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The Good, The Bad, And The Lucky

I value tying my updates to ideas that make me reflect and inspire me to write. Unsurprisingly, that last round took a greater toll on me and there has not been a lot of that given my last update was a bit ago. Fortunately, that inspiration has arrived and it is a good day for an update.

“In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper; and one hardly knows which of these is the more annoying.” ~Bertrand Russell

Bertrand's quote is incredibly salient to me. It is a quote I contemplate at times and keep in my quote log (yes, I have one of those). However, I would add a caveat to it and that is, hardly do we appreciate how lucky we are when we don’t or do suffer. I felt it to be a good day to talk about luck given it is St. Patrick's Day, and it's been exactly a year since the pandemic was officially announced.

Good things happen to good people. More often than not, bad things happen to many good people. The lens we view the world through has a great effect on our perception and happiness. In the midst of this chaos that has been my cancer diagnosis, I've often found myself needing to examine my lenses and adjusting the focus when it felt blurry. Recently, that blurriness has been the result of the cancer saga continuing. I was looking forward to writing an update in March that would have said "I am cancer free!", and then closing the chapter on this part of my life of further tests and treatments. That will have to wait for now. The emperor continues to fight me.

THE GOOD: The good news is that the tumor is now 3.5 cm in width, shrinking by 85% from the curative intent chemotherapy treatment. The occluded brachiocephalic vein now flows. The bleed in my brain has not worsened and continues to heal. The clots in my arms have all gone away. My blood pressure is finally reflective of a person who considers themself fit. And my energy levels are becoming more consistent.

THE BAD: The bad news is that the tumor is 3.5 cm in width still. The PET scan showed it has mild cancer activity. This puts options on the table for further treatments. The saga continues.

THE UNKNOWN: So, what’s next? That is unknown — wait and see. The best case scenario is that the tumor continues to die a mitotic or apoptotic death and that it will be completely gone after 8 more weeks due to post treatment effects. The worst case scenario is that it remains and the treatment option is a surgical resection. The middle case scenario is somewhere in between those with the surgical option remaining as the most likely treatment but maybe not as invasive.

So we wait with anticipation, hope, and some much needed luck.

Cancer is a game of luck. Obviously, not the game you want to play, but the chance that any of us could get it is up in the air. Despite the ongoing pandemic, in 2020, it was estimated that there would be 1.8 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 606,520 cancer deaths in the U.S. alone. The fact that I got it was luck; the fact that I got a highly cureable one was even luckier given the odds.

Certain days since this news, I've had to examine my lens and adjust the focus when I've found my mind drifting toward rumination and uncertainty on the bad. This is what works for me and everyone is different in their grief process or coping strategy.

For the most part, I find myself to be rather lucky. I don't have the worst case of cancer possibilities. Tangentially, I'm also lucky in that I'm not in some failed state subject to abuse, tyranny, subjugation, and persecution. My family and friends reading this, I trust to my knowledge, are relatively safe. I have health insurance and an abundance of incredibly generous family and friends. I remain hopeful.

I have a thought that helps reframe my mind: I believe my worst day would truly be someone's best day in some other part of the world. But, I cannot confidently say that someone's worst day would even be slightly the worst day for me because the possibilities of unimagineable human suffering are endless. And many live in these conditions.

In this part of the universe, zoomed in to the United States, we are far luckier than we often realize. From potable water to three vaccines in rotation to help put an end to the pandemic soon enough. I also recognize there is still much progress to be made here to lessen human suffering and that is the endeavor of all generations.

This practice of persistently examining has and is helpful for me during moments of rumination. Everyone is different. I think we’ve been lucky but I also hope more luck finds you and your family. Laura, being part Irish, sends lots of Irish luck your way as well.

Happy St. Patrick's Day and cheers until next time.

With luck and gratitude,


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