I’m clear at two years, but my aunt died last night

I am officially clear at two years. I found out this past week. This morning I found out that my aunt passed away last night after four years fighting lung cancer. I was deeply relieved last week and deeply saddened today. And I will not be able to be at the funeral on Wednesday.

My full set of scans finally came back two weeks ago, and I just met with my oncologist.

He finally gave me some numbers: he has been unwilling to commit to numbers b/c they have so little data on my staging group. He said that the rate of reccurrance was anywhere from 15-30 pct during the first two years. (That range has changed several times, as it is a fairly broad range, and they don’t really have a handle on it.) More importantly, at two years, it now drops to 10% and after five years it drops to 5%.

10% is a nice number.

He said the scans looked really good. Which means very stable. nothing new. Everything has been consistent for two years. In particular he had been concerned about the nodules in my lungs which were ostensibly scars from my childhood pneumonia. He is now convinced that they are totally completely benign, as they have not changed *at all* in two years.  This is good.

I had a pretty rough time leading up to these kind-of high pressure scans. Scheduling the scans was an ordeal insurance-wise (they were reschedule once, and were almost cancelled the day of b/c the insurance papers had not come through.)

Then the New York Times published two articles on melanoma that appeared the night of my 2 year cancerversary. I had the scans done at that point, but had no results. They totally fucking freaked me out.


I was a wreck after i read the first one. and then the second one only made things worse. I was actually already on edge, as I waited for the results from my 2 year mark scans.

So I was already on edge, and then this article comes out talking about patients diagnosed with the same type of cancer as me, but who were diagnosed at extremely late stages, when they were more-or-less given weeks or a few months to live. A very few of them respond to this miracle drug, but after 6 months, they all relapse, and a large percentage die. Talk about fucking heartbreaking. I was doing my absolute best not to cry while reading the article. In retrospect, maybe I should have cried; maybe it would have released some tension? Who knows.

But I didn’t relapse. This is the major milestone. It is the first real number-changing mark. My numbers now go down from the vague 20 to 40 percent, to a solid 10 percent. Three more years, and I get to 5%. From what I understand, I will never get under that 5% — the percentages in a given year are very low now (whereas they were quite high in the first two years, especially in the months 12-18), but if you add that up over the rest of my life, it adds up. But it is a mark, and now I only have to see my doctors and get my scans at 6 month intervals, not 3 month intervals.

Things falling apart

Broken iPod Touch

I just broke my iPod, and found out that my mileage accounts have been cleared out on a technicality, all within 60 minutes…

At first the iPod breaking didn’t phase me. Am I that meditative? Am I that drugged up?

It is just an object. There is no data lost. The screen is cracked, but I can still navigate and retrieve what little data is on there.

Then I started to feel bad. Defeated, or something. I sat down to make a plane ticket to Portland for July for my last month of IFN injection. O and I are going to PDX for a better climate for my last month of injections. If all goes well and I don’t have to have any breaks (cross my fingers) I will be done on Thursday July 23rd.

In two weeks, I will have four months before I go to Portland. Somehow going to Portland feels okay to substitute for ‘being finished’ even though there will be another three or four weeks of injection there.

I figured that I was flexible with dates, and I had a bunch of mileage to use, so I fumbled my way through the password retrieval process, only to find out that I had *no* miles. None. All cleared out. All 104,000 miles cleared out. On a technicality of a expiration policy that i was never told about. I did the same on my United mileage account, and same story, though no love lost there, as every flight I have taken with them has been miserable, and I don’t even know if I had enough for a full ticket (with the free ticket inflation these days.)

Expired Miles

Expired Miles

It all sucked really badly. I felt really defeated. And overwhelmed in the face of bureaucratic logistics… is it worth all the headache of calling customer service, trying to get through to a human, and then the physical and emotional trauma of having to play the cancer card. To tell them that I have not been able to fly, so my miles were zeroed out for inactivity, and now i need my miles to finish my drug treatment. I’m getting dysesthesia in my hands as I type this, just thinking about it.

The thing is what I am really afraid of is that something might happen like this on a bigger scale. What if the dollar were to tumble so drastically, my bank account might as well be filled with Rubles? What if the City of New York is so hard pressed in debt that they drop all untenured faculty. I’ve been seeing some of this happening: My 401K from school (which I look at once a year tops) has half as much in it as when I last looked. O just got a pseudo-rejection letter from an academic job search, saying that despite a full slate of excellent candidates, they have decided to terminate their search without hire — They don’t have any money. Job searches are being canceled halfway through. I am trying to get my work into a gallery right at the worst possible time in nearly two decades. And I might be buying an apartment in my building at a moment when buyers and sellers are at a standoff over prices, with buyers refusing to pay current prices, and sellers refusing to admit that their apartments are worth 20 percent less than they were last last year. Admittedly, if I do buy the apartment, it will be at a significant ‘insider’ discount as per the byzantine NYC condo conversion guidelines.

first they take the miles and make them disappear. then they take the dollars and turn them into rubles, and back again. I should rereread Master and the Marguerita soon

This is not my beautiful house

I’m in my apartment in Brooklyn. I walked in and had total shock: this is where I live?  Really?  This is really where I live?

It seemed so much smaller than I remembered, and darker.  And nothing seemed like it was where it was supposed to be.  And the lobby wasn’t quite as clean as it was before.  And there was rust on the entry door.  And there was scummy shit in the bathtub that I couldn’t wash away (probably from the construction upstairs).  And the upstairs neighbor continues to throw trash out this window.

But my bed was still perfect

Same as it ever was.

First Hours

I’m trying to piece together what happened those first hours after I found out.  I’m going through my outbox, and saw this email to

Feb 22, 2008

i think i’m okay, but i kinda dont want to be alone tonight.

i haven’t cried, but feel it coming on.

i have a stupid  alumni interview at 6pm.  i’ll keep it short. i’ve held it together so far, and will prob keep it up through the interview.

when is the yoga class tonight?  the 8pm one?  i might like to do that, to distract me and beat the shit out of me.


Needless to say, I didn’t make it to yoga.  I didn’t make it to the alumni interview.  I ended up walking down 21st st calling my brother in tears asking him to find the phone number for the coffee shop I was going to meet this young college applicant for this alumni interview.  I remember calling and begging the too-cool-for-school barrista to just look for a yound woman arriving at 6pm like she was there for an interview.  I think I said “I have had an emergency.”  I hadn’t graduated to “medical emergency” yet, nor from there to “I just found out I have cancer.”

K was the first to call in response to my emails out.  She was doing a good job of remaining calm, though the layers of meaning were huge for her.

  1. I had just learned that her mother died of cancer when she was 7 or 8 (I forget)
  2. she had just gotten off the phone with the director of the melanoma foundation of New England; she was writing an article on Melanoma for one of the womens’ magazines she freelances for.  She quickly quoted to me the stats that Melanoma is actually the most common cancer for ages 25-40.  So it was for naught that I had been feeling my balls at my dr’s behest for all these years.
  3. She has lost people/partners before, and has a real thing about it.

But she remained calm, and told me to leave the studio.  Leave the studio.  I was at the point where I could not make any decisions.  So I listened.  I left the studio.  And went to S&E’s apartment.  I don’t remember what happened there, but I probably cried a lot.  I really can’t remember.