Activism · Birds · House and Home · Medical Cannabis · Writing & Freelance

Let Me Introduce You to My Workspace

12 Things.jpg

This is a picture of the end table next to me right now. It’s a little chaotic, I’ll admit. It’s maybe not how I’d keep things if I were perfectly healthy. But maybe it is. I don’t really know. I’m not the most organized person in the world. Anyway, this is the current state of things.

  1. Mountain Dew goes really well with weed. (See #6.)
  2. My phone case/wallet. It’s a really ugly imitation of suede. It’s hideous, but it’s functional.
  3. My only prescription med right now, and it has nothing to do with cancer. (I know, that’s amazing, right?)
  4. The earrings Dan picked up for me three days ago at Meijer “just because”. The are cats wearing witch hats.
  5. The double-sided Sharpie I use to write postcards to voters. One side is fine point. The other side is ultra-fine point.
  6. My MMJ vape. The changes in weather got me all like “OUCH!” I try to remember to take it every day just in case it feels like shrinking my brain tumor. But some days I forget.
  7. Vitamin D capsules. The doctor wants me to keep my levels up, and I just don’t spend a whole lot of time outside.
  8. The Sibley Guide to Birds. If you look closely, you can actually see the bird feeder out there in the back yard.
  9. An almost empty basket of Halloween candy. It only contained a partial bag of treats, but still. I’ve consumed way too much sugar in the last couple of days. (See #6.)
  10. Windex electronics wipes for cleaning my laptop and cell phone screen.
  11. Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir. I’m using it as a desk reference while I continue writing my memoir.
  12. The Sassy Bottle™. Izzy likes to be a little jerk and scratch at the furniture. Turns out she likes being sprayed with water too, though. So now it’s a game and we’ve taught her to claw the upholstery for attention. Cats, man.
Brain Tumor · House and Home

Our Rolling Death Trap

What day was it? Thursday, I think. Whatever day was National Taco Day. I put on my taco socks and told Dan to take me to Taco Bell for lunch.

Before we left the house, I double-checked that my auto insurance cards were up to date. See, the last time we went to Taco Bell, Dan got pulled over on the way home for speeding. And I didn’t have my phone or my wallet with me and couldn’t prove we had insurance on the Corolla.

The officer wrote Dan a ticket for speeding, but not for failing to show proof of insurance. He could’ve nailed us for both, and god only knows how big the fine would’ve been.

Anyway, even with the officer giving us a break, that freaking trip to get cheap-ass “tacos” cost us $147. So now every time I even think about Taco Bell, I wonder if my auto insurance papers are tucked away in the glove box.

Back to this past Thursday, though. All the insurance stuff was fine (I double checked before we pulled out of the driveway) so Dan drove me to Taco Bell for one of those ridiculous $5 box deals, which I would share with him. This time on the way home, the car started stalling at lights. It sputtered and shook as we rolled down a pretty busy street.

“Gah.” Dan tensed up. He threw it in neutral at every stop and had to give it extra gas as he put it back in drive just to get it rolling when it was time to go again. “Just get us home,” he patted the dash. “At least get us off this busy road.” He turned the hazards on, and cars whizzed past us in the left lane.

“Let’s never go to Taco Bell ever again,” I said. “Once is a fluke, twice is a fucking curse. Also, I’m too young to die.”

“Deal. Taco Bell can suck it.”

We did manage to get the Corolla back home and in the garage before it completely gave up the ghost. Dan lifted the hood, checked the oil, and inspected the battery we’d just replaced. “Whatever is wrong with it isn’t obvious to me,” Dan said. Lowering the hood to almost closed and then letting it drop the rest of the way with a loud thud.

We tried to eat our tacos while we watched GOP senators morph into rape apologists on live TV, only taking a few bites before pushing the taco remains away. We were mad about Kavanaugh. Our nerves were shot from the scary ride home in a failing car. And we were stressing over the financial implications. We didn’t even have the $113 to shell out for the battery last week. No telling how much more it would cost to get the thing running again.

Our appetites were gone.

car being towed.jpg

Friday morning I called roadside assistance and had the car towed to the shop.  For the first time since we’d been forced to downgrade to a single-car home, we were without a car. We had errands to do, so we walked to the bodega-ish shop a couple of blocks away to get Dan’s smokes, and then I ordered groceries from Shipt for the first time ever.

I’m going to long-story-short this sucker, because I’m almost to 500 words already.

A friend of mine from the glorious interwebs, saw my distressed tweets about the car troubles on Twitter and DMed me. She said not to worry about the car, she would help. And she did. She called the mechanic and paid upfront for the repairs. No only did she have them fix what was preventing the car from running (bad spark plugs and a shot number three ignition coil) but she got us new tires too. (The tread rating on two of them was in the red and the mechanic previously given us the concerned parent lecture about riding around with bald tires while we entertained him with stories about blood and turnips.) Not long after that, a second friend offered to cover the expenses. I was speechless at the generosity.

Over the weekend I was emotionally all over the place. On the one hand, people were wonderful and kind and full of goodwill. And on the other hand, people were belittling one of the bravest women my eyes ever beheld while making excuses for a power-hungry, entitled, beer-swilling basket case. I couldn’t reel in my feelings there for a while.

Now that the dust has settled, I’m writing postcards to encourage people to vote. These midterms are so incredibly important. And I’m looking at my next MRI and checkup with the oncologist on the calendar with a little less angst. It’s coming up in about three weeks, and now, thanks to the kindness of someone I’ve never even met in real life, we’re all set to make the 175-mile trip to Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis in a car that isn’t a rolling death trap.

 

Brain Tumor · House and Home · Memories

Father’s Day Rocks

Yes, I know I’m a couple of weeks late on the Father’s Day thing. It’s because I knew my parents would be passing through Urbana at the end of this week, and I figured I’d just hand my dad his Father’s Day rock instead of try to mail it.
 
(For Mother’s Day, I gave my mom a small succulent I planted myself. My theme for the parents this year was something like “Things an 8 year old might give her parents.”)
This is only the second rock I’ve ever painted. It’s a hobby I think I might want to take up, but I don’t really know what I’m doing yet.
Anyway, I do like the way this one turned out. It’s freehand, which I think adds to its charm. I painted the white field as a background first, and then sketched the Cubs logo in roughly with pencil before painting it. Smooth lines on small rocks with skinny brushes are difficult to achieve even if you haven’t had brain surgery. I’m proud of my work.
cubs painted rock.jpg
Brain Tumor · House and Home

Emily’s Cancer Calendar: June

calendar

June was phenomenal as far as my FitDesk stats go: 900 minutes and 220 miles. I also mowed twice, celebrated my 90th day since the end of chemo with a frozen margarita from Casa del Mar, traveled to Milwaukee to celebrate Dan’s birthday, and baked a couple of cakes.

***

We just returned from a trip to Meijer, where we bought a few plants, a box of granola cereal, and a pint of buttermilk (for another bundt cake I want to try making). Even though the store was sufficiently air conditioned, I couldn’t take any more. I am wilted. So I’m going to eat my cold cereal, and watch Dan play video games. But before go, I’m going to leave you with a few pictures of the yard.

 

Brain Tumor · House and Home

I Mowed This

freshly mowed lawn

Please ignore the debris lurking in the shadows back by the fence. Tornadoes ripped through our area a couple of days ago, and we lost a few limbs. What I would like you to notice are the fresh lines in the grass that I PUT THERE.

That I’ve been able to help Dan mow the lawn this year is monumental. There are a few things that have made this possible.

  1. Thanks to my mom, I discovered Flonase. I am so allergic to grass I couldn’t even. But now I can.
  2. I don’t have to mow every day. I get 6 or 7 days off between every job!
  3. After I bought a manual push mower in 2015, Dan commended me for my commitment to getting in shape and trying to protect the environment, then he promptly bought a self-propelled gas mower. (I didn’t know I had a brain tumor when I made the overly ambitious purchase, but he knew that neither of us were in any condition to work that hard in extreme heat.)
  4. I’ve lost 39 pounds. I’m still burdened by as many extra pounds, but getting rid of those has made it easier for my body to continue recovering from months of chemotherapy. I’m getting stronger instead of weaker for the first time in years. Literally years.
  5.  I love my yard. Sitting in an outdoor rocking chair at the end of the day and admiring the work that Dan and I have put into it is life-affirming for me. I’m not withering away. I’m doing things. And hopefully every day I will be able to do a little bit more.

boomer.jpg

Brain Tumor · House and Home

Disabled and Baking Cake

My permanent disability parking placard came in the mail this weekend. Getting it is bittersweet, because it’s so helpful to have. But also, I don’t really want to need one. Holding the placard in my hand forced me to reflect on the last year or so, and it bummed me out a little.

So I thought I’d try to focus on a thing I can still do in spite of my tumor and last year’s biopsy, radiation, and months of chemotherapy. Unfortunately for my waistline that thing is bake cake.

This story really begins last Wednesday on Dan’s birthday. I made him Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake* (with a bottle of New Glarus Coffee Stout from his stash of special birthday beers instead of Guinness). Making him this cake is a birthday tradition. It’s really dense and really moist, but it’s not really sweet. It’s sooooo delicious.

We didn’t have a cake stand, so I plopped it on a pizza plate and later covered the leftovers with an inverted bowl from our salad spinner.

guinness cake

Well, a sweet friend of ours, Dawn, couldn’t let us go on living life without a proper cake stand and decided to gift us one. I immediately started looking for another cake to bake and settled on this Pistachio Pudding Cake**.

I started wobbling around the kitchen, and it baked while severe storms moved through our area. I was pleased with how it turned out.

pistachio cake

Here it is again, pictured with Dan’s beers. That’s just coincidence, I don’t necessarily recommended pairing beer and cake. (Yeah, the cake is made with three boxes of instant pudding so it’s got that perfectly unnatural green tint and semi-homemade flair.)

Both cakes are delicious.
pistachio cake 2


* The frosting is store bought. We weren’t in the mood for cream cheese, and opted for a buttercream instead.
** Again, we skipped the cream cheese frosting. Instead I iced it with a powdered sugar, water, and orange zest drizzle. Also, I had to add an extra 1/2 cup of milk to this cake batter. It was so thick without it, my hand mixer couldn’t deal.

Brain Tumor · House and Home

Sink, Sasquatch, Sale

Dan’s out at Sam’s this morning buying a bag of whole bean coffee, a case of Coke Zero, and a bag of bird seed. You know, the essentials.

I had intended to go with him, but I woke up this morning with a migraine. And, instead of asking him to bring me some Gatorade to wash down my morning meds, I decided I was tough enough to do it myself.

I made it to the kitchen and back without falling, but the room was spinning out of control from dizziness by the time I made it back to the bedroom. By the time I’d flattened myself out on the bed and closed my eyes, the damage had been done. My vertigo and migraines and gag reflex must all be on the same circuit. I said goodbye to the medicine I’d just taken and waited for my vision to return to normal.

Early this morning while the sky was still dark, I had awoken from a dream that I’d received the results of another MRI and the doctors were telling me “there was another dot in my head.” I’m pretty confident that was just my brain’s way of processing the incoming migraine while I slept.  But that split second of consciousness where I thought I actually had a second brain tumor was pretty shitty.

So, instead of continuing my streak of feeling pretty good for a girl with brain cancer, I’m staying home today and taking it easy. It’s disappointing though. Dan and I were talking last night about the things we wanted to do today, and now I just can’t. I can, however, share some pictures with you of the stuff we did this past week while my parents were in town helping us with projects around the house.

Mom helped us with the landscaping out in front of the house. She laid the stone border and mulch and helped us hide the hideous gas meter by arranging my potted flowers and the landscaping rocks scattered around our yard. (This is actually not the final product, but it’s close.)

landscaping.jpg

Dad installed the kitchen sink we got for Christmas (to replace the cracked, leaking one). It wasn’t easy, either. He had to improvise to get it to work and there was talk that we might have to call a plumber.

kitchen sink.jpg

Mom drove me out to Country Arbors Nursery to get Dan’s birthday present. (His birthday isn’t for another couple of weeks, but I can’t drive and I wanted to surprise him.) Yes, that’s a three-foot-tall Sasquatch in my back yard. I named him Pipsquatch. We love him.

sasquatch.jpg

We also had a garage sale. It doesn’t take long for me to feel suffocated by too many things around the house. Particularly things we don’t want or use. What we didn’t sell, we loaded in my parents’ Jeep and took to Goodwill. Bonus: we dragged the old kitchen sink and a 25-cubic-foot, poop brown Lady Kenmore side-by-side refrigerator to the curb and a couple of scrappers hauled them both away for us. The weather was gorgeous.

garage sale