,”Writing Life: My Version of Normal,” created for his Senior Seminar with Dr. Chris Wielgos, visit here
STEVEN T. SEUM TRIBUTE PAGE
Education by Sam Gennett
For Steven Seum
My chrysalis weakens as the grass grows its own fertilizer;
a motorcycle mashed my chrysanthemums into a stew.
My mother once told me stories of ladybugs that govern
a world where learning is painful.
Today I cashier at a grocery store &
customers complain of decomposing guacamole,
but this thickens my chrysalis;
it expands it into one hundred, three hundred monarchs
that rule a world with sap & seedlings—
feeble, steeple, shrieking as I roam
free of crystalized containment.
I graze the earth’s mantle like earl grey tea,
flying through the tree flora of southern Australia
See you space cowboy.
(Love & lightness—Sam)
Graduate by Rae Powell
Dedicated to Steven Seum
If i could make time stop
I’d freeze the moment before you graduated.
Crystal figures in a curio-cabinet metronome
close to the edge, so i fear they may topple.
I can’t catch them, because i run in slow
motion and these soles have no friction.
I slow down time.
I can’t stop the confetti
before it ashes in your eye.
But i can watch it, in slower
and slower motion.
Relatively Uncomplicated by Ashley Zizich
Dedicated to Steven Seum
Laughter brimming in volume
“I could keep talking”
Time makes no difference
Life in measures:
breathing in disorder
circling in structure;
You are stronger than you think.
Versed in time sophisticated
“Been there, done that”,
we quip to one another.
Stories we shared:
The art of constructing a future-
not only ourselves,
but for the next generation, too.
Ambition affecting inspiration,
and whispering in their ears,
“You got this.”
Speaking little, but saying much
“If I can do it, anyone can.”
Relatively Uncomplicated by Ashley McCann, a companion piece
Dedicated to Mrs. Seum
“The most painful state of being is remembering the future, particularly the one you’ll never have.”― Søren Kierkegaard
Here you stand, on the cusp of a new year, trembling. You tremble on the inside, but on the outside, there’s laughter and brimming cups of coffee, and you turn the volume up so people don’t hear you pep-talking yourself in mirrors before PTA meetings and doctors visits. Everything is an “I’m so sorry” and “We’re sending prayers” from drooping faces full of pity. You start to resent people in the past who acted like it didn’t hurt this bad, “If I can do it, anyone can.”
People ask questions, and you could keep talking, but you won’t. Not even Hallmark makes cards about what this really feels like. People talk about the many happy years, but time makes no difference. You circle around the rug in the living and you realize you’re breathing – you feel guilty. Life lacks structure, and you don’t know how to make order out of complete disorder. Small faces look to you for comfort. Children, the art of constructing a future.
You may not see it now, but you are stronger than you think. Time is sophisticated. People tell you that the world is a good place, but you think it’s at least half terrible. You’re scared, for not only yourself, but for the next generation, too. You struggle with balance, the realistic versus the optimistic. You wish you had a plus one, you used to quip to one another, “you got this.”
Do you have this?
If there’s one thing you’ve learned, it’s that people should be more realistic. “Been there, done that,” they say to you, and you wonder what it means to “do” death. Everyone takes this moment to show you how they empathize. So it goes. The world is well-versed in tragedy, but it lacks a sophisticated understanding – an understanding that you don’t have, either.
You whisper in small ears, speaking little – but saying much. The world is indeed half terrible, but it could be beautiful.
(With thanks to Maggie Smith’s “Good Bones”)
For Steve by Sam Moffett
I’m sad that I didn’t get to know you very well, but I’m glad that I’ve met you.
My favorite thing about you was that – like me – you liked to talk.
You talked about school,
and how difficult Dr. White’s Intro to English class could be.
But most importantly, you talked about how much you loved your family. How much they drove you, and how happy they made you.
You loved to talk and talk
and I loved to listen.
For Steve by Kathaleen McDonald
You were one of the first people I saw that August morning. You had a rolling backpack and a cane. You made your intelligence and dedication known even on that first day.
In Dr. White’s class, I learned that you were a father. I was blown away with your recitation—you went above and beyond and it was beautiful. We did a group project together on historicism. Your number is still in my phone.
A year later we had two more classes together. Over that semester, I started considering you my friend. We could make eye contact from across the room, and we could instantly understand the other’s frustrations. We bonded over our back surgeries, and I slowly began to learn about your health problems. I learned that we had similar experiences with physical and mental health.
Steve, you taught me so many wonderful lessons that I sadly didn’t realize until you were gone. You taught me that it’s ok not to graduate college in four years. You taught me to stick up for myself and for the ones I care about. And you taught me, perhaps most importantly, that it’s ok to be yourself.
Thank you for being an unexpected friend. Thank you for all the laughs. Thank you for being someone I could vent all my frustrations to (and God knows I had a lot). And thank you for all the support and friendship I didn’t get to express my appreciation for while you were still here.
I realize that this all seems matter-of-fact, but I just don’t know what else to say. I am shocked and I am heartbroken. You made our English family so much better, and you made Lewis such a better place. We will all miss you so much. Rest in peace, friend.
For Steve: by Dr. Jen Consilio
One of my beloved students and tutors, Steven Seum, passed away unexpectedly the day before yesterday. I still don’t have the words to reflect what’s in my heart right now but I do know that it hurts and is broken.
I keenly remember the first time I met Steve….he stopped by my office to introduce himself to me and let me know he had signed up for two of my classes that semester. I was impressed by his clear enthusiasm and dedication, as most students don’t take the time to do something like that. we ended up talking for well over an hour and I’m not even sure about what….but that was common with Steve. We always had a lot to talk about. I always looked forward to having him in my classes and I knew he would work hard and bring his curious spirit to his work. Steve took four or five classes with me and tutored in the Writing Center and we bonded over our love for Writing, shared stories about our children, his chickens and other animals, and talked about pretty much everything. I am beyond blessed in getting to know Steve and am a better person and educator for having known him. He had a kind , compassionate heart, was inquisitive and curious, perceptive, intelligent, witty and strong. I was so honored when he asked me to be his advisor on his senior project and will cherish those memories working with him on that project and many others. He had just graduated and I have no doubt would have changed the world.
Much love to you dear Steve….thank you for touching my heart and for allowing me to be a part of your life ❤️
For Steve: by Dr. Simone Muench
One of my former students and JFR editors, Steven Seum, passed away unexpectedly on December 29th. Throughout this page are photos I’ve taken of Steve over the last few years. I hope they capture some of his light as well as his dedication to learning and obtaining his degree. The first portrait photo at the top of this page was taken on November 30th at our bi-annual Jet Fuel Review launch, which Steve attended. He served as Fiction/Nonfiction Editor, Book Review Editor, and Marketing and Development Consultant. He was kind, gracious, dryly funny, and thrilled to return to school after a 15-year hiatus having first begun his college career in 1996. He loved sci-fi and fantasy—from Star Wars to Robert Heinlein to Ursula LeGuin to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians (and, of course, Neil Gaiman)—and he eventually wanted to write novels in this genre.
As a returning student, Steve informed me that “My family and I have taken a great risk just returning me to this university, and I am committed to making this time around a more successful experience.” And, indeed, he did make it successful: he was professional, engaged, and motivated to graduate, and he was adored and respected by both his peers and his professors (as evidenced in these photos). Steve loved to talk and argue good-naturedly; he loved being helpful; and, most of all, he loved “his gorgeous wife and two beautiful daughters.” (His words). I’m heartbroken for his family but hope these tributes provide comfort by demonstrating just how significant Steve was to his fellow students and teachers.
Steve, aka Count Steve-ula, you will be terribly missed, but for always and infinity “May the Force be with you.”
The following tribute was written by Brayden Ruland. Brayden is the son of Joshua Ruland, Steve’s best friend. Brayden and Steve have been close since Brayden was born. Brayden is a freshman in high school. He wanted to share this short piece he wrote.–Amber Ruland
❤️Memorial to Steve❤️
Steve, a name to many that would sound bland or generic but to me that name means so much more. Steve was a man who was unafraid to be himself: the question would be then who was Steve? Steve was a geek, a writer, a student, a video game enthusiast, but most importantly he was a father, a son, and a friend. He was an amazing cook, famous for his bacon and ribs. I remember going over to his house in the summer for cookouts, and he would always make his famous ribs–they were to die for. Steve was always in my life and from the time I was born he was at every birthday party of mine I can remember. He was a determining factor in my love of Star Wars. When I first became interested in Star Wars, he and I would start to talk endlessly at every chance. One minute Steve would be standing around the crowd and the next he would be gone. When he would disappear I would conveniently disappear as well. We could be found either huddled around the computer or huddled around his phone in a corner watching the newest Star Wars trailer or game release. Steve was my dad’s best friend, but he was also mine and I miss him dearly. I love Steve. He was my best friend.
Steve passed on December 29th, 2017
We all love you Steve❤️❤️❤️
Meal Train and GoFundMe for The Seum Family
If you would like to help out Steve’s wife, Christina, and two daughters, Annabelle and Bridgette, during this terrible time, you can volunteer for a meal delivery program called Meal Train. You can either donate a grocery card or deliver meals. Visit https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/12054z
Additionally, there is a GoFundMe page created by Steve’s brother, Micheal, to help raise money for groceries for the next two years. You can donate at https://www.gofundme.com/seum-family-grocery-bill-2-yrs