Countdown to Biopsy

Okay, here’s the deal. The CT showed that the pulmonary fibrosis is progressing — no surprise since it’s a progressive disease. As it progresses, I get less well. The CT also showed a mass or dark spot of some kind in one of my lungs. The doctors still seem to believe it’s pneumonia or maybe a fungal infection, but they concede the possibility it may be something else, or something additional. Cancer is a possibility, in other words.

There are only two ways to know for sure what’s going on: (1) A biopsy. (2) Dramatic improvement as a result of the current course of treatment, which would render the likelihood of cancer just about nil.

There are two ways to do this kind of biopsy: an intubation-type procedure to suck out some of the affected tissue, or a needle. The problem: I’m using so much oxygen now just to maintain something close to a normal saturation percentage that blocking my throat with a tube could land me on a ventilator (for an indeterminable length of time), and going in with a needle could collapse the lung.

So, for now, the doctors are trying to reduce the levels of pure oxygen I require. As that happens, the biopsy procedures become less dangerous.

The fun part: If it is cancer, it’s Game Over. They don’t transplant cancer patients.

So, it’s all pretty fucking scary. I was having such a tough time breathing yesterday I was half-convinced I wasn’t going to make it through the night. Morning came, along with the respiratory therapist and the blood-taking-person, so I guess I was wrong.

I wish I didn’t have to think about all this at the moment, or, rather, that I had sufficient energy to think and write about this, economics, politics, and Doctor Fate all at once. The outside world — at least what I can see of it on CNN — has suddenly become very entertaining.

44 Responses to “Countdown to Biopsy”

  1. Mark Evanier Says:

    Gee, I wish I could think of something funny to post here.

  2. Tom F Says:

    One of the fondest memories from my youth is sitting atop the vetrans memorial in downtown Cleveland with a fresh stack of comics and some McFries for the pigeons. Your Howard the Ducks were always the top of the stack ’cause I knew I was in for a fun ride! Through the years your work has always stayed at the top of the stack. Sorry to hear of your recent setbacks. I hope for the best!

  3. Alex Krislov Says:

    Jesus von Jesus.

    Good luck. I can’t think of anything else to say, and, God, I wish I could.

  4. Steve Gerber Says:

    There’s always, “Waaaaaugh!”

    Just keep those metaphorical fingers crossed. One doctor actually theorizes this current bout may be happening because I aspirated some saliva.

  5. Gordon Says:


    we wait for the news that things aren’t as bad as you fear…

  6. Stefan Immel Says:

    If Mark Evanier can’t find anything funny to post how are we supposed to come up with something?

    And I can only agree with Tom, only I use to read the best comics at last (save the best for last), so your comics are allways at the bottom of the stack.

    Oh, yeah: “Waaaaaugh!”

  7. Robert W. Getz Says:

    Plenty of reasons for hope. No one knows anything for certain yet. And it is sometimes darkest before the dawn.

    In short, Fat Lady ain’t even on deck. So there.

    Remember the story of the elderly Jewish man who lay very ill in his bed. His doctors feared the worst. In his delirium, however, he imagined he could smell the aroma of his favorite rugalahs somehow borne up the stairs.

    Gathering what little strength remained to him, the old man lifted himself from the bed with tremendous effort and forced himself to climb down the stairs, gripping the railing with both hands. When he reached the kitchen, he beheld a remarkable sight: hundreds of rugalahs laid out on the kitchen table.

    Was he hallucinating? Or had his wife decided to assuage his suffering by preparing his favorite treat?

    With a trembling and withered hand, he slowly reached towards a rugalah that sat at the edge of the table, already anticipating the taste of it in his mouth. He had managed to bring the precious thing practically to his lips when he felt something smack him on the hand.

    It was his wife with the spatula.

    “Don’t touch,” she scolded him. “They’re for the shiva.”

    Keeping everything crossed (don’t ask),


  8. Alan Kupperberg Says:

    Dear Steve,

    You’ve GOT TO beat this damned thing. Worrying about you is depressing and it is wearing me out.

    You see, it’s all about ME!

    But Seriously, Best,


  9. Fred Chamberlain Says:

    Just keep those metaphorical fingers crossed. One doctor actually theorizes this current bout may be happening because I aspirated some saliva.

    It could be due to your script on Howard the Duck 27.

    In all seriousness, I can’t imagine how fucking scray this whole situation must be… add to the fact that you’ve been on this emotional and physical see saw for way too long and it is very clear how strong a person that you are.

  10. ROG Says:

    The funniest thing I can think off hand is that the comic book store I used to get my comics was being supplied by the jobbers that also supply newsstands. The comic store didn’t want to get “funny books” (Archie, Donald Duck, etc.) so it didn’t get Howard the Duck until issue #4. HTD was great, but it took me forever to get those first three issues.

    My prayers are with you.

  11. Brian Spence Says:

    I don’t think they’ve perfected those CT scans. Both my brother and I had cancer (mine was last year) and in both cases, they said that it had spread to our lungs. In both cases, they were wrong. In my case, they didn’t really alarm me about it and said wait for more tests. In my brother’s case, they told him it looked bad and if it was the cancer they thought it was, then it was game over for him. Turned out to be a little scar tissue for both of us. I think the lungs are tricky for doctors because we breathe in weird garbage all the time, and sorting through it is difficult.

    Just over the holidays my doctor scared me again by saying my latest CT scan showed something on my liver, but that too, turned out to be nothing after another test.

    So screw the metaphorical fingers, mine ARE crossed right now (hard to type that way, but so be it).

  12. Wayne Says:

    Seriously: “Waaaaugh!”

    My fingers, literal and otherwise, are definitely crossed, Steve. I’m typing this message with my nose, that’s how dedicated I am.

    Incidentally, I would love an update on FOOG 2. Have been searching for it online and it has proved elusive thus far. Any hints?

  13. Marc Bryant Says:

    You saying “Waaaaaugh!” made my day. Good luck with all this Steve. I truly believe it will all work out for you.

  14. Bob Kennedy Says:

    I’ve been on the receiving end of the “It might be cancer” speech when it turned out to be nothing of the sort. I don’t have any hard statistics for you, but anecdotally, you’re safe as houses.

  15. Scott Andrew Hutchins Says:

    Yeah… the lungs are one of the trickiest organs. Other than the bones, the lungs are the only organ that ultrasound is useless for. And CT technology is just an advanced way of taking X-rays, so they are notoriously difficult, even for an expert, to get entirely right.

    Seeing you whole and cancer-free in my prayers.

  16. kelly borkert Says:

    Please do stick around and be entertained. It would only be fair.
    thank you.

  17. Brad Brickley Says:

    Keep fighting, don’t give up. My Mom received her new liver on August 4th, 2007. She’s 59 now and would have died without the new liver. She’s had a lousy health record her whole life. Nearly died in childbirth, ovarian cancer, hepatitis C, liver failure. These are the ones I can remember, she’s had more stuff wrong. She keeps fighting. You keep fighting too.

  18. Robert W. Getz Says:

    Steve, I just read the new issue of CTM.

    So…have Mignola’s lawyers called you yet?


  19. Steve Gerber Says:

    Which issue of CtM is that?

  20. Cory Strode Says:

    My thoughts are with you, and hope that Mark Evanier can think of something funny to say.

  21. Adam D. Rubenstein Says:

    Keep the spirits up and much can change

  22. Ron Fortier Says:

    Why does it always have to be the bloody lungs. Hi Steve. Two years ago they found two spots on my lungs, one on each and couldn’t figure out what they were. So they had me take a Cat-scan, a Pet-scan, then they went in
    through my mouth for a biopsy and STILL couldn’t figure out what the hell they were. For the past two years I’ve been having regular Cat-scans and this year they tell me one of the spots has actual grown by a millimeter.
    No lie. And now they want me to go to a bigger hospital to get other opinions? No freakin way. Regardless of what these things are (lesions, fungus, scar tissue…cancer) whatever!! The truth is they do not belong in my lungs and I told them I wanted them out, I don’t care what they are. So I’m having one surgery in the middle of March and a second in May. Scared, you bet. But not knowing is ten times worst. Unlike your case, if it is cancer, there’s a chance they will have caught it in time. But can you believe I’m the one who had to kick them in the butt to do anything at all? You hand tough and while I’m praying for myself, I’ll add you to the mix. God bless.

  23. Eric Says:

    My thoughts are with you and I am sure everything will turn out fine.

  24. Jason Czeskleba Says:

    This place has gotten kind of grim, so I thought I’d mention that (contrary to news reports over the past several days) Slim Whitman is in fact still alive. Ah, to be the subject of a premature obituary. A lifelong dream of mine.

    Steve, I just wanted to offer you my best wishes. You are my favorite writer, period, and have been since I bought that “special album issue” of Howard and thought it was the greatest damn thing ever. You oughtta be able to get a damn good story out of your experiences this month, and I will look forward to reading it.

  25. DrewB Says:

    Dear Steve,
    We’ve never met but I’ve been a big fan for years.
    This news saddens me deeply.
    You’re in my thoughts and I hope that you’ll have a rapid and complete recovery. In the meantime, I’ll be praying for good news.
    best regards,
    Drew Bittner

  26. Lisa K Says:

    Hi Steve.
    It’s your sister, the one who went to India. Here is a Oneness Blessing I learned in India. If you say it to yourself, or silently, it will help:

    Sat chit ananda, parabrahmha, parushatama, paramatma;
    Sri bhagavati sameta, sri bhagavate namaha. OMMM.

    It works well to repeat it, to yourself, or silently.
    Perhaps everyone on the blog could say it for you.
    Peace, Lisa

  27. Bill Spangler Says:

    There’s no reason why you should remember this, but I interviewed you a long time ago– about 30 years, God save us– and you gave my last name to Eugene “The Star” Spangler, the Alice Cooper-style rock star who appeared in an issue of your run on MAN-THING. I was always happy to tell people that story. I was pleased to see your name on the new Doctor Fate strip and I was saddened to hear about your medical troubles. I’ll definitely be among the group hoping for a positive outcome from your biopsy. All good thoughts.

  28. Chris Tinkler Says:


    I wish you nothing from the best. I recently discovered your incredible Omega the Unknown.

    You’re in my (our) thoughts

  29. Steve Gerber Says:

    Lisa: “Goo goo goo joob!” also works, I think, but I’ll try yours too.

  30. Jack Holt (Bgztl) Says:

    If meditation is not as useful after a while,, i find bad jokes help. Like:

    How many doctors does it take to change a light bulb?

    Three. One to find a bulb specialist, one to find a bulb installation specialist, and one to bill it all to Medicare.

    Ba dum-dum.

    I got a million of them. Mr. Gerber, you ARE a magnificent bastiche no matter what. I’m just a fan, but even I know that.

  31. berk Says:

    Like a lot of people, I have no idea what to say, other than the obvious – hang in there. Amidst all the scary news, it sounds like so far there’s still no reason to assume the worst. Easy for me to say, I know.

  32. Robert W. Getz Says:


    It’s CtM #5, which is not only terribly funny, but so identifiably you that they hardly need to put your name on it. You’re a treasure, sir.

    Hang in, hang in, hang in. Crazy girl has to go study her meat loaf now…


  33. Glen Gold Says:

    I know a good joke about Las Vegas but it’s so filthy I should probably think twice before posting it.

    In the meantime, the shiva story sparked this one:

    An old Jewish grandmother goes to the beach with her grandson, who is — not so shockingly — the center of her universe. She is sitting in her beach chair with her little grandson playing in the surf when a huge wave crashes to the shore and sweeps him out to sea.

    The old woman throws herself to her knees and says “God! I have not been the most observant woman. I have not done the good works I could have. But I will devote the rest of my life to you if you will just grant this one boon: return my grandson to me.”

    The next wave that comes to shore deposits the grandchild right where he was, as if nothing happened.

    The woman looks back up to the sky. “Lord? He had a hat.”

  34. Heidi MacDonald Says:


    My uncle has COPD — not the same thing as you but the effects are the same, although his is a bit more slow moving. He isn’t at the wheelchair stage quite yet although he can’t really stand up for any length of time.

    Anyway, he had a spot on his lung about five years ago. It was cancer. They took out half his lung. He actually felt better for a little while after (lung reduction is actually an experimental treatment for COPD in the hopes healthy lung tissue will grow.) He keeps getting cat scans and keeps coming up clean. They do find spots but they are usually pneumonia. He’s doing as well as can be expected but more importantly, loving life and living life. I spent christmas day with him and his family, and it was awesome, as usual.

    SO….chin up. It’s a shitty hand and I don’t really have much cheerful to say but keep living life. Please.

    You know your work has meant so much in my life, Steve. And continues to. I send you all the good thoughts I can.

  35. Joe Says:

    Been a lurker for a while and have been following this since the beginning. I know you didn’t want us to be too morbid when this all began, so I won’t do that.

    All I’ll say is knock that fucking disease into “Duckworld” 😉

  36. Justin Newberry Says:

    The only bad thing about CtM 5 is the extra story in front of Doctor Fate that I, bound by my sworn oath as a geek, must read. No offense to Mister Sturges, but there’s something seriously lacking in this tale. Reading it is like walking through quicksand in moon boots. And kudos to whoever got Tom Derenick to do the fill-in for Justiniano. While not dead-on, he apes Justiniano’s style well enough that the difference is not too jarring from a visual standpoint. So few artists are willing to do that these days and that just makes Derenick’s stock rise a bit for me.

    But enough about that. Even though I remain optimistic about you, there’s that small, dark thought that keeps growing saying that I should stop listening to the reasonable part of my mind and try to visit you at the hospital. But that’s what an impetuous youth (or a stalker, actually) would do and I’m far too dedicated to this whole “acting like an adult” facade…

  37. Roger A Says:

    Man, I really don’t know what to say except that I hope things turn out OK. Your work has always meant a lot to me. Keeping all my fingers crossed….

  38. Roger Stern Says:

    Hang in there, Steve.

  39. jfire Says:

    Thinking of you, Steve. I’m thinking positive thoughts.

  40. Dan Walsh Says:

    Hi Steve,

    Praying for you!

    John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10.

  41. DavidCurrie Says:

    Sending good vibes from the UK for you to keep your tailfeathers up.
    Waiting with you for the news which we all hope will be good.

  42. Forrest Says:

    The desirability of visitors is of course a matter of who and why…

    [Rot13’d for possible bad taste]


    FT vf jngpuvat n Erchoyvpna cbyvgvpny qrongr ba uvf ebbz GI guebhtu erirefrq ovabphynef juvyr n ahefr yrnaf vagb gur qbbejnl.

    AHEFR: Ze Treore?

    FT: Gur rtbf ner fb zhpu fznyyre guvf jnl…!

    ARJG TVATEVPU naq XNEY EBIR onetr cnfg gur ahefr.

    AHEFR: Bbs!

    XNEY: Lbh’ir tbg ivfvgbef!

    ARJG: Uv Fgrir! Jr jrer whfg cnffvat ol —

    XNEY: Jr’er vairfgvtngvat Irtnf sbe bhe cynaf sbe Fbpvny Frphevgl ersbez nsgre jr fgrny Pbaterff onpx.

    ARJG: Mvc vg, Xney!

    FT: Lbh’er orggvat gur gehfg shaq ba ebhyrggr?

    XNEY: Ab, pencf. Gur bqqf ner orggre. Qb lbh guvax jr’er pbzcyrgryl veerfcbafvoyr?

    FT: Jryy…lrnu.

    ARJG: Nalubb, bar bs zl eryngvirf gbyq zr lbh jrer srryvat cbbeyl naq V gubhtug V’q fgbc ol.

    FT: Fb V’yy srry orggre ol pbzcnevfba jura lbh yrnir?

    ARJG: Fher, fher. V jnf jbaqrevat, gubhtu — jbhyq lbh zvaq…

    ARJG fynzf n guerr-sbbg fgnpx bs pbzvp obbxf qbja ba gur ebyyvat ubfcvgny gnoyr.
    Gur gbczbfg bar vf gur “XVFF vffhr” bs Ubjneq gur Qhpx.

    ARJG: …fvtavat gurfr?

    Fgrrc natyr qbja; FT vf ubyqvat hc gur gbczbfg pbzvp. Gur bar haqrearngu vg vf nyfb gur XVFF vffhr, naq inevbhf bguref cbxvat bhg bs gur fgnpx pyrneyl ner nf jryy.

    FT: Bu, fher, ab ceboyrz.
    Whfg bar guvat —

    FT ubyqf hc n Oveb.

    FT: — jbhyq lbh yvtug zl pvtnerggr?

    XNEY: V’q ybir gb yvtug lbhe pvtnerggr.

    ARJG: Ur zrnaf vg yvgrenyyl, Xney.

    XNEY: Cbb.

    FT: Whfg yrg zr ghea bss guvf bkltra sbe n zvahgr.

    FT yrnaf bire gb gur bkltra xabo ba gur jnyy naq gjvfgf vg bss.
    Gur phegnvaf nebhaq gur orq ner oybja onpx nf n ybhq jubbfuvat abvfr vf urneq.

    FT: Gurer jr tb!

    XNEY vf ernpuvat vagb uvf wnpxrg cbpxrg.

    XNEY: V’yy trg vg!

    ARJG: Gung ybbxf yvxr n Oveb, abg n pvtnerggr.

    FT: Gehfg zr, vg’f n pvtnerggr.

    ARJG: Jnvg, Xney! Lbh pna’g gehfg n–

    XNEY syvpxf n pbhagresrvg Mvccb yvtugre znexrq ZNQR VA PUVAN vagb yvsr.

    N uhtr rkcybfvba oybjf bhg gur jnyy. N orq cna vf sylvat vagb gur sbertebhaq.


  43. Rob Davis Says:

    “Best for last?” No way, I read Gerber comics first, put them to the bottom of the pile to read again. Best for first AND last.

    Here’s to hoping there will be more to put to the bottom of the pile again…

  44. Commander Korg Says:

    CTM #5 is as good as everyone is saying. Haven’t had many single issue reading experiences that amused me this much in the last couple of years. Kudos to you!