The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on Friday, May 25th, 2018.
In April, and in preparation for this, I updated this blog with and page explaining how it is hosted by Automattic Inc., the creators of WordPress, and what data was liable to be collected when visiting this site, and who held it. The page was a temporary place holder pending Automattic Inc releasing their own statement on privacy and data management.
Second Life is in the midst of the 2018 Relay for Life season, most notably (at the time of writing) with Fantasy Faire. Given that it is, I would like to step to one side from my usual writing and offer a personal piece on the subject of cancer. It’s something I’ve spent a couple of days wrestling over committing to print, and I’m now doing so not to illicit sympathy, but to hopefully offer insight into why it’s better to confront things then shy away from things out of fear of hearing the “c” word.
Earlier this year I was diagnosed with DCIS – ductal carcinoma in situ – in my left breast. This is a form of best cancer where the cancerous cells are contained within the milk ducts of the breast. Because the cancer cells have not invaded nearby breast tissue, DCIS is regarded as non-invasive breast cancer, and accounts for about 20% of all breast cancer cases, and around 85% of all in-situ (confined to a specific area) forms of breast cancer.
While there is a risk it might become invasive if left untreated (the American Cancer Society estimate between 20-53% of untreated in-situ cancer cases become invasive over a period of about a decade), DCIS can be dealt with in a relatively straightforward manner through what amounts to a two-step treatment process.
The first step is for the affected area of breast duct to be surgically removed in a localised procedure referred to as a lumpectomy. This is a form of surgery designed to excise the affected area, and as a rule leaves the breast looking as close as possible to how it did before surgery, with its general shape and the nipple area remaining intact.
After a period of healing, the second step is generally followed by a period of localised radiotherapy. This is designed to destroy any remaining cancer cells that would otherwise by too small to see on scans or to measure with lab tests. In addition, it can lower both the risk of DCIS returning to the breast, or of the breast developing an invasive cancer later in life.
Obviously, “surgery” and “radiotherapy” are themselves terrifying words; but the fact is that often, DCIS can be dealt with on an out-patient basis – there’s no need for a protracted stay in hospital; while the radiotherapy is localised enough such that the risk of it giving rise to cancer later in life is around 5% – far less a risk than that of the DCIS leading to a more invasive form of cancer.
A key point with DCIS is that it is hard to detect; while it may be indicated by a subcutaneous lump, often it is only through a scan and / or biopsy that it may be identified. In my case, I noticed a small lump in my right breast; when it hadn’t gone away after a number of weeks, I went to see my GP.
I admit, my feelings were mixed when I did so: cancer has been a frequent visitor within both sides of my family, so I was concerned I would hear the words “breast cancer”; at the same time, there was also a feeling that I was “just being silly” and over-reacting to something that would go away – after all, lumps in the breast can be caused by a lot of non-cancerous events.
In fact, the right breast lump did prove to be a small non-cancerous node of breast calcification. However, as a result of the scans my GP sent me to have, the left breast DCIS was spotted.
Cutting a long story short, I was referred for surgery at the cancer unit of a local hospital, where I underwent two bouts of surgery some 14 days apart. The first was to excise the affected ductal area, the second to remove a small amount of tissue from the surrounding area. Both bouts of surgery were performed on an out-patient basis, so I went into hospital in the morning and was back home and in my own bed in the evening.
After the surgery I had several weeks of recovery to allow the surgical wound and the (admittedly extensive) bruising around it to heal. I have been left with a scar marking the entry wound, but the shape of my breast hasn’t changed and as is common with this type of surgery, the scar itself is on the underside of the breast, so it’s not naturally visible.
As to the radiotherapy, I was given 15 sessions broken down over just over three workday weeks, plus an initial “targeting” session a week ahead of the treatment. The treatment took the form of spirometry-monitored deep inspiration breath hold (SMDIBH). Again this sounds a mouthful, and possibly frightening, but what it amounts to is being subjected to a short burst of radiation while controlling you breathing and holding your breath for around 20-30 seconds. This approach is used when treating left breast cancer, as filling the lungs with air raises the breast away from the heart, reducing the amount of radiation to which the heart is exposed.
The treatment itself is quite painless, each “zap” lasting around 20 seconds as the breath is held, with the number of zaps you get varying according to need. However, due to the frequency of the treatment sessions, there are side-effects. These can include fatigue, a swelling in the breast due to fluid being unable to drain properly a reddening and drying of the skin around the treated area, and a gradual feeling of heat build-up in the breast which takes time to dissipate. These symptoms can take several weeks to abate, and the heat / drying of the skin can be treated both during and after radiotherapy by the use of non-metallic moisturising cream. In addition, you may be giving special cooling gell packs to help reduce the heat in the breast.
As I write this, I’m into my second week of post-radiotherapy recovery. I’ll make no bones about it, my breast is sore I’m at times in a little discomfort and have felt lethargic at times – effect that should subside over the next few weeks. However, the preliminary results of the treatment is that the surgery has been successful, and the radiotherapy will have hopefully done its job.
So why tell you all this? Because – as I said at the top, cancer’s biggest weapon is fear – fear of what it might mean if diagnosed and, equally, the fear of learning you have it in the first place. Yet the fact is, as my case hopefully shows, getting diagnosed early enough not only means a better chance of dealing with it – it also means the treatment is often less protracted and invasive than might otherwise be the case (put it this way, while it may well sound worrying when first heard, a lumpectomy is, overall, a lot less traumatic than a mastectomy) – whereas the longer it is ignored in the hope it might “go away” or because it spares us having to confront it, the greater the risk that it might reach a point were it cannot be more effectively dealt with.
Cancer is not something we can avoid simply by ignoring the signs (when they are present) or by avoiding the opportunity to have it diagnosed. So please, if you have concerns about anything, a lump here or there, a mole-like mark on your skin that has appeared or which has changed in size or has been subject to bleeding – go and get it checked. It might be cancer – or it might be something else entirely; it might be entirely benign. But if you don’t get it checked, you run the risk of not knowing – or of receiving medical help at a time when, should it prove to be cancer, it might be more easily dealt with than might be the case if you just ignore it.
In my case, I’m grateful I didn’t let the feeling of “being silly” when going to see my GP get the better of me; as a woman in my 40’s (no, I’m not saying where in my 40s!) I’m still several years from my first routine breast cancer screenings, possibly time enough for the DCIS to have become more of a problem. As it is, it’s now excised, and I’ll be having regular scans to make sure it stays that way. And that’s a form of peace of mind I’m grateful to have.
So again, if you have a suspicion or concern, don’t leave it for “another day”; go get it seen to.
On June 2nd, I blogged about this blogs new layout and asked for feedback directly or via a poll. As a week has now passed, I thought it time to provide an update on things.
The new layout is not without its problems (notably the banner image on every page), and some had issues I couldn’t easily replicate. My thanks to Richard, Sue W and JMB in particular for their feedback on specific issues, all of which helped me further tweak things – hopefully for the better.
Overall, of those who responded to the poll, most seemed in favour of the changes and the layout, and I’m growing accustomed to it. As such, it will be remaining for a the time being, so I’m not annoying everyone with what feels like a changing look and feel.
However, I’m still looking at options to get something which offers a similar level of functionality and allows plenty of room for images to appear in a decent size, but without having the huge banner image appear on individual articles and pages.
Sadly, while there are a fair few WordPress themes which avid the big banner on individual pages and offer things like a scrolling menu bar, etc., they tend to do so at the expense of text & images, which often get squeezed by an inordinate amount of left-side white space. So, I’ll keep looking.
In the meantime, thanks again to all who responded, be it with comments and / or via the poll.
It’s a bit hard to miss, but yes, I’ve made a change to the theme underpinning this blog. It’s by no means a permanent change – that depends on the feedback I get. However, there are a number of reasons why I wanted to change things a little, so I’m hoping readers will prefer the new layout.
A lot of effort has gone into the menu system, but it was always a pain to use with the “old” layout, as it was locked to the top of a page – scroll down too far and it would vanish off the top of the browser tab
Some readers stated they found the old layout difficult to follow, with the sidebar on the right seeming to “run into” the body text
It didn’t loan itself to viewing on mobile devices that well
I wanted to tweak the text a little and (hopefully) make it easier on the eye.
As the changes are template-based, it is possible some pages / images in this blog have gone a little sideways in places. I’m working through everything to double-check (unfortunately, the preview option in WordPress doesn’t entirely match the actual page layout, so I could only start checking things once I’d made the change to the new format. Ho hum). Please make allowances if you come across something that looks awkwardly formatted on a page in the meantime 🙂 .
The thing I’m hoping will prove most useful is the menu, which will now following you down a page as you scroll. Given I’ve put a fair amount of time in trying to categorise and track articles and pages in the blog via the menu, this will hopefully make it far more reader-friendly than has been the case in the past.
I’ve also revised the default body and headings text font – again, my hope is this improves readability and comfort when browsing. Unfortunately, one thing WordPress won’t let me change is the use of block caps for headings; this is locked into a CSS I can’t access, but I how the use of caps in titles and headings isn’t overpowering.
Finally, this theme had a better set of style sheets for mobile devices. I’ve no idea how many people read this blog from the tablet, etc, but (with the possible exception of the menu, which is a bit “ugh!” on tablets, etc.), it should make for easier reading if you do.
As with the last major restructure to this blog – in 2012, can you believe?!), I’m offering a little feedback poll for those interested in letting me know quick thoughts on the layout
When I started blogging, it was because I felt I needed to say something on a particular topic. Writing has always been a part of my life (although it can be somewhat slapdash in these pages as I try to get my head around multiple things!), and so I wasn’t too concerned about finding an audience, I simply wanted the means of expressing things I wanted to say on that subject.
However, few things in life stay constant, and so it has been with my blogging and virtual worlds writing, something I’ve covered numerous times elsewhere in these pages.
Recently, Strawberry Singh ran a Monday Meme asking people to write about the things Second Life has encouraged them to learn or do. For me, the it’s been a circular thing: as my blogging slowly expanded, so it encouraged me to delve deeper into Second Life – exploring, visiting art exhibitions, learning about how the platform actually works, and learn about the company that brings us this platform on a daily basis – Linden Lab. In turn, all this encouraged me to blog more, and so the circle continued.
As I’ve gone through this cycle, I’ve been fortunate enough to find other people like to read what I have to write, and have always been grateful for the support people have shown in doing so.
Today, Sunday, March 1st, I discovered that I have received the 2015 Avi Choice Award for Favourite Entertainment / Arts SL Blog or Website (and thank you, Tina, for poking me on Twtter about it!).
I would be lying if I said I was unaware that I’d been nominated. For one thing, Arkad Baxton IM’d me to ask if he might nominate me, which was flattering enough (and again, thank you, Arkad for doing so); for another, I did receive word from the organisers as well.
However, actually winning an award was genuinely unexpected. As such, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to everyone who voted. I’d also like to thank all of you who continue to show your support for these pages by reading them and commenting on them daily, and for your support through the SL Feeds, Twitter, Plurk and so on.
Your support has, and remains, deeply appreciated, and remains the motivation for me to keep writing and covering all I can about Second Life and virtual worlds.
My congratulations also go to all of the nominees and winners in all of the Avi Choice categories.
So 2014 draws to a close. I’ve already given a detailed review of the year as I saw it and reported on it through these pages; but before the year closes, I wanted to offer something a little more personal.
This year has been incredible for me. In terms of raw figures (for whatever they’re worth), I’ve published 950+ posts, passed through 3,000 published in total, seen the blog pass through one million page views and, at least according to WordPress, these pages (intentionally or otherwise) have been viewed from 194 countries (hello, Iran and North Korea. Oh wait, you’re not listening 🙂 ).
But more particularly, the year has offered me the opportunity to visit over 100 regions and blog on them (some more than once), and to experience 136 art exhibitions, installations and performances that I’ve actually manage to document (57 sponsored by the LEA and 79 non-LEA events) – my apologies to those I missed / didn’t manage to get written-up.
Where art is concerned, I’ve been particularly privileged to be asked to join the UWA jury for Transcending Borders – thank you, Jayjay and FreeWee, and to have also witnessed Paradise Lost: he Story of Adam and Eve’s Original Sin, which I still believe to be an outstanding masterpiece of performance art in a virtual world, and the jewel in the crown of my enjoyment of a fabulous year for art in SL. I’ve also met many more talented people in SL.
I’ve also tried to improve my photographic technique and also started to get my head around image editing with GIMP (PhotoShop still has me hiding under the desk). I’ve even managed to get into “proper” machinima, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and have received a lot of support and advice in my efforts – thank you to everyone concerned.
I really don’t want to go on at great length here; suffice it to say, the year has had its moments at times, but for the most part has been a huge amount of fun, discovery and learning. It has also been immensely rewarding simply because I see so many people returning to these pages again and again, reading, offering “likes” and feedback, providing suggestions and pointing out things of interest or providing hints and support.
So what I really want to say is, thank you to all of you for all your support through the year; and thank you for all the Tweets, re-tweets, Plurks, re-plurks, location suggestions via social media or via e-mail, comments via e-mail and in-world IMs. It may sound trite, but the reality is, without your support and feedback, this blog would simply be a collection of dry electronic pages, and I’d be without any stars to steer by.