Posts Tagged ‘cancer’


My name is Jake Martin and I am on parole from the state of Wisconsin Prison System (WPS) currently now living in Ames, Iowa. I write this from my own laptop in an efficiency apartment at a complex dominated by Iowa State University college students. How did I get here? More on that in a minute.

At the risk of sounding corny but what a LONG, STRANGE trip it has been both being in prison and since getting out. The day I was released it was Wednesday June 23rd.  Today is January 16th, 2012. In the roughly 7 months since my release so much has happened. I spent July through August largely glued to my cell phone and laptop while hunting for work, with the assistance of friends and the sponsors of this blog.. My parents grew concerned enough to tell me I might have to take work at a fast food operation or something similar. I had no problem with that. In fact I figured that was what would happen. While all this was going on my parents, whom my father is a minister though he retired in July, received a retirement call to serve a church in Juneau, Alaska. My PO, Helen Gaither, it turned out was very cool to me. Though the walks from the bus to her in Appleton WI were not! Because I had no car and often my parents weren’t available it was necessary to walk. But that’s ok. It just didn’t bother me. These things just don’t bother me anymore.

In about August, my efforts finally began to pay off. A major corporation hired me as a temporary software developer for a project they were working on through an agency I had worked with before and was unaware that I had been in prison the last 25 months. During that time I brushed the rust off my skills, got used to the grind that a software developer will have again and learned to deal with people again. About that time, a company based in Ames IA interviewed me for a position as a software engineer. They hired me. However I was given enough time to finish the contract I had started in with this company in Neenah WI. My parents were still in Alaska when I left in October. Needless to say I was excited and petrified all at the same time. I was fortunate on one aspect regarding work. I had largely lost the last two years and in technology circles that is as much as a lifetime. But this company was on older technology, technology I was well suited for. It was a perfect fit. Meanwhile I continue to upgrade my skills now. But anyway on October 8th I made the move. My first weekend didn’t go well. Furniture I had purchased for the apartment prior to my arrival had accidentally been tossed my a maintenance worker for the complex, as well as two tires going flat. Oh yes, my parents had sold me their old car and I had also managed to get insurance and a license during that time. But needless to say, I got things under control and my employer was extremely understanding as I missed my first day of work getting the car fixed. Things were pretty normal until about a month ago when weight loss and the familiar night sweats had returned – all symptoms I have become very familiar with. Testing revealed that my cancer had returned. Now before you become too concerned, just know, again I am going to be fine. I am doing chemotherapy again. But this time at least, I can control my diet though fatigue and nausea are now my main problems. See though I have insurance they don’t cover preexisting conditions unless you had proof of insurance before which of course I did not have in WPS. So medications I used for nausea and such are not covered either. But it is ok. It’s the same type of cancer as before and because they caught it earlier this time it is even more assured I will be fine. So don’t worry!

But what can I say about being free? My first day out my sponsors took me to a Mexican restaurant where I had chicken and steak fajitas. My mouth and stomach were on fire as they loved what I ate – but they didn’t so much later as they rebellled against the rich food I was not used to. I will spare you the details. Television, the Green Bay Packers and dear friends I have missed. All of it really is about choices of which we had very little in prison.

I still deal with the anxieity junkie. I still am largely alone or at least it looks that way. I am still single. My previous family contacts me to be sure but it is usually only when one of them is in trouble or needs money. My adopted siblings and family remain an awkward relationship. But yet I count myself as one of the lucky ones, one who found a way to be successful on release. I call it luck because things fell together in a way that I can’t really take credit for. Yes it is God and there are others to thank. Friends like Jennifer, Natalie, Mike, Bill, and Rebecca I couldn’t have done it without them. I owe them more than I have life left to repay. I simply can say no more than I am gratefully free. It has been so long and such a hard road, much of it self inflicted, that I can’t bring myself to complain. What right do I have to have such a good life? The answer is I do have that right as long as I do not forfeit that right with my choices I make in life.

I want to take this opportunity to also thank those of you who faithfully followed this blog, especially Jill, Karen, Kelly and Lori. You really kept me looking forward to mail call and such wondering what might be there today. Again, so grateful. How many others wait for even one piece of mail in prison only never to get any! And the rest of you, since my release I have watched your reaction from afar, really wanting to burst out and say hey its me! I’m free! But we all thought it best I keep a low profile until the entries were finished. I hope you understand. That said the future of this blog will be sporadic entries regarding what is happening with me and how it relates to being on parole. I am not going to do an entry every day. There just isn’t time like I used to have. But know this. If any of you want to reach out to me please feel free. I have always felt a closeness to many of you who suffered with your loved ones in prison right along with me.

On that note, its time to close. I have got some studying to do! Talk to you soon….

Advertisements

I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Sometimes I’m not so bright.  In fact, I can make just stupid decisions.  When I was a child my arm was broken.  The arm was never set properly and as a result the arm has always given me some discomfort.  The last few months however; the pain has steadily grown where I have to work around it for such tasks as putting on a shirt.  So I put in a medical request form. I suggested that perhaps the lack of exercise is causing the pain, as up until a year ago I was being treated for cancer and I didn’t exercise much and since then I’ve done very little.  But with my impending release on Wednesday, I didn’t make a  good choice ignoring the pain.  To my surprise, I was actually seen on Sunday by a nurse right here on the unit.  The nurse decided to see me because of my history of cancer.  She determined the kind of bone issue I described shouldn’t be ignored.  Just another example of the usually positive experience I’ve had with health practitioners while I’ve been in prison.  She decided to refer me to the doctor without performing tests.  But she did take a history of how it happened, asking why I didn’t address this years ago when I had insurance and why I waited until now.  Truth was I didn’t want to answer the questions people would have asked related to how it happened, my usual honesty and shame issues.  Hopefully, I don’t continue that pattern.  One nice thing about all my family and friends knowing I went to prison is all pretense is gone.  The truth will be revealed eventually whether you want it to or not.  The fact I had problems is now known to them.  How will they react to me?  How will I react to them?  I am going to try, despite the loss of family, possessions, career, and money, to hold my head high.  The difference between disgrace and shame would be failing to learn the lessons shame has taught.  It will be a struggle, make no mistake about that.  Charles and Victoria Martin, my adoptive parents, have his retirement celebration coming up July 17th where family friends and acquaintances from years gone by will be in attendance.  We’ll see then if my words here mean anything.  The rest of the weekend was uneventful.  ERP group member Scott Dietz had his paperwork signed by a Milwaukee County judge on a weekend.  He also inquired about me building websites for his businesses.  I’m suspicious of any contact with people from here or promises made but I said sure I’m interested but I’ll need a couple of months to get my feet on the ground.  But I almost believe him.  I talked to my adoptive parents on Sunday as well.  They have the bed I slept on as a kid setup in the basement and some simple foodstuffs put up for me there.  The internet will be turned on June 25th so I can get to catching up on my Information Technology and programming skills.  They gave my parole officer (PO) Helen Gaither the house key which I can get from her on Wednesday but left a door open in the event by the time I get to Menasha, WI after business hours.  Of course this tells me the PO and my adoptive parents have been meeting and talking.  That makes me a little nervous.  But everything seems set.  Wednesday can’t get here soon enough!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  As I was being returned to my unit from the hole after 6 days for investigation on possible charges related to this blog but for which I’d been cleared.  I looked through the windows and saw regular 2nd shift guard Ruth Barthkowski who smiled at me and tried to work through the paperwork that was deficient with my arrival.  The inmates seated at the tables in the dayroom smiled as I walked in but I couldn’t tell what was behind it.  Barthowski began to give me the lay of the land right away.  Everybody now knew about the blog staff and inmate alike.  She also told me she had worked on people trying to get me out of the hole and I thanked her for it.  My property was still in Segregation and wouldn’t arrive.  I was assigned my old bunk and old cell which I was grateful for.  Barthowski took me up to the linen closet while I got the rest of my yellow outfits.  Guys at the tables in the dayroom welcomed me back but their body language indicated some mistrust.  Once I made it to my cell, ERP group member and cellie Larry Sands gave me the rundown of what had happened in group.  Apparently the night they took me last week the guard on duty, a by the book type named Mike Metcalf had announced I was on a bus back to Dodge Correctional Institution.  Regular first shift guard Roscoe Peters was upset over being named Roscoe.  Guys in my ERP group knew they hadn’t been named but still wanted to know what was said about them.  But probably the most interesting development was what had gone on with ERP group leader Ms. Grey.  The week I’d missed she had been smiling, engaging and being kind.  The last while she has seemed distant and combative.  But she had discussed my situation with the group telling them that day I returned that I was not going to return but then telling them something different later in the day.  It seems that yours truly who always sought to avoid attention was the focus of the entire pod this past week.  That and of course this blog.  My main concern wasn’t any of this though.  I was concerned about seeing Peters and Grey the next day.  What would they reveal about me?  I’ve laid myself bare on this blog.  But I also felt a sense of pride and strength, that no matter what might happen I was going to be ok.  That didn’t mean the anxiety about how tomorrow would go in group wouldn’t give me a restless night.  But as it turned out I shouldn’t have worried at all.  Peters wasn’t working on Friday .  And Ms. Grey was engaging and kind throughout the morning.  And then the most surreal thing.  In the afternoon session her and intern Nikita broke us into two groups and had us play Uno!  That’s right, the card game!  Everyone was smiling and had a good time.  Had Ms. Grey read the blog and not liked what she saw and decided to change things up?  Or did something else happen to cause the change?  Whatever it is it’s promising.  On another note, I’d considered asking the sponsors to shut down the blog, much as I did 15 months ago when I got cancer.  After with everyone here knowing about the blog, this may no longer be the typical prison experience.  But I’ve got bigger concerns.  The blog helped me and has helped others.  It’s worked up till now.  I’m going to stick with it.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Do you know the song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Around the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando?  It’s a nice song that tells a nice story about an inmate who gets release from prison and wonders if his love will take him back.  If she will, she’s supposed to tie a yellow ribbon around the oak tree in front of their house. Well he gets there on a bus and he finds, with everyone cheering around him, there are a hundred yellow ribbons on the oak tree. Like I said, it’s a nice story.  Happy endings in prison are so rare I have found.  But when one comes along you can’t help but cheer along with the inmate.  I’ve told you how ERP group member Scott Bunker endured a potentially serious medical condition over the last few days.  Saturday came and hadn’t improved.  In fact, I’m told it had gotten worse.  It must be true, for the guards took him on a weekend , which is quite rare, back to the hospital again.  He again returned, this time having been fitted with a catheter.  It kind of reminds me too that even us inmates are capable of setting aside the pettiness, racial tension and self obsession that seems to consume us here when a person among us falls sick.  Seeing Bunker sick made us united in the hope for his recovery and conveying that to him.  Still we are men.  There of course were the jokes about him being “on his period.”  Tasteless yes but juvenile humor is often how men will cope and as a group deal with a tough situation.  When I was diagnosed with cancer while at Waukesha county Jail awaiting transfer to WPS, an inmate yelled so everyone could hear, “Hey Martin you gonna die or what?”  We all laughed.  I was grateful for the break in the tension.  Anyway, the goodwill generated by Bunker’s situation seemed to last all day.  Then that night, according to him, without them knowing what had happened, his second wife and step-daughter showed up for a visit after not having communicated at all for the past 2 years.  What occurred was just amazing!  She told him she wanted him to come home to them after all and that they still loved him.  He had sent his victim impact letter to her so perhaps this got the ball rolling.  After he got off his visit he went around the dayroom telling everyone that would listen, trying to act indifferent about it but the smile on his face betrayed him.  I’m just very happy for him.  I’m not the type to always describe to God every good or bad thing that happens.  But how could you not in this case?  On Sunday, it was time for my weekly call to my adoptive parents, Charles and Victoria Martin.  I’ve seen them once since I was in prison and recently started talking to me via phone.  They’re consumed by retirement planning as Charles is retiring as a pastor  shortly after my anticipated release.  They are moving to a place in WI which is where I’m thinking I’ll end up initially after release.  Their first concern was to talk to my parole officer (PO) up there to try to get alcohol allowed at the house.  No go there!  Their second was the retirement party at the hotel on the Saturday prior to the retirement service and whether alcohol could be present.  I told them I’d be talking to the PO about it this week.  Truth is though I’m dreading the whole thing.  After a rough start in life, I’d became an IT Professional, homeowner, and family man.  I had earned respect of others.  Now I’ll see all these people I’ve known over the years alone, penniless and no job.  I have no clue how to deal with that.  I’m sure I’m not the first guy to have to go there after prison.  I wrote a letter to my adoptive parents asking them to allow me to duck out on Saturday after making an appearance but then to participate in all the hoopla, pictures and tributes at his retirement service on Sunday.  But I’ve got to trust God to look after me the same way he looked after Scott Bunker.  It may not be as dramatic but I’ve learned God will always get me through.  The retirement party is in July and its April.  A lot can happen between now and then.


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  It was about 8:30 am when I heard the announcement to report to the officer’s station.  I knew what it was for.  I was going to Madison to get the results of the PET scans from last week to verify the cancer remains in remission.  It was also the first day we saw guard Roscoe Peters since former cellie Andre Charles left.  After giving him the key to my cell off the string around my neck, I went down to intake and again began the process of being strip searched and being bound with chains on my arms, legs and waist.  The thought occurred to me, this is probably the last time prior to my release in June, that I’ll need to be strip searched.  I hope so anyway.  It’s an indignity I’m still not accustomed to nor do I think I ever will be.  Of course, in keeping with what normally seems to happen on these trips for me it’s not…normal!  It was raining very heavy and about 19 miles from Madison on I94W we encountered a huge traffic back up.  We moved no more than 5 or 6 miles over the next hour.  We finally came up on the accident scene.  Fire had consumed a truck carrying thousands of pounds of beef.  I’d hear later no one died thank God.  We got there and I sat in the inmate waiting room.  Very few were there this time which I was grateful for, as the noise was at a minimum.  There was one inmate there who had 57 days left to release.  He’d suffered a cardiac arrest and been brought back by the staff at Red Granite Correctional Institution.  He was complimentary to them in how they’ve cared for him and the quality of their work.  It was unusual to hear an inmate say such things.  I went up for my blood work and got in to see my oncologist, Dr. Rachel Cook.  She walked in and something I hadn’t noticed before, she was very pregnant.  I told her I hoped it went well.  She let me know the spots that were seen last time were either gone or ruled out as cancer.  My next appointment for scans will be in 6 months instead of the 3 months that had been done.  In the midst of the happiness I felt, there was a bit of a reality check.  I needed to call her directly before my next appointment if I don’t come up with health insurance as these scans cost several thousand dollars.  Not only would it be nice if I find a job with good health insurance after I’m out its imperative I find health insurance to ensure I see more birthdays.  It shouldn’t be that way but that is the reality of the situation.  But I didn’t dwell on that. I even told Dr. Cook about this blog, saying a friend wrote in her blog, thanking her for her care of me and what terms to Google to find the blog.  I wanted to avoid alerting the ever present guards in the room.  So Doc, if you find this blog, again, thank you!  On the way back not only was it raining heavy, the winds were going crazy blowing pails and such from construction on the highway into us.  But we got back fine.  After another strip-search I actually got back to my cell pretty quickly.  Ironically we shouldn’t have hurried.  We had Turkey Tetrazzini, probably the worst meal here, for supper about 4:30 pm.  If we’d gone slower I probably would have gotten another bag lunch at the hospital.  But nothing would break my good mood, not even the  horrid food.  I’m healthy and I’m going to stay that way!


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  This past weekend noteworthy events surrounded soon to depart cellie Andre Charles.  Late Friday guard Ruth Bartowski, besides finding out she has been a captain and probation officer in the past, confided to our table Andre had come after her with several ICI (Inmate Complaints that go to Madison) forms alleging racism.  They didn’t take but it explains the bitterness between them.  That weekend we experienced why they don’t want us to heat water for coffee or refried beans off of canteen, which is the favorite food of Corey Ball, using water, paper clips, and a power cord.  Someone pulled the cord of out of the water without unplugging it making the breaker go out on our side.  We sat without power on our side for about 2 hours until Saturday Night Live started.  But of course cellie Andre Charles is on edge about leaving and guard Rosco Peters threw him a tidbit of information on when, when he yelled playfully at him during count as is their custom, that he had 2 days left to follow the rules.  On Monday I got up as normal, ate breakfast about 6:30 am and returned to my cell.  Peters called me down about 8 am and let me know I was leaving for my PET scan like last time to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned.  I reminded him I’d eaten (you’re supposed to go without food for 8 hours prior).  No one had told him he said.  When the guards came to get me I told him I’d eaten and asked if we should call to make sure it would be ok.  He wanted to go to Madison and if they said no so be it.  It became clear why as he was the driver and didn’t want to lose the overtime shift.  The ride there was uneventful but it was SO good to see the outside world!  Once there I got to the waiting room.  It was packed and noisy so much so that you couldn’t hear the movie on the wall.  The guys dominating the conversation were mostly lifers, trading war stories and discussing who their “bitches” are present and past.  Of course, I’m the only one in yellow in the sea of green uniforms so people stared.  Most didn’t know I was at MSDF but some did.  I got called to go for the scan at 11:30 am.  I didn’t have a coat to cover me on the wheelchair so the combination of cuffs, chains, and yellow uniform attracted lots of looks.  I can’t wait to come back to the University Hospital in civilian clothes some day.  Of course, never coming here again is an attractive alternative!  The man doing the scan commented that I should leave the cuffs on my feet joking I might try to escape.  I got back to the holding room, eating one of the infamous bag lunches.  We returned to MSDF, getting strip searched once at the hospital then once at MSDF.  I waited at least an hour in a holding cell.  The staff at intake on 2nd shift is just rude and unprofessional unlike their 1st shift counterparts.  I heard them mocking other inmates and were just rude in their tone to me.  I got back to my unit where Andre greeted me with the news he was getting released tomorrow.  I’m sure my test results will come back well and with this news I’m as happy as I can get here.   


I’m at the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility (MSDF), an institution in the Wisconsin Prison System (WPS), participating in the Earned Release Program (ERP).  Tuesday afternoon came about and the staff and inmates alike were focused on one thing – Gov. Walker was giving his address on the state budget.  Inmates and staff were watching for vastly different reasons however.  Staff were concerned with layoffs, benefit cuts, as well as DOC funding cuts.  Inmates wanted to find out what would happen to the so called early release provisions of Act 28 in the previous two year budget and what, if anything, would happen to ERP or the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP).  ERP is a federally funded program but those running the DOC are said to be opposed to any kind of programs that encourage early inmate release.  So nobody knows what was going to happen.  Truthfully, though, had people been thinking by the time any of this goes into effect we will have all graduated ERP.  So there really isn’t reason to be concerned.  But it makes a good conversational piece.  The social workers even came by the unit though no groups were going to watch it on our TV.  The address got interrupted by the trays being handed out for supper but the news came out under this proposal, Act 28 and any mechanism for early release, such as good time, is dead.  In addition, over 50 million in funding for the DOC is being cut based on lower prisoner population.  It would seem these two things contradict each other.  We shall see.  Nothing was said specifically about ERP but I’m guessing it’s going to be left alone.  Again, we shall see.  The rest of the budget was painful to hear but that didn’t surprise me.  I noted the possible cuts to BadgerCare, especially since I might need help with the cost of the PET scans after I get out until I get a job with insurance to make sure cancer has not returned.  But that’s a down the road concern.  We all went about our business.  The following day held a surprise for me.  It was a Training Day but I was asked along with a swamper to go and clean the social worker’s office.  I got there and they were al in one room with several desks.  Even the intern Nikita was there.  They joked with me about the job sweeping I was doing when I left a dust bunny behind.  It was odd seeing them all together except for one.  Then the unit manager came by, let the social workers know she needed her office cleaned as well and wanting the mop water changed.  The swamper went to get water while I went to her office to sweep.  I’ve never seen a more messy desk.  Having read my face she insisted she knew where everything was on it.  After we were done we returned to the unit where everyone was busy cleaning as is the custom on Training Day.  The guys in my group now kid me more than ever about being Ms. Grey’s favorite.  But that’s ok.  I don’t’ care.  I just don’t know what she sees in me.