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What the heck is going on with Dear Hank and John for the next four to six months? Hank and John Green have answers!

If you're in need of dubious advice, email us at hankandjohn@gmail.com.
Join us for monthly livestreams and an exclusive weekly podcast at patreon.com/dearhankandjohn.
Follow us on Twitter! twitter.com/dearhankandjohn

 (00:00) to (02:00)


Hank Green: Hello and welcome to Dear Hank and John!!

John Green: [laughs] It's very weird to do the intro.

H: That's right!

J: Or as I prefer to think of it, Dear John and Hank.

H: It's a podcast where two brothers answer your questions, give you dubious advice, and bring you all the week's news from both Mars and AFC Wimbledon. John, did you know that you can get rid of most cancers with just a water gun?

J: Oh. Is that so.

H: Yeah, it works on Libras and Capricorns as well.

J: [laughs] Wait, what? Oh, you mean, like... Okay. First off, I'm not gonna workshop your joke because you have cancer.

H: [laughs]

J: And it wouldn't be appropriate.

H: Mmmhmm.

J: Secondly, I do have some notes.

H: [laughs] What?? I think think it works. I tried this on someone else and it also failed, but to me it's a good joke.

J: It's the "get rid of." Because that implies, like, a level of elimination. Or, like, complete killing. And then I've gotta reimagine this as just like... force them to depart from within 50 feet of me.

H: Yeah.

J: As the definition of "get rid of." So I think the place to look--

H: [overlapping] It's the "get rid of," is the problem?

J: It's the "get rid of." Like, do you know that you can.... something else... most cancers with just a water gun. Annoy? Frustrate? Discourage?

H: Yeah, but that's tricky. It's tricky. It's tricky.

J: Yeah. So this is a different episode from usual.

H: That's right.

J: Hank...

H: Do you want me to go through the whole thing?

J: I know that you're the main character of your cancer diagnosis... but can I tell you what it was like for me?

H: [laughs] Yeah, sure. Let's do that.

J: Then you can tell your story.

H: Okay.

J: So Sarah and I went to Sierra Leone and before we left for Sierra Leone there were a few-- Hank and I had a few conversations where he would just mention his health, which is very unusual.

 (02:00) to (04:00)


H: Uhhuh. Yeah.

J: Like, I'm the one who mentions my health in our conversations. I'm the one who worries about health. And I was really quite worried about this because it was so-- it was unusual. And I thought maybe it was just, like, a symptom of you being overextended and overworked.

H: Sure. That makes sense.

J: And then we went to Sierra Leone and when we were-- you seemed weird when we were in Sierra Leone. Like, I would call you and I would be like, "You cannot believe how amazing this 48,000 square foot hospital is. All the good it's gonna do. It's just incredible." And you would be like, "That is incredible." But you just seemed off. And like you were struggling to get to the level of excitement that I was feeling. And then we had a long trip home and when we were in the car on the way home-- Dad picked us up. Our dad. Picked Sarah and I up. And he basically immediately told us that you'd just had a biopsy and that you'd had an MRI earlier in the week, and there was a lot of suspicion that you might have some kind of cancer in your lymph nodes. And that was scary but I think for the first few days also we were all able to tell ourselves, like, "Well, maybe it's nothing." And even doctors were like, "It could very well be nothing." And then you heard from the surgeon that it was definitely not nothing. And then I think everybody who loves you and who knew was really really scared for a while. And I was with Mom and Dad a lot. And then we found out that you have Hodgkin's lymphoma. Which is a very treatable, very curable form of lymphoma. 

 (04:00) to (06:00)


J: There's a lot known about it. There's been good treatments for a while now. And that made it easier for all of us, I think. A little less scary. A little more known. But man. You know, the main thing that I've been thinking about the last ten days, and I know that you don't want me or the last two weeks or whatever, three weeks, I dunno how long it's been. [laugh] But I know that you don't want me to be sentimental and everything. And I know that we have a lot to talk about. So I don't wanna front load the emotion part of it. But, y'know, you're my oldest friend. You're my brother. You're the person I trust most in the world other than my spouse. Everything I've made in my professional life I've made either with you or to impress you.

H: [laughs]

J: I can't imagine life without both of us. Like, the thing that is-- Like, when I imagine myself dying, which I do, I dunno. Six or seven hundred times a day. The thing that is most unbearable is not to think about dying, it's to think about my kids and Sarah and you. And so it just. Here's the thing. The basic thing I wanna say is that, like, the great joy of my-- or one of the biggest joys of my life has been the fact that in adulthood we've been able to be in it together. In all kinds of things together. In making stuff together, in hard times together, in frustration together, in, like. Struggling to fathom the political environment in which we find ourselves together. All of that we've been able to be in it together. And I know we can't be all the way in it together with this. But I'm with you. And I wanna be as together as we can be, I guess.

 (06:00) to (08:00)


H: Yeah. [sighs] I mean, it's... I feel like I've already learned about how to be in this situation even though I've only been in this situation for, like... Oh. ...So as you're you hearing this the vlogbrothers video would've come out a few days ago.

J: Yeah, maybe we should back up and you tell your part of the story.

H: Okay. Just start. Okay. Yeah, sure. So I had shingles a while back. A bunch over the summer. Which can be coincident with lymphoma in both ways. Where, like, you can get it because you have lymphoma. But you can kinda have lymphoma-like stuff going on and then it can get triggered by shingles. So just because you have that long-term intense infection. So anyway. But it could also have nothing to do with it. So I had this three bouts of shingles, which is very weird. But I was on Humira at the time for my colitis and they figured it's probably because of the Humira. And in fairness, when I stopped taking the Humira I stopped having shingles. But the last bout I had was a cross the top of my chest and into my armpit. And shingles, if you don't know, it's an infection of the nerves that is the same virus as chicken pox. So chicken pox hangs out in your nervous system and then if your immune system gets lowered you can get shingles. So it's a terribly painful rash, basically, where your nerves are infected with this virus.

J: Oh god, that sounds so painful.

H: It hurts a lot!

J: Just the phrase "your nerves are infected with this virus" is very evocative of physical pain.

H: Yeah. And after that my armpit remained swollen. And then I went to see the doctor and they were like, "It's probably nothing." And then it remained swollen and I went to the doctor and they were like, "Okay, well, let's get a scan." 

 (08:00) to (10:00)


H (cont'd): And it was like, pretty obvious immediately that this was not a "something that probably wasn't a big deal", it was like "this could very well be a big deal". And like (J: Yeah) the tech, who was doing my ultrasound was like "you should stay here, usually there's a doctor who I can go grab", 'cos usually the tech is like they don't say anything, they're like (J: Right, right), that's not they're job. J: "You'll get your results in a couple days". H: Yep, but y'know, and the doctor sort of explained what is was exactly about the ultrasound that looked suspicious, and like, I couldn't tell ya. It was like "there's been a facement of the fatty hila" or something like that, and I'm like "ok" (J: mhm) "I'm sure, I believe you that it's worrying". And then, y'know, so like I had to get scheduled for a biopsy, and then that happened, and then it takes a while for the biopsy results to come back, sometimes a really long time, because they're not, like with certain problems it can be a bunch of different things and they have to like do genetic testing and ecetera. But with this it took a couple of days, and there was that period that was probably the worst bit so far between finding out that it was lymphoma specifically, which did mean that it wasn't a number of other things that it could've been that would've been bad, which would be like, a melanoma that had moved to my lymphnodes or something like that (J: mhm), so that would've been worse than this. But the period of time between finding out that it was, y'know, we're gonna have to do cancer stuff, which is good to find out because you can start some balls rolling, and finding out what kind it was was the worst part, and like, you would not believe how giddy I was finding out that it was Hodgkins. Like, it was ridiculous, because, y'know, that's a different game than a lot of lymphomas. J: Yeah, it was good news amid the bad news.

 (10:00) to (12:00)


J: Not that other... y'know, there's just a lot of forms lymphoma. Of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. There's, like, over 60. And some of them are very treatable and some of them are really really difficult to treat.

H: Yeah. I mean, sometimes you don't even treat certain kinds of non-Hodgkins. It's just like, "Ah, you've got it. But, like, we're gonna keep an eye on you until it gets bad and then we'll treat you." And that's another thing I've learned. If you're curious. This is all about balancing -- y'know, with Hodgkins specifically but really with all cancer and chemotherapy -- it's about balancing the side effects of the treatment with the potential positive outcomes. So you could go way harder than they're gonna go on me. 'Cause they're gonna, like, let it go and see how it responds. And then, with Hodgkins usually it responds pretty well. And then they give you some time to see if it comes back. And they monitor you for a long time. Usually it doesn't come back. And if it does, then they just go again. And usually it responds well the second time. So. Or they do radiation or they do immunotherapy. So there's a bunch of treatments that exist now that didn't exist even five years ago. And so it's about trying to... 'cause chemo can have side effects that are, y'know, not like you feel bad for a month. You can get some damage to your heart or some damage to your lungs. So you've gotta watch out for that.

J: Right. There's all kinds of long-term side effects, too. It increases certain risks long-term. So.

H: Right. And the radiation is the same way. Where you don't wanna do radiation on the first go because you're increasing odds of future problems. Future cancers. The week that we're recording this is kind of my week from hell. Monday's great. Tuesday I'm prepping for a colonoscopy because I had to... I had a colonoscopy scheduled. They really want to do it.  Both to see how my current treatment is working.

 (12:00) to (14:00)


H: And just for screening reasons. And we've been postponing it because my treatment has been changing. But they don't want you to do a colonoscopy after you've started chemo because it can increase changes of complications, so they moved it up. So tomorrow I start the prep for my colonoscopy, then I get the colonoscopy, then I get my PET scan and my chemo port. That PET scan will tell me how, like, what stage lymphoma, Hodgkins, this is. As of right now it seems like, since I'm feeling fine and the scans did not show it -- my MRI didn't show it in any other places -- it's probably very early in the progression of the disease. But we'll confirm that because MRIs don't show everything. With the PET scan. And then I start chemo on Friday. Which as of the recording of this podcast is three days ago. Or the release of this podcast.

J: Right. So, as you're listening Hank has already started treatment and he's on the road.

H: Yep.

J: There's a little bit of... So, we don't argue much. I often say that we've only had one argument. Which was at VidCon. But you've pointed out that, really, we've had more arguments than that. It's just that only one really erupted into a full... I don't even think you raised your voice necessarily. But, like. You know what I mean.

H: Yep.

J: So *I* would actually argue that our second biggest argument, behind the argument that we had at VidCon when the Gregory Brothers video was malfunctioning, is about what the next six months look like. Because --

H: Well, I mean...

J: Yeah. But I think we should have-- I think it's a good idea to have this out. Let's model how we have arguments, Hank.

H: Well, I honest- like, I think we're probably going to come to the same place, which is where I'm at.

J: [laughs]

H: I think that we're gonna end up where I am, John.

J: [laughing] As we always do. That's why we never have arguments.

H: [laughs]

 (14:00) to (16:00)


J: It's because I always end up-- Hank just slowly delivers me to his place. No, sometimes I remain passionately opposed to Hank's positions.

H: Yeah. Yeah, so here's what I think. 

J: And the argument, just to be clear, is about work. It's about Dear Hank and John. It's about Vlogbrothers. It's about all the stuff that we do together. And this is... Look, it's complicated because obviously work is not the most important thing. But work is really important. There are over a hundred people who work for either DFTBA or Complexly. And, y'know, for whom Hank is ultimately their CEO. And so it's not an insignificant thing. And then there's the community of Nerdfighteria and the community of people who listen to this podcast. And we are conscious while we know that everybody listening only wants the best for Hank and only wants whatever's gonna be good and helpful for him. Y'know, we're also conscious of the fact that this isn't just hard for Hank. It's also hard for everybody who cares about Hank. Which includes people who listen, are listening right now. And includes people who care about our videos and people who work for Complexly and DFTBA. Y'know, there's so many people around the world who are thinking of and, dare I say it, Hank, praying for Hank. And we wanna be conscious of that. And while also finding our way through. Because it's... yeah. It's complicated. And so I think my impulse is to say, like, Hank needs to be on sabbatical. Let's set some absolute boundaries. And I think Hank's impulse is more like, let's see how I feel.

H: That's right. 

 (16:00) to (18:00)


H: The thing I don't wanna do is set myself up to not have anything to do.

J: Right. I get that. I totally get that.

H: Yeah. And your response to that, which I get, is just hang out. Read books. Watch TV. Go for walks. Do restorative yoga. And I'm like, "yes. Yeah." But I... y'know. There's a bunch of stuff I feel good at when I'm doing it. And that I feel better after I'm done. And, y'know, I kinda expected-- 'cause I went in to shoot SciShow the sort of, like, three days after I found out. And hadn't really told anybody yet. Except for a couple high-level people at Complexly and DFTBA. And I was like, "I'm gonna be so tired after this. I'm gonna be so exhausted." 'Cause I was really-- like, so I got the biopsy where they actually remove your whole lymph node. Or a whole lymph node. So that they can get a really good look at what's going on inside. And after that I felt really tired. And then four days later I still felt really tired. And I was, like, "This is the lymphoma." I'm like, "I have lymphoma fatigue." And then I just kept getting less tired every day. And it turned out that I had surgery fatigue. And I had stress fatigue. And I had maybe painkiller fatigue. And, y'know, Buspirone fatigue just because-- I was drowsy because I was taking an anti-anxiety-- 'cause I was really freaked out. And I go and I film SciShow, and it was a light shoot day. And then I do Tangents. And at the end of that I felt the best I had felt since the first worrying scan. And I was like, "Okay. This is important data." Because honestly, what I do want to do is lay in bed and feel like crap. I totally wanna do that. I'm into that. Like, that's what my brain is pushin' for a lot of the time. And I don't feel better in that situation.

 (18:00) to (20:00)


H: And so I want to figure out things to work on that are low lift, low stress. That are-- And, like. Honestly, also I need to be doing physical things. So that's gonna be extra hard, I think. Biggest side effect of chemo is -- the thing that everybody has -- is fatigue. And so I-- What I want is to not have to do anything. But to do things that make me... Like, when I feel up to it, to do things that make me feel good. And, like. Y'know. I have been journaling, which I never do. Because that's-- it's felt very necessary. And I've been writing. Y'know, just writin' some stuff that's not journaling.

J: Great.

H: But I've no idea what direction it's moving in.

J: I love to hear that, though.

H: With no goal.

J: That's the best kind.

H: And what I don't want is to be in a situation where... I think I'd feel better if I made a podcast, or made a Vlogbrother video, or went in to shoot SciShow. And people were like, "No, you can't."

J: Right. Right. And I absolutely understand that. And y'know what, we were gonna have an argument and I completely acquiesce. Like, I agree with-- unfortunately I agree with everything you said so I can't--

H: Told you!

J: I can't model how to have an argument except to say that I am concerned that you feel obligations even when everyone works really hard to make you not feel them. So I just want you to be conscious of that. So I have a couple questions from what you just shared. But the first thing is that for the next, like, four to six to twelve months, depending on treatment and lots of other things, you're not gonna have a weekly Dear Hank and John. You may not have any Dear Hank and John except for the, like, 600 episodes that we've already made, half of which you haven't listened to.

H: [laughs]

 (20:00) to (22:00)


H: And we encourage you to listen to those episodes because John will be recording new advertisements. Because we have obligations.

J: That's a weird thing, but like, we have to have an ad break in this one because we, um. Well, we need to. This wasn't obvio-- just to state the obvious, we didn't have this in the budget. 

H: Well, we also have-- we could cancel the contracts. But we have contracts. And they exist already.

J: Yeah. And we may have to cancel contracts, that's not a big deal. As the person who's taking over for Hank in some of these CEO roles I look forward to those phonecalls where I can be like, "We're canceling this contract and if you are mean about it you kinda suck."

H: [laughs] "Just so you know. Square that with your own conscience."

J: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which is not to say we expect advertisers to spend money on things that aren't being advertised. Or impressions that don't exist. But we do expect advertisers to be cool about us taking some time off and then not charging them. We do expect that to be cool. So anyway, for the next four to six to twelve months, depending on how everything goes treatment-wise, we don't know how often, if at all, there will be new episodes of Dear Hank and John because we just don't wanna put that pressure on Hank.

H: Yeah. And I like doing it. So, yeah.

J: Of course. And if you call me and you say, "I'd like to record a podcast right now. I'm done watching Netflix and I'm done writing and I wanna record a podcast." I'll be like, "Great. Let's record a podcast." But I don't wanna have the expectation that that's gonna happen for listeners or for us. 

 (22:00) to (24:00)


J: Because we just don't know. And I think making space for you to feel however you're gonna feel is the right call.

H: Right. And if you wanna listen to a bunch of old Dear Hank and Johns.

J: Oh, we've got some.

H: They're there. They're ready for you. That's great, get those impressions. Deliver.

J: [laughs] No. No. We're fine. Everything's fine. If you've joined the Patreon we'd love it if you stayed. We will be back.

H: [laughs] Yeah.

J: And we should say, just so nobody worries, the money from this podcast doesn't go to us. It goes to Complexly to support stuff like SciShow and Crash Course and all the other stuff that gets made there. And the folks working behind the podcast, who we're so grateful to for their flexibility, especially the last few weeks, are gonna be fine as well. So don't worry on our account. We just wanna apologise for the fact that we do have to have an ad break. Which reminds me, Hank.

H: Yup.

J: Oh, this is gonna be hard. Um. Today's podcast is brought to you by... [huffs as if to say "hell if I know"] 

H: [laughs]

J: [laughing] I'll tell ya, man. I'll tell ya, it's all been fun and games for the last five years but turns out you gotta get life insurance, guys.

H: [laughs] Let's just roll the ads.

J: [laughing, slightly away from the mic] You don't wanna do another one? I had a couple in mind.

H: Okay. Whadda ya got?

J: Umm. No. I... the moment I had one but then my-- here's something that's been happening to me in the last month. My mind will go utterly blank. Utterly. Like so blank that I'm like, "Did I just achieve enlightenment?"











 (24:00) to (26:00)


H: "Do I exist?"

J: No, for me it's more like, "Is that-- did I just glimpse nirvana?"

H: There's nothing.

J: There's just nothing there. There's no suffering 'cause there's no desire. Because there's nothing. So yeah. Anyway, here's maybe some ads. I dunno if we sold these impressions.

H: So John, I have a question for you.

J: [flatly] Great.

H: What's my job like? You've done a little bit of it in the last week or two. How is it?

J: Oh my god. Well, I don't what it's like normally. It's not easy. And it's not as easy as you make it out to be. And it's very time-consuming and I don't know how you do other stuff. I do not know you did this job, or these jobs, being the CEO of DFBTA and Complexly, and wrote two novels. I don't understand how you did that.

H: I also have a hard time figuring that out.

J: Here's what I'll say about your job. You work with amazing people. And that makes it bearable.

H: [laughs]

J: But it is not an easy job. I'll tell ya what. After two weeks of kind of doing your job I'm very very impressed. And by the way, you've still been doing much of your job. I don't really, fully take on your jobs until Wednesday. Couple days from now. And I'm quakin' in my boots, man.

H: [chuckles] Good! John, do you wanna know some things I've learned about being a cancer patient?

J: Yeah. Yeah. Are these gonna be dad jokes as well?

H: No.

J: Or are these gonna actual observations based on eight days of experience?

H: The other dad joke I had was, "What's the most expensive haircut you can get?"

J: [dark laughter] See, that is a great joke. [laughs] 

 (26:00) to (28:00)


J: Yeah, not only is it expensive, it's not great. 

H: Yeah, it's a bad haircut and it takes forever. Weeks. Weeks of individual hairs getting cut one at a time.

J: How do you feel about the prospect, just to turn it back to you 'cause I know you're trying to make it about me for a minute. But how do you feel about the prospect of losing your hair?

H: Uhhhhh.

J: Is that an emotional connection for you?

H: Yeah, I worry about it a little bit when it-- like, so, there's two... There's a bunch of reasons why I might not make YouTube videos. Obviously. But hair being one of them is interesting. To think, like, I dunno if.. I talked about this in my Vlogbrothers video, but I don't know... Like, I don't... [sighs] This an identity I'm having put upon me by reality and I don't know to what extent I want to lean into it. And, like.  But. [sighs] You know. It's just our bodies. It's just. I am also worried about how Oren's going to feel about it. He's not a big fan of change. And I think that that might be the thing that hits home the most for him. And I honestly worry more about my eyebrows than my hair. Which you can do makeup things. For sure. 

J: Right. Right. But with your eyebrows they're a part of how you express yourself and part of how you communicate.

H: Yeah. Like, we see lots of people without hair. But eyebrows usually stick around unless there's a reason. So I've thought about that. And there's lots of things you can do. You can go full eyebrow wig if you want to. I also don't know how to play it, exactly. Because there's two bad parts of it. One, you start to get really thin hair. And two, there's hair everywhere. And so the thing to do is usually once it starts to come out you shave it so that you're not clogging up your drains all the time. 

 (28:00) to (30:00)


H: So much more hair on your head than you think. I haven't decided how I'm going to play that one yet. But yeah, it's definitely a thing that it's a present thought. Which is surprising, honestly. 

J: Well, I think everybody responds to it differently but you're right that it's sort of the-- it's a very visible marker, right? It's something that's visibly associated with cancer for a lot of people. And then also for lots of people their hair is a big part of their self-expression. And I think for you maybe a little bit less so since you have had the same haircut since you were about eight. But I think the part of it that I can see being difficult for you is that, like you said, it's an identity that you didn't choose. And I could see how you might not feel comfortable with your appearance. But I actually think that you might be very handsome.

H: [laughs] We'll see what shape my head is.

J: Yeah, like, there's always the possibility that Oren's gonna be, like, "Finally. Dad looks like he's supposed to look." So what're the things that you've learned so far in your eight days as a cancer patient? Or twenty days.

H: First, not that might. I have a lot of learning left to do.

J: For sure.

H: So I've talked to a lot of people who have known about this. And here are the best and worse things you can say, from my experience so far.

J: Great. I think this is something everybody needs.

H: Yes. I think that this is the most important learning, because everybody's gonna know somebody with cancer at the very least. Worst thing is, they ask how you're doing. And I say, "Okay." And then they say, "But how are you really doing?"

J: Oh. Yeah.

H: This is not what I want to do. I would tell you how I'm really doing if I wanted to.

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