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Scaling Back

We met with Genius Pool Guy today.

His proposal was perfect. It’s gorgeous. It’s a spa waterfalling into a giant pool with a 30 foot infinity edge waterfalling into another giant pool, deep enough to dive into. It’s unbelievable!

And it came in at 30% above our budget, more or less.

In theory, if our cars don’t break and we never ever go out to eat and nothing ever goes wrong with an investment property we own, we could buy the pool he designed, but we wouldn’t enjoy it because we would constantly fret about how much it cost. It would be a buzzkill pool, not an object of joy.

We could sell our investment property and just buy the damn pool, but that is not something we want to do, because then when our kids go to college, how will we pay for it? We might do that anyway.

We could save up and buy the glorious pool later on. That might happen. I might stick a paypal button on this blog to pay for the pool. I doubt I will do that.

We could go back to Genius Pool Guy and say, “please scale back your proposal” but how on earth do you tell that to someone who has given you the Pool Design From Heaven?

I might do that.

I have some other bids still outstanding (Santa) so I’m not going to rush into anything.

I think I will go sit in the bathtub and close my eyes and pretend I am in a pool. I need to soak my scaly feet anyway.

Some people go through this when they get a cancer diagnosis, especially when they don’t have adequate health insurance.

Some people go through this because their traditional insurance won’t pay for quack  cures.

Me? I just want a pool. Thank God I didn’t have to even think like this when I had cancer.

I’m not making stuff up

I have learned the hard way that once your feet start developing  thick callouses it is hard to get rid of them. Evidently callouses beget callouses.

My feet started getting horrible during chemotherapy. So yeah, this is a cancer problem. I’ve tried some Rx urea-based lotions, but they have not worked.

I’m glad y’all are so interested in it. Thanks for the encouragement!

It’s like the oxygen mask in a crashing plane

Get on mah feeties!

Get on mah feeties!

The aspirin remedy worked decently. If I had normal feet, it would have been awesome. I recommend it. As it is, mine are softer, and more comfortable, but still nasty.

My box of Baby Feet, the  Japanese foot peel was sitting on my front porch when I came home this afternoon
I’d like to say that I’m going to put those plastic booties after all of my work is done, but I learned well the lesson of cancer: that it never will be, and if I don’t make taking care of myself a priority, it will get procrastinated into nothingness.

I’m sitting on the couch with my feet in plastic booties full of skin-melting foot acid while kid #1 cleans the kitchen and kid #2 takes a shower. They can microwave leftovers for dinner and do the rest of the housework. Their homework is done. I’m out here with them, not hiding out in my room.

It’s good.

Can’t Wait

socks I found that I was unable to wait until my package of Baby Feet foot peel.

I made a paste of plain aspirin, lime juice, rubbing alcohol, and sugar. Then I put it on my feet and wrapped them up in plastic trash bags and socks.

I’m sitting upstairs watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets with my kids while it soaks in. Already my feet feel better.

I hadn’t even noticed that my feet felt bad, I was so used to it.

I wonder what else I’ve gotten so used to that I don’t even notice it any more.

I can’t wait for my feet to be fixed.

Home remedies are great. I wish all of my problems could be resolved so easily.

Nothing Good Happens After Midnight

Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night. This is a normal thing people do. According to Science, we’ve been doing it since forever. It’s part of being a person.

According to History, people used to use the time to pray, or read, or meditate, but now we all use it for the modern version of those things: we google our medical symptoms.

Cancer keeps us up at night. Not only the weight of the grim reaper sitting at the foot of the bed grinning at us; the medication affects our sleep cycles, plus we get up to vomit, or just retch to no avail, or to rummage in the medicine cabinet for that bottle of opiates, hoping to dull the pain just enough to get back to sleep.

We google. We google our results. We google recurrence. We google all the different cancers that we might get as a result of our treatment.

When I was sick, I used to play Warcraft late at night. Some of the late-night players were so stinking drunk that it wasn’t much fun to play with them. Others were like me: cancer.

We didn’t talk about it much; people would drop hints,  and our avatars /hug or /cry, or, occasionally, /cheer, and then go back to the business at hand: slaughtering evil pixels.

I never googled cancer until after everything was over, and I had taken the first of many hiatuses from the World of Warcraft.

I stopped googling when I found an article that gave me the data to demonstrate that cancer patients in exactly my situation with exactly my response to chemotherapy mostly did not die from cancer, right away. That was five years ago.

I don’t want to find out anything to the contrary.

Foot Dandruff


Ages ago, I posted a long piece about my post-cancer beauty routines, which was evidently a  hit because I keep getting notes about how useful it is for other people recovering from cancer. Yay! It makes me feel good that people find this blog helpful — that’s one reason I picked it up again.

When I wrote that long post, I ended with the statement that my feet were a mess but talking about them made me too sad.

The other stuff has cleared up, but my feet are still a mess. I get pedicures when I can and definitely take care of them on my own, and they’ve improved a lot . . .  and it’s still pretty bad.

Then my friend told me about a Japanese foot care product that will soften and smooth out your feet via an intense chemical peel.

It’s going to be disgusting, but that’s okay.

I’m really excited.

Honey and Cinnamon

honey-cinnamonThere is a post going around the internet regarding the health benefits of honey and cinnamon.

Honey and cinnamon is delicious. I like it in tea. I like it on toast. No, scratch that, I LOVE it on toast, especially with butter. I use honey in the bath. For years, I used it instead of soap. I give myself a honey facial a couple of times a week. For me, cinnamon doesn’t work as well in the bath because it leaves a mess in the tub, but it is fantastic in the shower. It feels great, and it smells even better.

We eat so much honey and cinnamon in our house that we buy it in bulk, by the pound, and we’re always running out.

It doesn’t cure cancer.

But the internet says it cures cancer. It says so! On the internet! How do you know it doesn’t? Are you a scientist? Are you? Are you? Well then, how do you know?

No. I am not a scientist. I tried science once and I was bad at it. I know that honey and cinnamon does not cure cancer because if it did, then the medical researchers would have figured it out by now. I trust those medical researchers as individuals, and I trust the institutions of science in which they work. I believe in data, especially as it relates to medicine.

I believe that the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet are better places to seek wisdom on medical issues than the pages of the Weekly World News, which, according to, is the source of the honey and cinnamon article.

Friends keep emailing me that Honey and Cinnamon article, or posting it on my Facebook page. They mean well. But cancer is not like acne or flatulence, easily solved with ingredients in my kitchen pantry. I wish it were.

There are people who have relied on natural cancer cures like honey and cinnamon, and whose cancers have resolved. However, when a cancer patient make a choice to treat their cancer “naturally,” and it a valid choice to do that, then they are also making the choice to accept death from cancer as a natural event. 

One of the hardest conversations I have ever had was with a friend who also happens to be a top-notch breast cancer doctor. After she found out what kind of cancer I had, she said something very difficult, and very kind. I wish I had the courage to say what she said more often, and it was this.

There may come a time when the fight is too hard and you want to give up. That’s okay. It’s your right and your choice. Don’t ever let anyone make you keep fighting. It will be okay to let go. Trust yourself to know when that time is.

I haven’t reached that time. I hope I never do. But if — when — that time comes for me, I imagine it will be flavored with the bittersweet aroma of honey and cinnamon. No, it won’t cure cancer. All cinnamon and honey can promise for me or anyone with cancer is to sweeten the slow passage toward death.

Digging In

Industrial Pool Guy sent his excavator over this morning. He said, “Where do you want to put the pool?”

“All over the yard,” I told him and explained my vision.

He can bring in the necessary equipment.

And he didn’t tell me I am crazy. He said, “If we can pull it off it’s going to be amazing.”

Who Has an Oncologist?

Way back in the beginning, when we were figuring out what our next, first, step would be after we learned that I had cancer, we were told “First, you meet with your oncologist.”

Who has an oncologist?

It’s not like a dentist or a gynecologist or a pediatrician. Even with those, you have some space to breathe while you figure the whole thing out. “Who is your dentist,” you can ask your friends with the best teeth. And with a pediatrician, you have a whole nine months to choose someone — and if you find yourself with a bad fit, it’s an easy thing to change course — you just go to a different doctor.

Cancer is not like that.

We heard it first from the kind and capable surgeon who initially diagnosed my disease. She said, “After the surgery, you will meet with your oncologist and set up a treatment plan.”

We cracked up.  Chris pulled out his phone and faked it. Here, let me just look up that number.

“Who has an oncologist?” we asked her. “How do you even find an oncologist?”

She gave us some names. Only one of them could meet with us; that doctor said, “25% of my patients in your situation have an excellent result.”

“What about the other 75%?”

“Let’s just focus on the 25%.”

That was when I decided to keep looking, a decision that resulted in my treatment at MD Anderson, where they estimated my odds around 40%. I went with the numbers. Obviously, in my case, it worked.

Choosing an oncologist is not like choosing any another kind of doctor. It is more like choosing a plumber when you have a gushing pipe leak caused by corrosion, and the plumber is going to have to tear apart your entire house and rebuild it differently in order to fix the problem — and the whole time you are dithering and wondering, foetid water (and worse) is gathering around your ankles and rotting out your floors and ceilings.

When a person with cancer has chosen their doctor, they have already done the best they can.

I get a lot of phone calls from friends and friends-of-friends who have been told they have cancer, or whose relatives have cancer, asking my advice about choosing an oncologist. Evidently my not-dead status makes me an “expert” — and in a way, it does, because how else do you pick a doctor except by asking friends.

I always say the same thing:  When someone you care about has cancer, the least helpful thing you can do is criticize the choices they have made regarding their treatment. And to people who have cancer, I say, It sounds like you have done a great job examining your options and I am sure you will make the right decision.

I wound up at the #1 ranked cancer center in the world. The Saudi Royal Family has the same doctors that I do. And yet people, even — especially — friends, saw fit to criticize my choice. They said, Weren’t the hospitals in Dallas good enough for you? Isn’t it terribly expensive? Aren’t you inconveniencing your family? Isn’t that kind of selfish?


No intends to be horrible to their friends with cancer. No one says cruel things on purpose It’s just something that happens. What they are actually saying is:

You, my friend, are probably going to die and this might be the last time I ever see you, and I’m really upset about it so I am going to open my mouth, and out comes word soup.

I didn’t sit down to write this essay with the mindset of giving advice, but I’m going to anyway.

This, unintentional horrible word soup, is the reason that platitudes exist.

Before you go to visit your friend with cancer, practice word soup prevention. Spend some time looking in the mirror and saying:

  • If anyone can get through this, it’s you.
  • Who cares what you look like. You looked much worse in the morning during Spring Break when we were in college.
  • I’m here for you.
  • I am praying for you.
  • I need your advice on (insert non-cancer related topic).
  • Look at you! You are doing great!
  • I put a chicken spaghetti or some homemade lasagna in your freezer.
  • Shut up and listen because I have some juicy gossip for you.

Put them on index cards and go through them as though you are cramming for a foreign language vocabulary test — because you are. Bring your prompt cards to the hospital room. Show them to your friend. Laugh. Make your friend a cancer platitude bingo sheet, with the frozen pasta as the center star. But don’t tell your friends with cancer that they’re doing it wrong.

Even if you have a strong opinion — especially if you have a strong opinion — unless your friend or relative specifically asks, “What should I do, and where should I go, can you recommend a good oncologist, please help me decide, please help me, I don’t know what to do,” don’t say anything.

Just . . . don’t.


Next post: How Honey and Cinnamon Won’t Cure Your Cancer, although it is nice on toast, and what to do when your friend with cancer thinks it will cure their cancer. Hint: don’t insult your friend.

If you are reading this page to help you find an oncologist, pick someone from the American Society of Clinical Oncologists’ awesome find-an-oncologist resource at

Speaking of Christmas

What kind of pool does he build?

Apropos of the birth of old gods, today is C’thulu Day. Rather, today, August 20, is the birthday of H.P. Lovecraft.

I’d say Happy Birthday, but then, what is happiness but knowing that the thing we have been dreading will wait another day to devour us. To succumb to its foul maw is to embrace immortality.

I love H.P. Lovecraft’s writing. He looks straight in the face of the unthinkable and thinks about it.