Author’s note: I originally wrote this 10 hours after I was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a terminal diagnosis. This was after my most recent neurosurgery, but before beginning radiation and chemo; my future at that moment looked remarkably grim.

At the end of the day, I still can’t get over how unfair the biological concept of individuality is. I don’t know if I have the grasp of both English and science necessary to convey how mind-boggingly unique you are — and why that kind of sucks — but I’m in a bad mood, so I’ll try to mansplain it. You are made up of billions of cells, billions of genes, and trillions of proteins, along with a complete set of neural pathways that is unique to you. You are the most complete and complex ecosystem that our species will ever encounter, and, here’s the cool bit — even if we could completely rewind the universe to the moment of your conception and replay your entire existence — things would, biologically, play out slightly differently. You — as you are right now — are completely one of a kind throughout every form of reality we could even begin to conceive of. When Fred Rogers told you that you were unique and special, he was actually mathematically understating his case. You are the final result of incalculable chemical and physical interactions, each as unique as the brushstroke of a master painter on a canvas. Which kind of sucks, because after decades of this amazing life-sculpture experiment, the whole project gets recalled because the sub-cellular math doesn’t quite add up. I am an agnostic, and I will freely admit to being stumped by the vast majority of metaphysical and theological questions, and, rest assured, I’ll work tirelessly to track down some answers, but, even the most pious out there will admit that there is not a great deal of evidence to suggest there’s some sort of preservation system, or proposed series of sequels. I’m not trying to be mean about it, just noting that the same system of discovery that exalts your individuality amongst the cosmos doesn’t allow a great deal of wiggle room regarding most religious beliefs. But, like I said, I do not have any definitive answers on that, and I will get back to you the moment I do.Although my demise is by no means guaranteed at this point, it’s worth noting that I’ve successfully evaded this particular fate for 15 years, and even the best gambler will run afoul of the odds if they stay at the table long enough, so you can understand why I’m not exactly hopeful. And if I am checking out, I’m doing it with a fucking walker. You wouldn’t expect that a bad left limp would bug me that much, especially as it isn’t even the biggest physical hurdle I’ve faced in the last 96 hours. I’m now thwarted by stairs and showers, and, like the rest of my life, it seems a little excessively cruel. Still, if, at the end of the vast Technicolor Menu of Nightmares that will avail themselves to me over the next 6–8 weeks, the worst of the damage is, “Slightly fucked up left side,” I’ll take it. But we’re nowhere near that point, and, in the meantime, things are not improving fast enough.Not that a little bit of insight and stoicism is going to turn me into Morrie Schwartz. Which brings me to my next point, let’s ditch the BS about courage and grace. I fully intend to carry the minoer-yet-persistent cowardice and misanthropy with me to the grave, should the worst come to pass. Speaking of cowardice, you have absolutely no idea how unbelievably terrified I am right now. No human being, in the history of our species’, has ever been half as frightened as I am right now. I do not want to die — you can not begin to calculate how very little interest i have in that activity — but, if it happens, I know — with the sort of Stephen King-esque certainty only medical textbooks can provide — what it’ll look like, and that scares the shit out of me. There will be constant seizures, nausea, pain, memory loss, personality changes, and speech pathology. If you are a member of a religious group that believes in a vast system to punish the unworthy, you’re going to have to put in a lot of hours to convince me that your version of Hell is worse than the death I’m facing.In the meantime, I’m getting a complete course of chemotherapy and radiation treatment; so I’m going to need you lot to drink every single beer you can get your mitts on, and lift every barbell you encounter, because Lord knows I’m not going to be doing either of those things in the near future.

Originally published at braindamageforbeginners.tumblr.com.

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Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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