Thursday, March 12, 2015

PBS: The Emperor of All Maladies

Back in July, 2013 when I was in the middle of treatment, I wrote about "The Emperor of All Maladies" by Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD. I read the book before I was diagnosed, on the advice of a friend, and loved it. Go back and read what I wrote about it previously.

Wonderful Wife informed me today that the book has been made into a PBS documentary series produced by Ken Burns. It is a 6-hour program that will apparently air on PBS over three nights beginning March 30. Check your local listings (or just watch it online).

I'm excited to see how the book translates to documentary film format.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


At the same time I was starting this blog, I was also learning that "cancer blog" is a thing. Many, many cancer patients write publicly about their experiences.

While I read a few entries on many cancer blogs in the beginning, there were four that I ended up following regularly.

The first was a Norwegian man named Martin who started commenting on my blog. He had a cancer similar to mine, but his recurred 18 months after treatment and his prognosis was poor. He was already starting to lose quality of life when we came in contact. He was a husband and father of teenagers and he tried hard to have as much quality time with his family as possible. His blog was called "Livskvalitet - eller tid? Obs! Ingen rosa cupcakes og lite retusjering.", which apparently translates as "Quality of Life - or time? Note! No pink cupcakes and little retouching." Martin passed away on January 30, 2014.

Next was Lindsey Miller, a young woman in Southern California with a rare liver cancer. Her blog was titled "I am a Liver". Lindsey had a three year battle with a cancer that seemed to be "chronic", i.e. one that she could live with for a long time. But she passed away on May 21, 2014 (my birthday).

Third was a young high school basketball coach and father of very young children from Idaho named Zack Ingersoll. He and his wife Nicole had a newborn when he was diagnosed with advanced esophageal cancer. Nicolle started a blog titled "Cancer: Game On" and relayed many inspiring stories of the incredible support Zack's family received from hundreds of people in and around their Idaho community. I found my way to Nicole's blog by way of a Facebook post by Wonderful Wife's best friend. Zack passed away on January 24, 2015.

The fourth blogger was Lisa Boncheck Adams, who is pictured above. Lisa was probably the world's most famous cancer blogger. She had more than 15,000 Twitter followers and posted more than 176,000 tweets and hundreds of blog posts during her eight year journey with metastatic breast cancer. She gained additional fame when two well-known journalists questioned whether it was appropriate for her to write with such frequency and honesty about her experience. One of them essentially asked, "why can't she die more quietly?"

It was during that kerfuffle that I started following Lisa.

While all of these people affected me and I felt a loss upon each of their deaths, Lisa was the writer I felt most connected to. She was insightful and intimate and poetic and real. (Well, they all were very real!) She frequently reminded us of her mantra:

“Find a bit of beauty in the world today. Share it. If you can’t find it, create it. Some days this may be hard to do. Persevere.”

She tried everything she could to have as much time as possible with her children and husband. She was very prolific until the last few weeks of her life. In the past few weeks I could tell by the decreased pace and the increased brevity that the end was near.

Lisa Boncheck Adams died last night.

I am writing this post while watching a movie with Wonderful Wife and The Progeny. I wanted to enjoy the movie with them but I've been thinking about Lisa since I learned of her death late this morning. While I was researching the links I had the last post from "I am a Liver"on my screen and Progeny the Elder, who was snuggled beside me, saw the photo of Lindsey and asked "Who's that?"

I couldn't speak to answer her question.

The Progeny had another opportunity to see Dad cry.

Fortunately, Wonderful Wife and I have managed to do very well being emotionally honest and open with The Progeny. We try to do that in all of life but we've tried especially hard when it comes to my cancer. Once I could speak again I explained what I was sad about. They gave me sympathetic looks and went on watching their movie.


I told Wonderful Wife each time one of my cancer bloggers passed away. She was following "Cancer: Game On" along with me. Wonderful Wife and I, at each passing, have thanked our lucky stars that my story appears to have a different, happier, ending. Although Lisa hated to be other peoples' "negative reference point" I'm afraid she was one for me and will continue to be.

My cancer bloggers are all gone now. May Martin, Lindsey, Zack and Lisa all rest in peace.

Coincidentally, I had my most recent checkup at the Dana-Farber on Tuesday.

All clear.