Brain Tumor

Walking under Willows

After lunch I was itching to do something, so I asked Dan if he’d take me and Boomer to a little man-made pond near our house. On the north side of the water’s edge is a nice commercial area with professional buildings and a few restaurants. On the south side it’s nothing but cornfield. A flat, wide sidewalk encircles the pond, and there are three benches at various points on the perimeter. It’s mostly in the blazing sun, except for a couple of gorgeous willow trees.

under willow

I walked the whole thing in 84 °F heat while holding Boomer’s leash. He’s pretty gentle with me, but even his leisurely walking pace is challenging. I managed the walk, stopping at two of the benches for just a few seconds before picking up and carrying on.

The perimeter is about four tenths of a mile according to Google Maps. I managed to maintain my balance for almost the entire walk. I leaned on Dan’s arm only once when Boomer’s change of pace and direction shook my confidence.

When we were done, my face was turning red and splotchy from the heat, and Boomer’s tongue practically dragged on the ground. The sun is intense, and I may have mentioned my extreme intolerance for heat. (I think that’s mostly a result of the brain tumor messing up my body’s autonomic functions.)


I’ve decided we’ll definitely go back. It’s a good distance for me to improve my balance while walking without overdoing it. And I think maybe a picnic under one of those willows would be nice.


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.


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

The More You Know: Long-Term Disability Insurance Edition

the more you know

You know what’s weird? Reporting your health to the long-term disability insurance company and having to answer pretty invasive health questions so they keep giving you the money they owe you but are hoping desperately they can wriggle out of paying you.

I feel like I need a shower after I reply to their emails. When I see their number on the caller ID, it triggers my anxiety.

It’s like, I have brain cancer. Pretty much the only scenario I can foresee where they don’t owe me money is if I die. I gave them money before, so they’d have to give me money now. But they get to ask questions about what my brain tumor is doing to me that I have to answer carefully so as not to trigger some diabolically planned loophole that means they don’t have to pay me. It’s stressful, let me tell ya.

And it’s hard for me to picture the individual representatives I deal with as anything more than victims. They need jobs, and keeping those jobs means following the slime-covered rules. Still. The dude who thought up the first insurance company? Must’ve been born straight out of Satan’s asshole.


Thanks for Everything, Milwaukee!

The trip to Milwaukee turned out to be loads of fun. The party to celebrate Dan and his twin brother Dave on Saturday included family and friends and plenty of food and cake and beer.

The birthday boys.

Dan and Dave.jpg


Family. (All at various points of inebriation. Ha!)

On Sunday, we scooted around South Milwaukee, Dan’s hometown. We drove through Grant Park to gawk at the beauty of Lake Michigan and grab a few small rocks from the beach to put in our landscaping, drove by the house Dan grew up in, shopped the local grocery stores for some favorite eats we can’t find where we live, and picked up a coffee table—a family heirloom—that his niece had been holding onto for us.

It was a busier day than I had anticipated, but the cooler temps and the fresh air were great. I was feeling pretty good (even though neither of us slept particularly well).

So when we got home yesterday, the first thing I did was take a two-hour nap. There’s just nothing like your own bed!

Once we’re fully recovered, we’ve got more projects to complete around the house. It’s shaping up to be a great summer. I am so glad.


Brain Tumor

First Adventures

milwaaukeeIn just one more sleep, I’ll be taking my first non-doctor related road trip since…well, I’m not sure. (That’s the thing about brain surgery and chemotherapy. It tends to muddle history a bit.)

We’re headed to Milwaukee for the weekend. Dan and his twin brother are turning 50 this month, and there’s going to be a happy little surprise to-do for the both of them (which is why I won’t be publishing this until after our return). Dan’s sister-in-law is planning the whole thing from the venue to the birthday cake, and I love her to death for including us. Because although I’m feeling better these days, planning out-of-town events isn’t exactly something I have the brain power to pull off.

On our way tomorrow, we have to drop off Boomer at the veterinarian for boarding. He’ll be fine. (He is, quite possibly, the most social dog I’ve ever met in my life and the people at our vet’s office are wonderful.) But I’m starting to feel a little clingy about leaving him behind. He still walks me down the hallway from the living room to the bathroom on those days when I’m extra wobbly, his big brown eyes full of concern.

Izzy will be staying at home like cats do when their humans are only gone for a couple of days. I’ll miss her attitude a little. I won’t miss her pushing all my shit off the table. Ha!

I’m also a little worried about my third and final Asiatic lily opening up while we’re in Wisconsin. Dan promises me I won’t miss anything. It’s a little ridiculous, but it has been so much fun watching our flowers and vegetables grow. Last summer I struggled. A lot. This summer I have become slightly (ever so slightly) more tolerant of the heat and am strong enough to help plant flowers, mow the back yard, water the garden, and get a few minutes of sunshine. I’ve been eyeing those lilies every day, because we had no idea they’d come back this year. They have, and they are big and brilliant.

Anyhoo, got some chores to get done before we hit the road tomorrow.

Brain Tumor · Memories

The Sidney Dairy Barn

All of my favorite places in the world serve ice cream. Union Dairy in Freeport, Illinois is probably my all-time favorite. But, luckily for me there’s a close by close second.

The Sidney Dairy Barn in Sidney, Illinois.


Sure, there are even closer places for us to get ice cream, but proximity isn’t my priority. I can get a Blizzard anywhere. But where else are you going to get an ice cream cone so brightly colored it turns your teeth and lips unnatural colors?

sidney illinois map.png

Sidney is a tiny town (population of about 1,300) 10-ish miles southeast of Urbana. Google says it takes us 14 minutes to get there, but the drive honestly doesn’t feel that long to me, especially on a day like today. The clouds were poofy, the sky was blue, the wind was warm, and the fields of corn on highway 130 were shiny and green after last night’s rain.

Dan and I were on a mission to try the Dairy Barn’s wild cherry soft serve ice cream. (Last week’s limited run of Blue Moon ice cream hooked us, and we vowed to try as many flavors as possible this summer.) I got a regular cone; he got a large, chocolate-dipped waffle cone. We sat at a picnic table trying to eat our confections fast enough that they weren’t melting all over us but slow enough that we didn’t give ourselves headaches.

Dan wore some of his. I got brain freeze. And our lips turned red from the “vitamin red”—that’s what Dan calls red food coloring—while Janet Jackson’s  “Escapade” played on the radio.

It’s one of the happiest places on earth. In fact, I’m pretty sure cancer has to shut up and take a seat at the Sidney Dairy Barn. At least until you finish your dessert.