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…and by none, I mean no more cancer cells trying to kill me! That’s right, 11 months after being diagnosed with not one, but two, cancers, I got my CT scan results and they came back clean. I am officially cancer free!

I actually got this news via phone seconds before take-off on a flight home Monday night. I spent the first half of the flight sobbing uncontrollably. Fortunately this did not cause the flight attendants to beat me up and throw me off the plane (I wasn’t flying United, thank goodness 😉 and instead led them to give my husband and I complimentary wine to toast the great news.

The first thing I blurted to my husband after the crying died down was, rather stupidly, “WE’RE GETTING DOUG BACK!”, a line from a pretty inane film (the Hangover) but one I always think of when I get that rush of delirious joy as a bad day, week, month (or in this case, year) starts to turn the corner.

I will, of course, being undergoing follow up scans on a regular basis for years to come, and, of course, the cancer could return. But, honestly, that’s a chance that all of us face whether we’ve had cancer before or not. It is a stupidly cruel and random disease and I don’t want to live my life (which I get to keep living!!!) being afraid of it. So, hopefully for the last time ever, I say this: FUCK YOU CANCER. I PUNCHED YOU IN THE FACE AND YOU DIED. COME BACK AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Thanks again to everyone who has supported me, both from near and far and in big ways and small, during this most difficult of years. I know who you are and I won’t ever forget it.

Tomorrow I go in for surgery, in what I hope will be the knockout round of my cancer battle royale.

I’ll be having a partial thyroidectomy and if all goes well and the pathology comes back as the surgeon expects, I shouldn’t have to follow up with any radiation. Once I’ve recovered from the surgery, I’ll be able to have my next CT scan to (hopefully) confirm that there’s been no recurrence from the lymphoma and I’m 100% cancer free. Once that happens, I’ll (hopefully) be able to get my mediport removed, which will feel like a huge victory. I hate that damn thing, as it’s uncomfortable and a constant reminder of the possibility of recurrence.

So, thinking positively, I could be taking giant steps toward returning to “normal” life within the next two months. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I’m carrying on as best I can.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the rest of my life and about survival and what that means for me. Survival really is a funny thing, because of course you’re beyond grateful to have survived but now you’ve got this steep mountain to climb on your way back to being healthy. Once you’re out of active treatment, most people assume and expect that you’re “fine”, when in fact a new struggle is just beginning. Your perception of your body, as well as its ability to function in the way you want, will never be the same again. You don’t want to complain, because – hey – you survived and it seems churlish to complain. But, honestly, it’s hard.

I went back to work in February and the experience has perfectly encapsulated the difficulty of recovery. It is wonderful to be back in the classroom, to interact with the students and my colleagues, and to feel useful and productive. The toll it is taking on my body, though, is fairly incredible. I don’t want to give my students a substandard experience, so I put my all into class, thus most days I end up staggering home to the subway barely able to stay upright. I’m exhausted the majority of the time. My favorite activity is resting. But, of course, this is actually progress, because I’m able to go to work, and it’s also evidence I must be “fine”…because I’m able to work. (hahahaha…*weeps*).

Still, it gets better, a little, every week, and one advantage of getting surgery is that you get carte blanche to rest a little bit. I plan to take full advantage of that later this week.

First, though, I’ve got to marshal my strength for one more cancer facepunch. And you know, no matter how tired I might be, only one of us coming out the other side of this battle, and it sure as hell won’t be the cancer.

Wish me luck!

Checking in with a quick update today, as I have a new short story out in Issue 6 of Mothership Zeta. Yay for new fiction released into the world!

In other news, I am humming along in my recovery from Hodgkins Lymphoma. Well, really it is recovery from the effects of chemotheraphy, as I never even felt sick from the cancer, just the cure 😉

I’ve started back to work at Queens College and am so happy and grateful to be in the classroom again. Some days it is a struggle, as my energy and health continue to fight their way back, but I love having a semblance of normality in my life, especially since I have, unfortunately, been diagnosed with a second cancer.

That sounds dire, I know, but I promise it isn’t! The scans I received while having my lymphoma treatment turned up evidence of cancer in my thyroid. It’s likely I’ve had thyroid cancer for years and might not ever have known if not for the lymphoma. It’s a very slow growing cancer and not always fatal, even if untreated. Still, I’m going to have my thyroid surgically removed over Spring Break, just to be on the safe side. Once that’s finished, I will be able to begin my long term follow-up and get another scan to confirm that the lymphoma has not returned. So, that’s what is going on with that.

Life goes on. I continue to write and knit and try and enjoy each day as much as I can, even when I’m tired or feeling down that the cancer journey continues. After all, even the bad days are ones I might not have gotten to have.

Also, we adopted a new cat! Her name is Riley and she’s completely adorable. Hard to believe someone would have abandoned her, but I’m happy to say she’s settled right in and is bringing a lot of joy into our lives.

So, that’s the update. Solider on, friends…and read my story in Mothership Zeta!

 

In my last post I announced that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Today I am happy to report that I have successfully completed the first phase of my treatment (chemotherapy) and have received a clean PET scan!

This means I’m essentially cancer-free and ready to move on to the final stage of treatment, which will be a couple of weeks of low-dose radiation. The radiation is designed to destroy any remaining microscopic cancer cells not eliminated by the chemo. So, I still have a bit to go, but treatment is moving in a very positive direction.

It has been about 3 months since I first found out something was wrong and in some ways it feels like 3 years and in others like just a few weeks. One thing is for sure, though: my life has been changed forever.

Finding out you have cancer is like realizing the foundation you’ve been standing on, previously believing to be solid and enduring, is suddenly riddled with holes, precarious and uncertain. Everything shifts, but most especially your perspective on life changes in a profound way.

In fact, one of the gifts of cancer is gaining a true understanding that you must no longer take anything for granted. When I found out I was sick, I started living more fully in the present and thinking about what things were most essential to me. I came to understand the importance of seizing ahold of what truly mattered and letting the rest go.

After all, the rest is just static.

For me, the list of critical things was surprisingly short. At the top: friends and family. In the end, what else really matters more than the people who love you? Nothing. The outpouring of support and encouragement I’ve received has humbled and inspired me; it has made me want to be a better friend and family member.

Next on the list: lifestyle. Am I living the life I truly want, day in and day out? When I look back at the end (whenever that comes), will I be glad of my choices? Of how and where I spent my time? These questions have prompted a lot of soul-searching for me. The final item on the list: writing. Even on my sickest days, in the midst of the chemo, I thought about writing, felt compelled to tell stories. It is an essential part of me.

I’m getting better, and I am very lucky in that I should soon move on from this (as much as one can ever truly move on from cancer), but the experience has changed me. I suspect it will continue to change me for a long time to come.

Sick or well, cancer or no cancer, at least now I know what matters to me. And for that I am grateful.

I have debated for quite some time about whether or not to make public a situation that’s recently arisen in my life. As it has begun to effect me more and more, I’ve finally decided to make a simple announcement here.

About a month ago I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

It came, let me tell you, as a total surprise. I didn’t feel sick and I’d never have known if I hadn’t noticed a small, painless lump above my collarbone and gone to the doctor. I thought it was nothing. Turns out it wasn’t.

No cancer diagnosis is ever anything short of steal-your-breath-terrifying, but Hodgkin’s is a very treatable, curable disease. So, in that sense, I am “lucky”. I am seeing an amazing team of doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering (like, seriously, that place is incredible) and they have given me an excellent prognosis, about a 90% chance of full recovery.

I hate gambling and even I’d take those odds!

Treatment is chemotherapy, possibly followed by radiation. I had my first dose of chemo last week and have a couple of months to go. So far it is…kinda unpleasant, but manageable. Probably the less said on this, the better.

During treatment, I have decided (and boy was this an agonizing decision) to take the fall semester off from teaching. Between many doctors appointments, side effects of the chemo, and sense of responsibility I feel to my students, it just boiled down to a big stress sandwich. Still, today would be my first day of classes and I am feeling very sad not to be in that room greeting a new batch of fantastic kids.

I will, of course, continue to write! Whether from my bed, couch, home office, or a co-working space, fiction can be created under even the most difficult circumstances and I’m sure will prove a great escape for me in all this.

It goes without saying, that I will, of course, absolutely SLAY this disease. I will kill it with fire, trample its ashes into tinier ashes, and move on with my life in as fabulous a manner as possible. Getting from Point A to Point B, though, is no doubt going to take grit, humor, and support.

As for that support…many of you are already aware of what’s been going on, and I want to take a moment to express, from the depths of my heart, how much your texts, calls, FB chats, emails, care packages, homemade food, visits, love and support have meant to me. Life throws stuff at us — and at the people we care about — and how we react defines who we are.

So, please know that I see all of you, with your amazing, shining, wonderful hearts, and I’m more grateful to have you in my life than I can ever put into words. I only hope I can one day repay even half the kindness and compassion I’ve received.

Thanks for listening, and for being there.

Oh, and…fuck cancer!

Hi All! I’m just back from spending the weekend outside Boston at the annual Readercon convention. For those who don’t know, Readercon is a fantasy and science fiction convention with a strong focus on writing and books.

This is my third (or maybe fourth?) Readercon and I keep going back for several reasons. First, I really like the size. It is big enough that it attracts an interesting and varied crowd of authors, industry folks, and fans, but small enough that it feels intimate and isn’t overwhelming. Also, the writing track is usually at the foreground and there are always lots of compelling and thought-provoking panels. Finally, it isn’t too far away from where I live, so going doesn’t feel like a massive, time-zone spanning production.

This year, a friend and I drove up from the New York area, escaping the swamp-like humidity for a few days to write, hang with friends, and listen to smart people talk about interesting things. Some panels that really stuck out (for me) were those that focused on writing female characters and friendships, and those discussing the incorporation of greater diversity into our books without misappropriating and misrepresenting.

It was obvious from listening to panelists and audience members that these issues are front and center for a lot of people right now (finally!) and that there are many viewpoints on the topic, all with a lot of emotion behind them. In my opinion, this is one of the things fiction is for: grappling with the complexity of social issues. I was really glad to see these topics playing a major role in the programming and to see greater representation of women and members of the LGBTQ community on many the panels. With a few exceptions, though, POC were not nearly as well represented — a problem that was called out by a lot of people and hopefully will be improved upon next year.

As always, I came away from the convention kind of drained but also inspired. There’s nothing quite as important for writers as getting out of our heads and into conversation with others. The writing shed can be a good place to lock in for the sake of productivity, but it can also create insular thinking. After the weekend, I’m back at my computer full of questions and doubts, but also bursting with new ideas to improve my manuscripts.

So, to work!

Why so quiet?

I haven’t been posting very often over here at Comedy and Tragedy and you might ask, “why so quiet, Miranda?”

I’ll tell you why. I’m busy writing.

I’m revising a novel-length contemporary fantasy and working on the first draft of a science fiction project, both of which I’m very excited about.

Since the semester has ended I suddenly have vast, uninterrupted stretches of time to just write. It is glorious but it also requires a fair amount of discipline. There’s just so much shiny stuff out there. Twitter. Facebook. Basically the whole internet. Also everything outside my window, trying to lure me into the glorious sunshine, tempting me to hang out in the park all day eating ice cream.

So, yeah, mostly just trying to quietly maintain some discipline around here. And write.

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