Head Gravy



This is a little news flash that I saw on thirdage.com and it got me thinking:

Cancer Breath

We all know about the sensitivity of dogs to imminent hurricanes and tornadoes. Now it turns out that dogs can detect early and late stage cancer by sniffing a patient’s breath. As it turns out, tumors have a very faint smell that dogs’ sensitive noses can pick up. Researchers in Germany trained five ordinary household dogs to recognize the odor of tumors in both early- and late-stage lung cancer patients. The dogs had a 71 percent accuracy rate in detecting tumors, and a 99 percent accuracy rate in smelling study subjects who didn’t have tumors. Finding early tumors can pave the way for more accurate treatment. The American Cancer society has been cautious but not dismissive about the findings, with its chief medical officer, Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, saying, “I learned a long time ago never to say never. And when it comes to detecting cancer early by a smell test, well….stranger things have happened.”



Fascinating, wouldn’t you say?  I’m leaning toward believing that it’s true because:

  1. I love stuff like this
  2. I love my dogs
  3. I love knowing obscure trivia
  4. I love being quirky

So, I’m all in.  And, although my backup is not at all scientific – just observational, I concur that dogs can sense when something is physically off …by the taste of head gravy.

If you are not in the science and research field as deeply as I, you probably aren’t aware of head gravy because it is a term I coined to describe any moisture, sweat or residue left on a pillowcase after a night’s sleep.  Thus far, the study of head gravy has been limited to my bedroom, predominantly on Steven’s side of the bed.  However, I believe the patterns I’ve witnessed are astounding.



We got Missy, the original Chicky-Monkey cocker spaniel, before Steven and I were married.  I remember having a dog bed for her in my townhouse.  I remember Steven taking her home with him several times when she was a puppy, so I could get some sleep.  And after that it all becomes fuzzy.  Steven and I were married, he moved into the townhouse, the dog bed went away and Missy slept with us…not necessarily in that order.

Then we moved into the house, and we got Zack.  When he was being house trained, he was gated in our bathroom at night, while Missy tormented him from our bed.  He had separation anxiety and would wake up in the middle of the night whimpering.  I would get up, lay on the carpet by the bathroom door, stick my fingers through the gate and let him nibble on my fingertips until he fell asleep.  One morning Steven awakened to find me asleep on the floor, so torqued out of shape that I couldn’t move, and Zack looking guilty like, “Don’t blame me, Dad.  It wasn’t my fault!”  After that, Zacky Boy got upgraded to the bed, too.

We had them for years with no incident until suddenly they both  started this maddening habit in the morning of licking Steven’s pillow.  It’s not a loud noise, or even a slurping noise, but it is so annoying. (Go ahead, try it, lick you pillow)  It would go on until I finally either yelled (which might or might NOT work) or pushed the licker off the bed.





Here’s the science.  They never did it to my pillow.  So then I started trying to figure it out.  I used Steven’s hair gel…no licking.  I used Steven’s shampoo…no licking.  I wore his baseball cap…no licking.  What was so great about his head gravy?  It was the same dilemma that Madame Curie faced, I’m sure.

Missy and Zack continued the head gravy licking on and off throughout their lives, but all my charts and graphs still had me barking up the wrong tree.  Cut to the present.  Missy and Zack are now peeing on God’s azaleas, and we have Maritza and Zoey.  They have never been pillow lickers, until recently.  Within the last few months, the have slowly started on Steven’s pillow.  What the hell?

And then just like Sir Isaac Newton and the falling apple, Shazam!  I’ve got it!  It’s got to be the fabulous flavor of Lymphoma Head Gravy.  That’s the only constant in this equation of licking.  And I’ve figured it out.

Yipee, Skippy…I just know I’m going get the Nobel prize, and then I’m going to become a millionaire off a dog biscuit company…if I can figure out what lymphoma tastes like…to dogs.  Wanna bet it tastes like chicken?

Merry Christmas

Cropped WaterfordWe wish you love

We wish you joy

We wish you inner peace

We wish you happiness

We wish you good health

…and a little wealth wouldn’t suck, either.

Merry Christmas and thank you SO much for spending time with us during this past year!

We look forward to more good times with you in the New Year.

Dear Everyone We Know,



Dear Everyone We Know:

As we attack the new developments in Steven’s heath and my work situation, we have another issue on the back burner that needs to be addressed.  Remember the old commercial “THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON DRUGS?”  In regard to that, to anyone who has received a text, e-mail, fax, Facebook post, carrier pigeon drop or etching in the sand from Steven…I apologize in his behalf.

It’s not that he’s doing anything wrong, but he is in a lot of pain and everyone knows oncologists give THE BEST pain meds.  And pain meds mixed with time home to reflect, sometimes don’t mix together ‘all too pretty good,’ as Steven says.  If you received a funny correspondence, YAY.  If you got one that sounded like he was losing his mind, that was the mixture of free flowing thoughts, too much time alone and hydrocodone.  And, if you got anything that makes you think his days are numbered, please be advised that the only numbers attached to his shelf life are the ones I assign when he pisses me off!

My husband is quite eloquent when he speaks, but his written words are akin to Jethro Bodine.  His e-mails can be two pages long, but are only one sentence, thus the confusion in intent.  So please just roll with and don’t be alarmed.  We have a fabulous holiday season planned.  We are investigating all options.  And no one is dying unless it it involves a crow bar and a conk on the head!

I know the stress of the economy has really weighed down this holiday season and w’ve been trying to keep our spirits up. I’m shocked at the number of people who DON”T have their Christmas trees up, or lights twinkling from the rooftops or piles of gifts awaiting wrapping.  And like those people, Steven and I were starting to follow suit and get kinda Grinch-y.

I preach positive attitude and ‘glass half full’ crap, so I really have to have the chutzpah to back it up. Earlier this week, I decided to yank myself up by the boot straps and do something very O. Henry-ish…make something out of nothing.  Unfortunately, without having long flowing locks to cut and sell on eBay, I had to resort to ingenuity.

I rolled the dice and entered Steven in the biggest end of the year contest give-away available…The United Healthcare “You Hit Your Yearly Out-Of-Pocket-Maximum Expense” Sweepstakes.  And we won BIG.  I’m so excited and can’t wait for our upcoming holiday vacation.

We’ve won a trip to the Cancer Care Treatment Resort and Spa in beautiful Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I’ve never been to Tulsa, but I hear it’s glorious at Christmas time.  And what could be more romantic and relaxing than the spa treatments!  Steven is already signed up for the Most Relaxing Interlude treatment (MRI) and the Chakra Testing scan (CT scan).  The brochure looks beautiful, and we’re planning to take advantage of all the perks.

The shopping isn’t the quite on par with the Encore – Las Vegas esplanade, but they do have specialty shops.  And though the names aren’t as top shelf as Prada and Hermes, I’m pretty sure the quality of the Johnson & Johnson gifts and Eli Lilly souvenirs will be something to treasure.  There are all kinds of other activities already planned, and the itinerary is starting to feel like a day on the Love Boat.

I’ve even talked Steven into doing a whole body cleanse.  He’s hoping it will help him lose a few pounds and make his skin glow.  I just hope he doesn’t figure out it’s a colonoscopy!.  Merry Christmas and HO-HO-OH!!!!!!!!!!

At the Oncologist’s



Steven and I are sitting in the waiting room of his oncologist. Business is booming. There were only 2 empty chairs of the 14, and 2 more in wheelchairs. Surprisingly, everyone is chatty and in pretty good spirits, considering the woman next to me mentioned that their appointment was supposed to be an hour ago. As usual, I’ve made my little stage and I’ve been entertaining the group at Steven’s expense. But we’re at the Cancer Center and we’re jolly so how cool is that? Suddenly, I feel better knowing that I made the old guy sitting across from me laugh when I told him to quit being such an big baby about his cancer. Then I told him my arthritic toe story, took a bow and handed out a dozen cards with my blog address. Mother Teresa, watch out! I’m gaining on you. And to all those patients today, you’ve got the worst part licked. The mind set. So carry on and I know we’ll all meet again.

Happy-Freakin’-Happy Birthday to Me!

Pond lily 4-3-11Yippee Skippy, today I’m fifty……eight.  Holy crap, does that sound old!  I can’t hardly believe that I’m almost grandmother age…unless I was from Alabama, and then I’d be great-grandmother age!  And anyone taking offense to the Alabama comment can BITE ME.  It’s my birthday!

And what a day it is, so far.  Steven woke up in a foul mood for the first time EVER.  He’s never crabby in the morning.  Of course this is the first time he’s ever awakened with a 58 year old woman in his bed!  But I don’t think that’s the source of the crabbiness, because he still thinks I’m a much younger trophy wife!  (The teacher in me needs to point out that we covered that previously…see Maybe It’s Not Chemo-Brain back in February.)  For those up to speed, we’re moving on.

I think we were both a little testy this morning because:

  1. One of us is getting old
  2. One of us may be losing her job soon
  3. One of us has cancer
  4. The one who might be losing the job has the medical insurance
  5. The one with the cancer has been having bad dreams and restless nights
  6. The one who may be losing the job has been having bad dreams and restless nights

And so I re-iterate, Happy-Freakin’ Happy Birthday to me!

Yet, now that we’re awake and coffee-ed up, the residual crankiness of the morning is vaporizing and I find that amazing.  Over the years I’ve had people say to me, “If you can stand on a stage and tell jokes, you can do anything.”  And people have said to Steven, “If you can make it through chemotherapy, you can do anything.”  I think both of those insights are true, but I don’t think either is the core value.  I think the real deal is this:  IF YOU THINK YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. 

And we know we can.  This is the 4th run through chemo in the last 8 years.  This is the 4th job I’ve had since I re-entered the ”real” working world 16 years ago.  And this is the 4th time in the past 4 years that I’ve worried about getting laid off and yet I still have the same job.   And so…let us go forth!  (Again, if you don’t like the pun, BITE ME.  It’s my birthday!)

I’ve never been a cheerleader and I’ve never been a Pollyana.  But I’ve always had a great life even with the adversities.  I’ve learned to cheer myself on and look on the bright side because I absolutely know that I’ll be back on the upswing soon.  When I was younger, I really thought I was a golden child.  I thought I was just always lucky and things usually went my way.  I guess I kinda still think that.  However as I got older, I learned in catechism class that they call that Faith.  On the other hand, lots of people have faith.  There are underprivileged people everywhere in the world who pray for help.  I can’t believe those prayers go unanswered yet sometimes it seems that way.

So here’s the rest of it.  Help doesn’t just descend upon you like a balloon full of chocolate bonbons.  It’s more like a door getting cracked open, and no matter how much you pray, the door is not going to suck you through it…unless it’s the door to the House of Porn.  But I digress…the point is that as soon as you discover which door is ajar, you have to kick that door open and run though it.  And however I learned that lesson, that is what makes me a golden child.  So on this day that is the anniversary of my birth, I thank God for the next door that will be left ajar, I thank my Dad for giving me the guts to run through it and I thank Steven for making the run with me.

When I blow out the candles today, my wish will be simple.  No more bad dreams or restless nights for me or Steven.

Happy Birthday to me.  Happy Everyday to Steven.  And Happy-Freakin’-Happy to YOU!