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Nov 01 2012

Good News: Greta’s Cancer Now In Past Tense

Just wanted to let y’all know the good news: I met with my oncologist yesterday, I got the results of the pathology, and it’s all good news. The cancer did turn out to be Stage 1. It wasn’t in my ovaries or my lymph nodes: just straight-up endometrial cancer, limited in scope to my uterus. And the tumor hadn’t penetrated more than halfway into my uterine wall (it had gone about a third of the way in).

This is more or less what everyone had been expecting. Based on the ultrasound and the biopsy, my oncologist was pretty sure that the cancer was Stage 1, and would be entirely treatable with hysterectomy. So this is not surprising news. But it is a big relief to have it confirmed. This cancer was caught plenty early, and it is now gone. I don’t mean that it’s in remission: I mean that it’s gone. I had cancer, but I don’t anymore. I will not need radiation or chemotherapy. And the incisions and everything are all healing well.

There is, FYI, a strong possibility that I have Lynch syndrome: a genetic marker that makes you more likely to get both endometrial and colon cancer. This probability estimate is based on my own endometrial cancer, the fact that my mother had colon cancer at age 45, and some other things from my own health history. I’ll know about this for sure in a couple of weeks, when they’ve had a chance to do further pathology on the tissue that was removed. But if I do have Lynch syndrome, it would not actually be that big a deal. I’ve been assuming for a while now that I have an elevated likelihood of colon cancer (see above re: family and health history), and my doctors have already recommended that I get a colonoscopy every two years. A diagnosis of Lynch syndrome wouldn’t mean anything more than what I already know: I’m more vulnerable to colon cancer than the average bear, and will have to get screened for it more often than most people. Since colon cancer grows slowly and can be snipped out easily if it’s caught early, this isn’t really scary: more just annoying.

I still feel pretty crappy. Sore from the surgery, groggy and slow from the pain meds, exhausted from the physical and emotional trauma, sleeping a lot, limited in both my physical and mental functioning. I will need to spend the next few weeks resting and healing and gradually getting back to normal (or what passes for normal for me). But I am hugely relieved. Once the next few weeks of rest and healing are done, this cancer thing really will be behind me.

Thanks again hugely to my readers for all your support. The fundraiser took an enormous weight off my shoulders, obviously: as I said a few days ago, I hadn’t realized how much of my stress and anxiety about this situation was focused on my financial worries, until I didn’t have those worries anymore. Maybe even more importantly than the money itself, the fundraiser made me feel tremendously loved and valued by this community. So big heartfelt thanks once again to everyone who donated money and/or spread the word about it. Thanks, also, to folks who provided financial support by buying my book, and/or encouraging other folks to buy it. The suggestions for books and DVDS and other entertainments during my recovery have been sweet and thoughtful and big fun as well, and will continue to be big fun in the coming weeks as I continue to recover. And the outpouring of encouragement, kind words, emotional support, stories about your aunt who had endometrial cancer 12 years ago and came through her hysterectomy with flying colors and just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last year… all of this has helped enormously. I’m more grateful than I can say.

I’m going to take the advice many of you gave me, and give myself some time to really rest and heal. Thanks to the fundraiser, I’m not feeling panicked about getting back to work right away, and I really do want to recover properly. But I am feeling excited about getting into writing again once my health has returned. I may ease into it gradually, with a post or two here and there until I’m up to speed; I may just wait a while until I’m feeling all better and then come back into it full speed ahead. I’ll see what makes sense with my recovery. But I will definitely be back. Once again, thanks so much to everyone for your patience and your support.

89 comments

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  1. 1
    Konradius

    This is such a relief! Over the past year you have become my nr1 favourite atheist writer.
    As someone who has lost his father to colon cancer, good that you will be checking that from time to time. As I approach 40 I myself should start as well.
    Thanks to the doctors who caught this early and fixed it!

  2. 2
    mildlymagnificent

    Nice work!

    Just watch out for a possible let-down when you’re off the pain meds. The after-effects of having had a general anaesthetic can linger and make you fatigued at unpredictable times – for a longer than you might like.

  3. 3
    johnmccormick

    Great news! Take it easy for a while, Greta, you’ve had major surgery, and it will take a while to heal. We can wait to hear from you.

  4. 4
    cethis

    This is great news! When you’re ready to blog, we’ll be waiting. :)

  5. 5
    fronkey

    That’s great to hear! I hope the recovery continues smoothly, and I’ll think of you (as useless as prayer I know, but at least I can admit it won’t help) as I read your book next week (I got it a week ago, and am eagerly anticipating the end of exams so I can read non-uni books again).

  6. 6
    No Light

    Yay! I was hoping it would be the same as my mother’s, bits out and voila, all over. I am so, so happy that it was.

    Count on about six months of effects from the abdominal surgery, really take it easy. The hormone crash will be hard too, mum felt like she’d lost her mind overnight at one point.

    Just let your bod do what it needs to, and let it. That means plenty of R&R, even if Comet is racing across the ceiling, and playing at using the walls as a speedway!

    If you’ve never had a colonoscopy I’ll say that it’s not exactly dignified or pleasant, but it’s over fairly quickly. The worst parts are the bowel prep (either weapons-grade laxatives, or a fast-acting enema), and the effects of the gas they use to inflate your gut.

    There isn’t
    a polite way to say this, but you will be farting that stuff out for days. I didn’t need anyone to push my wheelchair all the following week, I could move myself up steep hills, and skim across water, thanks to my intestinal jet-pack.

    Well, back to sleep, glad I checked in. I actually have happy-tears for you and Ingrid, because I know how awful it is when your wife’s life is threatened.

    Tonight, I shall feast on cake, in your honour!

  7. 7
    sheila

    Yay!

  8. 8
    w00dview

    Fantastic! Take all the time you need recovering, we will be waiting.

  9. 9
    Brad

    What everybody else said. Except No Light. That’s gross.

  10. 10
    Sunil

    Fantastic! That’s the best news I’ve read today. :)

  11. 11
    janeymack

    Glad to hear that you are recovering well, and great news that the cancer is gone!

  12. 12
    Lofty

    ‘Tis a good good thing, verily.

  13. 13
    Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    Well, that brightened my day considerably. Glad you’re on the way to recovery.

  14. 14
    oolon

    Phew, glad you are in the clear, take it easy and hope you feel better soon!

  15. 15
    ischemgeek

    I’m glad to hear it. I hope you rest well and recover quickly.

  16. 16
    KrazyCaper

    Truly fantastic news.

    I’ve just finished your book (via Audible).
    Enjoyed every chapter!

    All the best from the Great White North.

  17. 17
    rq

    Excellent news! Yay!

  18. 18
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Excellent news! Keep resting, you deserve the respite.

    Already bought the book. Just waiting for it to arrive. Excited!!

    Though, it would be great if someone could remind Fed Ex that next day delivery in fact does not mean four days later.

  19. 19
    Morgan

    That’s fantastic, Greta. I’m hugely relieved.

  20. 20
    coragyps

    Yay!

  21. 21
    Didaktylos

    Good news – get well, and continue to take care of yourself

  22. 22
    opposablethumbs

    Brilliant news; wishing you a comfortable-as-possible recovery and hope (under the circumstances) that NoLight’s comment at #6 didn’t make you laugh quite as hard as it did me :)

  23. 23
    stevescott

    Smite fail! :)

  24. 24
    Stephen T

    Great news. *jumps up and down with glee*
    Take very good care of yourself.

  25. 25
    carlie

    That’s fantastic! Especially that you’re giving yourself the time you need to heal – pushing too fast won’t just set you back, it can knock you right back to the beginning.

  26. 26
    bevstapleton

    Such good news.

  27. 27
    mwitthoft

    Hurrah!
    Just finished your book. I like the book. I like you. Very much.
    My spousal unit is going for cancer surgery next week. With luck we’ll have a two-for-two winning season.

  28. 28
    kaboobie

    I’m so glad to hear it, Greta. Take whatever time you need to recover.

  29. 29
    Gregory in Seattle

    It took my mother a few weeks to fully recover when she had the same surgery. Remember to stay somewhat active: Mom made the mistake of staying couch-bound, which was less painful but made it more difficult to heal properly.

    It is very good to hear of your success.

  30. 30
    Bronze Dog

    I’m so glad it turned out okay. I can look forward to you getting back in the groove.

  31. 31
    latsot

    “made me feel tremendously loved and valued by this community”

    You certainly are loved and valued. We want you back, but not as much as we want you to be well.

  32. 32
    Sastra

    Another vote of relief and confidence. Your rest-and-recuperation plan sounds reasonable — which was totally predictable, even when the outcome was not.

    At some point, you should eat something chocolate. I hear it has mystical curative properties for people in your condition.

  33. 33
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Fantastic! I glad you are in good health, and that you got some financial support. I hope the soreness, etc., abates soon.

  34. 34
    Rieux

    Wonderful news. Our community is so lucky to have you, now as much as ever. Feel better soon.

  35. 35
    Christopher Stephens

    Fantastic news. Take all the time you want.

  36. 36
    Anthony K

    Oh, that’s wonderful to hear, Greta! As others have said, you rest up and recuperate all you need.

  37. 37
    Johnny Vector

    I will continue to pray for you.

    Wait, I mean my cats will continue to pray for you.

    Argh, stupid autocorrect! Prey. My cats will continue to prey for you. There won’t be a silverfish left in the house when they’re done. And all for you, I promise.

    Me, I’ll drink a health to ye.

  38. 38
    johnthedrunkard

    Terrific news. I’ve checked in every day in hope you would be surfacing from the haze and peeping over the parapet.

    Love

  39. 39
    Reality Enthusiast

    Great news! So glad you’re going to be ok.

  40. 40
    Kevin

    Great news. Glad my not praying for you worked out.

  41. 41
    sceptinurse

    So happy to hear everything went well.

  42. 42
    melody

    This is brilliant news. Sending love your way.

  43. 43
    magistramarla

    I’m so glad that you’re on the mend!
    Get lots of cuddle time with the cats – they’re the best medicine of all.

  44. 44
    jflcroft

    I’m so happy to hear this!

  45. 45
    sisu

    Wonderful news!! So happy for you!

  46. 46
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    Great news indeed! Continue to get better please.

  47. 47
    geocatherder

    Yay! I second the bit about cuddling with the cats. And chocolate.

  48. 48
    A Hermit

    I’ve always been grateful that I live in a place where something like cancer treatment is covered by universal, public insurance; both my parents (now in their 80′s) have been through it. Surgery, chemo, hospital stays, home care nursing…all covered; no need to mortgage the house and no worry about the insurance rates going up…

    Even so, a report just release here today outlines the financial hardships that can accompany a diagnosis even when th edirect medical costs are covered. http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/11/01/mb-cancer-report-hardships-winnipeg.html I’m glad your friends here have been able to help lift that part of the burden.

  49. 49
    kevs

    Great news! Well done the doctors!

  50. 50
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    *happy dance*

    Take all the time you need — your health is more important than we are.

  51. 51
    mattkovach

    great news….never thought I’ld learn so much about you :-)

    peace-out

  52. 52
    danettebaltzer

    Really, really good news! So glad things went well, prognosis is excellent and you’re feeling better!

  53. 53
    didgen

    Continuing to think of you. Glad everything is looking up, I hope you will speed right back to feeling well. Enjoy some restful time.

  54. 54
    salo

    Happy Happy Joy Joy!

  55. 55
    Argle Bargle

    Good news, Greta.

    I bought your book in hardcover to send to my Catholic brother as a Christmas present.

  56. 56
    briane

    Good news. Glad to hear the spanish-dancer is gone.

    I just bought your ‘angry’ book on Kindle. I’ll get to reading it this weekend.

  57. 57
    drdave

    Greta, Hooray.

    As someone who has been in the non-profit Credit Counseling business a long time, I can assure you that your stress over financial matters, and how that affected all your other life aspects, is what we see time and again.

    We regularly get letters from clients that say that getting their financial affairs in hand literally saved their life.

    We are all happy to hear about your great outcome. Cheers.

  58. 58
    chelseabutler

    Yay, Greta! I’m so happy that this has worked out in literally the best possible way (aside from, of course, not getting it in the first place)! Thanks so much for keeping us all up-to-date on your progress and easing our worries as soon as you could. Take your time getting better, don’t jump full throttle back into it all too soon. We don’t mind waiting for you. Spend time with Ingrid and the kitties, and know that you are loved all around! :)

    Internet hugs to you and yours!

  59. 59
    gbjames

    Keep getting better, Greta!

  60. 60
    Randomfactor

    Thank Science for the good news.

  61. 61
    chakolate

    YAY! You probably don’t feel much like dancing right now, but I’m doing the Happy Dance for you!

    Ain’t science wonderful!

  62. 62
    tccc

    Oh good news. Cheers!

  63. 63
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    So glad to hear your news, Greta! When it comes to cancer, past is the best tense. Or nearly so… if instead of saying you had cancer we say you have had cancer that would be present perfect, and as the father of someone who has had cancer, I can tell you that perfect is how the present feels! ;^)

  64. 64
    Hank_Says

    Enormous YAY.

    That is all :)

  65. 65
    Uncle Ebeneezer

    Great news Greta. Glad to hear you’re cancer-free and healing.

    I don’t have any suggestions for movies (though I will advise that Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones are both pretty awesome), but I have an anecdote that made me think of you. Last night (Halloween) I was at a very bizarre “show” that featured one of the worst comediennes I have ever seen. After a painfully awkward 3 minute set with no real laughing from the tiny crowd, she ended by asking “What do atheists say during an orgasm? Think about it…” Not only is it a painfully old joke/point (I remember hearing this idea years ago) but it reminded me that it’s sadly still totally ok for people of faith to mock atheists publicly. Indeed in this instance she was so desperate for a laugh that this material was considered a relative “gimme” for a guaranteed response. The crowd didn’t say anything. I would have responded, but I was performing later in the evening with a band that was paying me so I didn’t want to create waves if she was a friend of theirs. Looking back, there were so many obvious responses I could have given: Fuck, Yes, Shit, Hell Yeah etc. (the really great orgasms usually leave me speechless.) Part of me wishes I had explained to the lady that atheists can enjoy the most profound pleasure of orgasm without the need to attribute it’s existence to a supernatural agent. Just like we can revel in awesomeness of life and the universe without feeling that it had to be a gift meant for us, but is simply a most wonderful situation that we evolved to feel such pleasure and have the capacity to appreciate how lucky we are. Anyways, yeah, still alot of work to do for atheism. Currently, mid-way through your book and really enjoying it. Get well soon.

  66. 66
    allencdexter

    Great to hear from you again. I checked every day to see if you would be feeling well enough to write something, and like others have said, I’m really happy about the prognosis.

    Move at the pace that feels right, and we’ll all be here waiting for your inciteful and right-on offerings.

  67. 67
    navigator

    Hooray!

  68. 68
    fly44d

    Awesome news! I finished listening to your book last week and am going through it again. You are a pleasure to listen to as you narrate it. I highly recommend the book to everyone, especially via Audible because of your delivery. Not very long, fast paced, easy to understand.

    The other day I had my second colonoscopy, it’s been 6 years since the first but my doctor said he’s lost too many patients to colon cancer because 10 years was too far in between. Because of this and my dad’s bout with cancer of the colon, we will go for a 5 yr period for now. I’ve had two great doctor and nurse teams so far, both concerned with my well being during the procedure and very professional. Especially since it turns out my colon is a little longer than usual and he couldn’t, despite his best efforts, get to the end! The pushing and poking they did to try to get there was what I imagine turning a baby would be like. I was drugged up enough to think it was pretty funny. Especially since they kept asking me to turn this way and that and then even over onto my belly with this tube coming out of my ass. The doctor apologized for the ordeal but I didn’t care. Other than a lot of gas still coming out, I am fine. I highly recommend the procedure, watching the big screen the journey up your own colon is amazing. I only wish the cleansing process beforehand was more pleasant. That is miserable, just get through it with anticipation of the adventure to come!

  69. 69
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Excellent news! Get well soon – do treat yourself well after the surgery.

  70. 70
    catlover

    Yay! Such good news! Happy Dance!! Take really good care of yourself. We’ll all be here when you are up to writing again. Virtual hugs to you and Ingrid — and let the kitties give you those special lovies that only cats can give.

  71. 71
    Nick Gotts

    Three cheers! Brilliant news!

    On the Lynch’s syndrome – that’s not such good news, of course, but really everyone over 55 (which I know you’re not yet!) should get a two-yearly check of some kind. Here in Scotland it’s done on the NHS, by testing a faecal sample for occult blood. I don’t know offhand how that compares for effectiveness with colonoscopy, but it’s much less unpleasant and carries no risk (except that a false positive would lead to a colonoscopy).

  72. 72
    Pieter B, FCD

    Ah, the post I’ve been waiting for. Mazeltov!

    Take all the time you need. I had back surgery in May and have just recently regained the spring in my step.

    Chocolate, kitties and rest are a great recovery plan. I’m looking forward to your return, but I am a patient man when I have to be, and in this case I simply have to be.

  73. 73
    mabell

    Super great excellent news! Praise be to your doctors and supporters!

    I dragged my feet and missed the funding drive, but I did buy your book. My wife is a Christian, and she made some unkind comments when I told her what I was reading. However, to her credit, she agreed to read the book on one condition: that I read a book by Ravi Zacharia. I’m takin’ one for the team here.

  74. 74
    Patricia, OM

    Hooray! Good news.
    I just dodged that cancer bullet myself this summer. I go back in January to see if the cells are still gone. Thank goodness for science!

    Your book has made it to Oregon, I’m just waiting for my local bookshop to get it in for me. My three great nieces are all getting a copy for their Solstice gift.

  75. 75
    emptyknight

    Great news! I’m so glad that this ordeal will soon be behind you. Hoping your recovery is uneventful!

  76. 76
    kestrel

    Yet another “Hooray!” So glad to hear the great news. Now I can stop holding my breath! How wonderful that modern medical science could not only find this early enough for treatment to work, but provide the treatment as well.

  77. 77
    Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Greta:
    I’m so glad things turned out well for you. Here’s to a speedy recovery.

  78. 78
    Great American Satan

    WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

    That’s a rare and nice thing to hear.

  79. 79
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    That’s good to hear. Before you know it you’ll be celebrating anniversaries like “Two years of kicking cancer’s butt!”

    Do rest as much as you need. *hugs*

  80. 80
    flyingteacosy

    Couldn’t be happier to hear this! It’s wonderful that you’re cancer-free!

    Raising a glass (of tea) to modern medicine! To doctors and surgeons and medical researchers! To regular check-ups, knowing what you’re at risk for and paying attention to it! To anaesthesia! To nurses! And to taking it easy, looking after yourself and moving on with this wonderful life :)

  81. 81
    No One

    Good.

  82. 82
    onion girl, OM; social workers do it with paperwork

    *hugs* So happy to hear this! Please rest and take care of yourself!

  83. 83
    carolw

    That’s great news. Take it easy and feel better. :)

  84. 84
    Mal Adapted

    Greta, that’s such good news, for you and for us. Proof that intercessory hoping and wishing (plus modern medicine) works!

  85. 85
    Martha

    Oh, this is terrific news! I’m delighted for you and wish you the best as you continue your recovery.

  86. 86
    johnwolforth

    Yay!!

  87. 87
    citizenroe

    Praise science, the doctors, nurses, and all the medical staff who took care of you! Best wishes for a quick recovery.

  88. 88
    Richard Wade

    This is good news. Rest, celebrate gently, rest, be with your loved ones, rest some more, repeat.

  89. 89
    LykeX

    Great to hear that you’re on the mend. Take what time you need to recover and then come back and kick some ass.

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