words about words

  • Why is every activity for adults [fun thing] and wine? I’d love to paint and cook and craft, but I don’t like wine. I don’t want to pay for the wine and not drink it. I don’t want to get the “WTF is wrong with her” looks when I’m the only one not chugging wine.
  • Why do schools/offices/whatever hammer home the stay home if you’re sick message and then get pissy when you do?
  • Why is clearly looking at the climate disruptions–they’re here! they aren’t going away any time soon!–seen as “giving up”? We absolutely can do something about it, but we can’t stem the tide at this point. We have to deal with the mess we’ve made. It’s gonna suck, and people, animals, and plants are going to die. But to turn your face away from the facts and say “We just need to recycle a little harder and call your congresspeople” is tantamount to clapping your hands if you believe in fairies.
  •  3/5th of an octopus’ neurons are not in its brain, but in its tentacles.


  • How is the stock market not just gambling? Who made up this horseshit?
  • As a species, we made the wrong choice when we decided to stay in one place to farm and keep livestock.
  • I understand why moms carry the emotional burden of the entire family, but I don’t understand how to push some of that shit off my plate and back on the plate it came from. Yeah yeah, “boundaries”, but how? Who nurtures the nurturer?
  • Sometimes the world is so beautiful that it physically hurts.
  • Who invented health insurance and how the fuck is it legal to take people’s money and then fail to provide the service that was promised?


  • Here’s my idea to get money out of politics: First, taxes pay for political campaigns. Each candidate who wishes to run would first have to check some boxes that include tax returns, background check (if you wouldn’t be allowed on a school field trip, you have no business governing), blind trust agreements activated the moment they take office, psychological testing (like cops have to go through, but y’know better). And then once there is a vetted pool, each candidate is provide with x # of ads, x # of printing resources for stickers, yard signs, etc. It wouldn’t be about who has MORE money it would be about using your resources wisely. Campaign contributions would be forbidden, and campaign finances would be overseen by a government agency. Id’ rather get money out of politics than put up a fucking useless wall of bigotry.
  • Insidious mindfucks: the graphic novel Beverly and the film Melancholia.


  • Some dinosaurs had dual oviducts and lay two eggs at a time.
  • If you happen to be arctic soil, you will need to remain frozen for two years to be considered “permafrost”
  • I think only violent criminals should be incarcerated. Those who commit financial crimes should be sentenced with YEARS of community service. Like that’s their only job: elder care, cleaning graffiti, trail-keeping in public lands. If they fuck up, they get another six months. Then they’ll be doing needed work and they’ll be learning what it’s like to do physical work.
  • Is anything a casserole if you bake it in a casserole dish?
  • When society collapses I think combustion engines will be more useful than electric–at least until the gas goes stale.
  • I want to visit places that we will soon lose to climate disruption (the glaciers, the Everglades, etc) but getting there contributes to the problem.
  • How to balance self-care with weltschmerz?

Elf earsMy son is pissed.

“MOM. I tried for YEARS to get you to play D&D, and you wait until I move to New York to start playing?!”

“Well,” I explained. “I thought it was math. All those dice and hit points and stuff just didn’t sound like fun.” (Look, I’m a super lib flaming feminist, but I do not like math. Not in a game, not in a frame, not even aflame.) “But then my brother explained that it’s collaborative storytelling. And so I gave it a shot, and I LOOOOOOVE it.”

No one is more surprised than I am to be playing a weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. I like comics, video games, science, tech gadgets, Star Wars and Legos. My nerd cred is solid, I was just missing one of the final slices of the Nerd Pie: role playing games. (I still hate Lord of the Rings. Deal with it.)

nerd pie

After my dad died, I guess I just became more open to trying new things. Life was never going to be the same without him in it, so why not, right? I had to create a new normal.

d n d table

My husband brought home the D&D Starter Pack, and we gave it a whirl one Thursday night in March. The pack comes with pre-made characters and I chose a Human Fighter that I named Appleseed. Like Cher, she had but one name, though after our first big battle I gave her the surname Goblinkiller.

Our party consisted of my brother, my husband, a friend, my daughter (then 9) and me. We had an AMAZING time. We decided then and there that we weren’t going to finish the starter pack module–we were going all in. And oh lawdy did we go all in: there’s so much cool shit you can buy: dice of every color, spell cards, dice towers (My kid got a pink one), players manuals, modules, mini figures, terrain maps, and on an on.

3d printer characters

We turned our dining room into a D&D palace. We’re even considering pooling our money and investing in one of those kickass custom game tables. My husband bought a 3D printer on Prime Day and has been turning out figurines, cave tiles, a dragon, and is currently working on custom mugs.


My first character was Ara Moonwhisper, a high elf warlock with the Morrigan as her Elder Fey patron. She was lethal with her Eldritch Blast cantrip, and though I intended to play her sort of academic and detached, she turned out to try to help every time it was an option. I think the rest of the party got annoyed with me talking our way out of battle. But hey, if you can get the cloud giant and his army of ogres on your side when you’re about to battle two red wizards and a white dragon….

We finished our Horde of the Dragon Queen module and decided to take a break from our powerful level-8 characters and start a new campaign with a party we call The Uglies. The rule was we couldn’t create a character as human, elf, half-elf, halfling or gnome. Basically, nothing too human. We ended up with the following in our new party:

  • Desdemona the Tiefling Bard
  • Nala Dragoncloak the Dragonborn Wizard
  • Dench the Half-Orc Ranger
  • Jittik the Winged Kobold Monk
  • Zek the Kobold Paladin

On our first outing we were also joined by Scrawk of the Highlands, an Aracokra Barbarian played by my visiting son who was finally getting his chance to nerd it up with the fam.


dice tower

My brother is the DM and is having a magnificent time creating the story and it’s especially fun because he can change the story based on the weird things we do in-game; not just based on pre-set outcomes. For instance, our party killed a bunch of zombies that were locked in a turnip and pig farmer’s barn. He didn’t have any money, so we took payment in turnips and I, being a bard, charmed him into giving me a piglet, which I carried in my pack with her head out so she (I named her Petunia) could see. Scrawk and Zek were constantly trying to eat her.

The next week, Petunia caught the eye of an Ogre Druid in a small town. She said she could talk to animals and reported that Petunia missed her mommy. I gave her to the Ogre to return. My brother laughed and said “I didn’t think you were going to give up the piglet–you were going to have to fight the ogre!”

Now while Ara Moonwhisper was quiet and diplomatic, Desdemona is decidedly not. She is loud and brash and, well, kind of a bitch. I’m having a great time playing her, and I can’t wait to see where the story will take us.

Here are my top five benefits of D&D

  1. Spending time with my brother. Before our dad died we probably saw each other a dozen times a year and now we’re as close as we were as kids (though I’ve stopped beating him up and he no longer follows me and my friends around).
  2. Sparring with my husband. We’re engaged with one another without phones or TV or anything to distract us. Plus when his character teases mine or vice-versa it kind of vents any pent-up annoyance in a good way.
  3. My daughter is getting smarter. Adding modifiers to attack rolls is exercising her brain, as is making strategic decisions about which weapon or spell to use. hairflipper
  4. Her confidence is growing. Inspired by my Appleseed Goblinkiller character, she named her Human Fighter in our first campaign Apricot Hairflipper. And every time she kicked ass (which was often–that girl was TOUGH) she’d grin and flip her hair. Or when a party member asked, “Do you think you can take out that giant spider?” She’d reply, “OF COURSE I CAN, I’m Apricot Hairflipper *flip*”
  5. Family time. Imaginative play. Creativity. It’s all good.

This is the most fun I’ve had in years. And Scrawk of the Highlands will be back at Christmas.

roll for initiative


15493702_10154200408392616_561183206823462963_oDear Dad,

Intellectually, I knew you were mortal. And your health hasn’t been good for several years. It all started to go to shit when you slipped on the stairs and broke your leg. After that was a 5-way heart bypass. You never really came back from that. Though your scars healed and your cardiologist said your heart was working well, you never got over the deep fatigue. Your wobbly gait we thought was related to recovering from surgery. But years went by and it didn’t get better. I got you a cane. A couple years later you finally gave into my nagging and let me take you to a neurologist. He diagnosed Parkinsons. But the meds didn’t work and I took you to your sister-in-law’s funeral in a wheelchair. I found another doctor who diagnosed you with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. Too much cerebral-spinal fluid made you walk funny. They did a spinal tap, drained off some fluid and YOU COULD WALK. But it didn’t last. The long-term solution was a stent in your head to drain off the brain juice and send it south to be absorbed in your abdomen. It worked for a while, but when the surgeon went to adjust the flow of the valve, it was a faulty unit. Cue another surgery. This one never seemed to stick and you gave up. I fought you and nagged you. I bought you pill organizers, picked up your prescriptions and took you to doctors. You’d read bullshit on the internet and decide your blood pressure pills were the enemy.

15590573_10154198386327616_5815468724728848277_nThe last time I took you to the doctor I told you that if you wanted to try to stay healthy, I would help and encourage you. But if you wanted to watch CNN and eat ice cream and not take your meds, then it was your body and your choice, and I’d respect it. I guess I was trying to scare you, but you took me at my word. Even your doctor sort of shrugged.

And yet. You didn’t seem to believe you’d die. And though I thought it was weird, I guess I really didn’t believe it either. I’d laugh when you’d say “If something happens to me…” I laughed out loud when you told me you didn’t want me to be interred in California with the rest of the family because it would be too far to visit.

1936043_123191917615_4334045_nOn Thanksgiving you arrived ninety minutes late. Your driving was so erratic someone had to take over for the rest of the trip. And yet. You said, “I think I’m going to give up driving in about a year.” I was worried and upset. I made some snotty remark–a “joke” that was meant to admonish, not be funny. “I’m sorry we were late, Bear,” you said, sheepishly. “It’s okay, Dad. You were two hours late last Thanksgiving.” I said it without humor.

It was the last time I saw you before the stroke.

You’ve been gone five months and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • I am stronger than I thought. I kept my shit together while others were losing theirs.
  • There are some friends that will drop everything to fly to your side when your dad is dying. I have two of them, and I can never adequately express my thanks to them for just being with me–you wouldn’t be at all surprised at who they are.
  • The arrangements after death are not a burden; they’re a blessing. I always thought I’d retire to my bed and curl in a ball and let others handle what needed handling. Staying busy kept me upright.
  • There was–for me–a phase of grief that was mostly role-playing. I behaved like a grieving daughter would based on books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen. I wasn’t aware I was doing this until suddenly it was Spring, and you’d been gone an entire season. And then the actual grief hit.
  • I cherish the night I spent in the ICU with you. You had a big black hole in your brain from the strokes, but I think you know I was there, holding your hand. Did you hear Segovia playing in the dark? That was me.
  • On some level–alligator brain?–I guess I thought you’d come back. Of course I knew that’s not the way it works but I found myself sobbing–FINALLY–in my grief counselor’s office, saying “I just want my dad back. He’s been gone a really long time and it seems like he should be back by now.”

chemo suite

  • I am weaker than I thought. I am fifty years old and I know now that you were my rock. I could always depend on you. To tell me a stupid joke, to call me “Hair Bear,” to say “sneak-sneak” when you went through a yellow light. To rescue me if my car broke down, or drive me to the ER when I had a panic attack. To be proud of me no matter the idiotic shit I got into. To always treat me as a full human with strength and agency–even when I was a little girl. I counted on you, and now you’re gone and I’m afraid. There’s no you to run to, or call, or hug, and I don’t feel safe.
  • I feel very conflicted about your legacy. I don’t have to work, and can afford travel and private school…and in that way my life is “better.” But you had to die first. So while I’m so grateful, and I realize you weren’t going to live forever, it’s still hard to draw much joy from the freedom and privilege you left me. I wasn’t expecting that.
  • It gives me peace to take your ashes places you loved and places you had on your bucket list. Besides finishing raising Allie, it’s pretty much my only purpose in life.
  • Sometimes I listen to your voicemails and they mostly make me smile instead of cry. But I don’t think I can ever listen to the last one. The 5 am call I slept through. You were at the hospital and scared and you started to cry and said “I just wanted to hear your voice.”
  • Now that you’re gone you’ve become young again. In my memory and in my dreams you are tall and strong with dark hair and a ready grin. Nothing hurts, and you are full of puns, curiosity and joie de vivre.

me and sweet dad

Anyway, Dad. I miss you every day and I still can’t quite accept that I’ll never see you again. It turns out that you were my favorite person on earth.

Love always,




I didn’t always say everything that popped into my head. When I went to Kindergarten, the school realized I could already read like a third-grader (though I couldn’t tie my shoes), so after two weeks I was put in first grade. Where I became the smallest, youngest child in the class with the bonus of being the freak kid that skipped Kindergarten. I learned quickly not to draw any more attention to myself and keep my mouth shut. I was horribly shy.

As I got older I would crack wise among my friends because I felt comfortable with them. Around new people though—or the popular kids—I absolutely shut down. If we went to high school together and were friends, you’d know I was brash and funny and have a gross sense of humor. If we didn’t hang out at all you’d think I was shy and quiet.

I went to sleep-away college for exactly one year. Lived in the dorms, went to keggers, smoked weed, etc. I discovered that if I drank beer I got comfortable enough to be funny and charming. But I was still very shy sober.

Eventually I grew the fuck up and was comfortable with myself and didn’t need to be loaded to let my personality out of the cage. I was uncaged, all the time. I still had a filter, but not so you’d notice. Which has gotten me into mild amounts of trouble now and again. I am the person who is uttering the filthiest joke she’s ever told precisely when the big boss comes around the corner.

I’ve written jokes on my blog that have gotten me in trouble at work. Like I thought I’d be fired kind of trouble.

I’ve had phone conversations in what I thought was the privacy of my office that got me reported to HR. Let’s just say the convo involved lube.

Speaking of my office, I used to have a post-it about 5 feet 10 inches up my door frame that said, “You must be this tall to ride”.

My boss once asked me to stop using the F-bomb on Twitter, and though I could have written around my favorite expletive, I resented the censorship, and threw in a stealth “fuck” whenever I thought I could get away with it.

I never attacked anyone personally, though I threw shade at my company’s competition quite often—I thought that was loyalty.

Anyway, I always got away with it. My colleagues kept things professional, and I always pushed the boundaries. It was my thing. It was what I brought to the table.

Now, I’m still outspoken and I like to tweet hate toward the so-called POTUS, and retweet clever take-downs of politicians I think suck. But I’m also almost fifty years old now, a breast cancer survivor, mother of three, and Girl Scout troop leader. I mean, I’m mellow. Partially because I’ve seen outspoken women on social media get targeted for more trouble than I’m willing to bring on my family.

So. That’s the backstory. Semi-bad girl gone good (or just old).

Last week, I applied for a Community Manager position for a popular and family-friendly game franchise. We weren’t to the point of scheduling interviews, but my resume was in the hands of the hiring manager. Here’s a moment where I’m going to toot my own horn which is uncomfortable but fuck it: The community managers that you are familiar with now were influenced—whether they know it or not—by myself and my colleagues at Xbox. I’m not saying, Gore-like, that I invented the Internet, but the practices and policies and programs that we started were copied and built on by those who came after us. There’s a book coming out next month that profiles me as a pioneer in community management.

All this is to point out that I know what I’m doing when it comes to engaging a community and making sure people stay safe, have fun, and buy stuff.

I’m feeling optimistic about this possible job because my resume is in the right hands (half the battle) and people will vouch for my work. People whose opinions matter.

So when I got a message from the hiring manager saying that their team had found a photo of me online that was a “deal breaker,” and that my “brand was too mature,” I was stunned. I asked about the photo and discovered that it’s this photo that killed my chances at an amazing job.



This isn’t a picture of me. Let me repeat that: I am not the woman in this photo. She’s a burlesque dancer that a member of the community I helped manage thought looked like me. We both have curly hair and I admit there’s a slight likeness.  But I’m not a burlesque dancer, and I’ve never posed in lingerie. Folks, I had an 8 1/2 pound baby at 22. Unless that lady has stretch marks, I can prove this isn’t me.

I messaged the hiring manager back that the photo isn’t me, and included a link to the 2011 blog post where I pointed this out. I also—maybe stupidly—said “I respect your decision.” Because even if that photo of Not-Me didn’t exist, there were still ten years of social media posts that are snarky and foul-mouthed, novels filled with sex and violence, and that gross sense of humor.

The hiring manager never responded, not even to acknowledge that the photo wasn’t of me. But I think we can all agree, that door is closed forever. And I would have kicked ass at that job.

So already stung from that situation and running on very little sleep due to the altitude in Mexico City where I was doing freelance work, I was surfing LinkedIn and saw that a recruiter (at a company where I’d interviewed unsuccessfully for a marketing writer job, but was scheduled to talk about their open community manager position) posted about the Marketing Writer job that I’d just been told they were “going with another candidate.” Why are they recruiting for this position if they’d already chosen someone? I thought, still upset about the other thing. So, feeling a bit hurt, but meaning to be funny since I had a phone call about the open position scheduled for the day I returned from Mexico, I post:

“But I thought…nevermind. Lol. [peace sign]”

Now, was this unprofessional? Certainly. Do I wish I hadn’t done it? Sure. I thought the recruiter and I had a level of familiarity and similar sense of humor. And even if she thought it was lame, she’d just brush it off.

Well. On Monday (as I turned my phone back on when we landed at LAX), I have an email from the recruiter saying how disappointed she was in my LinkedIn post (which she deleted, along with un-friending me!), and that if I had questions about the decision, I should have asked her during our scheduled phone call, which she was now cancelling. I mean, it was stupid, no doubt, but your average LinkedIn browser wouldn’t know wtf that post was about, so I feel like there was a bit of overreaction on her part.

Look, I know there’s no guarantee I would have been offered either of those jobs. I’ve had ten “final onsite” interviews at nine companies and all have turned me down. So, I’m not having the best luck. But it makes me wonder: Are these other companies doing a Google image search and making the same mistake that REDACTED made? Am I oblivious to something weird I’m doing in interviews? Am I bursting out non-sequitur weirdness akin to that LinkedIn post?

Anyway, I lost out on two opportunities thanks to being too relaxed in my communications and…someone else’s tits.

  • One day you feel a lump in your boob. Machines create images, doctors test a chunk. It’s cancer.
  • People say you’re a survivor the moment you announce your diagnosis. You think, “huh? What’d I do?”
  • Treatment begins in early May and concludes in late December. Start the new year clean, you think.
  • Through it all no one allows you to talk about the possibility of your death. It’s taboo.
  • 6 rounds of chemo didn’t kill all the cancer, but surgeon got the last bit. Radiation to seal the deal.
  • You think about what else the chemo might have missed. In places the docs aren’t looking.
  • You move from the apartment you’ve inhabited for 10 years to a big house with a huge yard.
  • Your brain feels foggy and you’re sure the cancer’s in your brain. It’s not.
  • You finish Herceptin in April, and begin hormone treatment that will last for five years.
  • Hot flashes ensue, along with joint pain that wakes you at night. Your knees sound like Velcro ripping.
  • You gain 15 pounds from the sudden menopause. Dropping to 500 calories a day doesn’t help.
  • You accept being plus-sized, and buy new clothes. Your age has made you invisible anyway.
  • You visit the oncologist every three months for an injection that shuts your ovaries down.
  • The joint pain is so bad your oncologist switches you to a different hormone medication.
  • Your oncologist tells you the new recommendation is 10 years of hormone meds. Not five.
  • Your joints feel better but you gain another 10 pounds in the space of two weeks. Right in the belly.


  • You go back to college online and take on freelance work for the first time in a couple years.
  • You get a rash on your “bad” boob and panic that it’s Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
  • You consult your posse of  survivor friends. They reassure you, but tell you to go in.
  • It’s not inflammatory breast cancer. Either the antibiotics or steroid cream fixed it. You feel dumb.
  • You pass your first post-cancer mammogram with flying colors. You were expecting bad news.
  • Of your survivor posse, one has stage IV, after “beating it” nearly three years prior.
  • On next oncology visit you complain about weight gain. Obesity increases your chance of recurrence.
  • Doctor switches you back to original meds. You don’t lose any weight and the joint pain returns.
  • You pin all your hopes for the future and redemption for millennia of oppression on Hillary Clinton.
  • On election night you go to bed with a mouthful of marijuana oil before all the votes are in.
  • When you wake up and remember, you briefly consider suicide and settle for stopping your meds.
  • You gain another 20 pounds in anger, disbelief, and heartbreak. You get a safety pin tattoo.
  • In school you study psychology and plan to work with hospice patients and families.
  • You apply to volunteer in hospice, visiting patients. Your Stage IV friend tells you it’s your calling.
  • Your Stage IV friend asks if your brownie troop can come to her house and plant tulips.
  • Before you can gather the girls for the tulip project, your friend goes into hospice herself.
  • On the way to visit you think about what she’ll say. Maybe you’ll make a deathbed promise.
  • She doesn’t speak or open her eyes. You brought a huge bouquet of tulips that seem cruel now.
  • On your first day of hospice volunteer training, your Stage IV friend dies.
  • At the funeral you connect with a coworker from early in your career. She’s a survivor too.
  • That’s four of you, from just one small department in one company. Stats? Or the water?
  • At home you casually talk about what you’d like at your funeral. Your youngest stares at you.
  • You don’t think she knows that cancer kills people. You’d talked about sickness, but never death.
  • After your friend’s death you go back on your medication. Because not to insults her memory.
  • You take on tons of freelance work and study hard. You make money, contacts, and the Dean’s List.
  • Math and a new full-time job defeat you at school and you drop out of college for the fourth time.
  • You go on vacation and don’t take your medication. You don’t bother to start again at home.
  • You move into your dream house in a Norman Rockwell neighborhood where kids roam free.
  • Every night in the new house you dream about cancer. Here’s what you dream:
  • You dream about sobbing and clinging to your mother as you say “Mommy, I think I’m sick again.”
  • You dream about wasting away in a hospital bed, too weak to lift a book to read it.
  • You don’t think you’re psychic or clairvoyant. But what if the dream is a message from your body?
  • Twice, when you’ve dreamed your teeth fell out, you’ve been ill. Mono and pneumonia.
  • A friend dreamed her dead mother told her she had breast cancer. And she did.
  • You say, “I had a weird dream last night” “Was it about cancer coming back? I don’t want to hear it.”
  • You can’t talk to anyone about your fears. You just wallow in it. Silently. Alone.
  • You think about the new house and where you’ll convalesce. You buy a swing chair for the backyard.
  • You plan how to turn your new library into a bedroom and how you’ll watch the birds as you die.
  • You go camping to watch the total eclipse. You wonder if you’ll be alive for the next one.
  • The chest pain gets worse. One day at work you find yourself holding a cold can to your chest.
  • You have trouble catching your breath. You drive to the Emergency Room. You tell no one.
  • Your EKG, blood tests and chest X-ray are all clear. You’re a fool. You’re a hypochondriac.
  • You miss a big meeting, and confess to your boss you’re at the hospital.
  • You don’t want him to think you’re a sick person. You don’t think he knows about the cancer.
  • You’re already the oldest, fattest, most unsightly member of the team. You can’t afford more.
  • Your job is stressful and your brain isn’t as sharp as it was. Is it ageing or chemo or both?
  • Google tells you former smokers have an increased chance of lung metastasis.
  • At your oncology appointment you tell him about your chest pain. He refutes your Google information.
  • Your oncologist orders a CT scan to rule out pulmonary embolism and cancer. Refills meds.
  • He emails you late that night to tell you it’s clear. There’s something in your lung, but not cancer.
  • A regular doctor diagnoses an inflammation in the cartilage between sternum and ribs.
  • Prednisone clears up the lungs, and your eczema, plus your joint pain. But only for a week.
  • You feel relieved that the cancer’s not back so you go ahead with your plans to lead a new Brownie troop.
  • You want to just LIVE, but it’s always there in the back –and often front—of your mind. Cancer.
  • You wanted your life to be more meaningful, but you’ve quit school and haven’t done hospice work.
  • This is how you survive. Living between the recurrence nightmares. Pretending you’re “better.”
  • But deep down you’re convinced that cancer isn’t done with you yet.
  • And the only way to prove otherwise is to die of something else.

Are you surprised? I am.

tumblr_static_shrek_3dAprès cancer is a series of milestones. One year since my first chemo! One year since my last chemo! I have come to the conclusion that my cancer-free status dates from my lumpectomy, when Doctor Superman removed those bad lymph nodes and the clip to show where Turdy once lay and that surprise little in situ fucker. That surgery was October 8th.

Boob trouble

As my cancer-free anniversary approached I noticed a red rash on the “bad” boob. It itched and it seemed to emit heat. I didn’t think much of it until a week later when it was worse.


The redness and heat were bad but I also thought I had peau d’orange.

Then I started to do survivor math: bad boob + persistent rash + one year must of course equal Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Let me tell you something about IBC: it’s a nasty fucker. It’s very rare, but it’s deadly as shit. By the time you notice a weirdness on your boob, you’re probably stage IV. Here’s where it gets really messed up: because it’s very rare, it’s almost always mistaken for something else. It’s sort of like paranoia. If you think you have it, you’re probably just paranoid.

I email my oncologist and fully admit I’m probably nuts but my boob and rash and la la la. He writes back right away (bless that man) and says while it’s unlikely to be IBF, come on in and have the nurse practitioner take a look. So, I go in and she looks and she says it’s probably some sort of dermatitis and she doesn’t think there’s anything suspicious about it. She prescribes some cream, and almost as an afterthought says: “Well, because it’s the right breast let’s give you a round of antibiotics too.” And I was supposed to be relieved. But I wasn’t. Because that’s how every single IBF story goes.

1. Weirdness on boob.
2. Doctor prescribes cream.
3. When that doesn’t work, Doctor prescribes antibiotics.
4. When that doesn’t work, Doctor orders a skin biopsy
5. Patient is diagnosed with IBF and the cancer has had six or eight extra weeks to metastasize.

I went home convinced I had IBF and just had to go through the motions of eliminating non-cancer to appease my doctor. I creamed and antibiotic’d and the rash got worse. It spread across my boob and then it got little pustules.

And then it got better.

I’ve formed a little group of Facebook friends that are breast cancer survivors. They range from a woman who had stage 0 and avoided chemo to one who has been stage IV since her triple-negative breast cancer came back after she’d almost hit 3 years in remission. I messaged them about my rash and they all told me it was super unlikely to be anything; but to have it checked out for my peace of mind.

I reported back to the group that I’d been sent home with a couple prescriptions but that I didn’t feel confident.

“Is my body telling me that something is really wrong, or am I just damaged?” I asked.

“Damaged,” they replied to a woman.

“Damaged,” they wrote.

“Even after four years every headache is a brain tumor, every ache is metastasis.”

So, I guess I’m a hypochondriac now?

Body trouble

Then the election happened and I was so stunned, heartbroken and demoralized that I stopped taking my fat pills, which is what I call my aromatase inhibitors. The first drug I was on, Letrozole, made my joints hurt so much it was difficult to stand up from a sitting position, and climbing the stairs to tuck my daughter into bed was a painful and laborious undertaking.

After six months of that I switched to Exemestane and my knees felt better and my hot flashes weren’t as severe or frequent. But I blew UP. Without changing my diet or activity level at all I gained 20 pounds in three months. My oncologist tells me that this hormone therapy is even more important than chemo (especially when you consider my lymph nodes were involved and I was HER2 positive and my Ki-67 was high….yikes!) and that while a year ago the protocol was to stay on it for five years, now it’s TEN.

So I cut sugar out of my diet–which was tragic because ever since chemo I’ve craved sugar like a child. Still, nothing. I’d lost 20 pounds from chemo, then gained 10 back when my appetite returned. And then 20 more pounds with the hormone therapy. So now I’m 10 pounds fatter than I was before I got cancer. I weigh more than I did nine months pregnant. This weight gain and inability to lose weight is a known side effect and there doesn’t appear to be any treatment. Even the patients who only eat organic shit and exercise every day get and can’t lose the belly. Besides feeling like a fucking monster, guess what’s a risk factor for a cancer recurrence? Yep, obesity.

And I look back at the videos of that woman with long dark hair and little skirts with a gleam in her eye having fun and I don’t even see a shadow of myself in her anymore.

And lordy, back then the whole world and their uncle Bubba just had to tell me how fat and ugly I was. Some of them said I looked like a bulldog. More than a few compared me to Shrek. Not even Fiona—Shrek. And now I see there was nothing wrong with her. She looked pretty okay for a person in her late thirties who had borne two babies.

Now I actually do look like Shrek. It’s not just the weight, it’s what chemo did to my body and my skin and my eyesight. It’s like in a matter of months I went from rather dumpy middle-aged mom to an ancient ogre with wrinkled age-spotted skin and that sick crepe-neck. My physical ailments are more similar to those of my mother’s generation than my peers. I look like an old lady and feel like one too.

Ergo, I stopped taking the damn pills. For all the vain and inglorious reasons noted above and also because I’m not all that invested in longevity if it’s gonna be in a world where Donald fucking Trump is in charge of shit.

Heart trouble

So, going cold turkey on my fat pills may or may not have exacerbated the stress and despair I’d been experienced for two post-election weeks when, after 4 or 5 days of dizziness, shortness of breath and a tight feeling around my chest I went to the ER. Partially because I was too embarrassed by my IBF freakout to talk to my doctor. I just wanted them to whip out a stethoscope and listen to my heart and tell me I was fine. But ER’s don’t play that.

Here’s a tip. If you ever want to go to the front of the line at the ER, tell them you have chest pains. The next thing I know, I’m in a gown, in a bed, getting an EKG, blood test, urine test, a chest x-ray and two doses of a delightful treat called Dilaudid.


It’s Dilaudid Girl! She fools everyone with the strategically placed sheet. What double chin?

Everything was perfectly fine with my heart. There are white blood cells in my pee, but I don’t have a fever so who the fuck knows.But of course you must know by know I started Googling bladder cancer.

Contributing to my stress is that I’ve been searching diligently for 10 months and haven’t found a full time job. I haven’t even gotten a response for jobs I could do in my sleep. I even threw my hat in the ring for a job I basically created at a former employer…and didn’t make it past the phone screen. That felt almost exactly how I imagine a knife in the heart feels.

Hire me. Please.

I haven’t gotten to a face-to-face interview for any permanent job anywhere. For ten months. So I’ve been doing freelance stuff. But between hustling for work and begging clients to pay their invoices it’s pretty much a big fat ball of stress.

At one point I got superstitious. Like, I’ve been a pretty good person for the past several years, but before that I hurt some people. Not much in the way of real malice, but thoughtless comments, loose lips, taking a joke too far, general bitchiness. So, I went on what I called my “apology tour.” I apologized to former coworkers, online acquaintances, old boyfriends, you name it. For big stuff and for stuff so petty the victim had forgotten about it. It felt good. I felt unburdened. I was like “OKAY! NOW we’re getting somewhere!” And then suddenly a friend I hadn’t talked to in a long time hooked me up with a nice contract gig writing for a large company. I actually had an interview! All systems go! But then these things happened in this order:

  • The budget for my services wasn’t approved – sad face
  • They came up with a test-case to prove my worth – happy face!
  • They want me for three months a 40/hrs week! – happy face!
  • Four weeks pass and the contract isn’t signed. – sad face
  • Company re-org! They want me to contract 3 months then change to full time permanent! – ecstatic face!
  • Two weeks of silence – sad face
  • There’s no budget AGAIN and they can offer me 30 hours a MONTH – what face do I have now? Disappointed face? Jerked around face? Glad to have fucking scraps of work face?

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not 100% misery and self-pity up in here. The chickens are laying fresh eggs. We spent a fun weekend with friends in the mountains. My father finally got his ailments properly diagnosed, and I met Bruce Springsteen!


I told him his music got me through 6 rounds of chemo. He said, “Thank you, sweetheart!”


But all in all, I sort of miss cancer right now. It was really liberating to have ONE job: survive.

We took a couple-few years off to write novels (and were pretty prolific), but we’re ready to get back in the game. You need words? We got ’em. Words to describe your product or service…

Source: Now accepting new clients

Yesterday I had surgery to remove the medi-port that was installed a year ago ahead of chemo. Since then I’ve had six rounds of chemo, multiple echocardiograms, 11 infusions of Herceptin, a lumpectomy and lymphnode takey-outy, 30 sessions of radiation, a bone density test, I don’t remember how many MRIs and blood tests and zillions of pills. But with the removal of the medi-port, I’m officially done. My surgeon Dr Superman says it’s his favorite surgery because it’s symbolic. I won’t need any more chemo because I’m going to be okay.

So, I wanted to give an update from the winner’s circle. I feel like the “finish line” was my last dose of Herceptin and this is just the clean-up, the victory lap.

My hair is growing back thick and curly (just like it was before it all came out). Unfortunately with curly hair, it tends to get WIDE before it gets long. So I’m sporting a look that’s a little bit Will Ferrell, a bit Bozo, and a helping of Madam Hooch. Ma'am_Hooch

My eyebrows are filling in a little bit, but they still need an assist from an eyebrow pencil, which I had never in my life needed to use being from the Brooke Shields brow club.

My eyelashes are another story. So pathetic. I religiously applied RevitaLash every night and little stubs began to grow…but SO slowly. The few lashes that hadn’t fallen out in the last round of chemo were thin and twisted little bastards. Attempts at mascara just emphasized the sorry situation and made it look as though spiders had crawled onto my eyelids to perish. SO, I got eyelash extensions. I really did. I lay down for two hours (and 200 dollars) while a lady used surgical glue to attach fake individual lashes to my spider legs and lash stubs. And guess what? I LOVE THEM. Worth every damn penny because I feel like a girl again. A healthy, non-cancery female woman. So there. Is it petty and vain? You bet your ass, and I’m going back to do it again in two weeks.

My medication is down to a once-daily aromatase inhibitor. Remember how I said there were no side-effects? Well, once enough built up in my system, I did start to experience some of the common ones, specifically joint pain and this numbness and stiffness in my hands. It’s annoying. It’s as if all of a sudden my body is eighty years old. I move like your grandma when she gets up from the couch to get you another cookie. A lot of pausing and strained smiles. It sucks but it’s better than the cancer coming back, am I right, folks?

Speaking of the potential return of He Who Shall Not Be Named…angy turdy tumor

…I have calmed down so much and am starting to acclimate myself to being cancer-free. It took a lot longer than I’d have thought, but I’m pleased to report I have come down from the ledge of constant fear and worry. It just took time. (and probably the Paxil helped).

So what else is new? We moved into a big house with a ginormous yard. My youngest is going to a new school and already has a new best friend and play dates and birthday party invitations. Her birthday is next month and for the first time in her life we’re hosting the party at our home in our back yard with a rented bouncy house.

Gunny is going to college full time working on a business degree and he also got his realtor license and is working hard to get things going on that front.

My older daughter is thrilled to have her own room again (she was sharing with her sister in the old apartment) and she’s raising some baby chicks named Bellatrix, Luna, Minerva and Tonks.13086632_10153616004177616_2292435789660856514_o


Me? I’m looking for a job. My hesitant stabs at healthcare type deals didn’t really amount to much. I have zero experience so I can’t blame them. I find myself applying for the kind of jobs I did before and sort of falling into some old habits that I’d hoped to leave behind. Petty concerns like a long commute or money stuff. My former field of work is small and incestuous and very competitive. I’m disheartened at how easy it was to forget about my priorities and my new-found peace of mind. So my answer is this: I’m going to focus on the future that I’ve now accepted that I’ll have. I’ll get a job, certainly, and do it to the best of my ability, but I am also going to get my degree in something that will fulfill me in the long run. I want to be a counselor–probably an end-of-life/hospice counselor. I will need a lot of school, but the years are going to go by regardless and at the end I can either have something to show for it or not. I choose school. Not finishing my BA is my only regret in life and it’s something I can actually fix! So I’m doing it!

As far as my personal life and psyche? I feel so freaking lucky. Walking my kid to school on a sunny day is just idyllic. Weeding the yard makes me inexplicably happy. We run through the sprinkler and roast marshmallows in the fire pit and make daisy chain crowns.I sleep so well in this house it feels like we were drawn to this place for a reason. I’m…HAPPY. As Allison summed it up this morning on the way to school:

“Ahhhh. I love life!”

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And so, I don’t think I’m going to write about cancer any more unless there is some sort of update. I’m going to take these blog posts and flesh them out and fill in the blanks and publish them as a book. Maybe people will want to read it and maybe they won’t. But it’s something I feel strongly that I need to do.

If you were here for the cancer, I appreciate your interest, love and support. We now return to our regularly scheduled blog posts about books and writing and kids and work and maybe some chickens and gardening. 🙂





A year ago today I got a life-changing phone call. I had infiltrating ductal carcinoma: breast cancer. It’s sort of a sad anniversary. I feel in a way as if I lost a year of my life (along with my hair, a chunk of boob, my fertility, and a few lymph nodes). But at the same time I gained so much knowledge. I know now how much I am loved. I know I can handle anything. I know I’m a survivor. I know now precisely what is important to me: My family. My health. My peace of mind. And what’s not: Stuff. Appearance. Impressing strangers. Being “cool.”

The parameters of “success” have changed drastically for me. If I’ve got my family, my health, and peace of mind, I’m good. No matter what I’m wearing, what I’m driving, what’s in my bank account or on my business card.

So thank you, cancer, for the clarity.

To update on medical matters:

  • I have three Herceptin infusions left, and then I’m done! I’m assuming I can get my port taken out, and that will be a huge deal for me.  Already planning a new tattoo to cover the scar.
  • I have had two injections of the estrogen-blocker thus far without any side effects. They were one-month doses. Today, I think Dr. Cap will bump me up to a three-month dose.
  • The daily pill I take to keep estrogen-hungry cancer from coming back is tiny and without side effects. So that’s awesome!
  • I’m supposed to have my annual mammogram this month, but I’m hoping since I just had a breast MRI in January (completely clear, btw!) I can get away with skipping it. Probably won’t fly, but worth a shot.
  • My  hair has come back as thick as before and is starting to curl. My husband loves my short hair and thinks I should keep it this way. I’m more curious to see what happens as it grows, but I’m not ruling out cutting it later.
  • My eyebrows and eyelashes are starting to fill in. I never lost them completely, but they were thin and scraggly AF.
  • I’m feeling normal and healthy. Not sick or weak at all. This seems like a miracle to me. Science is fucking awesome.12772035_10153449574902616_7427532228197249375_o

This still counts as “medical,” but I think it’s pretty important. I have a history of depression, starting in college and off and on throughout my twenties. I sort of figured (or at least convinced myself) I had “grown out of it.” But cancer kinda threw me for a loop. A month ago, I admitted to Dr. Cap that I thought I might be depressed again. That I expected when treatment was over that I would spring up ready to kick ass and take names. “But I still feel broken,” I said, as a tear rolled down my cheek. (Poor Dr. Cap, he’s the only one I ever cry in front of!) He asked me if I felt like hurting myself. “Not today,” I admitted. He told me that depression with cancer is not unusual at all and prescribed Paxil and put in an urgent referral for their shrink. The shrink’s office called two days later to tell me that they don’t take my insurance. [Just want to say here that that’s basically the worst thing you can do to a person who’s depressed: tell them they aren’t “right” and give them work to do (finding a new shrink)]. I still haven’t found a shrink, but…

I’ve been on antidepressants for a month and I feel like I’ve been living in a cave and finally found my way out into the sunlight. I’ve begun actively looking for a new job, I socialized with old friends, I’ve been going to the gym five days a week, and my husband and I just signed the lease for a house on a half-acre after living in an apartment for over a decade. Did I mention science is awesome?

Anyway, I’m feeling like a billion bucks. Like so great I think I’m grateful to Turdy the Tumor, because I can’t help thinking that that little cancery fucker led me here, to this good place with my family, my health, and peace of mind.

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