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Good riddance!

A year ago today I was in the hospital and two surgeons were removing bits of this and that. A little colon, a little liver. They did a fine job, and between them, the chemo, and the radiation, I have had no evidence of cancer for an entire year.

A year, people. That’s an awfully good start. I’ve made it 22 months after diagnosis, a full year after surgery with no recurrence, and I’ve been done with treatment for over four months.

I’m not completely recovered, and some bits may never heal. I’m low on emotional and physical reserves, and if I sit still too long I stiffen up and feel like I’m 87. Everything is complicated, and slow. Still, yesterday I worked a full day doing science, saw friends, finished a volunteer project, and walked 6.3 miles. My CEA blood test is normal, and this week’s CT scan report was full of words like “unremarkable” and “normal.” I’ve never been so happy to be boring.

For today, let’s just go with “good fucking riddance.”

Science Spam

From my work email this morning:

Dear Dr. Goslee

In view of your important publications in the key areas of Space Technology, including reviews on patents, it is a great pleasure to invite you to contribute a review/research article or guest edit a special issue to Recent Progress in Space Technology (RPST) in a hot field.

Huzzah! I’m an important Space Patent Publicationer!

Bodies: so complicated

I started the day with an unpleasant medical procedure with unpleasant results. Nothing life-threatening, and only life-changing in the long-term sense, part of the fall-out from ensuring the long-term.

The up-side of radiation before surgery is that it decreases the risk of tumor recurrence.

The down-side is that it interferes with healing.

Post-surgery I ended up with a horrid infection and abscess. It’s hard to tell for sure whether the abscess caused the colon join to not heal properly, or the incomplete join caused the abscess, and it doesn’t really matter. The important bits are that there’s a gap in the colon join where the tumor was removed, and the abscess also caused a fistula in my vaginal wall. This isn’t an immediate problem in and of itself, because I have an ileostomy so the colon isn’t being used for anything.

This is “wait and see” kind of stuff. There was a possibility it will heal on its own, even after the radiation, and everything else needs to heal completely before it can be addressed anyway.

But since it’s somehow been almost a year, it was time to take a look. I started the day with a very thorough rectal and vaginal exam (and managed to not ask my surgeon how many people make “and you didn’t even buy me dinner” jokes). The colon join is not closed, and the vaginal fistula is not healed. Instead, they’re connected to each other.

The options are:

1. Completely redo the colon join: take out a new small section and reattach everything, hoping it works this time. It won’t be as serious, because there won’t be a liver component, but this is still substantial surgery. After that heals, if it does, my ostomy would be reversed. The original join is fairly low in the colon, though, which means that a new join would take up pretty much all the available space. Because of that, there’s a substantial chance I may not regain proper bowel function, and the certainty that I will have a long period of incontinence and difficulty. My surgeon thinks that because I’m young and healthy it will probably recover, but she also said that she would re-evaluate a year after surgery and put the ostomy back if it didn’t work.

2. Do nothing. I can keep the ostomy forever. There are no long-term health consequences to leaving a gap in a non-functional colon. The down-side is that there is no way to fix just the vagina. Surgeon says that because of the effects of the radiation on those tissues, there’s effectively a 0% chance of any repairs taking.

Right now I have an ileostomy, which is very high up in the digestive system, which limits nutrient and water absorption and requires frequent emptying. If I go with option 2, she could move it lower down, to a colostomy, which is an easier long-term prospect.


Right now I’m active and feel good, and can do all the things. I’m working, traveling, enjoying my time. I’m not enthusiastic about the prospect of another fairly major surgery and concomitant recovery period, and really not enthusiastic about the idea of an extended period of being chained to a bathroom while my bowel recovers. Assuming the second surgery even works, of course.

I and Blorp the Ostomy are getting along well. I even spent a week camping with no major issues. (I will blog about Blorp eventually.) I’m basically put together with plastic bags and sticky tape, and it is inconvenient, but not that bad.

Here’s the part where I talk about sex. If you don’t want to read that, time to get off the elevator.


The elephant in the room here is vaginal function: it would be kind of nice to be able to have penetrative sex, and even oral sex is problematic because that fistula leaks. There are alternatives; there are always alternatives, but still. Pelvic radiation also causes sexual issues in women: the vaginal tissues tend to be much less moist and elastic, so it’s possible that penetrative sex would be painful regardless.

I don’t have to make a decision now. Since one of the options is “do nothing” I can take that option for now and make a considered decision in a few months, or even longer. I’ve always known there were consequences to cancer treatment, and that problems with either or both bowel and sexual function were possibilities, but this is still a frustrating development.


Sasquan was a blast! I spent time with old friends and new friends, including several folks who have been friends for a long time but I’d never met in person, including Best Roomie. Everyone had fun at the reading, though post-apocalyptic cats were clearly trumped by spiders. The Viable Paradise party was great, and Steph and I ended up hosting a snarky and alcohol-laden Hugos party with the leftovers. It still boggles me sometimes that I’ve become the kind of person who can throw a party at WorldCon and have people show up. Lots of people!

I’ve been all over the place, Portland, Pennsic, Spokane, and it’s been great. My physical health is excellent and steadily improving as I get farther away from chemo (four months!) and surgery (almost a year!). My CEA is still normal. I’m walking to work sometimes (Monday was the first day I’ve done so since 2013) and kayaking. I’ve been doing yoga for months, trying to recover some strength and flexibility, and I’m contemplating gym membership or home weight-lifting.

Great, right?

But I am so fucking tired, mentally and emotionally. So tired. I can do all the things physically, but how do I do all the things? How do I do any of them? I haven’t dealt with any of the paperwork from my mother’s death (I have time; this is not urgent), my house is a disaster, I’m just barely not failing my annual review at work. The bills are paid and the cats are fed, but that’s about it. Adulting? Not happening. I haven’t been there for friends either, which makes me sad.

I feel like I should be a cheery TV special. “I beat cancer sunshine daisies joy laughter sparkles unicorns.” But it’s harder than that, deeper and more complicated. Slower, too.

Sasquan and outlining

I will be at Sasquan next week: hooray! While I’m not on programming (and a bit frustrated by that), Steven Gould generously offered to share his timeslot with a few Viable Paradisians, so I will be doing a reading:

4315 Saturday 12:30pm 30min
DBT Spokane Falls Suite A/B
Reading—Steven Gould

What do you think: post-apocalyptic cats, or a faery guide?

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get my head back into writing fiction (back into everything, really). I’m picking the novel I started a year and a half ago back up. I won’t have time to work on it heavily until October, but I’m trying to get the outline firmed up so that in October I can immerse myself in the actual words.

Here’s the high-level outline:
A fabulous book.
Almond cookies.
Court intrigue.
Black magic.
Chaos ensues.
Things burn down.
Librarian victory.

This is going to be SO MUCH FUN.


Confluence schedule

Ooops, I still haven’t posted this. I have a busy weekend ahead at Confluence:

Friday, July 24
9pm Evolution and Viruses – Lawrence
10pm Practical Space Colonization – Lawrence
11pm Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading – Armstrong

Saturday, July 25
10am Building a Fantasy Culture from the Ground Up – Armstrong
1pm Manley Wade Wellman – Armstrong
4pm Kaffeeklatsch with Chet Gottfried, theme Favorite Monsters – 525

I hope to see some of you there!

So, reading: something new, something old?


Fungi in Polish

Today’s nifty news: my story “Two Kilograms and Counting“, originally published by Every Day Fiction, is now available in translation at the Polish SFF magazine Szortal. The PDF edition even has artwork!


Pokey pokey

Followup this morning with my surgeon.

The short version is that I will probably need a couple of minor surgeries to reassemble things disconnected or broken by the big surgery and subsequent infection, but I knew that. Nothing is urgent, so they’re all going to wait until fall, after summer traveling and fun are over*.

Actual conversation:

Surgeon: So how is everything going?
Me: Pretty well. I finished chemo the first week of May, and am now trying to get my endurance and strength back. It’s slow.
Surgeon: You’re still recovering a whole lot faster than most people.
Me: Still not fast enough.

From there, various kinds of poking and prodding. (Colon surgeon: you figure it out.) My scar looks good, except for the few inches in the middle that decided to become hypertrophic. That’s the bit that itches and pulls and hurts and annoys the piss out of me most of the time. I massage it and oil it twice a day, and it will probably improve over time. I don’t really care that it’s ugly, just that it’s annoying.

So yeah, things are things. I’m walking the dog regularly, doing yoga (crankily, because I have so little flexibility now***), kayaking, and started strength training last week. I’m easily tired out, though, and cranky a lot. That’s not unreasonable, but still frustrating. My brain is recovering, but also not at full speed yet. (That had BETTER BE a yet; I miss my brain!) Lots of post-its can cover for cranial incapacity, but not all aspects of it.

And I would just like to say that in the winter, hot flashes mean that my toes get warm. In the summer? Insomnia and a lot of sweat. Yet another annoying consequence of cancer treatment, though other aspects of radiation-induced menopause are quite all right.

I rewarded myself for visiting the surgeon with a lunch of sushi**** and blogging, but the salmon is gone so it’s time to get back to work.

*Flying with an ostomy**: any of you done it? Google suggests that it’s pretty straightforward.

**Someday I will write an ostomy post, and you all will be fascinated and/or disgusted.

***Radiation damage, which may or may not completely recover, and surgical scarring, ditto.

****No sushi during chemo, but it’s been six weeks so I’m sure I can eat raw fishies again.

Charitable pooches

John Scalzi is collecting happy puppy photos for charity. How can you not want to participate?


Here Trygvi is upside-down in a pillow fort he built himself.

One ball at a time

This is harder than I expected.

I’m done with treatment, and it was successful. [insert cheering here] That’s the best of all possible things to follow a cancer diagnosis with.

But it’s still hard. I’ve done little for the last sixteen months but focus on survival: staying alive, getting through chemotherapy and radiation and surgery and more chemo, doing the bare minimum at everything else. Now I’m free of all that, and I have to pick up all those balls again. My research career is a mess, my house is a disaster area, my body is weak and wobbly. I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do all the things that make a successful and happy adult, not just an alive one. (I realize that latter is no mean achievement.)

I remember being active and doing things, writing, weaving, actual research, but in a vague, unfocused way: with a sense of wonder that anyone ever manages those things, and a general disbelief that I could manage those things again. It’s rather like being depressed, though I’m not. I’m tired, overwhelmed, and still recovering. It’s only been three weeks since I finished chemo, after sixteen months of abuse. I know it will take time to recover and remember how to juggle.

I’m winning, but victory isn’t easy.