[cancer] Lies, damn lies and statistics

Yesterday’s consult did not go well. Further consideration of the scans divulged some new information (well, new to me at any rate). I’ve got the two masses on the liver, a suspected lung tumor, and we’re back to assuming full lymphatic involvement. The lung information was new to me.

I have an oncologist appointment Friday to discuss assessments and treatment paths, and I’m still waiting for the second opinion response from UCSF. Next step is (likely) liver surgery either in early July or early August — the timing is under discussion based on further diagnostics of the lung site and the lymph sites. That surgery will be comparable to my surgery of last year, with me fully out of commission for two weeks or so, and on reduced duty for a while after.

Four to six weeks after liver surgery, otherwise commencing directly sometime this summer, I’ll embark on a six month chemo course. (ie, Even if the surgery doesn’t happen, the chemo will.) The details of this will become clearer after Friday’s appointment. Midway through the chemo course, I’ll have renewed medical imaging to check the progress of the tumors. Plans may change based on those outcomes.

This is not fully confirmed, as there has been no tissue diagnosis yet. There’s a slim chance that some (or even all) of this is mistaken. For example, the spot on my lung may be an old pneumonia scar. However, given my personal history and that fact that we know the liver masses are novel, as they did not appear on last year’s scan, everything has to be assumed high risk unless proven otherwise.

What this boils down to is that the cancer is migrating through my lymph system and metastasizing where it will. This was probably true last year, but it wasn’t detectable on last year’s scans.

Statistically, given our current understanding, optimistically I’m in the 30%/5-year survival rate group. That’s statistical, not based on my personal health, etc., though it’s still very real. As my doctor said, “You’re either 0% or 100%. No one is 30% dead.” I am likely a much better risk than that, but that’s the bucket I’m in. I’m (relatively) young, I’m not particularly multifactorial, I’m highly motivated with excellent emotional and social support structures.

But still, you’d have much better odds at the craps table in Vegas than you would betting me to show up at WorldCon in 2014. (Hmm, maybe I should start making book. Would it be tacky to run my own dead pool?)

Scared? You bet. Angry? Hellaciously. But I have to do what I have to do.

Once we know a little more about treatment paths, I’ll start changing my convention and writing plans as needed. I’m not going to let this get me, and if it does, it will have to drag me kicking and screaming all the way. , K—, and my entire circle of family and friends are treating me magnificently. Like I said, if love could cure cancer, I’d be the healthiest son of a bitch in North America.

For a while, I’m going to spend some time being the sickest son of a bitch in North America. But first, I write. I’m going to start drafting Endurance this weekend. If I can’t wrap the draft before surgery or the onset of chemo (whichever comes first), I’ll finish the book once I’ve stabilized sufficiently on the chemo to work again.

Because I am a writer. A dad. A lover. A friend. But most of all I am alive.

And we all know statistics are damned lies anyway.

27 thoughts on “[cancer] Lies, damn lies and statistics

  1. Bridget Coila says:


    You will beat this. Damn cancer needs to get it’s act together and go away already! Can’t it see that no one wants it around!

    Thinking of you and wishing you the best through all the medical stuff you’ve got upcoming…


  2. Matt says:

    Thoughts, prayers, and positive vibes all sent your way, sir.


  3. Damian says:

    I’m betting on 100% alive.

  4. Ami Chopine says:

    Hoping all the best for you, and for your family.

  5. I’m behind you 100%, man. You’re gonna be at the 2014 WorldCon, and I’m gonna buy you a beverage of your choice (No mixed drinks, top shelf, or foreign beverages. limit one per customer).

  6. Aaron says:

    I was thinking – you could make book on your odds, but *no one* who knows you even slightly would bet against you.

    I’m pulling for ya’ – and you know if there’s anything I can do for you and yours, all you have to do is ask.

  7. Steven Klotz says:

    Would it help for me to bet on 130% alive? I never liked statistics.

  8. mensley says:

    My uncle’s delighted with the “Fuck Cancer” travel mug we just sent him for the hour-long commute to the oncologist. And may I express that same sentiment here along with best wishes and happy energy!

  9. As hereditary ruler of my private reality, I hereby issue a proclamation of “Not Cancer” upon Jay Lake.

    Any other realities not in compliance with my totalitarian and altogether accurate decision can meet me an the boys out back in 5 minutes.

  10. Michele Lee says:

    My aunt has had breast cancer three times now, and every time she was told it was bad, as bad as you’re being told. 20 years later she’s still snarky and kicking its ass. Keep it up, Jay. You can do it.

  11. tetar says:

    Use the anger and the outrage, fight the fucking despair, and try to open up to the love and energy of those focused on you. Wouldn’t hurt to find or be given by your daughter for example a talisman to hang onto, as a reminder of that focus. (I had one such item from someone.)

    Fuck, man, I told you to get BETTER, you smart-ass. Now quit playing head games on us. You can surely send mere statistics packing and live down all the lies.

  12. FYI stubbornness is a KNOWN, effective cancer fighter. I have a friend who was given a five-month death sentence not quite year ago.

    In February, after a PET scan, he got a completely CLEAN bill of health — full remission. He’s just as ornery as you and I expect similar results.

    It’s a hard road, but we all know you will accept the challenge, and there’s a long life with a pretty heroine at the end of that road for your reward. 🙂

  13. That well and truly sucks, dude. And keep in mind, those statistics are based on the past 10-15 years of data, a lot has changed in cancer treatment during that time, and you’re catching it all early.

  14. Cat Rambo says:

    What a kick in the gut, Jay. 🙁 Add my good thoughts to those coming from the vicinity of Seattle.

  15. You’ve already beat the odds in so many ways, Jay, the stats don’t apply. You’re a fighter if ever there was one–we’re all rooting for you.

  16. Kelly says:

    100% alive, and for a long long long time. Worldcon in 2044, that’s my wish for you.

  17. Paul Tseng says:


    I’m with you in my thoughts and prayers for you and yours.


  18. Kristine Kathryn Rusch says:

    *Hugs*, Jay. Many hugs. We’re thinking of you. The stats never apply. Good of your doc to say that, because I’ve seen so many folks make it long past the “expected” time. Of course, those folks were well loved, like you.

  19. !!! Doing the Full Ceremonial healing energy thing here in The People’s Republic of Eugene.


  20. Catherine Shaffer says:

    Those five year survival statistics are always at least five years out of date. Given the rapid rate of development in cancer therapeutics, and the fact that you are in general good health, I would happily take a bet in that 2014 dead pool. I fully expect you to be fighting on the right side in WWZ, my friend.

  21. Pat Cadigan says:

    Thinking good thoughts for you and wishing I could do more than just think good thoughts.

    FYI: You’re also a hero.

  22. Mark Siegal says:

    You’re an inspiration with every sentence. We fully expect new sentences out of you for a long, long time.

  23. Cora says:

    I’m sending more good wishes, crossed fingers and lots of luck your way.

    If WorldCon 2014 takes place in Europe, I fully expect to see you there. If it’s not in Europe, I still expect you to be there, though I probably won’t be.

  24. Deborah Roggie says:

    Jay, you have more friends out here in the Webisphere than you know, and we’re all rooting for you.

  25. Greg says:

    Hello there Jay…

    I’ll keep on rooting for you man. I hope to be going to worldcon this year and I damn well will in 2014 so I can see the odds beaten… I will most like pick up a copy of Green before leaving for the netherlands for two months – I’m so damned sad I’ll miss the signing at Borderlands in July…..

    Take Care…

  26. David H says:

    Hang in there, Jay! You’re a fighter…

  27. Johanna Mead says:

    *wince* You have my sympathy. My husband is playing a chemo waiting game – will it go back into remission or not? Who knows! – and it’s not something I’d wish on my worst enemy.

    Be your own advocate. Never be shy about pushing for second opinions. Always review every goddam’ piece of paper they give you (and demand everything in writing, while you’re at it) and ask about clinical trials.

    (I’m sure you know all that already, but I had to say it, regardless)

    Good luck! A good attitude is key in overcoming this bastard disease and it looks like yours is firmly in place!

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