Status update: Gathering the facts

Cancer constellation in a circleThis is a health status update. Since the previous one I have seen the surgeon who would operate on me if I go directly to a mastectomy or a conservative breast surgery, the two primary options; and I met with a plastic surgeon to discuss reconstruction options (none at the moment because I’m too overweight, but may change in the future.) I have spent most of the other days dealing with bureaucracies and financial options to understand what I’m eligible for, schedule counselling, try to understand the different types of coverage I might have access to. Finally, I’ve been renewing my travel documentation while I’m still physically able to deal with this sort of detail (in case I want to go recover or even get treatment in Canada.)

Medically, the Kaiser Permanente system has been as prompt, efficient and helpful as the American health insurance system is crappy, opaque and frightening. 

On Monday I am seeing an oncologist to discuss clinical trials which I’ve been told by the surgeon I might be a good candidate for. I don’t know yet what it entails, but I understand that it would take place prior to any surgery to try to reduce the tumour size. I expect I may be invited to attend the class on chemotherapy on Tuesday; then I need to decide pronto what I want to do and schedule it. The medical team wants to begin treatment within four weeks of the biopsy, and Wednesday will mark the half-point of that period.
Friends have contacted me with information, resources, calls and cards, offers of financial assistance, well-wishes and understanding. I have not responded to everyone the way this kindness merits, but only because I’ve been kept busy. Thank you all so much, you’re what makes it worthwhile to go through times like these.



I just learned that I have breast cancer. On the anniversary of my grandfather death from cancer, that’s a fun coincidence. I’m skeptical about the concept of “beating” cancer; we all die anyway. In the end, I have likely passed the mid-point of my life, no matter what happens next. I’m an atheist so I feel no worry about an afterlife, whether toasty or cloudy, and I’ve always known that I couldn’t possibly live long enough to get tired of the things I love (like friends, family, cats…)

But I’m already dealing with depression, so the thought of the chore that is being sick, being miserably poor, experiencing pain and side effects, is daunting. So I’m not going to live forever, I’m not going to be rewarded or punished in an afterlife, and the world will keep on moving along just fine whether I keep a positive attitude, rage against the dying of the light, or ignore the whole matter.

But I’ve thought about the whole thing and decided that there is one thing that matters to me: whether I die this year or survive another few decades, I’d like to have been a decent human being. So my plan right now is to do all the reasonable things I can to buy myself as many good years as I can, but to spend as much time as I can on the things I care about — from friends and family to social justice to geeky pursuits — and to place people first.

Well, cats and people.

Cancer constellation