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Cancer Survival for Software Developers 263

Paul Pareti writes "Doug Reilly has published an affecting, personal piece about Surviving Cancer if you're a Programmer. You don't have to be a sufferer to benefit from reading it, especially his conclusions, including the perspective-lengthening advice: 'Make sure you are not indispensable!'"
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Cancer Survival for Software Developers

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  • Wow (Score:3, Funny)

    by Eightyford ( 893696 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:12PM (#14878548) Homepage
    Make sure you are not indispensable!

    Wow. That just may be the first ever selfless good deed.
    • dispensible (Score:5, Informative)

      by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:15PM (#14879020) Homepage
      I've never really understood the "make yourself indispensible" mindset anyway. I've always tried my best to make myself as unnecessary as I can, by making the equipment, the users, etc. as reliable and self-sufficient as possible. Not only does it make my job less stressful in the long run, but it also shows up in others' assessment of my skills, which is where real job security (or at least most of it) comes from. Of course it's never possible to make myself completely dispensible in the real world, and that's where the rest of my job security comes from.
      • I've managed to make myself dispensible, and lost the job. I set up an instrumentation/computer system for some psychologists, to make their fMRI experiments simpler to run. I did such a good job that my boss decided he didn't need my skills any more. Even if you play nice, your boss can still be a bastard!
    • Re:Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

      Actually, it should be par for the course, for any consultant. Being indispensable does not create The Warm Fuzzy Feeling (TM).
      • Actually, it should be par for the course, for any consultant. Being indispensable does not create The Warm Fuzzy Feeling (TM).

        No, but being indispensable is a safety precaution that many workers use to so that they wont become, well, dispensable. That, is selfish.
  • by AltGrendel ( 175092 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:13PM (#14878550) Homepage will never be promoted.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by u16084 ( 832406 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:14PM (#14878559)
    I found the article a little "wieird", If I found myself with terminal cancer, my family and myself would be on the top of the list. I would spend every last waking momement with my kids. I would take every precaution to say to them what needed to be said and done, The LAST thing on my list would be source codes and clients...
    Sure it sounds WRONG, but take a step back, and think about it. I'm going to die in 6 months, sorry ozzy/harriet daddy has to go take care of some stuff at the office, dont worry, i got 6 months left.
    Unless ofcourse its Curable, which then, I would have to balance the two a little more carefuly.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Informative)

      by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:27PM (#14878654) Journal
      Right. Notice that for terminal cases, he says "read the next paragraph (regarding learning about new treatments online) and go spend time with your family." The rest of the article was for those people whose cancer is curable, or long-term treatable (as in, you will probably die in the next decade, but will be okay to work for at least a couple more years before things get bad). People in those cases can't/shouldn't give up their normal life because it's not over yet.
    • From the article:

      Bobby was fearful of his employer knowing the details of his illness and so the succession plans that would have made things easier for both of them were not in place. As a result, neither my brother nor his employer was properly prepared for his death.

      I think this example amplifies your point. How is it that Bobby wasn't prepared? I don't mean this in a cruel or uncaring way, but I am quite sure that his employer's predicament didn't hinder his passing.


      • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

        by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:37PM (#14879166) Homepage
        How is it that Bobby wasn't prepared?

        Part of preparing for death (assuming you get a chance to) involves talking about it with the important people in your life, and assuring yourself that those you leave behind are going to be OK. While your co-workers probably don't rank up there with your children and beloved partner in that respect, you may very well count them among your friends, and I know that I'd hate to leave my friends in the lurch if I could prevent it.

    • Unless of course the software your working on is for researching a cure for cancer.
    • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:49PM (#14878815)
      A few years back, I had a close coworker who was diagnosed with cancer. He decided that he wanted to work, be productive, and fight it as best he could, even though his chances were slim. He came to work every day he could and did his job, even when he was losing hair and using a laptop from the hospital bed.

      After he died, our team was devistated. I'm not sure we accomplished more than simple maintenance activities for months afterwards. Even though he'd tried to put things in order, it was still tremendously difficult to fill where he'd been. It probably took a good year before things felt on track again.

      It's strange even now, running across his name in code or tucked away in a database somewhere. I support his few remaining applications, which some day will be retired as well. The things we leave behind . . .
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:55PM (#14878863) Homepage
      Those of us who are older, and have families and houses etc. know that we have to keep working, if at all possible, to keep the bills paid. I woudln't want my family to have to have one of those cans you see on gas station counters that say "help the such and such family." If you stop working, you accumulate huge debt, that maybe your life insurance doesn't cover. When you get older, you will realize life isn't about what you want to do.
      Yes it would be nice if you could sit around for 6 months. But it is selfish.
      • Absolutely right and it's not to say your children will still continue to go to school and your wife working. It's not really sane to stop everyone daily activities to wait for the fatality to happen. Life is not ended yet and most of the world around you will continue to live.

        Spend some time with them, but it is not likely you could spend the whole day, all week days with them. You also need to distract yourself and avoid becoming bitter about life. Still continue to be creative.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        ... what do you think they would rather have? Memories of you spending your last days with them, or being able to tell their children how you took care of business before you died?

        I know, it's a balance that is required, but my wife and I have talked about it and we've decided if either of us gets hit with an illness like that, we'll sell the house, get a houseboat, and spend the remaining days as a family on a worldwide adventure. "irresponsible"? Maybe if you're idea of responsible is to be good little c
      • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ipfwadm ( 12995 )
        Yes it would be nice if you could sit around for 6 months. But it is selfish.

        If you don't have enough money in savings to sit around for six months, then you've over-extended yourself (or you're poor, but given that this is Slashdot, I'm assuming not). If we were talking about a couple years then you'd have a point, but you should always have at least a several month reserve of money lying around. It may not be cancer or illness that makes you need to use it, it could be a lay-off.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DougReilly ( 959868 )
      Read the article. If you are terminal, meaning there is not cure and no treatment, then of course, stop reading the article and go home. Cancer is more and more a treatable disease that ends up begin chronic. I know folks with similar tumors that have been dealing with the cancer for 10 years no. I likely could get by on disability for quite a while, however 10 years is a long time, and even 2 years would be long enough that I would like to continue doing something useful. I will smell the roses as wel
    • Re:Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tim C ( 15259 )
      Sure it sounds WRONG

      No it doesn't. No-one goes to their death bed thinking "I wish I'd spent more time in the office..."; that's especially true when they go 30 or 40 years before their time.

      If I have only a couple of months to live, then I'm sorry, I'd spend as much time as possible with family and friends. Project deadline? Devil take your client requirements, I have more important things to do and precious little time to do them in.

      Work steals enough of our time as it is; don't let it take your final mom
      • What happens if you have a 70% chance of surviving for another 5 years, and a 40% chance of surviving for another 10 years? And you're a consultant.
    • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:16PM (#14879036) Homepage Journal
      Why should you view the warning that you potentially have 30 or 40 years left any differently than the warning that you have 3 months left? Shouldn't you be living your life the same way in either case? You're going to die anyway, so why should you wait for the last few months to get the most out of it?

      I know that to some extent you have to work to keep the symptoms of incurable life in check. Having to eat, having to have shelter, that sort of thing. But I think you should at least be doing something you like. To date I've known 3 guys who came down with cancer while working in the IT industry. They all kept working for as long as they were able to, not because they had to but because they wanted to. I think if I got cancer I'd want to keep working as long as possible as well. Admittedly I don't have much in the way of close family, though.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:17PM (#14879039) Homepage Journal
      I found the article a little "wieird", If I found myself with terminal cancer, my family and myself would be on the top of the list. I would spend every last waking momement with my kids. I would take every precaution to say to them what needed to be said and done, The LAST thing on my list would be source codes and clients...

      Well, you do have a terminal disease. It's called aging. It'll get you sooner or later if the proverbial bus doesn't make it's appearance, so it's not a bad idea to keep your actual day to day activities a reasonably close reflection of what your real priorities are.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Schraegstrichpunkt ( 931443 ) * on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:26PM (#14879104) Homepage
      The guy mentioned that he was a consultant. If you're a consultant, your income can disappear at a moment's notice; All your customers have to do is stop calling you. If you don't want that to happen, you have to be extra careful to not neglect your customers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I chose to struggle through life by working at home trying to code my way through life. My coworkers are my loving wife, 10 yr daughter and 5yr old son. It has been very hard to get by and sometimes I have to take a "job for the man" but I try to get out asap. I do not care about things I want, I just want the things that I need. If I knew I was to die soon I wouldn't change that much. I moved the family to live at Disney World so I don't have to worry about saving for vacations anymore. We have one
  • Yeah right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by warsaw303 ( 940277 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:18PM (#14878595)
    If I'm going to die of cancer I could give a shit less how my employer makes out when I'm dead.
    I'm dying...UH OH, I'd better make sure all my code is documented. That's ridiculous.
    • Wish I had mod points. I couldn't agree more.

    • Guess what: we all die.
    • by kpainter ( 901021 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:51PM (#14878838)
      Employee Bob: "Boss, I hate to bring bad news but I have incurable cancer. I need to review the comments in my code right away and make sure that someone can step in for me when I am gone".

      Boss: "Bob, this in a strange way, is very fortunate. Meet Rajii here from India. He was going to be replacing you anyway. Its a win-win!"
    • Re:Yeah right (Score:2, Insightful)

      I don't agree. I like my work, and while it's not my entire life, it's a big part of it. Why wouldn't I want it to be well-maintained? I actually do maintain a file (I call it my "I got hit by a truck" file") that has a pile of information that whoever took over for me would need. It's true, no one is indispensable (except Bill Belichick) but I can make my successor's job a lot easier.

      Also, I've never really bought the "I'd spend all my time with my kids" argument. For one thing, there isn't that muc
  • by weegiekev ( 925942 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:19PM (#14878596)
    The following points from the article should be followed regardles of having a potentially terminal illness:

    * Make certain that source code is where it should be.
    * Clearly document anything "strange" in the source code you deliver. .
    * Make certain you have a "buddy" developer who knows what you are doing.

    If nothing else, the first two are essential if you want to read your _own_ source code after a year or two's time and figure out what is going on.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:10PM (#14878984)
      * Make certain that source code is where it should be.

      My fellow seniors and I have a little rule where I work - if it's not in CVS, it doesn't exist. Nothing gets deployed to a server that isn't in source control. Hard drives die, things are deleted by accident, and developer PCs are not backed up. The CVS server is (or should be - if it isn't, at least we are blameless if the shit hits the fan).

      * Clearly document anything "strange" in the source code you deliver.

      That's just common courtesy if nothing else. If you think something is odd while you're writing it, imagine how it's going to look to someone else coming to it cold. I've lost count of the time I've seen wasted (and have wasted myself) investigating weirdness in code, or even removing things that look completely wrong only to have something break subtley in an apparently unrelated area.

      * Make certain you have a "buddy" developer who knows what you are doing.

      This one I'm much less bothered about. However, that may be because I tend to actively discourage any concept of code ownership. It's not *my* code, it's the $feature code. If someone else needs to get in there in the course of their work, all the better - they may catch a mistake I've made, or a bad assumption. Even if it's perfect, it's one more person who knows the code. I think that ideally everyone on a team of developers should get stuck in to pretty much every module. It's rare (in my experience at least) that any part of an application is so specialised as to only be within the ability of a single team member.
      • That's just common courtesy if nothing else. If you think something is odd while you're writing it, imagine how it's going to look to someone else coming to it cold. I've lost count of the time I've seen wasted (and have wasted myself) investigating weirdness in code, or even removing things that look completely wrong only to have something break subtley in an apparently unrelated area.

        Or for my favourite variation on this, spend ages investigating the weirdness, trying to clean it out whilst complainin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:19PM (#14878600)
    1. Call boss: "I quit"

    2. Sell house, possessions.

    3. Move to tropical island paradise.

    4. When the pain sets in - gun to head.

    5. Afterlife????
  • Facing death... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:21PM (#14878608)
    A few months after my mother died from breast cancer, my boss was harrassing me for not being willing to put in 80+ hours per week because I was spending too much time with family. When he told me I needed to work his way or take the highway, I took the highway. My dad and I took a road trip to from California to Idaho to bury mom's asshes with her folks, I went back to school for a year and got a better paying job two years after I left my old company. Unless you work for a great company that cares about the employees, you got to deal with the jerks.
    • Re:Facing death... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lord_Slepnir ( 585350 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:45PM (#14878788) Journal
      If any boss asks your to put in 80+ hours a week for more than a week or two at a time (IE, right before a release), you need to take a good solid look at the highway, no matter what your situation is. Once they know that you'll work 80+ hours a week, they'll exploit that to the fullest.
      • Re:Facing death... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by stunt_penguin ( 906223 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:08PM (#14878976)
        Which is the situation at the moment in the games industry, where 70 hours is basically mandatory all the time in all companies and at all stages of a project.

        That's why the games industry holds no interest for me- I'm a pretty decent 3D modeller but you couldn't pay me enough money to sell every waking hour to EA. Especially on a sequel. Until they all grow up I'm not going to touch them with a bargepole.
    • A couple of years ago, I had a fairly close extended family member pass away in the night. The following morning, I told my project manager that I would be taking half a day in either two or three days, depending on when the funeral was scheduled. He chewed me up one side and down the other for not giving him enough notice. Honestly.
      • You need to find a better job. In the past 5 years, I've had:

        1)An old friend die. I had to take 2 days off to fly cross country for the funeral
        2)My grandmother die. I missed a solid week to sit shiva, this was 3 days before my project was due to release.
        3)My father have a heart attack. I had to go home to take care of my mother, and waited until after my father's surgery (which was further delayed to let his heart strengthen a bit).

        I never got any shit for missing the time. I never had more than a day'
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:24PM (#14878635)
    We should ensure that, no matter what happens, we have taken care of our responsibilities such that, in the event of our departure, our clients and employers can continue to function normally.

    Well, if you are dying, you may have other priorities in your last days. The above quote might be relevant if you own or run a company, but not for the average Joe.

    Most people would not think twice about quitting their boring jobs and actually try to enjoy the last hours of their lives.
    • The problem is that isn't quite what he was getting at.

      Doug's first cancer was curable (as it was contained only in his liver and is completely gone after the tumor was removed.)

      His second is treatable, and he may live as long as 10 years.

      I don't know about you, but I can't spend 10 years with my family. I would need to work to have a bit of money, especially for these cancer treatments.

      Now were it terminal, I'd tie up loose ends and get the hell out of dodge. But if I saw a lot of hope in hanging on for
    • by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:38PM (#14878741) Journal
      Well, if you are dying

      Yeah, but the article isn't aimed at people who are actively dying. It's aimed at people who probably aren't going to die, but do have a better chance than the average person under 50 years old.

  • If I had any cancer which was seriously threatening my health I would delete everything I could possibly delete and then laugh until I cried.

    Well, not really. But I certainly would be more worried about myself than about how I could arrange for my clients to keep making money. The only reason you want your clients to make money is so that they will then have to give some of that money to you in the form of your fees. Beyond that they can go fly a kite.
    • Re:Cancer Shmancer (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PitaBred ( 632671 )
      And it's attitudes like this that cause you to curse at the asshat who cut you off in traffic, or shortchanged you, or spits in your burger, or just laughs as you get robbed. Because as far as they're concerned, you can go fly a kite.
  • by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:33PM (#14878699) Journal
    Several commenters are saying how, if they were dying of cancer, they'd ignore all this stuff and spend time with their family etc etc etc.

    Of course you would. If you were currently dying of cancer. He says very clearly that if your case is terminal, that's what you should do. The article isn't for those people

    It's for people with either curable cancer, or cancer that is long-term treatable (will likely kill you in the next decade, but you'll be fine for at least a few more years). People in those situations can't afford to quit work entirely (not with those Dr bills, trust me!), and in all likelyhood shouldn't give up their normal lives. But it does mean that they have a better-than-average chance of dying, and should probably take a few precautions just in case.

    Yes, if you hate your job, hopefully something like that would be a wake-up call to change your situation. But if you're fine with your job, and are most likely not dying anytime soon, quitting is not necessarily the obvious solution.

  • ...I thought that article was retarded.

    I'm just stating my opinion here, but it's talking about living life from the wrong end of the spectrum. For one things, one of the first things that came to my mind when I read it was, "Get a freakin life!!" If a person is so concerned about what will happen to them after they die, then they should really re-evaluate the way they live. I live my life in such a way that if I had to be replaced because of death, people wouldn't think, "Oh I wish he had left us the pa
  • Awkward Article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moehoward ( 668736 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:42PM (#14878771)
    I am in the same boat as the author of the article. I found, however, the conclusions and advice to be rather awkward if not just plain weird. To be honest, I doubt the accuracy or sincerity of the author. Sounds a bit James Frey-ish to me.

    Here is how it works... You get diagnosed with cancer and then you freakin' forget ANYTHING about work. Period. I don't frickin' care if you are the president or Sheryl Crow. You take care of yourself and your family. Managing your work is just below the bottom of any priority or list you may have.

    Been there, done that with too many family members and others in our support network. The article is pure sci-fi/fantasy/victim-hood non-sense. I don't think that in my life that I have ever been offended by anything, but the editor who put this on Slashdot is getting pretty close to being the first to do so.
    • Re:Awkward Article (Score:5, Insightful)

      by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:02PM (#14878935) Journal
      You get diagnosed with cancer and then you freakin' forget ANYTHING about work. Period. I don't frickin' care if you are the president or Sheryl Crow. You take care of yourself and your family. Managing your work is just below the bottom of any priority or list you may have.

      Unless, like the author says, your cancer is treatable and you know most likely won't be dying anytime soon. I continued in grad school (both classes and a research assistantship) full-time while I was getting chemo and radiation. My family wanted me to move back with them (1000 miles away), but I knew that would be completely stupid in my case. I only had about a 20% (or less) chance of dying, but if I'd quit school and done that I would have had a 100% chance of severe depression, which is shown to reduce surivial rates. Not to mention losing my insurance, which would mean that once I was done with treatment I'd probably have to declare bankruptcy, and boy would THAT make the next few years of my life more fun.

      Over all, there was no way in hell I was going to let cancer dictate my life. Now, if the initial treatment hadn't worked, and my chances got significantly lower, needed a bone marrow transplant, etc - then I would have pretty much had to quit, and would have gone back to be with my family. But that didn't happen, and my family eventually realized I'd made the right decision.

      Dying of cancer and having cancer are two very different situations, and have to be dealt with very differently. It's also the kind of thing that's totally different for different people - I was able to take 3 classes and work 10-20 hours a week during chemo, some people on the same regimen aren't able to. I liked what I was doing a lot; others who don't like their job may see it as more of a nuisance during treatment, or may not have supervisors as understanding and flexible as mine.

      I don't know what your current situation is, but I hope that your treatment is going well. And I hope that you're only letting cancer tell you what to do when you absolutely have to.

    • You get diagnosed with cancer and then you freakin' forget ANYTHING about work. ... The article is pure sci-fi/fantasy/victim-hood non-sense.

      [shrug] Not everyone reacts to cancer, or any other life-changing (and potentially life-ending) event, the same way. When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she told the people she thought needed to know, and kept on living her life exactly the same as she had before the diagnosis. She worked right up until the day before her surgery, and was back at work,
    • there's one thing you need to remember. Not everyone else is.

      A lot of posts, yours included, seem to have this mythical concept that you can simply drop everything and gather your family to your side for all your remaining days. Well, guess what? You can't. Why? Because they have lives too. Your kids can't drop oiut of school, your wife is going to need to keep up with her job (she'll be the family's only source of income after you die) Hell, maybe your ass needs to put in a little more work to pay of

  • Oh, I expected another article about software patents :-) You know the EU is currently pushing for the Community patent [].

    But here it's cancer or more explicit death. A student I knew suffered liver cancer and did not write a testament. He died three yrs ago. So his property went to the Government and his friend (he was homosexual) had to move out of his flat.

    The advice the adeveloper gives to us is very intresting and should apply to all of us. Truck numbers of projects have to be kept low (A truck number is
    • You mean truck numbers should be kept high. A low truck number means you're in dangerous territory if you lose someone.
  • by Builder ( 103701 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:46PM (#14878796)
    A lot of comments here are along the lines that if they were dying they would screw work and spend time with their families. I gotta ask - why would it take your impending death to spend this time ?

    Every day you go to work before your child gets up and get home after they've gone to sleep is a day that you both lose. Every saturday you spend getting those TPS reports done is another day of play and growth that you will miss with your child.

    An earlier poster said that they would spend the time making sure that their kids know what they need to. That kinda implies they aren't doing it now. People say that they would spend the time with their family.

    Maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick - maybe you already do that. But to me, every day I live is one day closer to the end of my life. I only work to make sure that I can keep my family safe, warm, healthy and educated. Once I've worked enough to make that happen, the rest of the time is for them, because each day is one less day that I have to share with them.
    • We all have a terminal disease -- it's called life and it's going to end sometime for everyone. Could be next week, a year, 10 years, or maybe 100 years.

      You never know what's going to happen so living in the now is the only way to go. My priorities (as someone unlikely to die soon) are:

      1. Family
      2. Health
      3. Work

      You're dying right now -- what are you going to do about it?
    • Why? because working at "home depot" or other low stress low skill job that lasts only 8 hours and is very close to home is not an option today if you want to supply "safe, warm, healthy and educated" to your family.

      Good school districts are expensive, good neighborhoods are expensive, houses that dont leak all the heat like a screen door are expensive. All of those things require a job where the employer either treats you like dirt and works you 10+ hours a day and usually requires you live 1+ hours away
    • Thank you, Captain Cliche!

      So, why exactly are you wasting time here on Slashdot instead of revelling in family bliss?
    • I would also argue that if getting the news of cancer would make you drop your career like a hot potato, you're wasting your time on the wrong career. You should be doing something you love, whether or not you think you're going to die soon.
  • by maillemaker ( 924053 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:50PM (#14878823)
    Today there is no such thing as loyalty in the business place.

    Employers will dump you in a nanosecond if the finance number crunch that way, and they will not in the least be concerned with /your/ welfare after you are gone.

    Why should I be concerned about theirs?
    • That's not true at all.
      br> I work for a government contracting company in which business can be volatile if we lose a contract. For instance, I was slated to work on a massive $300 million contract 2 years ago, but we lost it to Lockheed Martin. A lot of people thought they would lose their jobs, but the company has an internal research and development (IRAD) budget, so everyone was moved to research until permanent spots could be found. I was bounced between two different IRADs before I was placed on a
  • by QuasiEvil ( 74356 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:53PM (#14878848)
    Quite frankly, the onus is not on me to assure the continuity of business as a lowly analyst in a huge company. Part of my job is to do work in accordance with company policies - including documentation. These policies were set up by someone because they realized that documentation of how things work is almost as important as actually making them work. Thus, I document, both for my own good and because it's part of the prescribed process to follow.

    I work on an internal system at a large company that's mission critical to our core business. Five people in the history of the company have worked on it - two moved on, one died, and there are two of us left. He's a private pilot, I'm a suicidal driver, and we spend quite a bit of time together outside of work. The question comes up regularly, "What if you guys get hit by a bus?"

    My answer: Then I'm dead, I no longer give a @#$^.
  • Cancer comments (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:54PM (#14878859)
    Good comments. I even have a copy of the mentioned "source code" cartoon somewhere in my files.

    My mother died of breast cancer 6 years ago. She was diagnosed in her mid/late 50s and insisted that we not tell anyone. She didn't want to be viewed or treated differently. When her cancer recurred, her doctor called it "terminal recurring breast cancer" and gave her 6 months to a year to live. She lived 8 more years after the reappearance and died of cancer at age 80.

    When first diagnosed and for most of the time following that the web didn't exist but she did take advantage of other resources like medical libraries. Research is important as the author attests. Equally important, however, is finding the right experts.

    My mother saw one doctor who, after a cursory exam and x-ray viewing, declared that the cancer had spread and had eaten away part of her ribs and said, "come back next week and we'll start chemo". No discussion of options (other than joining a statistical study the Dr. was involved in). She saw another doctor who spent some time on the case. She saw the same x-rays and patient but was able to determine that the darkness on the x-ray was not due to "dissolved ribs" but due to dense soft-tissue blocking the x-ray and that the range-of-motion issues were due to the tumor. A couple months of Tamoxifen and the tumor had shrunk to golf-ball size and was removed with relative ease. The range-of-motion issues started easing within a couple weeks of starting Tamoxifen.

    Also, don't get complacent. My mother had a mastectomy so she didn't think cancer when she started having discomfort raising her arm on that side. She assumed that if she did get cancer it would be on the remaining breast. Wrong. If you have cancer, be extra careful about continuing checkups even after you are "cured".

    My dad got prostate cancer which was discovered due to urinary symptoms. Routine screening wasn't done at that time and through careful research and good medicine he lived 13 more years. He died last year at age 76. With earlier detection he might still be with us.

    So for the rest of us, get those exams. I'm in my 40s but get regular PSA and prostate checks due to the family history. I also get a full body check for skin-cancer every couple years (from birth to age 18 I lived in the Mojave desert sun with my hair turning white and my skin turning brown every summer - we didn't know from sunscreen back then). When I turn 50 I'll probably be first in line for the colonoscopy. If I do get cancer, I want to catch it early.
  • With all due respect (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @05:57PM (#14878889)
    With all the deep sympathy for anyone with a serious disease, I find the ideas in the article ridiculous at best, appaling at worst.

    To put it bluntly - who gives a flying fig about employers convenience, when life and health of individual are at stake. If only a few years are left for one to live, it is far better to spend them with loved ones or doing something that is important to the person (or makes a difference to the world, or both) then wasting your time writing useless code for someone's profit. Unless of course this happens to be "what is important to that person" - and then I would strongly suggest reviewing priorities, while there is still time.

    Pretending that there is such a thing as "work ethics" and "loyalty" on part of employees when nothing is given or guaranteed by employers is both silly and dangerous.
  • What A Jackass! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by PhatboySlim ( 862704 )
    Cheers to this guy for surving cancer, but the article states in the footnote that the author is the owner of this business. He also continues to drone on about the employees obligation to his/her employer explains itself if you start from the bottom of the article.

    If you are reading this article, I strongly suggest you read the following before listening to anything at all this guy has to offer, especially his request that you "look for another job". That is completely ludicrous.

    Questions and Answers Abou []
  • Once they find out you are going to die of a long, painful and VERY EXPENSIVE death, I am guessing they are more concerned at how much their medical insurance costs are going to increase because of your illness. Maybe they are thinking it would be better if you were hit by a bus (since you are going to check out anyway). And, oh yeah, make sure those comments are up to snuff.
  • Very well said (Score:4, Insightful)

    by avoisin ( 105703 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:05PM (#14878958)
    Excellent article, and I agree with everything he wrote. I've thought about this too, as although I'm still quite young (26) I know from family history and my own personality I'll work until I literally drop dead. It would drive me insane to just sit at home "retired" because I love my work so much.

    Don't get me wrong, I don't really care what my company does or doesn't do after I'm gone, but I have some great friends here and I do care quite a bit about them. I wouldn't want to suddenly drop tons of work on them when I know a 10 minute conversation or copying code would have saved the day.

    Perhaps it's a bit selfish, but I would like to leave the impression when I'm gone that "Yeah, he was a great guy" rather than "He was a great guy, but now we're screwed". I try not to leave projects unfinished and I see no reason why my career as a whole needs to be any different.
  • As a European now living/working in the USA this just really highlights what I've personally observed as a frequent difference between Americans and Europeans at work.

    Many Americans will chose to give their qhole lives over to their company even at a cost to their family and own personal lives. (e.g. giving up weekends to go into the office even without anyone telling them to). It seems to me that either most Americans are crazily work-addicted or possibly too scared to risk being perceived as non-conformis
  • by JoshDM ( 741866 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:09PM (#14878982) Homepage Journal
    Java developer out of work due to the big dot-bomb crash of 2001; had my fiance's insurance. We got married in September, had a honeymoon, Sept 11th happened on the day we were supposed to come back. I'd been having night sweats for months and had lost a lot of weight for the wedding; wasn't eating much, but thought that fat guys sweat a lot at night, so didn't think much of it. Lost 60 pounds. Night sweats. Drenched the bed. After our honeymoon, I started having CHILLS. and Night Sweats. Crazy stuff. Teeth chattering, etc. I got to the doctors and he said I had Montezuma's Revenge and... something else. Hepatitis? Blood work was coming up weird. He ran more tests then sent me to an oncologist at the "Cancer Center". "Don't be scared of the name," he told me. "It just says Cancer. Doesn't mean you have cancer." My oncologist was great. I had a lump under my armpit. She and the surgeon could feel it. I couldn't tell. Married for 2 weeks. No job. Whee, fun. I had a bone marrow test; no cancer there. Surgery told us it was Hodgkin's Disease. Later to be renamed by Larry David as "The Good Hodgkin's" [ [] ] He's a crackup. Stage 3B. It's spread across my chest and into my spleen and liver. Curable, they told me. On the roulette wheel of cancers, you want Hodgkin's. No one in my family had ever had it. A blood aunt had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. A non-blood aunt also had had NHL. My mom kept a clean home - they say that many Hodgkin's cases come from clean homes. That bitch. :-) I was told 6 months of chemo and then radiation treatment. In the meantime, I was frantically looking for a job, but no one was hiring. Had my first chemo, then 2 days later an interview. Java development. They wanted to hire me, but I told him, "Look, I have to be honest with you. I can easily do what you ask, but I just started chemotherapy. It's curable they tell me, but I need one day off every 2 weeks for treatment; they only do treatment on a weekday. I just had my first treatment 2 days ago (true) and I'm right here, fine, and coherent." My future manager really liked me and agreed, but I wasn't paid top dollar for my position. Who cares; we had 2 incomes and I had something to think about instead of mulling my "doom" in the apartment. They were fantastic to me, but have been out of business for 3 years (through no fault of mine - they were bought out and everyone was laid off or forced to move to Utah). I had ABVD chemo on Mondays. In retrospect, I should have scheduled for Thursdays or Fridays. I was violently ill on Wednesdays and couldn't properly taste anything until the next Wednesday. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating and my mom said I'm a miracle - the first person to gain weight while on chemo. :-) That bitch. :-) I got a potocatheter in my chest; if you're going to get Chemo, that's the f*cking Rolls Royce of chemotherapy. Just plug right into the chest. Chemo ended up being 8 months, but no radiation. I involunterily vomited every time they injected me with saline to "clean the pipes". Told me that the old people didn't notice it, but since I was young, it was bad. I still can't swallow salt water without a little retching. After 8 months, the PET Scan showed it was clear. Gone. Vanished. I was good to go. Remission. Had cat scans to follow up every 3 months and then 6 months after that. After 5 years, I'll be considered cured. Regarding the weight thing; I was scared to lose weight for the last 3 years. I realized that I subconsciously related weight loss to having cancer. Saw a therapist and she helped me move on with a little advice. Told me that I was "easy because I'm a self-realized hypocondriac". She's was right. I eventually joined the Dr. Siegel "Cookie Diet" and lost 70 pounds. On the cancer side, I just had one of my 6-month cat scans and bloodwork. I'm relatively clear; nothing is there, but the radiologist did spot a 2 mm item in on
  • Okay, not to be crass or anything, but we are ALL going to die sometime. I'm only 38 and I'm already well aware that I'm no spring chicken anymore - college grads see me as the greybeard already. I know I won't live much past 100 even if things go perfectly. I'm over 1/3 done.

    In my opinion, we should ALWAYS live our lives as if we will die anyday. Knowing (or thinking) that you have a fixed endpoint doesn't seem that much different.

    So it seems to me that we should always handle our job skills (not to mentio
  • Such bitterness out there! A few notes.... 1. You are all gonna die of something, sometime. 2. If you get advance notice, like a cancer diagnosis, you will have some cleanup to do in your life. This includes both personal and business issues. 3. If you are doing what you love and are good at, especially if you are self employed, then RTFA. It is good advice. 4. If you hate your job, or are just one of many little cogs in the great corporate machine, GO DO SOMETHING ELSE. There are no do-overs, you get one s
    • by porcupine8 ( 816071 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:37PM (#14879165) Journal
      3. If you are doing what you love and are good at, especially if you are self employed, then RTFA. It is good advice. 4. If you hate your job, or are just one of many little cogs in the great corporate machine, GO DO SOMETHING ELSE.

      I think that this is the whole point that so many people are missing. I kept working/going to school during chemo because I loved what I did, and not doing it would depress me enough to interfere with my treatment. If I were some corporate drone with a job I hated, then I probably would have taken it as a sign to get out - but luckily, I've worked hard since high school to make sure I'm never in that position. I know what kind of impact I want to have on the world, I know how I want to get there, and I love everything about it. So cancer had no effect on my career plans whatsoever - although it did cause me to make one decision in my personal life that I would not have made otherwise, that did slightly affect my career. But only slightly.

      Some people do need to keep working through treatments, and working a sucky job during treatment would just make a bad situation worse.

      If you don't love what you're doing, don't wait for cancer to get out of it. Just like people are saying that you should comment your code whether you're dying or not - you should actively pursue a career that you would MISS if you had to give it up for chemo, whether or not that chemo is imminent.

  • by Phandros ( 940982 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:32PM (#14879143)
    That's a very noble point of that I would definitely share should it ever happen to me. However, it's just good business etiquette to make sure your employer is up to date on all of your source, documentation, etc because cancer isn't the only thing that can incapacitate you. Certainly there are more ways to leave this world than I can dream up so I find myself asking, why would you only practice this if you had a terminal disease? Getting hit by a bus comes to mind. People die suddenly every day, people who have jobs, spouses, kids....a future. To everyone who thought that they would follow suit with the original author, try to get over your belief that 'it could never happen to you' and clue in and make sure that you're not indespensible.
  • The article says that if you have incurable cancer to spend time with your family and maybe use your computer to keep up to date on new cures. Otherwise it seems to be more about convincing your clients that a) you'll still be around and they shouldn't jump ship and b) your code is so clean and commented that they won't lose any of their investment by continuing to use your services even if you dropped dead.
  • by cubistdude ( 959882 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @06:50PM (#14879243)
    As a testicular cancer survivor, I agree with most of the article. I was fortunate enough to have an employer who allowed me a six month leave of absence during my treatment. Thoughout that time, (before blogs) I kept an email correspondence with family, friends and co-workers. I went through two major surgeries and two rounds of intense chemo. That was now three years ago and by following through with the recommended followup diagnostics, I am still "cured". The down-side of this is that I had a great employer and medical plan. The medical bills for my six month treatment came to over $110,000 USD. If I was not on salary and insured, I would have been financially devestated. I was also extremely fortunate that my employer allowed me to come back after six months in the same position and same pay as I had before the leave. I don't think many people have that opportunity. So the jist of my response is, realize that extreme circumstances can happen to you and if/when they do, you will be amazed as to how anyone in your life will resond. (mostly in the postive)
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @07:17PM (#14879407)
    Fu.. my employer, fu.. my coworkers, I'm gonna die, TO HELL with 'em.

    Very human attitude. Granted. But it's what you leave behind that defines you as a person. We, as coders, are in a very bad position for that. Whatever we leave behind at work has, at best, a lifespan of a few years. If what we leave behind is "alive" 10 years after we're gone, it's most likely very obsolete code. I mean, think back about 10 years, consider the code you developed back then and ponder how much of said code is still productive.

    Hardly any.

    Some of us have a family. And if you have one, then yes, fu.. work, spend time with them. That's what you're gonna leave behind.

    But from my point of view, I don't have a family. I won't have one. I don't really have that much money to leave some kind of foundation behind. What I have is my knowledge and my experience. Of both, I have lots, I dare say.

    So my last plan would be to pass this on.
  • by Morganth ( 137341 ) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @07:26PM (#14879449) Journal
    If you are working on a big project, write helpful comments, and when a major milestone release comes out, write a nice, detailed document which you can call the "Maintainer's Guide," which is the first thing a future developer working on your project will look at to understand the project.

    All developers should do this.

    Here's my advice for developers who find themselves with a terminal illness:

    (1) Stop using a computer, and give all your source code/documents to your closest coworkers.

    (2) Sell all your posessions.

    (3) Pick a country where global economical differentials and exchange rates make your couple hundred thousand dollars a huge amount of usable capital.

    (4) Move there.

    (5) Start a business you can do in the sunlight, smelling a nearby ocean breeze, hopefully. Or simply live off the money you saved.

    (6) Really, just _don't_ use your computer anymore.

    That's my advice.
  • Go on with life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlpineR ( 32307 ) <> on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @08:30PM (#14879777) Homepage
    I'm pleased to see that the author's advice is similar to my own outlook. I was diagnosed with a rare form of metastatic colon cancer at age 31, just months out of graduate school and employed in my computer-focused career.

    After surgery to remove the primary tumor, I was faced with chemotherapy and a 50% chance of dying within two years. My first reaction was like many of yours: give up work and move home to be close to family and friends. Or, pack up and travel the world with my remaining days.

    But then I realized that giving up work and moving home would be depressing. I'd just be a cancer victim sitting around, waiting to die. It's hard to have any more good times in such a grim situation.

    And traveling the world wouldn't be much fun either. One of the problems when you're sick with cancer is that you don't feel good. It's not like the doctor says "you have two weeks to live" after which you feel fine for two weeks and then pass away in your sleep. No, when the end is that close it's a struggle just to stay comfortable and enjoy things like food and warmth. So traveling the world would mean feeling crappy in a foreign land surrounded by strangers.

    So I decided that I liked where I was in my life and would keep doing what I liked doing. That meant continuing to work, continuing to meet new people, continuing to learn things and watch movies and play games. That meant trying to be a person plus cancer, rather than a person destroyed by cancer. Sure, my perspective changed. I straightened out my personal relationships and felt freer to express my own quirky personality.

    Continuing with normal things helped me to survive chemotherapy and more surgeries. And with the help of a great employer and coworkers I continued to be productive -- a little bit on bad days and a lot on good days -- and feel good about myself. The benefit of working with computers was that I could be productive from home and the computer would wait patiently when I was hit with a bout of nausea or fatigue.

    These days I'm feeling fine but I know that any day the cancer could rear its ugly head again. My motto is to go on with life as if you have two years to live. Don't panic and drop everything and curl up on the couch. But remember that you don't have forever to do the things you want to do.


"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor