Emily’s Blog

Someone on the Internet Told Me Not to Get Political

Someone on the Internet Told Me Not to Get Political

Welp. It happened. I got my first YouTube comment asking me not to “get political” today.  I wish people understood what an awful request this is to make of a fellow human being. It’s not appropriate to ask of your favorite celebrity, much less a small-time YouTuber.

Asking me not to get political loosely translates to “make ME more comfortable whatever the personal cost is to you.” Yeah, no. If I’m going to make all my videos accommodate one specific person, it’s going to be me. Just FYI. Not because I want to pick a fight with internet randos, mind you (I don’t have energy for that on a normal day) but because I don’t accept that it’s my job to polish someone else’s bubble.

And it doesn’t really matter whether familyrich 77 is politically opposed to what I said (that Trump bungled the coronavirus response) or is just burned out and needing a break from it all. The onus is theirs.

Consider two scenarios. In the first one, a YouTube creator has posted a video in which she says the sky is blue. You believe the sky is purple. Which is the most reasonable response?

  1. Ask the creator not to talk about the sky.
  2. Stop watching.

In the second, a YouTube creator has posted a video in which she says the sky is blue. You are tired of people talking about the sky all the time. Which is the most reasonable response?

  1. Ask the creator not to talk about the sky.
  2. Stop watching.

It’s especially damaging to ask someone whose life has been ripped to shreds by health, disability, and poverty politics (me) to not talk about it. Period. But also? My comments were made in a Tangled Talk episode. In case you’re reading this but haven’t seen one, Tangled Talk videos are a hybrid between a personal vlog and a Zentangle tutorial.

Suggesting I not mention anything political in a video I clearly labeled a Tangled Talk episode—in the title AND with in-video graphics—is like suggesting the child you made fifteen years ago not talk about drama at school.

I’m not mad at familyrich 77, but I am more annoyed today than I might otherwise be. Because I received that “don’t get political” crap after my high-risk husband and I found out we couldn’t place an online grocery order due to “extremely high demand.”

Also, Trump is still bungling the coronavirus response. And that is the nicest thing I can say about him.

Take care of yourselves out there, people.

Relaxing Zentangle Art for Beginners

Relaxing Zentangle Art for Beginners

About This Zentangle

This video shows you the relaxing Zentangle art for beginners that I created using tiles and materials from Project Pack 08. The two-tile setup was taught in the official Day 2 video. I changed up the pattern, as usual, because for whatever reason I am always drawn to spirals. I think it’s the simplicity of spiral patterns that makes them so relaxing to draw—I just draw without having to think too much. Some days that’s exactly what I need.

There’s no voiceover for this video, but there will be in the future! I am excited to record again soon because I got a microphone for my birthday from my sister-in-law and brother. (In addition to using it for Zentangle videos, I am also preparing to offer audio versions of Who You Gonna Believe read by yours truly—I just need to reach my Patreon goal, but I am past the halfway mark!)

Screenshot shows I am 65% of the way to my second pledge goal to record an audio version of Who You Gonna Believe.

Anyway, it was a rainy, dreary day in Urbana today, which made lighting the video a little trickier than usual and resulted in harsher shadows. I also struggled gripping the pens today—the tips of my fingers kept going numb because I was holding them so tightly. I attribute a lot of that to being absolutely strung out on stress the last couple of days, but crazy Spring temperature changes always play a part too. (It warmed up to almost 70 °F, but is now dropping again, which means the aches and pains are going to settle in 5, 4, 3….

Still, my mood was much better after completing my tangle practice than it was before I started. I hope this beginner Zentangle video gives you a little inspiration to create your own doodle art today. As always, tag me on Twitter or Instagram if you share your Zentangles so I can follow you!

Materials Used

Some links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may make a few cents at no extra cost to you.

Outbreaks and Breakouts: A Survivor’s Log

Outbreaks and Breakouts: A Survivor’s Log

Whew! Is it just me or is this week like a thousand years long? Lately I’ve been thinking about outbreaks and breakouts.

I don’t want to talk too much about THE THING that has Twitter wound tighter than a Jack Russel Terrier these days, but because this blog is, among other things, an accounting of my life, I don’t want to not mention it either. So, I’ll just throw down a quick update to keep people from worrying about us before delighting you with a fun little something for Throwback Thursday.

Yes, Dan and I are both high-risk when it comes to this coronavirus junk, but for now we are doing fine. I’m a little miffed I couldn’t buy a single box of fucking Kleenex or a roll of paper towels this week, but we have plenty of everything that isn’t a paper product at the moment. And a friend is sending us some tissues to get us through. [Waves at Jenn]. As you can probably imagine, we couldn’t stockpile goods on an SSDI income even if we wanted to. So it was inevitable and unfortunate that we’d run out as the pandemic reaches us.

Thankfully, we had sunshine and temps in the fifties Tuesday. We sat on the patio for a bit and soaked up some sun. Boomer chewed on a stick, and Izzy perched herself on the bird bath pedestal. (Can’t wait to set the basin on it again. C’mon, Spring!) The neighbor was out with her Yorkie. It was a comfort to hear Sammy barking incessantly at us through the privacy fence for ten minutes straight. No sarcasm. When things get too quiet, you can hear the apocalypse ringing in your ears.

But onto other things. Yesterday, for some reason, I decided to look up my husband’s old blog. It’s still sitting there on Blogger even though he hasn’t touched it in years. I thought I’d reminisce for a while. That’s when I came across this unflattering photo of me from July 2010:

When Dan took this picture, we’d been doing the long-distance thing for about a year. He was still living in Milwaukee, and I was in Indianapolis. I had time off from my job at the synagogue for the 4th, and so my dog and I took a road trip.

We did typical Fourth things—grilling out, getting frozen custard at Kopp’s, and hanging out at various points of interest along the lake shore. At one point, we were walking through an overgrown section of trail near Grant Park in South Milwaukee. It was the hottest of hot summer days. It was the humidest, swampiest, overgrownest swath of land. Dan was leading the way, and Taubensee (2000-2013) and I were lagging behind him. Everything was so just humid and swampy and overgrown with foliage. I think it must have also been the first day of MoquitoCon or something too.

Have you been to Wisconsin? The mosquitoes in that state, y’all—MOTHER OF GAWD!

Anyway, I prayed out loud for the trail to end, like someone or something could help me, remove me from that god-forsaken place. “It’s just a little bit farther,” Dan said. He wasn’t mad, but you could hear the “I don’t understand what the big deal is” in his voice. I smacked my forearm, smearing bug guts all over me. My face was so itchy. Overcome with frustration, I yelled, “AAARRRGH!”

It was just too much. Relinquishing what dignity I had left, I impulsively smacked myself in the face just as we were approaching the end of the trail. The pain was a welcome distraction from the itching, from the tickle of insect feet on my skin, and from the high-pitched buzz of tiny flapping wings in my ears.

When we reached the end of the trail we no longer had to walk single file. There, Dan turned around, glimpsing me for the first time since we’d started down the path.


“I’ve been saying!” I all but screamed. The itching was unbearable; the longer I went without antihistamines, the nearer I was to delirium.

“Yeah, but—” He just couldn’t find the words.

“How bad do I look?” I asked.

“Umm,” he hesitated. “You’re beautiful, but let’s skip Pick ‘N Save and just get you home. OK?”

LOL. I showed him this picture just now while writing this post, and he apologized to me again. “I still feel really bad about that.”

Don’t forget: Who You Gonna Believe is unlocked for everyone to read through March 31! Check it out.

Weekend Update: Nobody Knows Anything

Weekend Update: Nobody Knows Anything

I saw my primary doctor yesterday. It was supposed to be just a med check to note how I was doing on nortriptyline for my chronic pain. And while we did discuss that briefly, we talked mostly about Pal, the off-the-charts fatigue that has overwhelmed me since Thursday, and a newly discovered lump on the back of my neck.

If you’re in a hurry or just don’t care about the minutia of my visit, here’s your TL;DR: nobody knows what’s going on yet.

After today’s visit, I do have more information to share, though. The lumps in my armpits are apparently not swollen lymph nodes but some kind of skin issue below the surface. Cysts, I guess? However, the new lump in my neck is almost certainly a swollen lymph node.

Dr. A said I should not freak out about going back for additional mammograms on the 30th. She sees patients get called back a lot for asymmetry in breast tissue that turns out to be nothing consequential once doctors get a more detailed look. They want more pictures to investigate the asymmetry, not the lumps.

That does make it a little easier for me to wait on answers.

Taking my extreme fatigue and the neck lump into consideration, I asked Dr. A about the possibility of mono. I don’t know how I would end up with mono—I was self-isolating before self-isolation was cool—I just remember tales of big lymph nodes and crazy fatigue when other people I knew came down with it.

Dr. A did a physical examination of all the bumps and wasn’t sure what to tell me. She didn’t order any kind of bloodwork; I think mostly because I don’t have a sore throat, a cough, a fever, or a history of contact with sick people to point toward anything viral.

 “Refresh my memory,” she said. “Your brain tumor was cancerous, or…?” (Dr. A is my primary doctor but this is only the second time I’ve ever seen her.)

“It’s cancer.”

“And they couldn’t remove all of it right?”

“They couldn’t remove any of it.”

“OK. I’m going to consult with your oncologist. If you develop any other symptoms that would explain things—like you’ve got a bug of some sort and symptoms are still developing—call the office and let me know. In the meantime, I’ll see what Dr. P suggests.”

She explained that she’d tell most patients not to sweat it, just keep an eye on things and let her know if it gets worse. But with my history that approach felt a little too hands-off for her I think.

With a few glaring exceptions, my entire medical history can pretty much be summed up as “we have more information for you, but no answers” so today’s visit definitely tracks. If I ever do find out anything conclusive, I’ll be sure to let you guys know.

For now, I’m going back to bed. Maybe if I rest a few more hours I’ll have enough energy to brush a tooth or something.

Peace, love, and stop hoarding all the damn toilet paper, people.

My First Mammogram: A Story About Pal, the Lump in My Armpit

My First Mammogram: A Story About Pal, the Lump in My Armpit

So, where did we leave off with the present-day health updates? Oh yeah, my mental health and the mammogram for that lump in my armpit.

Last Monday, I had an appointment with my oncologist. Dr. P is the local Carle oncologist I entrust with monitoring my brain cancer; it just so happens she also specializes in breast cancer. In fact, her office is in the Mills Breast Cancer Institute.

At the brain MRI follow-up appointment with Dr. P Monday, I told her, and the resident shadowing her, about the palpable lump in my right armpit. Let’s call the lump Pal for short.

Pal tends to fluctuate in size. The first time I thought about bringing up Pal at a future doctor’s appointment was late November or December. But then Pal went away, so I didn’t say anything. But then Pal came back. Frankly, Pal was starting to piss me off. So last Monday, even though Pal was small again, I brought him up—first to the resident and then my doctor after she joined the conversation. They asked if they could jab their bony fingers into my armpit, and I was like, “Yes, please. This will be fun.”

However-comma, just like when you go to the mechanic for intermittent clunking under the hood, Pal decided to be a little chicken shit and hide. Been talking to my veins, no doubt. The jerks. Anyway, I presumed Pal went underground precisely because I was in a room with people who might be able to do something about him.

“You have some fullness,” the resident said, “but I don’t detect a lump.” I could still feel Pal in his miniature form, but I was not surprised he could not.

“When was your last period?” the resident asked. “Hormonal changes can sometimes—“

“Chemotherapy fried all that,” I said. “I don’t have periods.”

He actually looked surprised, which surprised me because chemopause or cancerpause (or whatever you want to call it) is not actually an uncommon thing. If you make it as far as your oncology residency, haven’t you learned this already? I’m genuinely asking. Maybe you don’t. Maybe the curriculum should be updated.

Dr. P said in her German accent, “You should come back when it is big again. Yes?”

I had a breakdown in the car on the way home. Thankfully Dan was very understanding. “I’m not making things up!” I said, rubbing my eyes punishingly for leaking. “You felt it? Remember? I am not crazy! Why is this happening again? What if they think I’m looking for attention?”

“Yeah, I felt it. You’re not nuts.”

A couple hours later, at home, Pal puffed up again. And he hurt like hell. “OF-FUCKING-COURSE,” I spat into the void.

That essentially brings us to today. My first mammogram. Pal was still pretty colossal this morning, but I was concerned that he was too far away from my boob to show up in a mammogram, and that I’d still be indefinitely floundering in self-doubt and what-ifs.

In a very tiny room, a nurse asked me the routine screening questions:

How old were you when you had your first period?
When was your last period?
Do you have kids?
Are you wearing deodorant?

When I told the nurse about my chemopause, she asked me what cancer I already had. And from there we got into how I was concerned about Pal… but the doctor couldn’t feel it last week… but I still wanted someone to make a note.

“Oh,” she was a brilliant nurse who didn’t make me ask a single question after that. “Well,” she explained, “you’re only scheduled for a routine screening mammogram today because of your age, but I’m writing all of this down. With your history, I’m just going to tell you now to expect a call back for more imaging. We can’t do everything you need during this 30-minute appointment today. A diagnostic mammogram can take up to two hours.”

Seemed reasonable to me. I was invited to the mammogram room by the tech. After going over what I’d told the nurse, she put a circular sticker with a teeny little metal ball on it over the area where I felt Pal, and we proceeded with the 3D screening mammogram for first-timers.

The results of my baseline are already in my patient portal, and I’ve already tweeted about what it contains. They can see Pal, and apparently he has a friend in my left armpit.

My primary physician has been given this information, and that’s all I know right now. I have more waiting to do, but from the sound of things I will have the follow-up imaging done fairly quickly. Unlike my mental health consultation, WHICH I COULD REALLY USE RIGHT NOW. JUST SAYIN’!

*long, defeated sigh*

Who You Gonna Believe? Not a Gaslighter, Bitch!

Who You Gonna Believe? Not a Gaslighter, Bitch!

Have you seen the video for the new Dixie Chicks song Gaslighter? Here, watch.

I’ve been listening to the song on a loop since its premiere yesterday. ON. MY. BIRTHDAY. It was preordained this song drop right now—while I’m running a promo for my serial memoir and still firmly entrenched in the Rodney chapters.               

I don’t consider myself a country music enthusiast, but I’ve been a Dixie Chicks fan since coming of age in a smothering small town while “Wide Open Spaces” topped the charts. Natalie cemented my adoration for the trio in 2003, though, when she took a whole lot of shit for her anti-war, anti-Bush comments at that concert in London.

In addition to placing “Gaslighter” at the top of my feminist anthem playlist, I’m writing it into my will that I want it used in the soundtrack for Who You Gonna Believe when I become famous for dying of brain cancer and they make a movie based on my memoir.

You’re sorry but WHERE’S MY APOLOGY

Damn, that is some fucking relatable-ass shit, but it is also so empowering. I’m just like, get all the 15-year-old girls in a room right fucking now and play them this song so they know what we want them to know: One day a woman WILL be president and the patriarchy is going to have its little excuse-making lips sewn shut with a backstitch. Put a pamphlet in my pocket and pay me what I’m worth, because gaslighters can’t eat the sandwiches NO ONE MAKES FOR THEM.

Sorry. Getting a little carried away.

Of course, the-you-can’t-touch-us-with-your-feminazi-bullshit-because-we’re-in-V-formation aesthetic is glorious too. Taken as a whole, this video reminds me that when my story ends one day, it will not end with me being a victim.

Of anything.

Friendly reminder that my memoir is unlocked for everyone (even Rodney, lolz) the entire month of March. However, if you want to be a rebel and support me JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, new patrons are always welcome at patreon.com/EmilySuess.

Dixie Chicks Gaslighter Lyrics

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father

We moved to California and followed your dreams
I believed the promises you made to me
Swore that night ’till death do us part
But you lie-lie-lie-lie-lied
Hollywood welcomed you with open doors
No matter what they gave you, you still wanted more
Acting all above it when our friends divorced
What a lie-lie-lie-lie-lie
You’re such a-

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

You thought I wouldn’t see it if you put it in my face
Give you all my money, you’ll gladly walk away
You think it’s justifiable, I think it’s pretty cruel
And you know you lie best when you lie to you
‘Cause, boy, you know exactly what you did on my boat
And, boy, that’s exactly why you ain’t comin’ home
Save your tried story for someone else
‘Cause their lie-lie-lie-lie-lies
Look out, you little-

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

You just had to start a fire, had to start a fire
Couldn’t take yourself on a road a little higher
Had to burn it up, had to tear it down
Tried to say I’m crazy
Babe, we know I’m not crazy, that’s you
You’re a lie-lie-lie-liar
Oh, honey, that’s you
You made your bed and then your bed caught fire
Gaslighter, I’m the mirror
Standin’ right here until you can see how you broke me
Yeah, I’m broken
You’re still sorry, and there’s still no apology

Gaslighter, denier
Doin’ anything to get your ass farther
Gaslight, big timer
Repeating all of the mistakes of your father
Gaslighter, you broke me
You’re sorry, but where’s my apology?
Gaslighter, you liar

Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday

Help Me Celebrate My 40th Birthday

I turn 40 Wednesday!

To celebrate, I’m taking my webserial memoir out from behind the paywall (Pay-treon wall?) for the month of March. So, not only can you read all 12 chapters of Who You Gonna Believe through the 31st, BUT you get to read chapter 13 in real time when I publish it at the end of the month!

Scroll down to start reading.

Or bookmark the Table of Contents if you want to read later.

I think turning 40 would be a pretty big deal for me anyway, but it’s monumental reaching this kind of milestone while toting a brain tumor around every day. I’m glad I’m here, and I’m thankful for all the people here with me—both virtually and IRL—and I wanted to give you all something to show my appreciation. Having cancer means there isn’t always a whole lot I can do to give back. Money’s tight, energy is low, and anxiety is high. But that won’t stop me from trying to say thanks.

Whether you’re a long-timer follower of this blog or you’re visiting for the first time, I hope you enjoy!

And of course, I’m so grateful for the support of my patrons who help keep me, this website, and the WYGB project going. If you enjoy reading WYGB this month (completely ad-free, I might add!) please leave a comment thanking these lovely people for making it possible.

Amiee S.
Angela R.
Becky Y.
Bonnie C.
Beth R.
Chris P.
Elizabeth G.
Emily A.
Geoff O.
Heather G.
Heidi D.

Ilene K.
Jeff G.
Jennifer G.
John P.
Judy L.
Karen D.
Kenneth R.
Kimberly C.
Kristin D.
Len B.
Mahesh M.

Melanie S.
Rachael U.
Rick K.
Stephanie A.
Stephanie K.
Susan K.
Susan M.
Tara A.
Tina J.

Chapter 12: Hurt People

Chapter 12: Hurt People

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My Ex-Husband Has to Pay ME $15 to Read His Emails

My Ex-Husband Has to Pay ME $15 to Read His Emails

Someone emailed me Thursday:

What happened with the whole Rodney thing? I mean, not *in* the memoir, but with him reading it. Is he still harassing you?

I replied, but later it occurred to me a formal update on the blog might be appropriate. So here’s where things stand at the moment:

I haven’t seen anything from Rodney since this happened in December. You’ll have to decide whether that’s because he gave up or because I’ve mastered the art of blocking the asshat.

Not only have I blocked every known account of his that I can think to block and blocked him from commenting here, I’ve also set up a filter for his emails. The filter intercepts his messages and auto-replies with this message:

551 4.7.2 Unauthorized email is not accepted due to domain’s FOH policy. c96ock49325875156wad.56 – gtfoh

Messages from you have been flagged by the recipient as low-priority and may not be received. For priority consideration, the administrator at info@emilysuess.com requires a minimum $15 payment.

Proceed Cancel

I have no problem establishing boundaries. In fact, I enjoy thinking up new, creative ways of telling people who drain the joy from my life to fuck off. So a while back I decided to spoof those mailer-daemon thingies you get when your email can’t be sent for some reason. The “FOH policy” and “gtfoh” in that seemingly random string of characters at the beginning of the message are made up, but they are not arbitrary.

Now, I can’t tell you for certain whether Rodney has attempted to contact me and received this message. But I can tell you that he has not paid the $15 fee I charge to let him waste my time.

So, what happens with this system I’ve set up is that Gmail filters email from him, auto-replies, and then places it in the spam folder, which automatically deletes emails after 30 days. And because I only check spam if I’m expecting an email and don’t receive it, it’s possible an email from him got flagged more than 30 days ago and I just never knew about it.

After taking a quick glance at the current state of my spam folder for the purposes of writing this update, what I can confidently tell you is that he hasn’t emailed me in the past 30 days.

So, if you had been wondering why I hadn’t written any more on the subject, now you know. It’s because there wasn’t anything to write.

“But what if he pays the $15?” you might be wondering. If PayPal notifies me of a payment from his account, I might check my spam folder.

With all of that cleared up, a programming note: Chapter 12 of Who You Gonna Believe will be available to patrons on February 29.

A Million Cancers

A Million Cancers

A while ago I posted about having a hard lump in my armpit. It’s not just there anymore. Now it hurts too.

I was going to ask my primary doctor about it last month, but then I didn’t. I rationalized the decision thusly: We were already way over time, I had an appointment with my oncologist scheduled for a couple days later, and I have a routine mammogram on March 9 to boot. (I turn forty next month.)

But it turned out that my oncologist had to reschedule my January appointment to March, and I haven’t seen her yet. So, when you read what follows, try to read it from the perspective of a cancer patient waiting an entire month to find out if she has more cancer.

I googled “what does a breast cancer lump in your armpit feel like?” Then I imagined some doctor somewhere ridiculing me for seeking information online. And then I imagined him wetting his pants right before being swallowed whole by my pet dragon.

Now, my old oncologist explained to me once that primary brain cancer rarely leaves the brain. (I had asked him why my maintenance plan didn’t involve PET scans at regular intervals like my dad’s did.)

And then Dr. Google explained to me that armpit lumps that feel regular and round like a pea or regular and long like a Mike & Ike are most often benign cysts, while irregularly shaped lumps are more likely to be malignant.

Mine’s a Mike & Ike, which seems like good news, especially when paired with Dr. A’s explanation about brain cancer being a homebody. Given those two things, I would probably advise someone else in a similar situation to put the scarier thoughts away for the month. There’s no point in worrying.

Problem is I took a shower, and I don’t know how to avoid dwelling on deeply existential shit when I take a shower anymore.

That article said ‘usually.’ But the odds haven’t been in my favor since like 1998.

My grandmother had breast cancer.

My dad had cancer.

My aunt had cancer.

My uncle had cancer.

A few of my cousins had cancer.

A second cancer will cost me my house for sure.

I don’t think I can handle more chemo and radiation. What if I get so depressed I give up?

I am going to die in pain, but not before I burden everyone who cares about me.

Could I see that maybe I was jumping the gun a little bit? Sure, but the tears started rolling anyway. I made plans for more cancer as I put on my pajamas. Then I went into the living room and told Dan he had to turn his video game off and come talk to me. I prefaced the whole conversation by saying, “I’m not saying I’m sure I have more cancer right now and I am not catastrophizing this lump, but I’m not presently capable of dismissing the idea. You know how denial terrifies me. I don’t want to pretend myself to death.”

Related: I think a lot about that scene in Man in the Moon where Kaufman realizes the psychic surgery stuff is a hoax. That movie is not a biopic, it’s a damned horror film.

I told him if I get new cancer or bigger brain cancer, I want to move so he’s not doing everything on his own. It wasn’t that long after we moved here that I got sick. We never had an opportunity to find our people, establish roots. We’re isolated, and only one of us can drive. “You’ll burn out.”

“I think you might be pee-tee-ess-deeing, right now,” Dan said. “But, yes, if we have to sell all our stuff and move closer to your parents, that’s what we’ll do.”

“I don’t want you to be mad at me.”

“I’m going where you go, Swiss.” He intentionally mispronounces my name when he’s trying to cheer me up. “Even if you get a million cancers.”

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