How I wanted to tell work

Subject line: Something is going on with Leanna


Tl;dr summary: Leanna is going to be sick for awhile which hopefully will affect you not at all but maybe she completely spaced that email you sent asking a question. You should remind her. She is sorry that she forgot. She will be way more reliable in 2017 sometime.


The longer version that you could skip reading– Tl;dr covered all the essentials (DARK HUMOR WARNING AHEAD):


As you may or may not have noticed, I have been out for a few days and will continue to be out sometimes with odd hours the rest of the time. And sometimes unpredictably.


I have cancer. Which sucks. But cancer is boring and depressing so moving on to our important items of note:


Item of Note #1:

You are welcome to ask how I’m dealing with this cancer while expressing sympathy. Or don’t ask me about any of this BS (cuz what kind of lunatic actually is interested in talking about or hearing about cancer? No one. Cancer is super depressing. Let’s not talk about it. Ever. Completely pretending I don’t have cancer is also an option. I do that too! Pretending that you never received or read this email: totally ok. Sometimes that is preferable. No one even wants to think about  cancer.  Ugh. Cancer doesn’t even exist. Isn’t that just the astrological sign? Cancers are like… People that are… Stubborn or something? The symbol is a crab. I wonder where the crab symbol got associated with the astrological sign. Is there a crab star formation? Yeah. Cancer: may or may not even exist.) If you do ask me about how I’m doing with the disease or anything similarly not work related but health related, I reserve the right to cut you off at any point and say “topic change” which means I’m done talking about it (whatever “it” was). And we should talk about something else. (I asked Vonda if I could institute “topic change” with all non-work-related AND also all work-related things. “Leanna, I have a question about a grant guideline… I was wondering if….” “TOPIC CHANGE!! Grants sound like…. Super complicated. I don’t wanna talk about grant guidelines. Ugh.  Let’s talk about kittens!” Vonda said no. Vonda said it is my job to talk about grants and funding and publications. That is my whole job description. So no avoiding work 🙂  but for all the other stuff not-work but health, I get to rudely cut you off and make you talk about something else. Anything else. Like kittens or delicious food. Or how George did that one interview talking about how the apocalypse will actually happen with a pandemic… In reality. In detail. Let’s talk about how George is the expert on the zombie apocalypse.  How cool and strange is that? Actually, cleverly, Leanna rudely cutting you off with “topic change” is shorthand for:


“I understand and appreciate that you are concerned. I am concerned. Cancer is concerning. And awful. Sometimes talking about it is fine and I am like a normal person who can talk about things without turning into a hot dumpster fire. Unfortunately today is not one of those ok days. I am not able to talk about any of this. But work is an awesome distraction. Can I do something for you for work? Or do you have a super funny cat gif to show me? (Insert any other applicable social niceties here)”


Item of Note #2:

Leanna has a dark sense of humor. Like pretty black. Like, midnight in winter black. In the South Pole. Inside a closet. Under a blanket. Pretty dark is what I’m saying. If dark horrible humor about diseases makes you uncomfortable, you are probably a really good person. That is a good sign. And with me to avoid my awful dark humor, stick to work related topics exclusively. My dark budgeting humor is fairly benign. <–i see what you did there.



Q: But… But… How is Leanna doing? Really? This all sounds awful. Is she ok?

A: Yes. Surprisingly yes. Shockingly yes. I am fine. It will be like… Super shitty for awhile, then less shitty. I can see less shitty from here. There is less shitty on the horizon. And I probably won’t die. Almost certainly not right now from this cancer. I mean, we are really all dying when you think about it. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, so I can’t definitely say with 100% for sure certainty that I will absolutely be totally fine. But it’s really pretty likely everything will be fine. The aforementioned dark humor helps. The dark humor is fed by all this horribleness until the dark humor grows and spreads uncontrollably like some sort of abnormal cell growth and completely takes over.  I also think that I am SUPER funny.


Q: Do you think that you are using dark humor to cope with cancer and that helps you distance yourself from it. Or laughing at cancer is a way to make it not so scary? Like Harry Potter ridiculo dressing the boggart up in dresses and roller skates?

A: Yes I totally am! Uh, wouldn’t you? Laughing about it or relating it to books is way more fun than being sad about it. There is also plenty of sad. Sad All the time sounds horrible though. Sad is lame. Let’s avoid sad when we can.


Q: How sure are we that Leanna has cancer? I mean, she is pretty new. And the lab is huge and complicated and stressful. Maybe she just cracked and instead of like… Idk quitting like a normal person or losing her marbles and yelling at George and knocking over a pcr machine and rage quitting like a normal crazy person, she decided to shatter her psyche and concoct an elaborate ruse where she perpetuates this fiction where she has cancer? But it’s all lies and idk how she got Vonda fooled but eventually her lies will unravel (what lengths could I go to in order to keep the fiction Alive?) and we can watch her like the lady that is famous for lying about being at 9/11 and it will be like the weirdest discovery ever. I wonder if there are other cases of either … Medical ish type munchheusen or just serious psychosis or manipulation where someone perpetuated a cancer lie for attention/etc. that sounds like a there might be a Wikipedia article about it or tv tropes one about it. That sounds like a fun, useless, hilarious, sad interesting 3 hours reading on the computer (Leanna bookmarking this for later distraction use). Anyway, she might be like super crazy faking cancer, right??


A: While I /could/ be faking cancer in my head so this answer is on some level NOT an authority you can trust in this question cuz I can’t 100% from within my own head guarantee that I am not the type of person that’s totally cracked to get away from significant but manageable levels of stress from a new job…..


Wait, why am I fighting this? How much better is my crazy reality where I am gonna be as famous as 9/11 lying lady? And that would be would be awesome to be so far into delusion. Because then the cancer is all in my head! No cancer!


But no. It is definitely cancer. Like 100% for sure. They checked… At least two times.  And then I asked them, “seriously?” And they said “seriously.” And I said: “you aren’t joking about this?” And the dfci people said “… Uh…. No. Uh we aren’t allowed to concoct elaborate jokes about having or not having cancer. Cuz… Wtf would do that? Also HIPAA. Or some federal regulation about …. Hospitals aren’t allowed to do that. We would… Like… Lose federal funding. Or … Uh…. Get attacked by super angry mobs of people who have no idea if they /really/ have cancer. Mobs with torches and pitchforks.” –€ –E –E


Q: What did Leanna major in?

A: English. Why? Does it seem like i LOVE writing or have academic experience in over analyzing things? Or I like the construction and deconstruction of fictional scenarios? Then completely deciding that they don’t exist at all. Or fiction as a concept doesn’t even matter because we can’t really define /reality/ vs /non reality/. Uh… Why do you ask what major I was?


Q: This is so sad! I wish there was something I could do! Leanna, let me know if you need anything!


A: Aw, that is so sweet! I work in such a great place with super nice people. So, um:


  1. A) nothing you can do. Cuz… Cancer? Mostly nothing anyone can do.


  1. B) ask yourself: “I wonder if Leanna asked me to do something? Like…. Some regulation where I had to take a computer training for CITI or something else cuz I work with human dna/cells? But I was BUSY with actual science or summer or (insert legit reason here). “


It would seriously make me feel better if you did your training and we were 100% compliant. Omfg if you did a training and emailed me the completion certificate, I would feel better! Wondering if/where lab isn’t compliant makes my tummy hurt. You doing compliance related trainings makes me feel physically better. … You should do the training. Or send me an email and ask me if you aren’t sure if you’re compliant cuz you work with Neanderthal DNA and is that considered human dna?


3) 100% optional, but this would make me laugh: sometime in 2016, email me how the research you are doing is in a completely circuitous way going to cure cancer. Seriously the more detailed or weird your argument sounds, the better! I have no idea what real science is (I’m not a scientist) so you can make up such a great story. I’m thinking like that maybe you work with crispr and you can edit out any cancer genes! I mean, didn’t the church lab do that with…. Pig genes for viruses? We could def for sure do that with human cancer, right? Or your research has to do with bacterial energy? … I don’t even know how to relate it… Uh… Uh… Renewable energy to power hospitals… So they can put that energy to cancer research? Yes! Send me an email so that I can re-read at will and giggle.


Q: Do you think that you are reacting to the news of cancer like… A little bit manic? You sound …. Um…. A little manic.


A: Yes! Almost definitely reacting manically with crazy energy! That’s a normal reaction, right? Right. I mean… Probably normal. Ish. And I am looking forward to the low energy side of it to! Like manic for awhile then maybe on Saturday I won’t talk to anyone. I’ll just… Not move off the couch and binge watch 6 seasons game of thrones.


Q: Leanna is out and I need something RIGHT NOW! What do I do???

A: You should ask Emma. Or Vonda. Or Scott. Or maybe send Leanna a reminder email? Leanna is probably checking email because reading-through-endless-email-escapism is orders-of-magnitude better than her current location/experiences. She is almost always checking email.



I just didn’t want this to be some weird secret. Uh… You would 100% all know when I show up bald to work. Or trying to badly conceal my baldness with a purple wig like I can lie and say that I shaved my head on a dare. Or when I was super drunk. I am not fooling anyone at that point. Shockingly, you can’t keep cancer a secret, especially from scientists. And why would you want to? Cancer is like… The single shittiest secret ever. Secrets are for surprise parties and an entire best seller book comprised almost exclusively of 5000 ways to say karma.


Alright. That’s it.  Don’t you wish you listened to me and only read the tl;dr?

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