Suicide Is Not Selfish: Listen To What I'm Saying


Is dying from cancer selfish? Did my husband not try hard enough to get better from the disease that afflicted him? Did the doctors not try all of the treatments available to him to cure him? His death from cancer wasn't because he was selfish.

And someone who dies because of suicide is not selfish. Depression is a disease. It is not a choice. Treatment can be complicated. It is not a matter of willpower to just "get over it." (More than 90% of the people who die from suicide has risk factors related to depression or other mental disorder, or a substance-abuse disorder—often combined with a mental disorder.)¹

So, when I see remarks about suicide being a selfish act, I call bullshit. Loudly. 

Do the grieving have a right to be angry with the loss of their loved ones? Fuck yes! Depression, just like cancer, robs us of too many too soon

And unlike cancer, mental illness is still taboo to discuss. It's hard to find treatment. And the stigma of telling people you struggle with a mental illness will give you pause in the workplace, with friends, and with family members who don't understand that it IS a disease and not a choice, that you are not weak, that you would love nothing more than to "get over it."

When was the last time you were asked to donate to a mental health cause? How many colored ribbon magnets do you see on cars for depression or suicide? 

How many do you see for cancer? Which types? What colors? I bet you can name at least three colors and what cancers they represent, and another few ribbons for other causes, none of which relate to mental health.

Nowhere in the list of risk factors for suicide will you find selfishness. Shock. Awe. Or, just logical if you stop and think about it. 


If you are in a crisis and need help right away:

Call this toll-free number, available 24 hours a day, every day: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You will reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a service available to anyone. You may call for yourself or for someone you care about. All calls are confidential.

Gallbladder Gone: Pictures Of Other Stuff

I survived. It's gone. I look a little like I got punched in the gut and feel like I did about 100 sit-ups, which is hilarious if you know me because I don't really *do* exercise like that. It's so dangerous. I mean, people die exercising. Runner, Drops Dead! You read about it all the time. Plus, the sweat? Who can be bothered? If I sweat, it's going to be for something FUN. Or dirty. Like gardening.

This might explain the looseness in my ass, but we'll address that some other time. When I care. Until then, let's look at some pretty pictures, and I'll just wear some high heels around the house to help tone my ass until I feel like exercising.

A huge thank you goes out to my chauffeur the day of my surgery. She was stellar in every way. My extended family has also been wonderful helping with Bug, and Peanut has been a first-rate nurse.

Now, some photos. Just because I'm going a little stir-crazy up in here.

Great-grandmother's lamp

I can't lift anything heavy for a couple weeks, so I'm stuck photographing things around the house. Bear with me.

Some freak from the Internet sent me flowers. Thanks, freak. They're purdy.

Although, I did get out for a quick visit to San Francisco when my friend, Heather, was in town just before my surgery. Here are a couple of photos from our dinner. I have a hard time resisting Art Deco decor. And light fixtures, apparently.

Deco light

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Boobs And Gallbladders: The New Spa Days

I started off my Tuesday being ushered into a waiting area much like that of a spa—as if I were getting ready for a massage. A plush robe was waiting on the bench for me. A locker with a key was waiting for my valuables. There was tea and water in the waiting area.

IMG 3572

It looked like a lovely robe, but I decide to skip it and just wear the gown that tied in the back and take my seat in the waiting area.

IMG 3571

I'd already had my annual mammo. I've been getting them since I was thirty-five due to family history. This was a follow-up. A call-back because of my scar tissue, or breast density, or whatever. I was still trying to remain calm.

Pro tip: when trying to remain calm, don't arrive thirty full minutes early for your appointment. You'll end up reading every InStyle magazine in the place, decide you need a serious makeover, and realize you have neither the money nor desire to pull it off.

Finally, I was called in for my tit squish. I had a fabulous tech. We had each other laughing with radiology horror stories. I told about voiding cystograms. She topped that with a voiding defecogram! Dude, can you imagine having to drop a deuce while someone takes an x-ray? I think not! It was bad enough having to pee mid-film. (I used to work in the field, but had the honor of posing for those earlier in my life. Bonus: no need to smile.)

Once she was done, I went back in the holding tank until I was called in to have an ultrasound thanks to my fabulously hot tits. Or it might have been related to my dense breasts and scar tissue. I wasn't really listening.

All I know is that I passed with flying colors, they gave me a lollipop, and I got to go home.

Until Thursday. Thursday I have to go to see another doctor because my gallbladder is an asshole. We're going to have a pow-wow about what an asshole my gallbladder is. That's the official diagnosis. Asshole gallbladder. Look it up on WebMD.

Then, for Valentine's Day, I'm having it removed. Well, the day after Valentine's Day. I guess the surgeons don't like to do that kind of thing on Valentine's Day, which is weird because I got my uterus removed for Xmas a couple years ago, but they wouldn't do it on Xmas; I had to do it a couple days beforehand. It's like these doctors make plans on these holidays. Odd. I wonder if they'll agree to put the gallstones in a heart-shaped box for me.

Anyhoo. I've been reading up on the post-op joys of having one's gallbladder removed and came upon an entire message board of people who swear you'll be doomed to a life of diarrhea and sharting yourself, which has me super excited. I refer to them as the Debbie Downer Gallbladder Removal Society and refuse to believe in them or their complaints because, really? Who would start a board to talk about how awesome they felt? They'd just be out feeling awesome.

That's what I plan on doing. Feeling awesome. Me and my bewbs and my gallbladderless self. Feeling groovy.

Just as soon as I find a ride to the hospital.

I kid. Sort of. At least the kids are spoken for.


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Updates: My Sister-in-Law And Teenagers

She's off all medications now. She's waking up easier and answering commands. They're also starting to give her food, resulting in an increase in her energy levels. I think the plan is to get her stabilized so she can be transferred to a hospital her insurance covers. (She's at Kaiser right now and isn't a Kaiser patient, it was just the closest hospital when they transported her.) Gotta love our healthcare system. All of her head CTs have been normal, and her blood pressure is still good. Her white blood cell count is back up, too. Pretty sure she's still intubated as her CO2 levels were still not where they wanted them.

Through all of this, I've watched how my kids have responded. It's been amazing. My son was fighting a cold and couldn't go to the hospital with us. He was never fond of going to the hospital, even when his dad was there, understandably. But, when he found out he wouldn't be able to go see his aunt, tears started pouring down his cheeks. He wanted to be there for his cousin. He was texting me to find out how she was doing--his cousin.

My daughter, oh my god. She was unreal. No way did I think she'd want to go into the ICU to see her aunt. The adults were coming out ghost-white. My daughter shadowed me throughout the morning and afternoon, until I felt a tug at my shirt. "I want you to take me in." She was sure. We went through the protocol we went through with my husband. Hand cleaner. Face mask. Except Bob was always awake and coherent when she saw him. He was never intubated. He never had 7 IVs.

She stood next to me, but she looked straight ahead at her aunt. No tears. Just love. No fear. Just love. We stood and watched the nurse adjust the cooling pads. Then, we walked out, quietly. She's so stoic. I'm not sure my niece, her best friend, would have been brave enough to go in to see her mother if my daughter hadn't gone in first.

It was another hour or more before my niece was ready to go in. Again, we cleaned our hands. Again, the mask. I asked how much she wanted to know before we got to her room. I told her what would be similar to when we would go see Uncle, what would be different. The tears fell, just a few. Then we looked at the machines. I explained where to find her heart rate and blood pressure. We talked about how good they looked compared to earlier. We watched the nurse give her oral medication through the tubes. We looked at the machines working to help her breathe and keep her cool. I touched my sister-in-law's arm, smoothed her hair, told her that her daughter was there.

These kids are so young to be standing in hospital rooms at their parents' bedsides, but they do it, and they are amazing. Since that day, my daughter has stayed at her cousin's side, camped out with her at the hospital, just like her cousin stayed with her when her father was sick. My son has stayed with me, by my side, making sure I'm okay, but also asking after his cousin.

Anyone who thinks that teenagers aren't caring, empathic, strong beings is sadly mistaken.

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Groundhog Day In The ICU

It’s her this time. Not him.

She’s in a medically-induced coma. He was almost always awake.

I could talk to him. I can’t talk to her.

IVs. The same. But more. So many more. Seven in total.

The hospital is the same. It was his favorite one.

I’m scared, just the same. We all are.

My mother-in-law stands beside me, sobbing. We cling to each other. We’re scared, again.

The abyss. Again.

We don’t want to be here. None of us are ready to be here. It’s not time. It’s not her time. It can’t be.

The details seem unreal. A heart attack. A doctor was there, at the party, able to administer CPR immediately. The fire department arrived within minutes. Defibrillation was needed. She was transported to the nearest hospital. Still unconscious. They followed the new protocol for heart attacks, inducing a hypothermic state, slowing her body’s functions, allowing her brain to avoid the shock of a sudden influx of blood, allowing it to avoid the potential for swelling and more damage.

So, we wait. Limbo. Again.

all for herA family in limbo. Bob’s parents not knowing what will happen to their now-youngest living child. A family camped out in a hospital, again. Waiting for answers. Living on cafeteria food. Sneaking out for quick showers, cell phone calls in hallways, hugs and tears, prayers and confusion. Friends arriving. Some you’d never expect. Others, wishing they could be there. Heartbroken they can’t be. cousins BFFs


Fucking Groundhog Day.

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2 Live Crew, Meet The Tea Ass and Coffee Burro

I have an uncanny ability to time the few times I get sick with Bob’s lowest white blood cell counts. This time I managed to wait for his counts to get down to 0.4 until I got a fever. I never get fevers. Ever. Even when I feel like a I have a fever, I don’t.

But last night, after doing a bunch of chores all day, cleaning out the fridge, running errands, catching up on laundry and just generally enjoying myself, I started to feel really run down. For the hell of it, I popped a thermometer in my mouth. 99.2. Must be wrong. Tried it again. 99.1. Tried another thermometer. 99.1. Tried it again. 99.1.


Face mask.

Spare IKEA mattress (4 in. thick, padded it with a comforter). Family/Laundry room floor (adjoining the kitchen). And the birth of a new motto:

Shade Down, Mask Up

Shade Down, Mask Up, That’s The Way I Like to Fuck…Cancer!

(Thank you 2 Live Crew for the inspiration.)

There are upsides to my current accommodations. For example:

  • Sleeping next to the washer and dryer means I can have blankets with that “fresh from the dryer” feeling any time I want.
  • I’ve always wanted a water spigot in my bedroom for drinking water because I’m THAT LAZY. Now, the kitchen’s in the same room.
  • Better AT&T signal on my iPhone means I can play Words with Friends without having to constantly play the Airport mode on/off game.

But, I miss Bob. So, we chat and text. You’ve gotta love technology when germs are an issue. Here’s an excerpt from one of our recent chats. I’ve given it a title:

The Famed Tea Ass and Coffee Burro

him: how come amazon doesn't want me to shave?
me: i don't know. i need to check on that. brb
me: your razor arrived in san pablo today.
i'm guessing it'll be here tomorrow even though the estimated delivery date is 1/6
unless they're sending it by burro
him: that's possible .. doesnt juan pablo have a burro that carries his coffee beans?
me: juan valdez
him: err .. juan valdez
me: and it's an ass
him: same thing, they are all related
me: or a donkey
him: cuz
me: i can't remember
him: no, it's definitely a burro!
me: a coffee burro
they use asses for tea
i can never keep that straight

This is how you keep the love alive, people. Observe the masters.

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News In Small Doses And What Your Mother Meant About Wearing Clean Underwear

Various styles of panties

Image via Wikipedia

There’s some line about God not giving you more than you can handle. Apparently, we’re not getting more information than we can handle. At least, not today, which is fine.

Let’s start with the shit news. Get it out there where we can smell it.

Dr. W and Bob talked briefly today. The cancer is back and widespread, which explains the rapid return of the symptoms. We meet with Dr. W on Wednesday to discuss the treatment details. For now, all we know is that chemo will be two days each time instead of one.

Tomorrow, Bob will need to do a MUGA scan to confirm his heart’s in good shape for chemo, which he would like to start on Thursday. Dr. W is on board with this request assuming the MUGA looks good, which he expects it will.

And, good news, Bob’s bone marrow is clear. No cancer there. Fuck yeah! We’ll take that one.

While Bob was gathering all this news from Dr. W, I was driving my numb butt/spasming back to the Spine Clinic to meet Spine Doc. I dressed in yoga pants thinking I’d be needing to show my range of movement to the doctor. Maybe do the splits. A pirouette.

Yeah, so when your mom tells you to wear clean underwear, she means granny panties. And here’s why:

I was led into the exam room by Nice Nurse. Nice Nurse took my history as I did Lamaze breathing because my fucking back fucking hurt. Nice Nurse said Spine Doc would want to do an exam so I’d need to disrobe from the waist down.

No problem. I’ll strip. Gown.

Nice Nurse kept talking. Nice nurse said I should leave my underwear on. The gown would open in the back.



There are only two types of underwear worn with yoga pants:

  1. None.
  2. Thong.

Knowing I’d be going to the doctor, I’d opted for #2.

And, having seen the patients exiting Spine Doc’s office prior to me, most of them using canes, all of them a good 30-40 years my senior, I’m guessing my ass was, even at 40 years of age, one of the firmer asses he got to see today. And the only one in a thong.

Dignity. I left it there. Right where my naked ass cheeks stuck to the paper.

Fuuuuuck. And I still don’t know shit about what’s wrong with my back. But, Spine Doc is going to do another MRI, I’m going to see some more specialists to see if they can unravel the mystery from other angles (yeah, laugh), and see if I can’t find some suitable granny panties. Maybe something with a nice daisy print.

Now, time to hit iTunes for some downloads to entertain us during chemo. We’re gonna need some funny shit to get us through this round.

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And Now, We Wait

I am not a patient person, but I’m learning. I’m being forced, like a buttered-elephant through a rabbit hole, inch-by-buttery-squeaking-inch, I learn to wait.

I learn to wait to be able to pray again.

I learn to wait for Bug’s tics to settle so he can sleep.

I learn to wait for my own sleep to come.

I learn to wait while my back heals from overdoing it the day before.

I learn to wait for doctor’s appointments.

I learn to wait for test results.

I learn to wait for answers to questions I don’t really want answered because I didn’t really want to ask them in the first place—What’s the prognosis? What is the stage? What is the treatment protocol? When will it start? Will he make it? Where will we be for Christmas? Will there be a next Christmas? How will we do this? Will I be strong enough?




And then I remember I’m a buttered elephant in need of a shower. Have you ever tried to fit a buttered elephant into a standard-sized shower? Fuckin’ A.

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Diagnosis: Numb Butt

Hold please for a trip down TMI lane.

My crotch is numb. My bladder and “stuff” aren’t communicating with brain like they should. My girlie bits are losing feeling. My butt actually hurts. So does my lower back, especially when I bend over for any length of time. (No, I’m not having the buttseks. I wouldn’t be able to feel it, anyway, but Bob has promised he’s not been sneaking anything in the back door. )

When you’re a tall chick, you have to bend over to do just about everything…load the dishwasher, do laundry, pick up the various items that your family leaves strewn about the house, put on your shoes. You get the idea.

A lot of bending.

For my entire life, I’ve been an incredibly flexible person. Physically flexible. Like a noodle. Gumby, they used to call me.

Now, I can barely touch my toes. Some days, I actually can’t.

Enter the MRI. Enter me into the MRI machine.

Have you ever had an MRI? Not the place for people who have panic attacks. AT ALL. Holy shit. Tiny tube. Jackhammer sounds. And you're inside a magnet. And you're thinking, "Hey maybe they left a staple inside me after that one surgery. How the fuck do I know? Wait. I can totally feel it moving. OMG. It's being sucked out of me. It's going to be ripped out of my abdomen. I wonder how many people that's happened to. Can they tell if my guts burst open while I'm in here?" But then, I just thought, this is going to make the best blog post ever. Especially if my guts burst open. But my guts didn't burst open. Turns out I didn't have anything metal inside me. Sorry. I tried, guys. I guess I didn’t want it badly enough. Or my heart wasn’t pure.

What I do have inside me is some mild arthritis (who doesn’t), a bone spur, and the probable source of my inability to bend over or sit/walk/stand for any length of time, a Tarlov cyst (a type of spinal arachnoid cyst). The cyst wasn’t what my doctor initially focused on (she went with the arthritis), but after reading about the dermatomes associated with the location of the arthritis and the dermatomes associated with the location of the cyst, plus the symptoms associated with Tarlov cysts, the arthritis just doesn’t fit.

Fortunately, I had a doctor who either listens to me and likes me, or just wants me to stop emailing her shit, so she’s referred me to the spine clinic and physical therapy.

Until then, I’m living a horizontal life or faking an upright life, than paying for it later. Damn butt.

P.S. I’ll be ranting about the lack of research in spinal cord injuries and their effects on sexual dysfunction in women in another post. Or maybe I’ll spare you all and just rant about it to the people who have to live with me in real life. Suffice it to say, there’s a pathetic lack of data out there. Men can’t pop a boner and the world stops spinning, but women? Yeah, someone did a study in 2007 on women’s orgasms and the relation to nerve damage and it was considered cutting-edge. 2007!!!! The first study of its kind!!!! No wonder we’re fucking cranky.

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Ferberizing Myself


Image via Wikipedia

I’m a bad sleeper. Notoriously. Record-breaking. I was born a bad sleeper. Ask my mom.

I didn’t go to sleep.

I didn’t stay asleep.

When I was a teenager, I didn’t go to sleep and I didn’t get up.

Now, I have such anxiety around going to sleep that you can’t knock me out with the strongest sleep meds available. I can ride out a dose of Ambien CR like it’s a baby aspirin. My brain views it as a challenge. “See if you can make me. I dare ya.”

Enter the only solution left, short of a nightly elephant tranq dart (which my husband is about ready to volunteer to administer): Sleep Training - Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Insomnia (a.k.a., Ferberizing for grown-ups).

Fortunately, Kaiser offers an online version of the program, so I don’t have to drag myself to a weekly class.

I’ve just finished Week One, which consisted of an educational piece and the start of my sleep journal. To say my sleep patterns are a little fucked up would be like saying Dolly Parton’s a little busty. I average a normal number of hours of sleep in a 24 hr period, but it often takes me upwards of 7 hours to fall asleep. Yes, seven. Hours.

In Week Two, I have to go to bed at the same time each night and get out of bed and the same time each morning, whether I’ve slept or not. WHETHER I’VE SLEPT OR NOT. Let me repeat myself. WHETHER I’VE SLEPT OR NOT. When it takes you 7 hours to fall asleep, there’s a strong possibility the alarm to get up is going to go off before you’ve fallen asleep.

Wish my family luck.

I don’t get to take naps this week, either, unless they’re under 45 minutes. That’s not a nap. That’s a blink.

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It Lives, It Breathes...Mostly

I will never be accused of spinning all the plates in the air. One or two plates? Maybe. Never a full set of dishes. Certainly no cups and saucers.

Last week I had The Flu. I remained horizontal for many days, which is fine for computer related activities, I suppose. (It did enable me to finish Infinite Jest.) Not so great for the management of a family or a household.

Then there’s The Homeschooling (really hard to find a sub, I’ll have you know). Also, educating one's children is a bitch to do from the horizontal position. Bug and I were supposed to start our pie baking project (more on that later) last week. That didn’t happen. Peanut slacked on her science. (Thankfully, she’s miles ahead in all of her subjects, but still.)

Oh, and my writing took a colossal crap. Not just here, but also Here and Here and Here fell way behind. Seems I suck at coming up with meaningful content while my brain is soaking the NyQuil jacuzzi.

I missed Bob’s first post-cancer hare scramble where he kicked ASS! He got knocked down into a ravine and still came in 11th. Go Bob!


I’ve fallen a little behind on the hygiene, as well. I either need to wash my hair or change my name to Emo Philips.

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Assless Chaps Required

My dad’s home from le hospital. Now, instead of nurses poking him with needles around the clock while his ass hangs out, he gets to wear pants and go in to have his blood drawn every few days. Major improvement. Still not ideal, as his knee is ginormous and unfixable until they get the blood clots resolved and he’s off the blood thinner. Not exactly the news an active 63-year old likes to hear. (By active, I mean like rides a bicycle on purpose over mountain passes just because they’re there. It’s probably why he survived the clot passing through his heart, and why I would have dropped dead.)

It’s also why Bob and I got to take my parents’ Goldwing for a joy ride to fill it up with gas before winterizing it for my dad. There was a chance it would be a bit chilly on the ride, so I borrowed my mom’s leathers, including her assless chaps. (Are there assful chaps? I’m guessing not. Wouldn’t those just be leather pants? Answered my own question right there. Alrighty then.)


My main job on the ride, aside from wearer of assless chaps, was to take pictures from the back of the motorcycle.


First, a self portrait.


Between Sierra City and Downieville.


Yuba River


My pilot, during a pitstop in Downieville where we scoped out an OHV location. His true passion is offroad, not on. Although, riding the parental units’ Cadillac o’ bikes did make him long to add a commute-bike back into the garage.

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Pop Rocks and Hospital Wings

The Artist Formerly Known as Chemo Boy and I met with Dr. W today. Before the nurse stuck us in the room, she did his usual weigh and measure. Since midway through chemo, as soon as his lungs were back to a functional capacity, his blood pressure had been back to its usual healthy range – typically somewhere around 114-119 over 70-80.

Not today.

Although his blood work all looked great, my typically Zen-like husband’s blood pressure was 138 over 87.

Seeing his elevated blood pressure tore through me, because I knew the reason, and it broke my heart that he’d fought so hard, Fucked Cancer in the Eye, to end up facing spiteful, purposeless hate that could cause this kind of stress for him.

Fortunately, our love is strong. We’ve freshly proven we endure a crisis like a mo’ fo’. If we need to break out another batch of bubble wrap, we will. And, we both have stellar models in our own parents of how to endure the decades. Between our two sets of parents, they’ve got over 90 years of marriage under their belts, and no divorce. So throw us those curve balls. (I’ll duck, cuz my hand-eye coordination sucks ass.) But I have a bitchin’ set of pompoms and a high-kick that’ll reach the moon. (That’s why he married me.)

Speaking of the parental units, my mother called today, offering her wisdom and support, as she updated me on my rockin' pop's status. For those of you praying for him, sending good vibes or juju – whatever you do best – his blood clots are still very slow in dissolving. The one in the lung did, in fact, pass through his heart. Yes, his heart. I nearly crapped a waffle when she told me. All this time we'd thought it had travled up his thigh to the lower lung and parked. Nope.

Sooooo....we’re feeling infinitely blessed that he is here with us, and able to laugh at our jokes, and make plenty of his own. No science on that one, just a flat out miracle. Way to call one in, Dad!

He still has a long recovery ahead, with an expected hospital stay of at least another 2 weeks. He’ll remain on blood thinners for 6 months or more, which means the knee injury (the cause of all this drama) will have to wait. The orthoped thinks it’s an ACL tear, but surgery can’t happen on blood thinners. (Not really anyone's main focus at this point, anyway.)

Again, thanks to all of you who’ve been praying and keeping our family in your thoughts. It means the world to us. We’re about done with the medical shit, either that or we need to work on getting a hospital wing named after us. Oh, wait. You need like a Cindy McCain boatload of money for that, huh?

If y’all buy Twitter Wit, maybe I’ll have a chance of raising enough to get a tree planted in our name. Or a flower. Maybe just trashcan to put next to the bathroom where the Artist Formerly Known as Chemo Boy used to pee the red stuff for 7 hour-shifts. I got my copy today, and I can assure you it is Teh Funniez!

Buy Twitter Wit so I can get a trashcan named after my family at the local hospital.

P.S. Bing’s right, I really do need a symbol for The Artist Formerly Known as Chemo Boy. @InSoOutSo? What say you, good man? Bueller? Bueller?

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Death Paneling Is So 1974

State of Healthcare

Image by califmom via Flickr

Are you confused by the healthcare debate? Do you think Sarah Palin is going to panel your den in death? Are you convinced Obama is growing a Hitler ‘stache? Have you started confusing communism with socialism? No worries.

I found a stack of napkins that explains everything. Seriously.

And if the presentation goes too fast for ya, slow it down, rewind, play it again. I did. (Mostly because I liked the drawings.) You may need to do it for other reasons, and that’s okay too. There’s room in this big nation of ours for all kinds.

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Cancer Is Easier, Unless You're The Cleavers

When Bob tried to kill himself with The Cancer, my first instinct was to go fetal. My second instinct was to jump off a bridge. After that, my role of Supportive Spouse was defined. His role of Chemo Boy was defined.

He got the bitchin’ cape and bald head.


I bought special calendars, wrapped our children in bubble wrap and rolled them down a hill. (Oh, like you’ve never wanted an excuse to do that. Don’t get all Judgy Mcjudgerson with me.)

IMG_7446IMG_7381 IMG_7416

Much like they were for Ward and June Cleaver, our roles were clear. Chemo Boy’s role was to NOT DIE, and mine was to provide comic relief and NOT JUMP OFF THE BRIDGE.

But, now what? Now we’re on a rudderless boat. The Cancer Survivor’s Handbook doesn’t talk about this part. Google "divorce after cancer." Better yet, don't. I don't have enough Zoloft to share.

Even though we’re thanking Jesus, Mary, and the Juju Tree that he’s in remission, the kids and I miss having him at home with us. Yeah, he was sick while he was home, but he wasn't as sick as he was before he started chemo, and we like him. So, it was nice to be around him. Well, except when he was popping Prednisone, which could have made Mother Theresa a raging bitch. We just wore body armor those weeks.

Then there's the issue of territory infringement. Oy vey! Evidently, my man got used to how he started to do things around the house while he was home, but this is my mutha flippin’ domain. I’m happy to stop by his office any time he’s looking for a little input. Until then, this captain sails this domestic ship. Sometimes she sails it from a seated position, but so did Captains Kirk and Picard. And, in their absence, they had a crew fully capable of manning the helm until they returned. Mini Martha and Data are well-trained to take the controls should I leave the deck for some adult interaction to maintain my SANITY. For fuck's sake, I was babysitting other people's infants for money (and driving, but we'll save that for another post) at their ages.

Meanwhile, Ward and June need to take the Beav' out on the town. Date nights have been downright nonexistent since The Cancer came to town. No restaurant dining for The Artist Formerly Known As Chemo Boy meant no couple time for Us. We’re long overdue for a weekend away, dinners out, somewhere other than our usual haunts, movie nights, and rekindling that grown-up stuff that keeps the sparks sparkly. 

It’s time to rebuild more than The Artist Formerly Known As Chemo Boy’s atrophied muscles. It’s time to rebuild some normalcy—our brand of it, anyway. Because there is one thing I absolutely refuse to be, and that's on the shafted end of crappy statistics.

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PSA: 5th International Scientific Symposium on Tourette Syndrome a Huge Success

image Front of the Class Poster

The national Tourette Syndrome Association, Inc. brought together 250 delegates and internationally renowned scientists, clinicians and other experts from 17 countries, including Argentina, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Spain, to share and discuss the latest research into and treatments for Tourette Syndrome. The Symposium was held in New York City on June 12 and 13, and focused on the advances made since the last Symposium which was held in 2004. Notable hot topics were deep brain stimulation (DBS); the development of animal models for the study of TS; and the use of cognitive behavioral therapy in reducing tics. However, fields as wide and diverse as genetics, neuroimaging, neuropathology, epidemiology and neuroimmunology were all covered during the course of the conference. Presenters conveyed their research findings through platform presentations, small group meetings/workshops and poster displays.
The Symposium was co-chaired by the TSA Scientific Advisory Board co-chairs, Peter J. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., Purdue University; Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., University of Rochester Medical Center; and John T. Walkup, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The program was developed by a Steering Committee chaired by Kevin Black, M.D., Washington University School of Medicine.
Dr. Black commented on the success of the event and the high level of the material presented. "The quality of the presentations was superb. We heard breaking news on several fronts: a report from the CDC on the first nationwide survey of people diagnosed with TS, an update on the search for genes that cause TS, an fMRI study of how the TS brain's organization develops in adolescence, discussion of animals that have tic-like movements and may help us find new treatments, and compelling results on PANDAS with a very lively discussion of their implications. Much of the meeting was organized to shed light on the results of the recent NIH-funded multi-site controlled study of CBIT (Comprehensive Behavioral Interventions for Tics), presented for the first time at this Symposium. The study results were very compelling and I believe will help bring an important new treatment to the standard care of people with TS. It is not a cure, but it looks to be an important tool for helping manage and reduce symptoms."
The TSA's Early Career Research Award was presented to the TSA grant recipient Nicole Calakos, M.D., Ph.D for her work on synaptic and circuit level insights for TS and OCD using mouse models. Dr. Calakos was also among the 57 scientists who presented posters. Among these, six were scholarship awardees. The scholarships are part of TSA's commitment to encouraging young researchers to focus on pursuits related to TS.
Feedback from attendees was overwhelmingly positive and they stressed how the symposium provided a unique opportunity to hear not only the latest information about TS advances in medicine and treatment, but also to meet other medical and scientific professionals from around the world to share information, ideas and experiences. Attendees are now anxiously awaiting the next TSA symposium and expressed a desire for it to be held sooner than the next meeting which is scheduled to take pace 5 years later in 2014.
On Sunday, June 14, the final day of the Symposium was a 'Family Day' when local TS families were invited to hear Dr. James Leckman of the Yale Child Study Center talk about the medical and scientific advances presented at the Symposium. Douglas Woods, Ph.D., also  spoke about CBIT and the results of the NIH-funded study.
For more information and photos from the symposium, check out the upcoming issue of Inside TSA which should arrive in your mailbox in mid-September. Don't receive the TSA quarterly newsletter? Click here to become a member and start receiving issues along with exclusive access to past issues on our website!

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Replacing Faith

First, I’m tired of calling my husband, Hubs. His name is Bob. He’s nearly died in the past few months, and I’m going to call him Bob. If some twat of a lawyer wants to threaten me because I call him by his name, so be it. My family has been through hell, and we’ve come out on the sunnier side of the tunnel. So, kiss my ass.

When Bob was diagnosed with lymphoma, and I thought he might die, and he thought he might die, I had to place my faith in the doctors and medicine to heal him.

Other people prayed. He prayed. Family prayed. Friends prayed. Strangers prayed. Maybe that helped in some way, but the thing that I saw heal my husband was the medicine. I saw the IVs of drugs drip into his veins, and I saw him get better. I saw the filled bottles of pills become empty, and I saw him get better.

I would love to be able to say that going through this process has strengthened my faith in God, but it hasn’t. It has solidified my faith in science.

Ten years ago, when my sister-in-law had lymphoma, some of these medications did not exist, and her journey was more difficult. Science changed that.

Sure, we can debate whether God made it possible for the scientists to develop the medications that healed my husband. That’s not really my point. I’m not trying to get that philosophical.

When this all started, I shared that I couldn’t pray. I still can’t. I thought that if Bob was healed, maybe I’d feel that joy of having a faith in God return, and I’d be able to pray again, maybe even for other people or other reasons. But, no. For now at least, it’s gone. I haven’t even decided if I miss it yet. It’s just not there.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I may need to change my stance. I just spent 4 1/2 hours moving furniture, mostly unaided by anyone with a penis as the one able-bodied penis owner present can't risk any injuries at the moment. (Fuck Cancer In The Eye.) Just as my back was mid-spasm from movie a 300-pound tv atop a 40-foot high perch, I hunched over a bag of unidentified crap when Lo, there was before me a bag of forgotten Easter candy. At first frantic rummage, it appeared to be all shit-candy, just Sweet Tarts and that crap Hershey's tries to pass off as dark chocolate. Then, I found it. The Holy Egg, still sealed shut in all its mismatched plastic glory. As I cracked it open in my shaking palm, a bounty of Jelly Belly beans spilled forth. As I shoved them into my pie hole, I looked to the Heavens and gave thanks.

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The Fourth

Fire Anemone

Image by califmom via Flickr

I’m not quite sure how our Independence Day will play out this year. Hubs’ counts are on the decline this weekend. So, crowds are off limits. We may head over to the Redwood City area to watch the fireworks from Redwood Shores and Foster City from the waterfront, which we can do from a number of spots west of Highway 101 according to a hot tip from Twitter. We’ll have to see how Hubs is feeling. Chemo really is making him tired this round.

If we do head over to the Peninsula, maybe we’ll stop in to say our babysitter/friend/awesome chick/neighbor who’s holed up at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital trying to keep her previously transplanted kidney from being a reject. The turkey butt. Say a prayer and sacrifice your special vermin for K. There is nothing fun about being a hip, hot 19-year old stuck in the children’s hospital, where they limit you to PG movies and keep giving you your meds in liquid, child-sized doses when your pain is adult-sized.

I’d also like to give a shout out (how flippin’ old does that make me sound?) to my friends Hillary and Kim who turned 40 on July 1st and 4th, respectively. Who would have imagined 1 out of the 3 of us would be spending our 40th birthday sober? Certainly not the one I would have predicted, nor for that reason. How little our middle-school selves knew. Thankfully, we no longer have to shoulder tap to get our booze. Cheers to you, ladies. Salut! I look forward to joining your club on the 9th.


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