In that virtual dinner party - the authors we stack next to our beds - I have Jane Smiley chatting to John Updike, which will lead to some rebarbative dialogue, but in between attacking each other they can compare their takes on cancer. His here. And hers, from At Paradise Gate:
"...after the operation [to remove lung cancer] the doctors were jubilant. They said they had caught it in time, and they had done a beautiful job. Those were their exact words, 'Mrs. Crane, we did a beautiful job.' ...Anyway it was discovered that Geo had a brain tumour not quite two years later, and the same doctor from before said, 'Well Mrs Crane, we can't be sure, but it may be that a few cells escaped from the earlier operation. In this case they would go to the brain.' And he smiled slightly. I don't think he meant to. I was there, because Claire suspected what the news would be, and she didn't want to go in alone. I wish I could describe his tone of voice. It was as if he were smiling, and saying, 'That's life!' and shrugging his shoulders. And that's when Claire began to get bitter. That very moment."
This seems to me a pretty exact description of what happens after operations to remove cancer. But I may just be bitter.