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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, Tuesday, July 17, 2012, I got up early, as I usually do, turned on my computer, as I usually do, and I saw an email message from an MD. And I knew. "Call me." Of course her office would not open for a couple of hours so I had to live with the snakes in my stomach – not butterflies, snakes – writhing and twisting and snapping their tails.

I had been in very bad pain for a ridiculously long time. So I knew. But still.

Phoned at nine. Heard the three words no one wants to hear.

Three different tests looked like I'd be dead soon.

What's it like for others when they are told they have cancer? And, by others, I mean people who have played their cards right, and who have health insurance?

I have a PhD, I publish and get great reviews from students and peers, but I have published politically incorrect things, and I am a politically incorrect ethnicity. I talk about this in "Save Send Delete." I am an adjunct professor. It is just about impossible that I'll ever be a full time professor. So I have very little income, and no health insurance.

So here's what my life was immediately after getting the news.

I spent the next, what, the next two weeks, I think, going from door to door, begging to be treated.

And being told, "No, no surgery for you. No treatment for you. Go away."

The people who told me that all worked at a Catholic hospital, overseen by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth.

"No. No surgery for you. No treatment for you. Go away."

Robin accompanied me on this quest. She was aghast.

She drove me far afield. We visited another hospital, and, as it happens, we were seen by Adriana, a woman whose grandmother had the same diagnosis as I.

Accepted. At this not-Catholic hospital.

Prayed hard. All three tests that said I'd be dead soon were reversed. Who knows.

Robin was great and let me stay at her house after surgery, as I have no family to speak of. A man visited me in the hospital, every day. Again, not my family. Just a kind person.

I stumbled across a Facebook page devoted to Anita Moorjani's book "Dying to Be Me."

The complete strangers who responded to my posts on that Facebook page meant more to me in terms of my emotional survival than almost anything else. They listened. They were generous and kind in the responses they posted. Many of the people writing had themselves been to the cancer rodeo.


Now it's 2013.

July 17, 2013. I was always conscious of this date. I saw it creeping up on the calendar.

Last year at this time, I had to assume I would not see this date. After all the tests were reversed, a nurse told me, "This isn't going to kill you. You are going to be okay."

I am alive. I'm not so okay. I'm still unemployable. I'm still alone. I do wonder what God is thinking.

But I made it through this year.

Thank you to Robin, who went with me to have doors slammed in our faces, till we opened that final door, behind which sat Adriana. Thank you to Adriana. Thank you to the beautiful souls at the "Dying to be Me" Facebook page. Thank you to the man who visited me in the hospital every day. Thank you to anyone who said a prayer for me.


  1. And thank you for this blog and your book. You, too, touch more lives in more ways than you could possibly imagine.

  2. You have touched my life more than you know. Still praying for you and your sister every day.

  3. Mazal tov to you. That you should have many more such anniversaries, and that you should continue to publish politically incorrect things.