Sometimes the wind comes out of nowhere and knocks you sideways.


I’m sorry to say that I have some very bad news. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to tell this just before Christmas, but for no clear reason, I feel that I ought to. Just to get it said and done, I suppose.

The bad news is this: I’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Now that I’ve dropped that stunner, I want to immediately reassure you: my prognosis is good.

The treatment of cancer has come a long way in the last couple of decades, and breast cancer in particular has been very well-studied. The type of cancer I have has targeted treatment available, and the track record on this is good.

Let me pause to stress that: Track record is good. They know what to do.

I have a lot of confidence in science. If you’ve read my books, you know that.

My doctors and I have decided on a course of treatment, and tomorrow I’ll be meeting with the nurse oncologist to finalize my schedule of chemotherapy, and my date for surgury and so on. So far, the plan is for aggressive chemo starting December 30th, surgery sometime in May, followed by a less difficult course of chemo through the end of 2014. If the chemo works really well, I might be able to do without radiation entirely! We’ll have to see how it pans out.

And oddly, at the moment, my spirits are actually pretty good. And this is because I went through a battery of advanced (and frankly geeky-techno-cool) tests (CAT scan, MRI, mammograms, ultrasounds, radioactive bone scan, heart test involving making my actual blood radioactive!) and the word is — no cancer elsewhere.

That’s great news! The day after I was told that, I had these waves of happiness wash over me periodically. I had to ask myself, Why am I happy? Hello, I have breast cancer!

Because it’s ONLY in my breast and nearby lymph nodes. This is treatable.

All this happened in the past two weeks, and it’s been a whirlwind. And during everything, my worst fear was that the cancer would be advanced, and untreatable — but that’s not the case.

This cancer is treatable, and the treatment is endurable.

It will be difficult, miserable, unpleasant in the extreme at times — but the chances are very high that it will work.

I’m also lucky that my sister Sabine will be with me through all this. There will be times when the treatment will leave me very ill, and it’s good to know that she’ll be here to help me out. I’m more grateful to her than I can possibly express.

I’ll get through it. And we’ll probably be at Worldcon in London, too. I’ll be past the worst of the treatments by then, and on a lighter course of chemo, every three weeks. We’ll just slip London into one of the gaps, there.

But between now and then, it’s going to get tough.

And some of you are aware that I was working on launching a Kickstarter campaign that would allow me to quit my day-job and write full time.

Unfortunately, yes, that had to go out the window. For the next year, at least. For two reasons:

1. My day-job provides my health insurance. And this stuff is going to be crazy expensive.

2.  I could not in good conscience ask people to pre-fund a year off to write when I might spend significant portions of that year too ill to do much of any use.

So, sticking with the day-job.  They do tell me that they’re willing to work around whatever schedule I need.  Which is nice of them.   Yep.   Sticking with the day job.

Man, that’s especially disappointing!  I was so looking forward to just walking out that door…

Well, that’s gloomy. What we need here is a little ray of sunshine.

Ooh! How about this:

 Steerswoman coverYes, this is the eBook. Yes. I said YES.

 You know I had been working on the eBooks, right?  Many people have complained about me not releasing them yet…

The reason I hadn’t released them was that I was planning on using them as rewards for contributing to the Kickstarter campaign.  (Like, for $10 you would have got an eBook of the new book when it was done, but for $25 you would get that PLUS immediately, the eBooks of all four previous books, no waiting involved!)

With Kickstarter out of the picture, the eBooks can begin to roll out!

And I really,  really, wanted at least one to be on sale by Christmas.  And, oh look!  There it is.

Because, you know.

I had assumed (with the Kickstarter) that I’d have until the end of January to finalize the covers and formatting, and all the attendant self-pub chores that you don’t realize until you’re in the Bowker ISBN registration website, trying to click on all the clicky things to get your official registration done.  And then on the the Kindle Pub site for more of the same.

But I really wanted it done by Christmas, sort of as a statement of confidence, if you will.  So, I took all the stuff I’d set aside for January and did it yesterday and today. For the first book in the series that is.  And only on Kindle so far.

I’d have loved to get them ALL on sale by Christmas, on all platforms… but it just wasn’t possible at this short notice.  Still,  having done one, I now know the ropes and the others will move out pretty quickly.

I have to say:  Thank you, thank you Scrivener for streamlining the conversions!

And, there it is.  I can’t believe I did all that in a day and a half.   It Was Fun.  But exhausting.

Oh, did I mention that the eBook version of The Steerswoman makes an excellent last-minute Christmas gift?   I feel I should mention that.

So, there you are.

Despite all expectation, I seem to be having a very merry Christmas.

I hope you have one, too.  You deserve it.  As do we all.


66 Responses to “Sometimes the wind comes out of nowhere and knocks you sideways.”

  • J. Barrett Wolf Says:

    Dunno if you remember me… We used to pal around a bit back in the ’80s… With Josh Joffen, Jack Hardy and the Speakeasy folk.

    Anyway, J\just wanted to wish you well and say that I am eight years cancer free, so I fully support you in your seeking actual tested medical treatments and not some ground up weasel parts blessed by an incomprehensibly vague deity.

    All the best!


    • Rosemary Says:

      Barrett —

      Oh, how could I not remember you? Of course! Many the evening, many the day, back in Greenwich Village and evirons.

      One stand-out moment: Josh had a gig at that church-basement coffee-house run by the auto-harp playing woman — wasn’t her name Mary Grace? And the place was the Centerfold? I think all of us hit that joint at some point. A bunch of us went to his gig for moral support. Plus: he’s good.

      On that particular evening you just returned from a self-improvement seminar, and showed up with your long hair cut short, clean-shaven, and wearing a three-piece houndstooth-checked business suit.

      We were all agog.

      Fortunately, you reverted back to normal thereafter. Thankfully.

      Eight years cancer-free you say? That’s so good to hear! Sad to hear you had it at all, of course, but glad you’re free, free.

      And thanks for standing up for science, and thus making the very first post in reply to my announcement NOT be some person telling me to try acupuncture or aura massage. Or iridology.

      I think you helped set the tone. Excellent!

  • Sean Fagan Says:

    So what, if anything, can we do for you? Understanding that talk is cheap, but I’ve had it with cancer this millennium, so what *could* someone do? Would you like a Mac laptop? An iPad? Gift cards for some particular store?

    I have just purchased the ebook. I will purchase all the others as you tell us about them. Perhaps multiple instances as I tell other people about them.

    I’m being greedy here; I want more of them.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Sean —

      Thanks for spreading the word, and buying the book… You’re one of my most steadfast blog-readers and commenters, pretty much from Day One, and I’m so grateful for your support.

      And thanks for your offer — but as you now know, I did get an iPad for Xmas, and it’s proving pretty useful already.

      (I hope that email I sent you reached you before you left for Japan — and I hope it didn’t get diverted to your spam mailbox!)

  • Greer Gilman Says:

    Let Science triumph!

    Wishing you a sure and perfect recovery, and long years of writing.

    All the best,


    • Rosemary Says:

      Greer —

      Thanks for the good wishes! I like how you phrased it: “sure and perfect recovery”. A lot of people automatically default to “get well soon,” forgetting that this is going to take a bit of time. But “sure and perfect” is exactly what I’m aiming for.

      But the way, I just now (click!) bought the Kindle version of your book Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales. I’ve heard such good things about it!

  • ProphecyWithEntrailsIsTheNewBlack Says:

    If you do want Apple gear, please ping me – I have more discounts than I can realistically use.

    I personally know five-six people who are multi-decade breast cancer survivors, including my mother-in-law (30+ years and counting). This can be survived, unpleasant though it may be.

    Go Science!

    • Rosemary Says:

      ProphesyWithEntrails —

      Another Apple-ite heard from! I’ll keep all these offers in mind…

      And I LOVE to hear about people who have survived what I’ve got. Multi-decade? Even better. That’s the stuff!

      I was having a conversation with one of the owners of the company I work for (he had been told about my situtation) and he expressed sympathy, moral support —

      And then he launched into this long story about his own mother-in-law — apparently a total DINGBAT — who never followed her doctors orders, stopped taking her (pill-form) chemo because she said it wasn’t doing anything, and as a result is getting much worse, and the story went on and on, and in the end he said, “Well, I guess it’s really all in God’s hands,” —

      I just wanted to slug the guy!

      But I grit my teeth and repeated silently: Health insurance, health insurance, health insurance…

  • Judith Zweiman Says:

    Sending lots of Love, Hugs, and Blessings to you on your healing journey.If there’s anything you need, emotional support, chicken soup, a chat or a good laugh… or for that matter, weasel parts, gimme a shout. Looking forward to seeing all your ebooks here in Kindle land. (Got my copies of the orig 2 books on the shelf!)

  • Regina Says:

    I wish you a speedy recovery, and I know your attitude will help there, more so than my meek support.
    But I need to thank you, I’ve been somewhat careless about my checkups, and upon reading this, I phoned my doctor and got myself an appointment.

    So thanks for posting and get well soon!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Regina —

      Oh, good for you, getting your checkup! That’s so important.

      Ack! I sound like a public service announcement.

      Well — it’s still true. But don’t forget the regular self-exam — because I found this thing before the doctors did, and I’m pretty sure early detection is one reason my prognosis is so good.

  • Kalessin Says:

    I wish you all the best! Glad to hear it’s not spread and is treatable – go science, you can get rid of that!

    Also glad you’re working on the ebooks. Kindle isn’t for me (and sadly you can’t gift kindle-ebooks on german Amazon), but I’m glad I’ll be able to buy them soon. Meanwhile, I just bought the paper version of the Lost Steersman, completing my english language collection of your books.

    So, thanks for posting this before christmas and for being so positive. Merry Christmas to you!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Kalessin —

      Thanks for the good wishes. And thanks for buying the Lost Steersman.

      Say, how do you buy your ebooks? iBooks? Kobo? Barnes & Noble? or some other specifically German outlet?

      I have to decide where to sign up next for distribution — this info is of interest to me!

      • Kalessin Says:

        I mostly buy my ebooks via kobo. I don’t think I could read Barnes&Noble books (though the problem may also have been that they would only let me pay via credit card – I disremember which).
        I have looked at a few German sites (,, but they’re mostly more expensive than kobo and/or really badly programmed. Though kobo’s new design is also rather worse than before..

        The only site other than kobo I can remember using to buy something was smashwords.

      • Merrian Says:

        I buy at Kobo, lots of people outside the USA do I think. So hope to see your books there and looking forward to what ever else you might write in the series.

        I am a cancer survivor of both Ovarian and Salivary Gland cancer. I wish you strength and hope as you go on your cancer journey. I’m glad you have insurance and have been diagnosed when we know so much more about breast cancer and have a variety of treatments that didn’t exist a few years ago.

  • Sandie Says:

    BIG HUGS from the UK,
    Hope to see you in London next year.

    I know there isn’t much any of us can DO (not having a medical degree or a magic wand) but just shout if there are any little things that we could do/help with.


    • Rosemary Says:

      Sandie —

      Virtual hugs count! Thanks so much.

      If you’re going to Worldcon, touch base with me closer to the event, and maybe we can get together…

      I can’t think of anything I need from the UK at the moment… If something springs to mind, I’ll give that shout!

  • Mary Alexandra Agner Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear this! But am heartened by the positive prognosis! Please let me know if you need a little Boston care-package 🙂


    • Rosemary Says:

      Mary —

      Thanks… It’s going to be a long haul, but I’ll get there.

      Thanks for your suggestion at that reading at Readercon, by the way. I might miss Boskone this year, but I hope to be up for Readercon.

  • Jennifer Sheffield Says:

    Wishing you well, Rosemary. I met you briefly at Wiscon 31, and I still remember a verse or two of the Karis ballad you taught at your workshop!
    Take good care,

    • Rosemary Says:

      Jen —

      Thanks for the good wishes!

      Oh, that workshop was fun! Oh, wait: there were two. Both were fun, but one was a especially so!

      Perhaps I ought to brush up that presentation, and do it again sometime.

  • Lindig Says:

    Dang. But yay science for being able to fix it. Like most, I have people who are many years post op and cancer-free, so prognosis is good.

    When I win the lottery, you’ll get more than a year off, so hold onto that dream. One day one day . . .

    Best to you and just ask if you need a good word. Holding you in my thoughts.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Lindig —

      Ah, if only we could all win the lottery — no, wait, that wouldn’t work. We’d get, like, a nickle apiece. Dang.

      I too seem to know a whole lot of people who have gone through or are going through this. Or who know others who are. And I’m mostly hearing good outcomes.

      Plus: actual statistics are up. It’s good to have data, not just anecdotes.

  • Lisa B. Says:

    As usual, brilliant! First, to get the eBook out and then to let everyone know what is going on so that love and support can flow your way, Unfortunately and fortunately, I have a good amount of experience with cancer treatment support. The one thing that makes this fortunate is that I can use that experience to help others. I also own a biomat (check out the scientific nonscience as this will amuse you or frustrate you…) and it too is at your service. XO

    • Rosemary Says:

      Hey, Lisa!

      Of course, I thought of you right away. (If you’re the Lisa I’m assuming — we normally just facebook.)

      I keep thinking, one good thing is that this is happening to me now, when so much progress has been made — and not years ago, when things were different.

      My love to you and yours.

      PS: I’ll pass on the biomat, thanks!

      • Lisa B. Says:

        Just read your update and the instruction to check the blog! This is Lisa Bassi! Sorry that things are getting harder but sleep is a good thing for healing. If your company has more than 50 people they are subject to the Family Medical Leave Act and if you need help negotiating that – feel free to email or call me. Basically it means they have to give you leave and keep a job for you. The only advice I will offer is to super hydrate after each chemo treatment. It helps to minimize collateral damage. I am near enough to offer help in the physical world too! Sending contact info via FB!!

  • Djibril Says:

    In the circumstances and given the state of medical science, I take this as very good news. Yes it’ll probably be a hard year, as I and so many people who’ve commented already know, but it sounds like your prognosis is very good indeed, and I have a lot of confidence that your plans will end up only being put back a little while. Those of us who are impatiently waiting for the next Steerswoman books can wait another year or so.

    Be well. One of many sending you love and strength.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Djibril —


      You know, back in August I started cranking up my daily writing — preparatory to the planned year off to write — and I’d been holding on to the progress quite well, until this thing hit.

      I’m hoping that once things become more familiar and routine, I’ll be able to maintain some sort of useful writing schedule. I have no illusions about this — but even small progress is progress, and good for the spirit. And adds up.

  • Skwid Says:

    Rosemary, great job on getting the eBook out there, I’ve already bought one as a Christmas gift! Hang in there, and know that you’re in the thoughts of a lot of folks out here. Good luck!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Skwid —

      Exellent! (But I still haven’t heard back from Amazon about allowing updates on the version with the error – I’ll have to fire off yet another email at them.)

      And thanks!

  • Jo Says:

    Keep your heart light, it sounds like your breast cancer will be history soon. It is amazing the advances that science has made on cancer treatments. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago. She is now breast cancer free. A friend was diagnosed the year before her and she is also cancer free.

    The journey won’t be pretty, but it will pass. Keep strong.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Jo —

      These are exactly the things I love to hear – and it seems that so many people know someone who went through it and came out the other side.

      I’m suited up, got my lifelines, watching the radar, and settling in for the long haul.

  • Michael Grosberg Says:

    Our hearts are with you, Rosemary. Give that cancer hell!
    …and I already posted notices of the new ebook on a couple of SF-related boards.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Michael —

      Thanks for doing that! I should do that. I’ll look in to doing that…

      Meanwhile, I shouldn’t be doing this, being at this very moment at the Day-job. But the system is down for year-end updating, so there’s not much else I can do…

      Hell is exactly what I have planned for that cancer!


    Boo cancer! I am glad to read of the good prognosis, though. Strengthening vibes sent your way!

    I own all your books, some of them in more than one copy, all of them autographed, and have just bought the e-book. My Kindle is happy!

    The best of very good luck!

  • lee Says:

    wow. That is such a set of wildly mixed blessings – and you seem to be making sense of it, and have plans laid.

    More power to you, and confusion to the cancer.

  • Setec Astronomy Says:

    So sorry to read about your illness, but also glad that the prognosis is good; I am certain that your courage, your will and last but not least science will get you through this.

    If there is anything you might need or which would make it easier to get through the next year, anything which could encourage or distract you (books? audio-books? games? tea? woolen socks? large amounts of Austrian chocolate?), please let it be known!

    All the best

    • Rosemary Says:

      Setec Astronomy (I do like your username!) —

      Thanks for offering… Lots of people are asking if I need anything, and at the moment, I can’t think of a thing.

      But right now, I’m in the easy part. Later on when things get tough… Hm.

      Austrian chocolate, you say? I’ll send up a flag when the time comes!

  • Angela Highland (Angela Korra'ti) Says:

    Hi, you don’t know me, but I saw this post linked to by James Nicoll and I just wanted to come over and express my sympathies. I’m also a breast cancer survivor–I had stage 0 DCIS so didn’t have to do any chemo, but still.

    Very glad to hear though that yours is treatable and it sounds like you and your doctors are on top of things. Best of luck to you and I’ll be checking out your books.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Angela —

      Thanks! I’m so glad they caught yours at stage 0. And no chemo? Execllent!

      I’m doing neoadjuvant chemo, but if it works well, there’s a chance I might be able to skip radiation. Which would be nice.

      Best of luck to you too, and thanks for dropping by!

  • Liz Says:

    Thinking of you, and hoping things go well!

    I love your books!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Liz —


      By the way, I like your purring electric blanket invention. Perfect for people undergoing chemo and surgery, who might not want to clean litter-boxes for a while. Not to mention the famous Five o’Clock Hop. Sometimes amusing when you’re healthy; less so when you’re under the weather.

      I feel you should market this to Big Pharma — like, say, Pfizer! They need to improve their rep, and appear kinder, and nicer. Plus: that’s where the big bucks are! It’s a win-win.

  • Yves Meynard Says:

    Hey Rosemary, sad news but I am very glad the prognosis is good. Hang in there! I look forward to seeing you in London, and preferably before as well. Lotsa love, Yves

    • Rosemary Says:

      Yves —

      Thanks. I’m still aiming at Readercon, although Boskone is on the fence right now.

      But no way I’m giving up London Worldcon!

      Hey, when we meet next, you may recognise me as a new member of the — how shall I say it? — shiny-domed persuasion. You’ll have to show me the secret handshake, and tell me the passwords to get into those oh-so-exclusive gatherings. I know that’s where all the really deep thinkers hang out.

  • Huimang Says:

    Very sorry to hear this, and glad that the prognosis is good. At the risk of being presumptuous, if there’s anything you think you would like to have that you don’t have, which could plausibly be sent from Japan (whether esoteric Japanese stuff or something very ordinary) I would be delighted to send anything you like. Your books have given me a lot of pleasure and comfort, and I’d like to do what I can to return the favor.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Huimang —

      Thanks for the offer. Everyone asks me if I want or need anything, and I never quite know what to say.

      At some point in the near future, I will be sending around a request (she said, mysteriously), but at the moment, the fact that you asked and offered is heartwarming in itself. Thanks again.

  • Debbie Hollister Leschinski Says:

    Our thoughts are with you, and we know everything will turn out well!

    • Rosemary Says:

      Debbie —

      Thanks — I’m sure I’ll get through this. Just a question of hunkering down and hanging on.

      By the way, I love seeing your pictures and posts on Facebook. It’s great to be able to connect after all these years.

  • Lu Says:

    Here’s another wish for strength and hope continuing through your treatment. Bah–day jobs!
    Hang in there, please….

    • Rosemary Says:

      Lu —

      Oh, day-jobs, yes. Historically, every time I’ve finished a new pair of books, I’ve done it by quitting my day-job. Not an option this time, unfortunately.

      Well, if I had quit that day-job and then found out about this — that would have been seriously bad.

      Your wish for strength and hope really does help, in an entirely non-mystical way. Thank you.

  • Reziac Says:

    Here’s hoping the good prognosis is 100% accurate. 🙂

    And when (not if!) that next book comes out, I’ll have my fresh excuse to reread the series from the beginning (which I’ve done with each new book already, and I’m still finding new insights).

    • Rosemary Says:

      Reziac —

      When-not-if is right! I read somewhere in the blogosphere the other day that Rosemary Kirstein writes books in pairs at about ten-year intervals.

      Thus: I am due. Okay, bit of an extra pause for cancer, but basically, due.

  • Katrina Says:

    I hope your treatments go well and you have a speedy recovery with minimal side effects. It is good that you have a sister to be with you through all of it.

  • Michael Tallan Says:

    Hi Rosemary. Shocking news indeed, but you have a strong positive outlook and that makes a big difference. As you say, treatments these days are far more advanced than they were not so long ago. Cheers for science! I’m looking forward to seeing you in London next year (and possibly at Readercon, I hope).

    — Michael

  • Kate Nepveu Says:

    Best wishes, fuck cancer, and don’t hesitate to yell if we-the-community can do anything.

    • Rosemary Says:

      Kate —

      Fuck cancer is right!

      Thanks for the wishes and the call to yell if help is needed. AT the moment I’m at the start of things, and feel mostly normal, so I’m holding off on actual requests for help until I get to the really tough part of the chemo.

      Right now, though, it’s just great to know the community is there. Thanks for reminding me.

      My best to you and Chad and the kids.

  • Linkspam: 01/03/14 — The Radish. Says:

    […] Kirstein has some bad news (with a good prognosis, also the first Steerswoman book is out in electronic format […]

  • Predictably… Plus: ebook update | Rosemary Kirstein Says:

    […] I did finally manage to reply to every comment made on  my original post about the cancer.  So, if you commented, and you don’t know if I’ve replied — check back on the post. […]