People, not meat

Lying on the bed of the CT machine, after having been offered a blanket, I wondered why they kept the rooms so cold.

“Ah don’t know WAH they do it,” said the scan technician in an endearing Texas drawl. “Cause we’re PEOPLE, right? Not meat.”

It’s spring break in Houston, which explained why I didn’t have to wait long for my blood draw, or even for my scan, and my appointment with the Godfather happened within an hour of the scheduled time. That meant that I didn’t have wait long for the good news: I’m still NED! Because I’m people, not meat, baby!

The Godfather said that everything looked great, he heard that I did a half marathon (false: it was only a 5K), and that he would see me again in three months. We ended the consult with him patting my hair as if I were a collie, and his signature healing hug.

Our flight was delayed so we had some time to visit the Houston Museum of Fine Art, where there this floor to ceiling video of kittens drinking milk was on loop.



I recently transitioned from calling myself a cancer “patient” to a “survivor.” It feels pretty great to say that. I have hair now, so people don’t generally know that I have this haircut not because I’m emulating Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber. I drive kids to practices. I make dinner. I work.

Current hair situation

Some things are different from before the diagnosis: I feel like I have a full-time job making self-care a top priority – being diligent about what I eat, and making time for sleep and exercise. Also I’m in menopause.

I also feel an enormous weight – or a compulsion – to make things better for other patients. I don’t know if it’s survivors’ guilt – I mean, I don’t think that I feel guilty, but I know that I’m incredibly lucky – but I spend a lot of time thinking about how I should channel my energies. Some of you may have seen that I wrote an article for Rare Disease Day – these lessons really apply to cancer at large. There are so many things I want people to know. I mean, if you grew up in the 70s like I did, you know very well that on the off chance that you catch on fire, you should stop, drop and roll – but if you’re diagnosed with cancer? How do you even start?

I’m still figuring out the best way to help advance research. This is partly self-serving of course. My surgeon is doing some interesting work and I set up a fund at UC San Diego to help support it. But I also want to diversify the efforts that are out there too, because we do need to do a bit of throwing things on a wall and seeing what sticks. At the same time, because I don’t have control of these organizations, and some involve large amounts of bureaucracy, I don’t feel I can fully optimize my efforts. So do I start my own organization (not my first choice – I have enough going on already)? Still figuring all of that out.

The bright side

In the months following my surgery, I started suddenly and mysteriously experiencing moments of euphoria. I’d be driving in a car on the way to pick up the kids, for instance, and the sun would hit me just right, a song would play, I’d catch of whiff of the native plants in the canyon and suddenly feel an inexplicable wave of joy. I’d smile like an idiot by myself in the car, just like people do in the cancer movies, just happy to have sun and wheels and plants. (Note: this does not happen all the time.)

I’ve also started deciding to just carpe diem every so often. The old, sensible me would have opted to tidy up the house or buy groceries in a spare hour and a half before having to drive someone somewhere. The new me goes on impulse to vintage flea markets and buys French engravings from a collector who’s downsizing. Never seen me at a business school reunion? I’m going to the next one! My 30th high school reunion? Wouldn’t miss it!

So what’s next? Three more months of doing everything. Just one of the benefits of being people, not meat.

22 thoughts on “People, not meat”

  1. Be aware if you’re showing up at the reunion there’s going to be a huge line of people waiting to hug you and most of them will be crying.

    Side note: my wife is a Latin teacher and bristles at what has become the bastardization of the original meaning of the term “carpe diem.” Your usage is like every other person in the world who uses it as a motivational phrase, but I have been trained to automatically think “omg that’s not what that originally meant.” *I* love how you are using it and appreciate what you are trying to say…I just won’t show this to my wife.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ok now I’m embarrassed, like I just got a foreign language tattoo on my arm that I think says “strength” but actually means something like “socks.” Don’t show your wife. I can’t tell from the user ID who this is, either…but thanks for your comment, and I want to hug everyone!


      1. You should be able to get it Sandi. His user name is a play on his actual last name.

        Plus no need to be embarrassed as long as you’re writing in modern English and not Classical Latin. You’re also allowed to say decimate without literally meaning one in ten.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so happy for your health, your Godfather hug, and knowing I’ll see you at our reunion this fall. You are all kinds of awesome and amazing, Sandi!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are a warrior princess!!! I am so inspired by your attitude and determination. You make me think about the importance of appreciating every day. Xox

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is so perfect! I’m thrilled to read that you remain, NED. It’s your zest for life and your uplifting words that are so…YOU. Much love to you, always.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I learned a Mark Twain quote from an 89 year old today: “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.” I can’t stop thinking about it. May we all find out why. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is incredible news! Sandi, your strength, perseverance, humor, and determination are amazing and inspiring. Wishing you continued health and healing. My best, Jami Rosenthal

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ok, now I can say it. I tried to leave a comment weeks ago but got down with some stupid words. It was like seeing you the other day – I really wanted to hug you like 20 times and scream something stupid and positive, but couldn’t do it in public out of fear of having to deal with soon arriving ambulance car, so I was just acting weird. I am sooooo happy. Like really-really-really happy. NED all the way for next 60 years!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hey Sandy! Glad I stopped by to check on you and get some good news; very happy for you and your family. Good to hear you’re people, not meat. If you ever get to London I know a thing or two about finding vegan stuff over here. For your next carpe diem, consider stand-up, you would be amazing!

    Best, Chris

    Liked by 1 person

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