Liz occupying a freeway overpass.
A recent photo of me in the field, doing my job: live-tweeting from an Occupy Wall Street event.

I recently sat down to catch up with a great friend.

After a while he asked, “So what’s the deal with the cancer?”

“Didn’t you read the email-update Brett sent?” I said.

“I don’t read that bullshit,” he said. “That’s for the people you don’t know as well as me.”

I laughed at what he said. Knowledge of my cancer is so well-known that a broadcasted update is no longer considered “insider information.”

There are only two people (besides my medical team) who truly understand the scope of my diagnosis: Brett and Bob. I don’t go into detail with friends and family for two reasons.

  1. People’s eyes tend to glass over when I nerd-out about cancer and neurology.
  2. I don’t want people to freak-the-fuck-out.

But because my friend asked for it… I launched into a 20-minute lecture explaining the biology of brain tumors, how they differ from cancers in the rest of the body, why they need to be treated differently, types of brain tumors, the four grades of gliomas, the types of grade II astrocytomas, and why a gemistocytic astrocytoma is in its own world. (Forgive the quick shout out to my buddy David S., the only other person I’ve met with a gemistocytic astrocytoma. Hey, hey!)

At the end of the lecture–which included fantastic diagrams drawn on cafe napkins–I looked up at my friend. He seemed stunned. I secretly hoped he was impressed by my knowledge of a complex disease that has no cure.

“That makes me very sad,” he said. “How can you get by every day without thinking about this?”

“What makes you think I don’t think about it everyday?” I said. “At first I could think about nothing else, but as time goes on you get used to the idea that you have brain cancer. I think about it everyday, but after a while it is part of my normal thoughts and is no longer shocking. And I’m thankful that I seem to be getting by better than the average patient.”

My friend’s reaction reminded me that most people don’t know the scope of my diagnosis. I think it is best to keep the details here, on this blog.

It is a positive thing for people to be proud of their friend Liz, a “brain cancer survivor.” I’d rather not jinx that.