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Fuck Cancer

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.


I’m wearing my mother’s American Cancer Society SURVIVOR pin. Best I can manage today.


In the past sixteen months since being diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer, I’ve had chemo, chemo-radiation, surgery to remove parts of my liver and colon, and more chemo. As of 12:30pm today, I am fucking done with all of it. The home nurse pulled out the infusion needle and I signed my discharge papers. I don’t have to see my oncologist until August.

There’s still some medical stuff left, but it’s clean-up: reversing the ostomy, possibly fixing things that the post-surgical infection screwed up, things like that, but those are all voluntary, rather than “you’re going to die if you don’t.”

There are also some scary scans in my future, starting in June. I don’t remember the schedule, but it’s frequent CT scans for three years, I think, and less often for five, and after five? Not so often at all.

Right now, though, my CEA is still normal, I have no symptoms, I’m done poisoning myself and I get to start to recover. I’ve gained most of the weight I lost–having chemo every three instead of every two weeks helped a lot there–and so next I need to work on the muscle I lost, which I haven’t yet been able to do much about.

Right now I’m tired and queasy, but that will mostly fade by the weekend. By next week sometime I’ll be able to start yoga again, and will be eating normally (chemo weeks are all about the toast, even for a few days after).

I really want to call my mother and celebrate with her.

Fuck cancer, fuck the sixteen months I spent being poisoned, zapped and cut, fuck the years that it took away from my mother, fuck the uncertainty and risk I’ll be living with. Even the successes hurt.

Wandering through

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I put a lot of stuff online, both good and bad. Sometimes, though, something big enough comes along that I need to hold onto it for a while before I can write much, and if it’s really huge, then it seems wrong to blog anything else until that thing has been said.

So. Many of you know by now that my mother died on April 15. I’ve made any number of jokes about the long-time bookkeeper and Tax Day, but none of them were any good, really.

Maureen Vincent Goslee, July 30 1947 – April 15 2015.

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Four of six; also six plus two

In entirely different scales.

I finished round four of the planned six chemo infusions this week. Sort of: the side effects other than exhaustion were minimal until today. You’d think by Friday I’d be feeling better instead of worse, but you’d be wrong. Even with a bit of a lapse today, I’m feeling enormously better than I did last round. Frustrating as it was, I think the delay may have helped me recover.

These lovely flowers also contributed to overall health and morale.


Not the snow, the snow did NOTHING good for morale, but it’s long gone, my snowdrops are blooming, and I saw a robin yesterday.

I did sleep with the velocikittenraptors last night, and ended up dreaming of being eaten alive by a telepathic shark that liked to play with its food. They were snuggly when I was awake, at least. Mostly snuggly, with only a few sharp bits.

I’m on a new med, Neulasta, that increases white blood cell production so I shouldn’t have any more delays. Sadly, I don’t think this means I get sushi yet. (Insert pouting here.)

With the week-here, week-there stuff, I should be getting my last treatment the first week of May. Originally I should be just about done right now, but no. Stupid recuperating body.

Which leads me to the “six plus two” bit. It’s six months and two days since I sacrificed chunks of colon and liver in the name of survival. I was going to blog on the actual anniversary, but my current chemo coping strategy involves spending as much time asleep as humanly possible, so I didn’t get to it.

My liver should be about 2/3 grown back. If I were otherwise healthy it would be completely grown back after six months, but chemo interferes with that process. (Even post-chemo livers are less robust, let alone those currently being poisoned.)

Sometime in June we’ll do some more scans to see how everything healed up, and decide when to reverse my ostomy, and if I need additional surgery to fix the fistula that formed due to the abscess and infection I had post-surgery. (Probably. Bah.) But my surgeon assures me that all of those can be “whenever” and will not interfere with my travel plans. (I like my colon surgeon. She’s quite awesome.)

My scar itches horribly whenever it feels like it, usually after I haven’t been moving much and it tightens up (yes, I oil it), and I occasionally have a tiny bit of pain when breathing deeply after sitting for a while. Which all just means don’t sit for very long, which is healthy anyway, but not compatible with chemo weeks. But nothing hurts when the velocikittenraptors stomp all over me, and I am otherwise healthy. Even the iodine-related thyroid problems may be improving, though I had to move my endocrinologist appointment due to all the changes in my chemo schedule, and the first opening is June.

Medical science appears to be doing its thing. I frequently think, though, that people a century or two in the future will look back at this in amazement at the horrible things doctors did to their patients. “They zapped them, and poisoned them, and cut bits out! How barbaric!” Still, best we’ve currently got, and it’s working.

Things we like

Science. And graphs. And this graph in very particular.


My CEA has been normal since surgery in September. Isn’t that a pretty curve?

This sounds familiar

Once again I’ve been sent home after having my blood examined. I continue to not be studying hard enough for my blood tests. My platelets are doing very well with the every three week regimen, but my white blood cells just can’t keep up. This is likely due to the effects of radiation: all that pelvic bone marrow is no longer as robust as it used to be. My numbers are fine when I’m not taxing my bone marrow with chemo, but the combination is too much.

There’s a treatment for this, an injection called Neulasta, that I can have in conjunction with my next three chemo treatments (by which I mean LAST THREE), that raises white blood counts. It of course has its own side effects, the main ones being sticker shock and bone pain from the marrow being stimulated. I’m hoping my insurance takes care of the first one, and that the latter isn’t too bad. Like everything else in this cancer business, people’s responses vary enormously, from being achy for a couple days to needing narcotics.

I was dreading this week’s chemo, since the last round was brutal. My anti-nausea meds aren’t cutting it, and while Monday and Tuesday were really not bad despite being infusion days, Thursday and Friday had me running for the bathroom. (Things that cause vomiting: drinking water; walking to the kitchen; walking to the bathroom; pretty much anything.) But I’d still rather get it over with than keep extending this out. My final treatment will now be the first week of May. Bah!

And I’d already had to rearrange everything, and now I’m doing it again. I keep finding things that are messed up by changing weeks, including the meeting this week that I didn’t prepare for because I couldn’t attend it, and now I can and I’m totally unready. And the medical appointment I had to cancel, and for which the next available opening was June, and which now I didn’t need to cancel at all.

I set up a bunch of time-consuming work projects to process while I was out this week so that I could work on them next week, and now I’m here at the computer and none of my stuff is ready for me to do anything.

With the Neulasta, at least there shouldn’t be any more health-related delays. We’re keeping the three week spacing for the remaining treatments since that is working for my platelet counts; there’s no Neulasta equivalent that boosts platelets. I just really want this over with, so I can get on with figuring out how my life is going to work now. (More on that later.)


I bombed a test today. Specifically, my blood test: I haven’t enough platelets or white blood cells, and they sent me home without my poison. I have to go back next week instead, and I’m going to be on a three-week cycle instead of every two weeks.

On the one hand, I get some extra time to recover, and may feel a bit less lousy, and I get today as a holiday. But now I’ll be doing chemo thru mid-May instead of the end of March. Bah.

Tamie pointed out that I’d screwed up last time: I had not completed 4/6 treatments, I had 4/6 left*. I’m not even halfway done yet, and this stretches it out further.

I mean, I appreciate that my doctors would like their cure to not kill me, and I do rather need both platelets and white blood cells for routine life. With my liver still growing back, my body is not processing the chemo drugs as efficiently as it did last year, so I need longer to recover and they’re making me sicker. Just no fun. But if all goes according to plan, then I will never have to do it again.

* Chemo brain: it’s a real thing.

Inbound email

From the Middle District Court, received Monday:

We have received the letter from your doctor and you have been excused. I apologize for the delay in granting this excuse as you are going through alot already.

So there’s that.

Chemo continues to suck. A lot. But I’m 4/6 done!

And I’m making plans to do all the things this summer: planning for Sasquan AND World Fantasy, and some other wonderful things: I hope a trip to Portland for work (I love Portland, and have an excellent friend there), some time at Pennsic, and such.

Just have to get through the next two months, and there will be so many self-rewards.

Even though I haven’t been able to eat, I’ve been interested in food during the latter half of chemo week in the abstract sense. Last time I bought a stack of foodie books on baking, pickling, making bitters (new project!), and such. This time I’ve been ordering spices and garden plants. I’ve been wanting dwarf potted citrus for a few years, and they’re research material for novels even. (No, not going to try to deduct them on my taxes.) A nursery sent me a coupon, and voila! Dwarf citrus will be arriving when it’s warm enough to ship them.

Also a dwarf pomegranate, because it was cute and I’m a sucker.

Nick’s out for the evening, so I’m going to go attempt some more toast. Or maybe miso soup? More liquid is definitely a good idea. If I had gyoza in the freezer I’d throw a couple in. Is tortellini cheating?


After these contacts with the Middle District Court:
one letter mailed from my oncologist;
3 emails from me, detailing progressively more disgusting chemo side effects and progressively stronger ADA requests for reasonable accommodation;
one phone message from me;
(no reply to any of the above)

one phone message from my oncologist;
one fax from my oncologist;
one phone call to my oncologist;

accompanied by assorted voice and email messages between me and oncologist, and a whole lot of complaining on twitter (and it’s really too bad the court doesn’t have a twitter account, or they’d have been SWAMPED with appalled people):

Status: Excused
You are not required to report for jury duty at this time.