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The news has been so infuriating, frustrating, and depressing that I have to finally share a tiny good thing that happened a little while back, in Lynchburg, VA--a town where a lot of not-so-good things happen....

Do you have bumper stickers--tiny, mobile billboards that express your identity and your opinions about the world? Have they crept beyond your bumpers onto nearby regions of your car? Do you ever see people stopped behind you, laughing and pointing? On the other hand, has anyone ever pulled around you and flipped you the bird, presumably because of your messages, and not your driving?

I can say yes to all of the above, but I'd never had the experience that happened in a shopping center parking lot, in Lynchburg....

Poll

Does your ride have bumper stickers on it?

43%17 votes
5%2 votes
0%0 votes
2%1 votes
17%7 votes
12%5 votes
2%1 votes
0%0 votes
7%3 votes
7%3 votes

| 39 votes | Vote | Results

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When you receive a terrible medical diagnosis, you may turn to statistics to try and figure out what this means for your prospects--your possible survival. Statistics can be very useful, but remember: statistics are about groups. You are an individual.

This diary isn't so much about hope, as about denial. I believe in finding out the facts, and then setting my mind to do what I have to, to keep going. I've been lucky, and I hope you are too.

I originally had a very small, early-stage breast tumor back in 1996. The treatment was local--simple, limited surgery ("lumpectomy"--a nice combination of vernacular and technical), and 6 weeks of radiation. I was "successfully treated"--one of those "survivors" who put bumper-stickers on their car and march happily in annual fund-raises for "the cure"....

But 11 years later, in 2007, I developed breathing trouble, and found that the original cancer had in fact spread, or metastasized, to my lung sac, chest wall, and several bones. At Stage 4, metastatic disease, there is no "cure"--only treatment to try and push back the disease, to hold if off as long as possible.

Long story short, I had several months of pretty brutal chemotherapy, and have been receiving a comparatively benign drug regimen ever since, including intravenous infusions every three weeks...and shots every month...pills every day....

As a scientist, I've always felt that information is of central importance. You find out something--you may love it, or hate it--but a fact is a fact. This is reality. As this story developed, I knew that my prospects for long-term survival were pretty terrible, but I wanted to find out as much as I could about my particular disease state. And so I read everything I could find about my clinical condition, and I turned to statistics....

Early on, I stumbled across some interesting graphs, which I circulated to my family with a textual explanation that combines the numerical facts with a dose of possibly unjustifiable optimisim--I call this "informed denial." I've been updating this narrative as time passes...and passes....

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…and it wasn’t because I was hobbling along on a new pair of on crutches (I busted a meniscus in my left knee on Sunday, hiking in nearby Shenandoah National Park. It’s going to get better). It wasn’t because the lines were extremely long—a few hundred people in front of me, as best I could tell.

What broke me down was a small sign, posted among the various instructions to voters (“no cell phones past this point”, etc.) stating that kids under 15 could accompany their parents into the voting booth...

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