health & medical

All that remains

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First, they came for my appetite, and I said nothing.

Well, I said some things, some complaining type things. And I may have had some help acquiring some items that are legal in only certain states, in order to address this thing that the chemo took away. (Thanks again to you-know-who-you-are!)

Then, they came for my hair, and I said nothing because I knew that this was going to happen, so I shaved my head Britney-style. I complained some more, because my hair, ya’ll!

Now, they have taken away my eyelashes and eyebrows. (Yes, I skipped the part where my body hair fell off, because not shaving is clearly a bonus and this blog is not titled “The Upside of Trying to Chase Out Every Last Damn Cancer Cell.”) I was prideful about my eyelashes and eyebrows, which both of my children were lucky to inherit. It was nice to know that in a wig I could maybe fake people out because I still had them. They are nearly gone now. Sigh.

What I have gained is a thing called neuropathy in my feet and hands. Just a little bit of it. A sort of dull feeling in my hands. As for the feet, well, you know how it feels if you step on something and it sticks to the bottom of your feet? Like, a piece of paper or scotch tape? I feel like I have something stuck to the balls of my feet, off and on, all day. That one big Taxol dose added this to my chemo repertoire after only a couple of days, and I’m doing all the extras to combat it that all the people recommend. Trust me, I am reading the stuff and listening to you folks.

I also gained this super fun thing called menopause, which so far is manifesting as a short temper and heat waves that mostly hit at night, like Tom Cruise is dangling from the ceiling holding a space heater. Then I wake up and he gets sucked back into the ceiling and suddenly I feel normal again. I never liked him. Even before he jumped on Oprah’s furniture.

New lower dose Taxol started today. It is one third the strength of the last one, but they gave me the same amount of steroids that they gave me last time. That means tomorrow I will probably feel like I can do all the laundry in the world (that is not an invitation.) We wait for Thursday morning. That’s when the crash came last time, when I sent the kids off to school and then sat down and realized that I felt as though I’d just been hit by a car. I have high hopes for this coming Thursday. Let’s get through this, my body, without so much strife.

Then I can just focus on waiting for all of my beloved hairs to grow back. Good thing we bought me the medicine cabinet with the built in magnifying mirror!

books & writingcreative writing

Added to my e-bookshelf … Speculative Story Bites

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My experience with LibraryThing has added a LOT of different works to my e-bookshelf, and that’s led to a diverse array of reading experiences for me, and reviews for the books.

Some were great, others not-so-great-but-alright … there were titles that registered somewhere in the middle of the ‘meh’ meter … and one that left me scrambling to find words that adequately expressed how odorous I found it.
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Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingscience

In honor of the new school year, top ten science one-liners

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10. Schrödinger’s cat walks into a bar, and doesn’t.

9. When the bartender told the helium, “We don’t serve noble gases in here,” he didn’t react.

8. After the neutron drank his beer, he asked the bartender for the bill, but the bartender said, “For you, no charge.”

7. When the bartender told the Higgs Boson he had to go to church right away and the Higgs Boson asked why, the bartender said, “Because they can’t have mass without you.”

6. A photon checked into a hotel, and when the porter asked him if he had any luggage, he replied, “No, I’m travelling light.”

5. A student sees Einstein sitting next to him on the train, and asks, “Excuse me, Professor, but does Boston stop at this train?”

4. When the policeman stopped Werner Heisenberg for speeding and told him how fast he was going, Heisenberg responded, “Great! Now I’m lost!

3. Never trust an atom, because they make up everything.

2. The Theory of Relativity says time moves more slowly when you’re with your relatives.

1. They say one day the universe will implode — no matter!

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Reading, leading, and summer’s receding

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I tried so hard to resist this summer, and I nearly did it: I almost made it through those hazy months without scrawling a lament about kids and reading. But now we’re at the end, and I again am coming off another three months of banging my head against the wall trying to get the kids around me to read, so, well, better luck next year. [Read more →]

diatribesrace & culture

An occasion where I DON’T take a knee

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One week ago today, I was in the food court at Houston-Hobby Airport, waiting for a flight home following the latest round in my ongoing Texas Cancer Smackdown. This round had gone well, with good test results and encouraging words from the folks at M.D. Anderson.

For obvious reasons, I was in the mood to relax – even celebrate – with some lunch. The food was good, and a cold glass of local brew added to my enjoyment of the meal. Several feet away, the Apollo Chamber Players were performing light classical pieces as part of the airport’s “Harmony in the Air” program … all in all, I was in good spirits.

But then there was change, as Apollo switched gears and began playing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
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Bob Sullivan's top ten everythinglanguage & grammar

In honor of the new school year, top ten grammar one-liners

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10. I need a punctuation mark that’s halfway between a period and an exclamation point, so I can answer texts without sounding bored or insane.

9. I didn’t pay my syntax, so I got a poorly constructed prison sentence.

8. I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks – which was way too literal for me!

7. A girl texted me, “Your adorable,” I texted back, “No, YOU’RE adorable,” and now we’re married – when all I was trying to do was correct her typo.

6. If I had a dollar for every time I leave something unfinished,

5. There’s a fine line between hyphenated words.

4. Sometimes I use phrases that I don’t understand, and vice versa.

3. I seek eloquence, but I’d be satisfied with coherence.

2. I saw a teacher beating a student about the head while screaming, “Die! Die! Die!” so I guess, from now on, that kid will remember what the singular of ‘Dice’ is.

1. If life gives you melons, you might be dyslexic.

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingpolitics & government

Now that he’s ‘like’d a porn video on Twitter, Ted Cruz’s top ten favorite porn films

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10. Ball the President’s Men

9. Barbara’s Bush

8. Politically Erect

7. Pussy-Graber-in-Chief

6. The Devil in Miss Conway

5. Filibuster Cherry

4. Nazi-jism

3. Nailin’ Palin

2. Cruzin’

1. Deep Pockets

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingeducation

In honor of the new school year, top ten mathematics jokes and riddles

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10. Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine.

9. I for one — but that’s Roman numerals for you!

8. Did you hear about the constipated mathematician, who finally worked it out with a pencil?

7. I was quite young when I learned to count, and it was odd at first, even then.

6. When my math teacher told me I was average, I said, “That’s just mean.”

5. I’ll stop at nothing to avoid using negative numbers.

4. If I ever get taken in for questioning, I hope there’s no calculus.

3. I heard the government was doing away with Roman numerals, but all I can say is: Not on my watch!

2. A farmer saw that he had 37 cows in his field, but when he rounded them up, he had 40.

1. Why was six afraid of seven? Because seven was a registered six offender.

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingeducation

In honor of the new school year, top ten education one-liners

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10. On my first day of school, my parents dropped me off at the wrong nursery, so there I was, surrounded by trees and bushes.

9. I won’t say ours was a tough school, but we had our own coroner.

8. In school, I wasn’t so much the class clown as the class trapeze artist, because I was always being suspended.

7. My physics teacher told me I had a lot of potential, just before he pushed me off the roof.

6. When my math teacher asked me if I understood inequalities, I answered, “More or less.”

5. It’s Groundhog Day, but enough about the school lunch menu.

4. The only thing more dangerous than grizzly bears in our schools is Betsy DeVos.

3. When I went to college, my parents threw a going-away party for me, according to their letter.

2. There are certain things about school that you hate at the time, but would pay good money for later in life — like being spanked every day by a middle-aged woman.

1. If I’ve learned one thing in life, then the American education system has really let me down.

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Social media, depression, young girls

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I’m on a little of a generationist roll here (as much as I get on a roll about anything on this blog), but why not? I collect these tidbits, these links, and I’ve been accumulating many lately about the ever-growing body of evidence that social media overconnectedness threatens mental health — and this is especially the case for young girls. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingpolitics & government

After eight CEOs resigned from Trump’s Manufacturing Council because of his response to Charlottesville, top ten companies that have offered to join

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10. Alt-Right Guard

9. Goebbels ’n Bits

8. White-In Liquid Paper

7. Grey Goose Step Vodka

6. Invading Poland Spring Water

5. Death Campfire Marshmallows

4. MixMaster Race

3. K-K-K-Y Jelly

2. Eva Brawny Towels

1. Reich Krispies

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

animalsBob Sullivan's top ten everything

Now that Amazon is offering audiobooks for dogs, top ten audiobooks for dogs

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10. In Cold Bloodhound

9. Slaughterhouse Canine

8. The Bitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

7. The Hound and the Fury

6. Jane Airedale

5. The Picture of Dorian Greyhound

4. Barkness at Noon

3. The Great Dane Gatsby

2. Love In the Time of Collie

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Hound

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

virtual children by Scott Warnock

Forget love, CrazyRussianHacker will keep us together

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All my kids are teenagers, so there’s a gap there now. Sometimes it’s a wispy, barely discernible need for space that they express through body language. Other times, it’s an overt, intentional shout for Space! [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingends & odd

Top ten one-liners 2: Electric Boogaloo

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10. Preventing childhood obesity is as easy as taking candy from a baby.

9. I don’t know why all the kids call me Quasimodo, but I have a hunch.

8. If I could have dinner with any person living or dead, I’d pick the living one.

7. I have kleptomania, but when it gets really bad, I take something for it.

6. I had to cancel my appointment with the impotency clinic, because something came up.

5. The police recovered my stolen sofa, which was really nice of them because it was looking a bit tatty.

4. Diarrhea must be hereditary, since it runs in your genes.

3. If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.

2. My granddad had the heart of a lion, and a lifetime ban from the Philadelphia Zoo.

1. My wife may nag me at times, but when she told me to stop impersonating a flamingo, I had to put my foot down!

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

health & medicalrecipes & food

The food thing

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First, before I delve into a subject about which I receive many questions, I want to say that a cancer diagnosis can make one feel like one’s life is spinning out of control. I’m a problem solver by nature. Spinning out of control is not appealing to me in any way.

I know that for some people, putting all of the eggs into the doctors’ baskets is comfortable and feels right. For myself, I felt that I had some work to do as well. There are measures that one can take to improve one’s health. Duh. We all know we are supposed to be exercising, eating healthfully, not allowing ourselves to get too stressed and of course not smoking and drinking ourselves to death. Well, pre diagnosis I wasn’t eating well, I went through periods of time where I worked out regularly and then I would stop, I was extraordinarily stressed, and about all that I had going for me health-wise was that I have never smoked, did not drink heavily, and was not technically overweight (though I was at the top of my healthy BMI range and had sort of gone past what is appropriate for my narrow frame).

So, you get the diagnosis, you consult with the doctors regarding what they want to do to you, you pick the docs you like best, then what? For me, I had to make the life changes. Not one doctor advised me to do so (and I saw four oncologists and four surgeons). One doctor noticed between visits that I had lost a few pounds and said she thought it was a good idea, but not to go too far. One doctor, who met me after I had lost about 20 pounds, said that people in good shape, like my then self (this was about four months into my lifestyle changes) always have better outcomes, but that she had no real advice for me regarding lifestyle changes or habits to create. I did my own research. I consulted a naturopath MD Oncologist, finally, though I had made all of my changes by the time he was on board. He agreed with all that I had done for myself, and encouraged me to stay on the path.

What had I done? I quit drinking entirely. I started exercising daily. Some days I did yoga and some days the dog got a nice long walk. I was dealing with my faltering thyroid and some energy issues, but these were things I could manage. I began to try to implement some meditation into my life (with this I am still inconsistent at best). I removed myself from some stressful situations. I removed some stressful people. I stopped giving some fucks about some things, maybe kind of a lot of things. I cut out all refined sugar. And at the very start of all the changes, I went back to being a vegetarian.

I was a vegetarian throughout much of my twenties and into my early thirties. I was the kind that still ate cheese and some fish, or the occasional egg. I was also the kind that ate turkey on thanksgiving, even making one myself, once. Turkey is not a favorite of mine. I didn’t crave it for the rest of the year or anything, but in a situation (at a catered work function, for instance) where there weren’t any options, I might have a turkey sandwich. Funnily, most people thought of the sandwich as a vegetarian option. I never understand people who think poultry isn’t meat. (Just as I’m sure there are vegans who don’t understand why I still ate fish and cheese. I knew these things to be “animal products” but, I loved fish and cheese, that’s why!)

During my vegetarian years I essentially had no health issues at all and was thin without ever really dieting. At my height, (5’8″) I’m supposed to fall between 120-169 pounds. In high school I weighed 120, college I was 125ish (I was very active in school as well, dance classes, jogging etc.), and then until about 33 I was anywhere from 125-135. I was the kind of girl who would realize her pants were getting snug and cut back on fries for a couple of weeks. For most of those years I dated vegetarians (not on purpose). I wasn’t exactly eating fruits and veg 24/7, but I ate a lot of dinner salads and a good bit of fruit for snacks. Also, to be fair, I didn’t eat a ton of sugar either, I wasn’t much of a sweets person at the time.

I slowly started to eat more meat products. I discovered frozen margaritas. I started a mean tortilla chip habit. I was stressed at work, and I switched to a job where I was sitting at a desk instead of being on my feet all day. I put on some weight, for sure, and then at 35 I got pregnant. Cue snowball rolling down hill and creating my health avalanche. I never got back on track. If you knew me as a thin person between the ages of 35-45 it was because I was either too stressed to eat or too sick to eat. I had shingles SIX TIMES. 

After my second baby at 40, losing weight seemed to become impossible. Somehow, I didn’t think to go back to how I had eaten before. I tried a myriad of diets. I tried different work outs. I didn’t feel well, my stress level was at my lifetime high, and I was tired all the time. A year before my diagnosis I read The Blue Zones Solutionand thought “this is what I need to get back to!” I did not follow through.

Send in the December 2016 kick in the pants.

First, I read about one hundred articles about sugar. If you like, you can read this one, or that one, or this other one. There are plenty more if you want to go into a google coma. These articles and several of the books that I read also seemed to recommend cutting out refined sugar, so that is why I did that. Then I got back on the vegetarian bandwagon. I remembered from ages back that a vegetarian diet could lower your risk of cancer in the first place, and studies have since come out regarding cancer and meat. Again, google away. I did. I found this, that, this other one, that other one, and more.  If you saw all of those links and went crossed eyed, then click this instead. You’re welcome.

In the end, I just felt like the veg thing was right for me. It worked for me in the past. I know there are plenty of contradictory articles out there. I know that there is some serious research coming out about ketogenic diets and brain cancers (at least that one is a TedTalk). I did all that stuff that I mentioned above, I went vegan for 90 days. I began to consume very little food that comes from a box. Before I started chemo, people ran into me and were in disbelief that I had cancer. I just looked so healthy. I felt fantastic, other than my thyroid issue (which I think I’ve mentioned turned out to be another cancer), and even that situation improved. I wasn’t as tired anymore.

I lost 30 pounds, and I wasn’t even trying to do that. I did not give up all white carbs. I still eat potatoes, rice, and bread, though I don’t eat gobs of those things (I will confess to upping my potato and rice intake during chemo, sometimes it’s just what I feel like I can keep down). More importantly maybe, I added in a ton more fruits and vegetables. Until I got used to eating them I actually counted my servings over the course of the day, with my goal being ten. A quality juicer has helped with that.

When my 90 days of vegan was up I added back in the fish, but left out the dairy. Could I link a bunch of articles about cancer and dairy? Sure, but the cheese just upset my tummy and wasn’t worth the bother. So, I guess I’m officially a pescatarian. When this is all done, no more chemo, final surgeries completed, I’ll still be eating this way. Will I eat turkey on Thanksgiving? Probably. Will I have cake on my birthday? Fuck, yeah. Probably a glass of wine, too. But, I’ll never go back to what I was doing to my body before. If this is all the control I can take over it (besides showing up for chemo and surgery) then this is what I’ll do. I hope that about explains it, because that’s the longest damn blog, ever.


Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingmoney

Top ten signs you’re broke

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10. You eat your cereal with a fork, to save on milk.

9. You can’t even afford to pay attention!

8. When someone on the street asks you if you’ve lost your shoe, you reply, “No, I just found one!”

7. You’re so hungry, your roommate is starting to look like a large fried chicken in tennis shoes.

6. You attend communion, then go back for seconds.

5. At KFC, you lick other people’s fingers.

4. You’ve completely worn out your couch cushions, hunting for loose change.

3. You recently received a Care package from Ethiopia.

2. When somebody at a party goes on and on about how great Donald Trump is, you can’t afford to put in your two cent’s worth.

1. You receive a letter in the mail telling you that you’ve been pre-denied for a Visa card.

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

animalsart & entertainment

Top ten Broadway plays for dogs

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10. The Seven Year Bitch

9. Experiment In Terrier

8. Dog On A Hot Tin Roof

7. Saturday Night Retriever

6. Annie Get Your Gun (Fido Has Rabies)

5. Hello, Collie!

4. Jesus Christ, Pooper-Scooper Star

3. Corgi and Bess

2. The Bark of Mormon

1. Death of a Mailman

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

sportsvirtual children by Scott Warnock

The trainer tantrum – it proves they care!

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During my many tournament travels, I often see, in a variety of sports, some poor team or kid getting trounced. They’re in the wrong skill group or age level or something, but it’s a lopsided whupping. Sometimes, especially in more competitive events, that team or kid will have a trainer. [Read more →]

Bob Sullivan's top ten everythingenvironment & nature

Top ten answers to the question “How hot is it?”

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10. “It’s so hot, Bill Cosby says he kinda wishes he’d been thrown in the ‘cooler’.”

9. “It’s so hot, today I fried an egg…at room temperature.”

8. “It’s so hot, the last guy who asked me ‘Hot enough for ya?’ I was compelled to beat to death with a sockful of nickels.”

7. “It’s so hot, I have a brand on my stomach shaped like a seat belt buckle.”

6. “It’s so hot, in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, joints are lighting themselves.”

5. “It’s so hot, I ran into a burning building, just to cool off.”

4. “It’s so hot, because of their mercury content, people all across the country have been subjected to exploding thermometers and tuna.”

3. “It’s so hot, Satan took out a full page ad in The New York Times, asking for his weather back.”

2. “It’s so hot, two hobbits just walked by and threw a ring in through my window.”

1. “It’s so hot, the last time Trump said global warming was a hoax, his pants caught on fire.”

Bob Sullivan’s Top Ten Everything appears every Monday.

ends & oddhealth & medical

Is it over now?

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Have you ever been on that stupid carnival ride that sends you up in the air, in a long row of seats, then bounces you violently back down to the ground? (It’s especially unpleasant for the boobed half of the population). I feel like I’ve been riding that thing for at least a week. I have felt so supported and loved by my family and friends, and so slammed and beaten by chemo. Up an down, again and again. Damn carnie won’t let me off! Lovely and miserable all at once.

The chemicals hit me hard this time. Day one seemed like it was going to be an easier ride, I got a gift from Miami and was smart enough to use it before I was on the floor and desperately needed it. I had some good prep, too, from some great alternative practitioners. Thank You, Mama!! Then day two I was in the depths, feeling underwater and seasick, far worse than the first go round. Right away my hair started to fall out, my mouth began to sting and burn, my heart took off racing like I’ve perpetually just finished running a mile, and everything I tried to eat tasted like a chemistry set. Fruit is the only food that still tastes like itself, even water was impossible until I added lemon. I was so tired, though, I didn’t care about food at all. I ate some plums, drank some juice, and slept.

Day three I shaved my head. I was just tired of the clumps falling out. What’s the big deal about losing your hair? It’s not just that, as a woman, I feel my hair contributes highly to my attractiveness and appeal. It’s not just that, as a redhead, I’m super attached to my identity as the fiery ginger. Those are some serious truths, but when you are diagnosed with cancer, losing your hair is like losing your ability to control your narrative. Was I open about my diagnosis? Maybe more than I should be. Now, though, I may as well be walking around with a scarlet C on my chest. I’ve been out in a beanie and out in a wig, it’s very clear what my deal is either way. I see the faces, and man people cannot hide their expressions. Their questions and their curiosity are written all over their faces. It’s like being the worst kind of famous. I’m Monica Lewinsky. I’m Tonya Harding. I’m the sad train wreck because I can’t alter the perspective of the crowd. I can’t look them in the eyes and say: “I’m fine, I’m going to be OK, this is temporary, don’t put your sad cancer juju on me!” I guess I could say it, but then I’m a train wreck for real, right? Fucking hair.

At the same time, right now, I can afford to pay for things by the miracle that is this go fund me campaign. The new mushroom supplements came in the mail. I was able to have a mid cycle acupuncture treatment today (seriously, the relief it brings is miraculous). I am calling a cleaning company tomorrow to make an appointment and get some help with this house. I have never been the girl who depends upon the kindness of strangers. I’ve been the girl who bristles at the mere mention of possibly needing any help at all. And then one day I just couldn’t keep it together and do it all. My husband says we’re like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. The money is pouring out on the table in front of the Christmas tree, and we definitely feel the love.

The third treatment (of eight, fucking EIGHT) is next Tuesday. I’m meeting my new oncologist that morning. According to the nurses that I’ve had during my infusions, the AC chemo is hitting me too fast and hard. The second nurse said to ask for an adjustment of my dose, which I plan to do. I hope this oncologist doesn’t suck. I hope he listens. I hope he’s read my damn file before I get there. I need to get through this without completely falling apart. He better be ready to help. Unfortunately, I won’t have my red hair on display to excuse my ginger attitude for me. Hopefully he can handle it.