Writing & Freelance

Kickin’ Ass and Changing Names

I don’t know how long Paula and I have been Twitter friends, five years? Ten? But I know that when she commented on Monday’s blog post asking “why not start a book?” it wasn’t the first time she’d suggested the idea.

My standard response to anyone who has ever nudged me to write a book is essentially this: I don’t know what to write and I don’t have any ideas. I was raised to follow instructions, not create.

I wish I was a freer spirit. I’ve been trying my whole life to be a freer spirit. But I don’t think I have it in me. So, yes, I thought, it’s a wonderful idea. But, no, I don’t think I’m the woman to pull it off.

I stepped away from my laptop and walked my lilted walk to the kitchen to make a sandwich. And as I was digging the turkey pastrami out of the fridge, I let Paula’s suggestion swirl around inside my head a little bit more. I paused briefly with my hand on the handle of the refrigerator door. The I idea of writing something more life-affirming than 500-word blog posts for technology startups was enticing. What if?

What if I could write a book?

What if I could write a few hundred words every day?

What if I could get an agent?

What if I could get that thing published?

What if I could make a living writing stuff for me instead of other people?

The thoughts were too tempting to let go of this time, and so I started writing. I got a few thousand words down about my brain cancer—because I love memoir, and that’s what I want to write—before self-doubt pulled the brakes on that train.

You can’t write about that other stuff though.

There’s not enough material here for a book.

You think you can eke out 75,000 words writing this kind of drivel?

Everything you plan to write about is going to get you sued.

I slept on it, and woke up determined not to write but to research memoir writing. And I started thinking about the theme and about how different snapshots of my life fit into that theme. And then I thought about the story arc and how I might order those stories for the reader. And then I read something magical about how to deal with horrible people from your life that might want to sue you: put a disclaimer in the front of the book about how you’ve changed names and some details. Fudge the locations. Bump the time forward or back a year or two. Give that guy a mole he doesn’t have in real life.


After reading that, the ideas that were damming up behind a wall of doubt swelled until they took the wall out.

And now, if you need me, I’ll be thinking up villainous names for all the miserable people who’ve come in an out of my life.

Brain Tumor · Writing & Freelance

Getting Back to Freelance Writing

My long-term disability insurance policy doesn’t run out until May 2019, but it does run out. So naturally, I’m already worrying about how we are going to replace that $900 each month and thinking about the possibility of getting back to freelancing after a two-year medical leave of absence from work of any kind—freelance or otherwise.

In the moments when I’m able, I’m preparing myself for a return to work, even though I can’t just yet and there’s no promise that I’ll be able to next year. To start, I’ve been thinking up a to-do list that might be helpful in case I’m healthy enough to freelance again. If you think about it, I’m like a Doomsday Prepper, except I’m anticipating that something good will happen to me.

Cleaning up my Twitter Timeline?

Most professionals would advise me to back away from the political posts and maybe stop swearing at my congressional representative (who, I should note, would like to see me and others die from our illnesses rather than ensure we have full access to medical care) on Twitter.

However, I’ve got brain cancer. And whether it’s because deep thoughts about my immortality have made me less concerned with people who don’t like me or it’s because I’m more inclined to carpe the fucking diem, I’m leaning more toward continuing to tweet whatever I want.

What about that LinkedIn Profile of Mine?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t bothered much with LinkedIn since about 2013, and it’s been nice. It was helpful back when I was actively seeking freelance gigs, because it served as my resume, but the useless notifications were so annoying. When I started working at Wolfram, I didn’t do much more than update my job title and add a few new connections. I think I’ll check in with my freelancing pals and see whether they find it helpful on the off chance maintaining some sort of presence there is helpful.

I Signed Up at Upwork

As far as I can tell, this is the site that used to be oDesk. I used oDesk to land quite a few gigs back in the day, and it could prove to be a nice place to find work again in the future. I created a profile, set up my payment account, browsed the jobs listings, and even put in a couple of brief proposals for some small projects I’m confident I could handle even right now.

While there are plenty of contractors looking to take advantage of desperate workers on the site, there are also a few real gems to be found. I like the idea of submitting proposals for jobs that interest me and avoiding wading through and replying to random contacts through my website.

About the Website…

That’s something else I need to consider. Am I going to go back to a more professional emilysuess.com that focuses on my work, or keep this site as it currently exists? I could create completely separate sites for my professional and personal homes on the world wide web. I’ll continue to mull it over.

I’ve got a lot to consider.


Brain Tumor

Coloring at the FitDesk

adult coloring book page

I’ve already pedaled close to 200 miles on the FitDesk for the month of August in spite of it being a grossly mundane activity in and of itself. To chase away the boredom, I’ve positioned the bike so that it faces toward two windows. I get to watch cars go by, laugh with the neighborhood kids on their bikes, and take in the changes in weather and the sun’s position in the sky.

I listen to music and read while I’m riding to help pass the time. And I’ve also placed a cup full of markers in the cup holder and keep a coloring book on the desk at all times. Focusing on coloring does slow down my pace considerable, but the zen I achieve is so worth it.

If you don’t know it firsthand, you can probably imagine that having brain cancer can be a bit depressing. Even after the treatment has ended, I still find my mind wandering to darker places than it used to. So when I’m feeling upbeat, positive, and optimistic, it’s almost like I’m euphoric. Like I’m getting a shot of dopamine. Coloring, exercising, and baking are three things that distract me from dwelling on the tumor inside my skull.

I was so proud of my latest page, that I decided to scan it and share it here.

This page is taken from Art Nouvuea: Coloring for Everyone.

Brain Tumor

Stress Sh*tting Is For Real

If I had to pick one word to describe today, it would be…uncomfortable.

It’s been dark skies and gloom since I woke up this morning. We had a little bit of rain, but not enough to justify these overwhelming aches and pains or the sinus pressure currently building up inside my head.

Then I spent a couple of hours today filling out long-term disability forms for private insurance that I purchased through my most recent employer. It provides about a third of our income (the other two-thirds coming from SSDI) right now. But it doesn’t last forever. In fact, today’s lengthy forms reminded me that this benefit runs out in May.

They also forced me to list my current disabilities and recount my laundry list of symptoms. Clearly a necessary part of the process, but it is physically and emotionally painful to do. It brings all those scary, sad, PTSD feelings bubbling to the surface of my consciousness, and it usually takes a few days to get the anxiety back to a manageable simmer.

Anyway, being jobless with a head full of cancer means living in a perpetual state of financial stress, but today’s reminder was sort of like turning an already super tight screw a quarter-turn to the right. So, even though the loss of income is several months away, I panicked and set up a profile on a freelance jobs website. I took a spelling test there as part of the process and scored “below average.”

This former Spelling Bee Runner up was gutted.

And speaking of gutted. After spending an inordinate amount of time on the porcelain throne this afternoon, I tried to recall what could have caused me to be so sick.

“What did I eat?” I asked Dan, because my go-to is still to blame myself and my food choices for everything that goes wrong in life. (Thank you for your part in that, food-phobic society and fat-shaming doctors.)

So we went through a list of possible causes. “Maybe the cheesecake I made was too rich.”(Even though I have scientific proof that I have no dairy sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy.) “Or maybe those chicken breasts we bought at Meijer were iffy.”

After telling Dan, “but you ate that too” half a dozen times, it finally occurred to me that it’s not my fault. In my case, stress shitting is just secondary to having a brain tumor. I had a rough day and my gut was like, “Woman! Look what I can make!”



Brain Tumor

Sure, More Pains

Yesterday I rode the FitDesk for three 30-minute sessions. Ninety minutes in 24 hours is my new record! While I was pedaling, I was thinking about how fun it would be to ride an actual bike again. But I don’t own a real bike, and I wouldn’t want to try to do anything that required an ability to balance my body in an actual street where there are actual cars anyway.

If I’m honest, I still struggle to walk without tipping over on most days, so I’m confident I’d need a safe place to try out my biking skills. Like a mega church parking lot on a Thursday afternoon or something. Which means someone else driving me and my bike to some such place. That seems like way too much work.

Anyway, it’s not likely to happen soon, but it’s something I’m adding to my List of Things That Prove I’m Not Completely Broken Yet.


Can chemo give you arthritis? I Googled it once, but didn’t find anything I considered a solid answer. I would think that possibly I’m just of the age I would have developed arthritis anyway, but these new pains came on suddenly instead of growing slowly and steadily over the years like it did with my mom. Chemo speeds up the breakdown of plenty of things, so why not? But then I know that it’s used to treat some forms of arthritis, so… whatever.

Bottom line is that I hurt a lot. Again.


Brain Tumor

August Harvest

garden harvest.jpg

The garden has been hit or miss this year. The zucchini plant gave us one zucchini and then gave up the ghost, for example. The fennel looked good for a bit, and then it succumbed to something—over watered? Under watered? Planted too close to a rival? Who knows? (Probably someone who’s a little more meticulous about their garden. Our approach is to try our best and see what happens.)

We did manage to get a lot of tomatoes (a few cherry and a roma pictured here—many more were used to make sauce for a dinner of stuffed peppers Thursday), several green peppers, two eggplant, a basket full of jalapenos, and two pale cukes.

There’s also a loaf of homemade bread hiding away back there in the corner. Since my Dad fixed our Kitchen Aid mixer earlier this year, Dan has been more than willing to make our sandwich bread. It is such a treat, but because it doesn’t contain any preservatives it gets funky FAST. I have to hold my hand over my mouth just thinking about that last lone heel we pulled out of the cupboard.

I haven’t been baking as much the last week or so because I’ve been feeling a little under the weather. My coffee table refinishing project has also been stalled for a few days, but I am hoping to get back to it tomorrow. I’ve got the legs to sand before I can think about staining and varnishing.

Eh, anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for an update.