The return

I have returned.

The funeral is over; I went back to work yesterday; and it’s time to reenter “regular” life again. To me that includes blogging. I do not know when or if I’ll do a post about my mother-in-law’s death from breast cancer. I tried, and I’m just not ready yet. The only thing I can say is that work yesterday produced a strange sort of disconnect. Things just didn’t seem real, and I had a hell of a time motivating myself to do anything that I didn’t have to do. I’m sure I’ll get over it soon enough. I have to. The old curse goes, “May you live in interesting times,” and unfortunately around my cancer center right now times are interesting. When I’m ready, if I feel up to it, there are at least a couple of observations I could make, not the least of which is how much it sucks to know too much when someone you love is dying of cancer and how all hospices are not created equal.

But, again, not just yet. It’s only been eight days; it’s too raw; and I know my wife and other family read this blog. One thing I will say is that never have I witnessed such pure unselfishness and love as my wife demonstrated in putting her career on hold for nearly four months to head to Ohio and take care of her mother during her last days. Any complaint I might have had about being left alone for much of that time seems downright piteous in comparison to what my wife went through.

Another thing that I’d be remiss not to mention is how much I appreciated all of your comments after my announcement of my mother-in-law’s passing. Many of you opened up in a way that I really appreciated, and I thank you. I do not appreciate the comments of a certain antivaccinationist loon whom I unfortunately had to deal on a couple of the occasions when I did check the blog to see what was going on. She knows who she is, and regular readers know who she is too.

I realize that my departure from the blogosphere coincided with one of the biggest developments on the vaccine front that I can recall in my four years of blogging, namely the judgment against the first test cases in the Autism Omnibus. Even though it’s been a week, I may well have something to say about that on Monday. (Later today I will likely have something to say about one of the reactions to it by a certain pediatrician, simply because his comments outraged me and it’s as good a place as any to jump back in, but a fuller discussion of the developments of the last week or two will have to wait a couple of more days.) After that, I hope to move away from vaccines for a while.

Time will tell if my return is too soon, but easing my way back into dishing out the Respectful and not-so-Respectful Insolence you’ve come to love–or hate, depending on who you are–now feels right. So here we go again.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

46 replies on “The return”

i’m very sorry for your loss, orac.

my husband lost his grandfather (his “replacement dad”) to a brain tumor on christmas morning. he moved across the state several months prior and served as a caretaker, while also a full-time student. it was painful for us all, but he wouldn’t trade those final months for anything. i’m willing to bet your wife feels similar sentiments.

i hope that you and your family find comfort in each other during this difficult time.

Welcome back, Orac. We look forward to reading more when you’re ready to write more. Only you can decide when that is, so take care of family priorities before anything else. We’ll understand.


Missed you, big guy. For what it’s worth, there’s an awful lot of strangers out in the ‘net that are thinking good things for you and yours right now. I hope you and your family can find some peace.


A late note from me to express my sympathy for your family’s loss.

My father died 7 years ago after becoming progressively disabled with Lewy Body disease. He was essentially trapped in his body, when he suffered an MI and died at home 48 hours later. The MI was frankly a blessing. I still miss him of course. Today I face the likely deaths this year of my mother and mother-in-law from stroke and multi-infarct dementia, and metastatic colon ca respectively. I don’t know how I’ll deal with it. I feel most sorry for my children, who will face these losses over such a short period of time.
BTW, on a more cheerful note, here is an article from one of Canada’s national newspapers that is strongly pro-vaccine, and pulls no punches in condemning anti-vax quackery. Thank you, Andre Picard!

Orac said “One thing I will say is that never have I witnessed such pure unselfishness and love as my wife demonstrated in putting her career on hold for nearly four months to head to Ohio and take care of her mother during her last days. Any complaint I might have had about being left alone for much of that time seems downright piteous in comparison to what my wife went through.”

I always assumed Mrs. Orac was very special, and this doubly confirms that assumption.

My condolences to Mrs. Orac. My heart goes out to you in this very trying time. I know nothing can be written that will help with the pain (my mother died when I was eleven years old), but spring is coming… and we can delight in the coming of the flowers, warmth and turning of the seasons.

Tomorrow I will be helping my daughter and her friend when they work on sewing costumes (long story, it has to do with a Manga/Anime convention where teenagers dress up as their favorite characters from games, comics, or videos), but I will be thinking of my mother who gave me scraps of fabrics to make clothes for my Barbie dolls. Just a couple years before she died my Christmas presents were all the real bits to learn to sew, from a simple book to needles to thread to fabric to interfacing. I cannot look at the curtains in this den or my kitchen without thinking of the curtains my mother made from the surplus target cloth my dad brought home from Ft. Ord to our rental house in Pacific Grove, CA.

My condolences on the death of your Mother-in-Law. There are no words from a stranger that would be relevant to you or your wife, but there are plenty of us who wish we could ease your pain (probably not the right word, but anything less just seems to underestimate the conflicting emotions following a death in the family).

You have no obligation to write about anything you do not want to write about. You have so many readers, because you write well. Whatever you do write about, you will write with your own style. That is what matters. Unless you think that the anti-science people are going to have a Come to Science revelation. Then you might have to look for things to write about. I believe you’re all set for the next week, or three, but Beware the Ides of March. 🙂

On the vaccination front, I have bad news here from Iceland, we are rapidly nearing the point that heard immunity fails in regards of measles, we are just about at the 87% mark.

Welcome back. Mrs. Orac sounds very special. My husband was my rock when my father died.

There are good days and bad days. Don’t push too hard, give yourself some slack on those bad days.

welcome back,

We’ve missed you (well maybe not the antivaccine lot…). Give it time and my condolences!

take care and take it easy!

My late condolences also. Perhaps I did not offer them before because they bring with them powerful remembrances.

My mother died suddenly due to an accident and subsequent surgery, long before hospice would have been recommended. She was 76. My step-mother died several years later after being in hospice care for 4 months. All the care I’d not been able to give my mother, I tried to give to my stepmother.

There is no painlessly easy way to die, or to witness death.

Welcome back, Orac. Your wife is a fantastic person to do what she did, and you are a wonderful husband to cope with her absense for so long. I know of many who would not have coped with such courtesy and grace.

Take it slow getting back. Hugs!!

PS If you are ever back in my area for a meeting let me know and we will do drinks/dinner/coffee/whatever.

Welcome back. My MIL died last April, of old age. She went to sleep and did not wake up. She was 93. It was sad and yet in a way not sad. She lived to see all her grandchildren marry and to hold her great-grandchildren.

On another front, Dr. David Perlin of the Public Health Research Institute in Newark, NJ has a goood letter in yesterday’s NY Times about vaccines not being linked to autism. He pointed out that the junk science pursuit of a link between vaccines and autism diverted cash and resources from meaningful scientific investigation into the true cause of autism. He has a way with words I cannot come close to emulating.

I know that feeling of things not being real, I’ve felt it myself, very disconnected, like I was watching life remotely through television cameras planted just behind my pupils.
I think it’s that the mind is still dealing with its loss, and that just takes priority for a while, until the mind comes to some sort of adjustment around the sudden hole in your world. Not forgetting, just comprehending. It sounds like your father-in-law was very important in your and your wife’s lives.

it’s really really really good to have you back.

As you know, I can very directly relate to what you’re dealing with. I’d like to tell you it gets easier, but…

Orac – my condolences to you and your family, and welcome back.

I have little advice for you in terms of how to deal with the grief other than letting time take it’s course, and trying to get back to something approaching a normal life.

I didn’t share my stories since losing someone important never really seems to stop hurting. You don’t always want to revisit the loss itself, but you do always want to remember what made those people such an important part of your life.

Take your time, and take care of yourself and Mrs. Orac. Your audience will still be here, waiting for the next delivery of some Respectful Insolence.

I’d like to tell you it gets easier, but…

You wouldn’t be lying; you’d just be outside of your own time scale. On the other hand, after a couple of decades I’m not so sure “easier” is better than having the loss be fresh.

And, yeah, I still miss him.

The old curse goes, “May you live in interesting times,” and unfortunately around my cancer center right now times are interesting.

Welcome back, orac. For various reasons, I’m extremely curious about what you have to say about the interesting times at your cancer center.

I also want to add my condolences to you and your family. I’m not sure that things ever get better per se, but the loss eventually does stop dominating your thoughts…but don’t beat yourself up if you feel undermotivated for longer than you think you “should”.

I second Rogue Medic’s comments. Everyone deals with loss in their own way. My thoughts are with you and your family.

My condolences to you and to Mrs. Orac. Thank you for the good work that you do here and for your patients.

My condolences; I lost my brother last summer, and seven weeks later that took my father, as well.


Deep depression does a real good job of destroying motivation. It goes on long enough to annoy the wife, talk to a shrink about it. Depression can not only destroy motivation, it’s also real good at destroying lives.

The pain will ease, but don’t force it. Forcing will only rebound on you and make things worse. Share stories about the old lady, when you’re ready.

I’m very glad you’re back, Orac. You were sorely missed. I wish you and your superb wife the very best as you resume your ‘regular’ lives.

My condolences to you and Mrs. Orac. I’m glad you’re so appreciative of her and what she’s done, but that goes both ways. You obviously had a very close, loving relationship with your mother-in-law and I’m sure that’s always meant–and will continue to mean–a lot to your wife. So I think Mrs. Orac is lucky to have you too. Please take care of yourself.

Welcome back Orac, and props to your wife.

(P.S. Your chose of re-used material was pretty good – they were all worth reading again.)

Yeah, I don’t actually deserve her.

Wow, that was touching. I hope your wife reads your blog.

Glad to see you back. Writing is important for many of us. So are puppies…

Dear orac: welcome back.

One thing I will say is that never have I witnessed such pure unselfishness and love as my wife demonstrated in putting her career on hold for nearly four months to head to Ohio and take care of her mother during her last days. Any complaint I might have had about being left alone for much of that time seems downright piteous in comparison to what my wife went through.

I consider it the greatest test and expression of a relationship that terms can be renegotiated as circumstances change.
(I hope that made sense.)

welcome back Orac.
I know that disconnected feeling – I had it after my mother died. I spent days walking around, looking and acting and talking normal on the outside, but inside – empty and not really there. I couldn’t even cry, until her funeral.
Take it easy. And that goes for Mrs Orac too. Cyber-hugs to you both.

regular reader who has used quite a bit of tissues since you posted originally about taking an absence and why. your prose and the comments written in response brought many tears to my eyes.

this thread has done the same. i am very sorry for the loss for you and your wife. take the time you need to return.

i have enjoyed reading the older articles whilst you were away. if you need to repost others, i will remain to read those as i wait for new respectful insolence to be written.

welcome back, sir.

Glad to see you’re back, Orac!

While you were out, I was thinking about a href=””>Dr. Leila Denmark, the co-developer of the pertussis vaccine. She practiced medicine up until eight years ago when, at the age of 103, she felt her eyesight had deteriorated too much to continue being an active pediatrician. She’s still alive, having recently celebrated her 111th (!) birthday, though it sounds as if her mentation is starting to decline.

I was imagining that her career would make for several interesting posts — the wondrous changes vaccines made in terms of lifespan and combating childhood mortality, the idea of loving what you do (she’s always maintained that aside from a period as a teacher in her twenties, before getting into med school, she’s never worked a day in her life, because if you love what you do it’s not work), and the idea of when one should hang up one’s stethoscope.

Welcome back. I second what DLC and PalMD had to say. I very much hope this blog and the give-and-take it fosters can be part of the healing process for you. After all, it was part of “normality,” whatever that is.

Sorry to hear the hospice apparently did not come through for you and yours the way other hospices have for family members of many people I know.

I have so far been shielded from an experience like yours (though I tremble when I think about the age of my parents). I’m sorry for not having offered condolences; I did not know what to say beyond platitudes. But I am glad to hear that as decent a fellow as you has such a splendid wife. And I am sorry for you all. And I am very, very glad to have you back.


My very sincere condolences for you and your family . . . . I haven’t lost anyone that I am very close to, but it will come. The closest I have been so far was a little while ago, when my grandmother was admitted for shortness of breath, swollen legs, and irregular heartbeat. Atrial Fib – well, with meds and time, she recovered and is doing well, though she tires easily. What I remember most was the surreal phone call from the hospital: she was pretty certain that she was going to die, and she wanted me to make arrangements to have her body donated to the state medical school. But first she wanted to know if it would cost anything, and also if they’d even want her body, because it was old! We laughed (through tears on my end), and I said I’d find out. Then I hung up and just broke down. I did learn that the medical school would be happy to have her (and that sounds weird to this day), so we put all the paperwork in place. The cost will be minimal, just for the cremation. I told my grandmother that would be my treat – I thought she’d laugh herself sick! Anyway, she is doing well now, but when she dies, she’ll go to medical education. And my grandfather decided to do the same thing a couple of months later. Our family will grieve, but for us, knowing that a student or three will learn something will help to ease our sorrow. And I’ll be telling the story for years to come.

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