On the Cancer Front

The only chemotherapy symptoms I’ve had are hair loss, but that’s ongoing for this old fart anyway, just happening a little quicker; and constipation, but that generally clears itself up in two or three days and so is just an annoyance.  One serious side effect that had no overt symptom associated with it was a dangerously low white blood cell count resulting in an increased danger of infection.  To guard against that, starting after the second round of three days of chemo, they stuck something on my abdomen called a “Neulasta”, a small boxy thing that gives me a very slow drip of some drug that gooses my bone marrow.  Blood work shows that the white cells are under control.

My last drip in the hospital was yesterday morning; I had a couple of pills to take at home after breakfast this morning; and I took the Neulasta off at 4:00 pm today as instructed.  I am now officially done with the chemo.

The next step, which will happen on the 12th of next month, is an MRI to see whether the cancer wants to reassert itself in my brain, and a head-to-hip CT scan to look for any other occurrances.  Depending on how the scans look, it’s possible that I’ll qualify for a study of whether the usual treatment of prophylactic low-level radiation to keep the cancer out of the brain is actually as effective as some 40-year-old study suggests.  IIUC, the radiation carries with it a small but non-negligible risk of a bit of short-term memory loss.  I hope I made it clear that I’ll happily accept the small risk in exchange for the opportunity to help increase human knowledge in my small way.

The new study, IIUC, is specifically about small-cell lung cancer caught early, which is rare so that, in the earlier study, n was small, and so the data wasn’t all that good for my particular disease.  The study will be randomized but not blind, so I’ll know whether I’m in the experimental group or the control group right from the get-go.  Double-blind would be better of course; but when I asked the radiation oncologist about that, he said that there would be no “sham radiation”; and that choice of words suggested to me that there might be some ethical limitation on that.  (He didn’t say that specifically, so the “ethical” bit is just a wild guess on my part.)

I’ll be meeting with both the chemo and radiation oncologists on the day after the scans when I’ll find out whether I qualify for the study.  If I do, I will definitely sign up.  (I’m guessing that both Utilitarians and Kantian ethicists would approve of that decision, so it’s an easy one that’s not at all confusing.)

After I got home yesterday, I took a short nap and dreamt that the chemotherapy guy asked whether I’d like to switch to his next-door neighbor who just got her “chemo license” and was looking for “nice patients” to start out with.  I sometimes flatter myself in my dreams. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Kona Trip Report–the COVID ain’t over edition

Shortly after my most recent posting, I read a message on one of the WG21 committee’s e-mail reflectors from a fellow who had attended the Kona meeting and thereafter tested positive for COVID.  Several of us thanked the writer for the warning; and several replied that they, too, have tested positive.

I successfully resisted the urge to say, “Told ya so!”; but I did add to my own reply:

There’s a big box hardware store (Home Depot) near me that sells N95s as protection against small airborne particles created when doing fine sanding or grinding.  You might find a place like that near you where you can buy good masks at reasonable prices.  I’m told that N95s are pretty good at protecting me from others, and very good at protecting others from me. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

I also resisted the urge to finish with something like, “That last bit is what the Ayn Randians don’t get.”

My Story

I just watched a really interesting video that Abe Drayton posted on his blog, a lecture by Tim Wise that was mostly about white supremacy.  Two of his points jumped out at me:

– We have a systemic problem.  It’s not that ordinary folks like you and me are bad people (although there’s some of that), but that the system itself has been designed in a way to allow the majority of folks to avoid even noticing all the inequities in society because they’ve had the advantage of never having it affect their own lives in any serious way (and as a cis, het, white, male boomer, I’m one of ’em).

– Later in the talk, maybe during the Q&A, he reminded us that debunking goofy ideas with facts isn’t particularly effective because the people with the strange ideas just double down.  He suggested that what’s more effective is something that connects with individuals, basically storytelling.

So let me begin with a story from when I was about seven years old; and now that I’m seventy-seven (or will be tomorrow), I still remember it.

We were living in Delray Beach, Florida which, in the early 1950s, was still racially segregated.  I remember us driving home one night after visiting some of my parents’ friends; and at one point, we passed a pedestrian about whom my dad remarked, “He’s going to be in trouble.”  I asked why, and it wasn’t because the guy was obviously inebriated, but because he was Black; and there was a law back then that Black folks had to be in “colored town” after dark.  Even at age seven, I recognized the asymmetry (to put it mildly), although I wouldn’t have had the vocabulary back then to express that.

Tying that in to the first point I mentioned, I guess I’ve long been aware of the evils of racism because I learned something about it at an early age (even though I was in no danger myself); but I didn’t become aware of other systemic inequities until much later.  Just two examples:  I didn’t recognize the unfairness of sexism, and didn’t become a feminist, until I was in my thirties; and I had no clue about LGBTQIA+ issues until about a decade ago; in both cases because I simply had no need to notice.

There are some signs these days that maybe we’re starting to notice, and that gives me a little hope.  At least I hope I never stop learning.

Elementary Ethics

I watched the Podish-Sortacast today because I thought it would be interesting to hear other FtBloggers talk about how they became atheists.  The reason I bring that up is that, during the wrapup, PZ remarked that arguments for and against the supernatural really aren’t that interesting because they tend to be the same old arguments that have been made for centuries.  Far more important these days are various social issues like humanism, ethics and social justice, which I agree with; so I thought I’d jump in with my own admittedly abecedarian understanding of ethics.  Maybe commenters can help me get my thoughts more orderly.

Almost certainly because of the way that I was raised, there are a couple of points that I treat as if they were axiomatic:

  1.  People are more important than things.

  2.  It’s not all about me, and not all about my tribe.

Point 2 makes it easy for me to reject egoism and relativism as ethical principles; but between utilitarianism and a more Kantian approach, I confess to being very confused; and indeed I’m skeptical about both of them.  “The greatest good for the greatest number” doesn’t really have any meaning absent a calculus for it; and it has always seemed to me to be a pretty good general principle that the consequences of my behavior matter.

But point 1 means that I have an obligation to get through the day without being a jerk…without causing harm to others, and particularly without exhibiting the pridefullness and hatefullness that we see in the loudest of the far right; and so, as a practical matter, I need to pick one.  I tend to be more Kantian about big issues (things like hatred of folks not like me are just wrong); but I’m more utilitarian about smaller matters that are well understood.  (Should I get my flu shot?  Yeah, sure:  herd immunity.  That’s not the only reason, but it’s a sufficient reason.)

Have I gotten off on the right foot at least?  I hope so because, at age 76, I’m pretty set in my ways. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

It Never Changes

I read this morning:

… wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects of respect; nor vice and folly, of contempt.  We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous.  We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent.

— Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p.74

No change for almost three centuries, and I’d guess much longer than that.

Am I a Thief?

Although I don’t watch enough TV to make having cable worthwhile, I discovered last night that I could watch the World Baseball Classic on Fox Sports’ website where one can watch one hour for free.  When the hour expires, you’re supposed to “log in to your TV provider”; but I also discovered that, by deleting my history and cookies, I could get additional hours indefinitely.

I don’t think I did anything that the website doesn’t allow, but we H. sapiens are really good at rationalization.  Would anyone care to argue that I’ve stolen intellectual property?