Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Welcome to the Borrowed Time Zone blog. My name is Mark Shaffer. Depending on mood, season, and social events, I reside either in Lewes, DE or Avondale, PA. Professionally, I work as a software developer for JDA Software, Inc. I am an adopted member by marriage of a large extended family of Vietnamese-Americans. And I have a cellar-full of wine that needs drinking.

Recently, though, I have been made to adopt a new role, much against my will: I am a man whose spine has been badly damaged by multiple myeloma, a relatively rare form of cancer that affects blood plasma cells.

The purpose of this blog is two-fold. The primary purpose is to attempt to accommodate the many family members, friends, and co-workers who seem to want frequent updates regarding my status and experiences. I have attempted up to now to accomplish this using e-mail, but the whole thing kept breaking down in various ways, so I decided that a blog was the right way to do this.

The secondary purpose is merely to have an archive for all the blather on this subject that I have already produced to date, and which I will undoubtedly continue to churn out in the future.

As far as the title of the blog goes, I selected it for two reasons. First, no one else had taken it yet. But second, maybe I'm over dramatizing here, but it seems to me that, for most of human history to date, I would not have had much of a chance to last long. A man with a back broken by cancer, who had lost the use of his legs, might have been given powerful narcotics to ease his excruciating pain on his way down, but I suspect that in many cases, he would simply have been granted a swift mercy killing. I know, we have created a tremendous number of terrible problems with how we have arranged life on this planet in the twenty-first century. But one of the very best reasons to be alive today is that the scenario I just described above didn't have to happen to me. The critical damage to my spine has been repaired, and I am learning how to walk again. The cancer is being vigorously attacked. I have a chance -- an excellent chance, really -- of returning to those who have known me in something resembling the form they remember before I became so ill. I am the beneficiary of thousands of hours of tedious labor carried out by anonymous researchers and technicians in the dreary sub-basements of the Scientific Method. The results of their work had to be tested by volunteers with multiple myeloma, some of whom lost their personal battles with the disease when someone's Pretty Good Idea finally fell apart. To them all, I pay the tribute of attempting, in my deeply flawed personal way, to make the very most of every additional moment of life they have thus purchased for me by their sacrifices. From now on, I am living in the Borrowed Time Zone.

One more thing. I am not so self-absorbed as to be totally obsessed by this thing, constantly focusing myopically on the minutia of my disease to the exclusion of all else. The world is still just too interesting a place for me for that to happen. So, occasionally, I may post something that seems unrelated, or only tenuously related, to the stated purpose of this blog. If you see one of these posts, and you don't like it, then wince, cut me some slack, and wait for a better one to come along. Rest assured that the primary focus will continue to be my battle with multiple myeloma, here in the Borrowed Time Zone.

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