Wednesday, 28 September 2011

"Eat My Flesh" (say the pumpkins and saints)

October is Brain Tumour Awareness Month in Canada: grey ribbons and wristbands for the brain, and various orange merchandise to represent pumpkins. However, I provide hiermit a photograph of a carved turnip, which I think best captures the spirit of orange-grey month. The contrast between its sickly pallour and glowing interior charms me.

Now, as we all know, October is the host month of the King of Holidays: Halloween. There is no better fĂȘte than All Hallow's Eve, and to observe it with brain tumours in mind, we must wear carved pumpkins over our bodies' most important bone-casing devices (usually called heads) on the final night of the month. Orange and grey, orange and grey. Then the next couple of days continue with death in mind, but as of 3 November we can shift into full-time Remembering mode, cuz lots of people have died from brain tumours. Lest we forget, tumour diagnoses are rising substantially, so remember the future too. Remember your wireless devices. Consider spending a whole day not pushing any buttons.

The schedule and instructions for month's end: 
  • All Hallow's Eve (31 Oct) - cover your skull and its grey matter with Jack-o-Lantern skins. Go to Hell.
  • All Hallow's Day (1 Nov) - eat some gummy brains candy and light a candle for the strange people who whipped themselves to death or who allowed themselves to be torn to shreds by lions. Enjoy Purgatory by watching re-runs of golf tournaments.
  • All Soul's Day / the Day of the Dead (2 Nov) - take off skin to expose skull decorated in grey ribbons. And fluorescent paint. Join parade and eat sugar skulls. Return to Earth and donate a splash of a loved one's favourite drink to their grave. They like that kind of thing.

You can also visit the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada to see what they're up to during Awareness Month. They have a traveling exhibit of dead people's hats (well, some are hats of the living). You can send your own hats or pictures of hats of tumour suffers, survivors, and victims to the Foundation's collection. This isn't actually a special Halloween thing, although it is tinged with sufficient morbidity to be so. I am tempted to send a hat with a head still inside, or something equally ridiculous. 

They also have events going on across Canada - mostly info sessions, reports on research developments, sharing of personal stories, and motivational speeches. I don't know why they haven't planned a Halloween party. Too much fun? Genuinely too scary? Death or lack thereof is pretty central to the entire support-for-patients-and-caregivers portion of the Foundation, I should think. But in any case, do feel free to send them hats, attend a session, or send a few dollars their way. They are an invaluable resource for brain tumour patients and their families.

One Year - ALL CLEAR

Really pleased that it's not growing and has decided to just hang out. 

I'd like to take a moment to thank my sponsors, featuring those who were freshly torn from a friend's garden in Calgary earlier this month:

I would now like to thank my other sponsors. I need the joy that you bring:

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Monday, 11 July 2011

Run Done!

Quick pace smoothly maintained, with no speed-walks or slug jogs, and 51 minutes later (at least 20min faster than I'd anticipated!!!!!) I happily finished and had this bottle of diluted goo presented to me. I did drink at least half of it, trying to convince myself that it would do what the advertisements say it does, i.e., make me turn neon and fly across the world sequined in beads of glamourous sweat or whatever high-energy sports people do. I also got a free running magazine full of ads for shoes and more Gatorade, a sample bag of some kind of granola, and my very own medal so I could pretend I was the Grand Wiener.  

I did not even get to the start line until 10:19, partly because the race started late, but more so because it takes a while to funnel 25,000 people through an arch that was basically a bouncy castle without the bottom part for jumping on. And I also have no photos from any part of the event except for a few after I finished (I swear I ran it. I did, I did!) A mishap at 7:30am resulted in me inside a tube car and the Early-Morning Motivational Unit (Sean Bonney) on the outside. Camera, banners, race info, map were all with me in a bag, and Sean Bonney was left behind on the platform. We waited for each other at the wrong stations. My anger was too great to take any photos, and I checked my bag in with head hanging. Obviously the camera could not come with. I trudged towards the start on my own, too gloomy to chat to anyone on the Brain Team.

Once it all started, my mantra, "it's not a race, it's not a race, take it easy", was immediately discarded as I found myself in a busy market/shopping mall scenario, surrounded on all sides by bodies. Pressed together. For the entire 10km. I get very angry in such situations: when I am on a mission and there are crowds in the way I nearly start pushing and shoving and have the pedestrian equivalent to vehicular road rage. The entire route was an obstacle course of bodies, thousands of plastic water bottles flying through the air (wish I had the camera), and regular objects on the pavement, like bins and bollards and ordinary people walking by. The sensible runners who remembered "it's not a race, it's not a race", had a lovely time but unintentionally forced impatient cretins like myself to start leaping and swerving about dangerously, hopping on and off curbs and annoying the stewards who were meant to keep everyone on the road and within the confines of the ribbons. 

One of the problems is that human beings have yet to be equipped with rear-view mirrors, and everyone bobs about and the gaps for zooming and over-taking fluctuate, opening and closing without notice. The other problem is one can't really get angry in these situations. You have to smile even when a gob of spit flies within two inches of your face, because the spitter didn't know you were coming up quickly behind him. All for charity, ah.

It was about a quarter of an hour after finishing that I met up with Early-Morning Motivational Unit (whom I managed to catch sight of while running!) at the pre-designated after-race location. He stood alongside Race-Finishing Motivational Unit (Paul Sutton, maker and provider of the finest cakes), and Race-Finishing Motivational Unit 2 (Sharon Borthwick, to whom I am Lady-in-Waiting and must report). 

We all shared a nacho at the Brain Tumour UK HQ, the Texas Embassy, as well as some lovely margaritas. It was lovely to speak to fellow Brain Team members and some of the charity's organisers after the panic of the obstacle course was over. Difficult for everyone in the room to have to stop and think about why/who they had been running for as a few speeches were made, but we squished together for a sweaty group photo and all was well. Drinks and ideas shared. And I believe there will be a photo of me actually running that will be put up on the Brain Tumour UK website, so I will give word soon. And there were balloons too. I like balloons. I can't touch them or my skin will fall off, but I like balloons. 

I am very proud to have run for the charity and to have had so much support from everyone who donated to Brain Tumour UK on my behalf, as well as from those who gave me messages of love and luck and the like. More to come on this ... feeling a bit weepy and it's also time to get back to the PhD chapter I still haven't finished writing because I have spent many weeks focused on my brain rather than on its products. I do not feel guilty. I love my brain.

(My donation page will still be up for a bit, but don't let that stop you from donating to the charity at any time. I just might run next year too. And when I can double this length, that'll be a half-marathon. And then. Et cetera.)


Saturday, 9 July 2011

Pay Per View, Please

It is Almost Tomorrow

As you can see, it was a grumpy and difficult morning. But upon my return from the canals and the teams of weekend rowers with their careless coaches zooming along the pathways on their stupid bicycles with no consideration for everybody who was consequently forced up against the edge of the canal (which has no barrier - if you fall you fall and it's greasy and gross in there), I felt a bit better. I had a bran muffin. I had cheese on toast. I ate some chocolate. It is now time for some broccoli, before I begin sitting around, restless and eventually sleepless for tomorrow morning.

Start time is 09:35 at Piccadilly. The Race Route Map, as well as a Landmark Map for all you crazy lovers of palaces and downing streets and royals courts is available at here. It's in the side menu, almost invisible among all the overwhelming blinking ads and animated gifs. The finish line is on Whitehall but will be inaccessible for meeting-up. Apparently "if you are planning to meet up with family and friends post-race, do so on Victoria Embankment, as it will be less crowded [?] and easier to meet up." Is that so. I don't believe their little race programme. 

At any rate I will most likely be done by 10:30 and then make my way towards the Texas Embassy with my complementary bottle of Gatorade and stupid red face. There is also grass in front of the National Gallery, where it is comfortable and pleasant and free to sit down. All you have to do is bring your own bottle and a sandwich, although it is my understanding that some nibbles may be provided in the restaurant around lunch time. After all, that's where the donations really go: alcohol and nachos.   :)

Thursday, 7 July 2011


There are only three more sleeps before I have to be in central London in early morning and probably feeling a bit ill. But the weather today is completely uncooperative - water slamming into the ground for hours at a time. How am I to run in this downpour of acid?

Yes, there is the option of the hamster wheel indoors at the gym, but it has actually been a few months since I ceased using that space for anything other than a few weights or for   some rowing machine that rows nowhere very fast. I have developed an outdoor gait - the hamster wheel just isn't helpful anymore. Way too easy, carries my weight for me. But even the track outdoors has not seen much of me for a few weeks, as it is increasingly filled with real athletes doing their summer training and/or frequent closure to the public (apparently I'm also "the public" even though I pay them to have a fucking membership for their stupid facility, the bastards) due to official sporting events. I'm a slob, my arms and legs move in a funny way, and the athletes make no secret of how amused they are. Whatever. Let them run their circles at disgustingly fast speed, and let the little exercising centre block my access to the track because everyone else is infinitely more important than me and the rest of the pleebs. And let them eat cake, because they're far too fit. It actually bothers me when I see people who have abdomens shaped like columns of multiple deformed breasts. Let them be Sport, for I have developed alternate plans, and they involve actually leaving the rat race and going somewhere, cuz I'm for real, and I can do it, and I'm the superstar, and I hate circles, and I'm worth it. I am Sloth, and I am Empowered.

So, having adjusted myself for actual movement and self-propulsion to and from places rather than single points on a circular track, I now have a lovely route that I know the actual distance of, and it gives me a much-needed sense of accomplishment in knowing that I can complete it. And I get to cross the reservoirs and canals, which is lovely, but always makes me move just a little bit faster, lest I happen to see something human and bloated bobbing in the water. It's a genuine fear. So I try not look - but isn't it just lovely, the reservoirs, the geese, the pastoral scenes.

Gasp - I see sun and clouds have actually cleared a little. All I had to do was pout and grumble, and the sky filled with a vague notion of sunshine. I enter into the exercise couture now and I shall report back.

(And my goal! My goal! Help me reach my monies goal!!!!! I don't even like running. I want to stop now, but I have signed on their lines in blood. Help! Help!)

Monday, 4 July 2011

Brain Quesadillas

TexMex is a fun little cuisine characterized by its partial Mexican-ishness that overflows with layers of American cheese, beef, and, beans, and ... spices! Did you know that "Chili con carne is the official dish of the U.S. state of Texas as designated by the House Concurrent Resolution Number 18 of the 65th Texas Legislature during its regular session in 1977."? Now you do. Other facts from our friends at Wikipedia:
"A common feature of Tex-Mex is the combination plate."
"Serving tortilla chips and a hot sauce or salsa as an appetizer is common in Tex-Mex restaurants." 

Now we throw brains into the mix. C'mon down to the Texas Embassy Cantina just off Trafalgar Square on the 10th of July. Brain Tumour UK will be based there for the day, comforting its herd of runners from 09:30 (race start) and on into the day. Friends and family are invited to come and eat over-priced TexMex food and have a drink. I will go there to be watered and given salt to lick when I finish shuffling, and then I might hang around a little bit, should anyone be in the neighbourhood and have hankering for tequila.


There Will be Blood

Me vs the 2007 diagnostic image. Message to Enemy: Nice try, asshole. I'm winning. Diabolical laughter with acid spit and tears.

Chicks Dig Scars

The hair was already short, so there was not much that needed to be removed. Scissors seem to have done a sufficient job of providing the necessary exposure of the scar, which really did heal rather beautifully. I don't think that clippers or even a razor will be necessary. Just need a hair grip to keep the remaining longer bits pulled back.

I am pleased to say that the lighting in the second photo was just right for capturing the location where the bone flap was removed - you can see it crossing the scar. When this area is covered in hair, there is a slight unevenness that is just barely visible at my hair line, but if you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't notice. Normally if I turn my head in just the right way when looking in the mirror, there is only just enough deformity to cast a shadow, and I have to look carefully. I'm surprised to see how prominent it is here. 

What isn't visible is the shape of the bone flap itself. It is a half circle (you can see it drawn on my head pre-surgery if you scroll down the page), and if move your fingers across that area, you can feel not only the dips in the skull, but little raised bits. The raised bits are the clips holding the bone in place. If you can read Braille, the bumps spell ... nothing, probably. And if you were a Victorian head reader, I don't know what you would find out. I imagine that other areas of my head already provide indications of all manner of Victorian Ladies' Diseases.

Next person to donate 50 quid can, if they choose, have the baggie of hair pictured below. Not very dramatic, I know. It's just a little clump. It isn't like I've shorn a large amount of luscious locks - my hair has been short and ridiculous for several years now, and attempts to grow it longer keep failing. Scissors are always too near. 

I've also just noticed that the baggie has bits of soap or something sticky inside it, for I am thrifty and used a bag from the toiletry case I use when traveling. I cannot entirely rule out the possibility that the hair itself is icky and sticky. You may not want this pathetic clump.

Or! The other option that has just occurred to me is as follows. The next person to donate 50 quid gets an object d'art containing this hair. Perhaps a little fluorescent salt-dough skull with this filamentous biomaterial protruding from the top. Or maybe a piece of scrap paper with glitter and stickers and popsicle sticks and hair smeared across it in glue, the kind of thing a small child might make in kindergarten, a depiction of some inexplicable view of the cosmos through the lens of cartoon fantasies and The Neverending Story. Eh? Or not.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Tories Are Tumours

Why not share your views? I'm sure Brain Tumour UK will be very polite in their upcoming visit (13 July) to the House of Commons, during which time they will speak on behalf of the flock of zipperheads they try to provide support for. What they should be doing is going in there with surgical saws and doing what is necessary to the thick skulls of high ranking officials who are Blue precisely because they were deprived of oxygen at birth, but money ensured they got to go to public school and then allowed them to assume office among a whole gaggle of other inbreds. Perhaps drop the charity a few lines they could use in their address to said gaggle.

In related news, for those of you in London, come and raise a vicious fuss on 5 July. Details here.

And, having said all of this, the run is in 8 days. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has been sending monies on my behalf. Means a lot to me.

Monday, 27 June 2011

run plus sun does not equal fun

And there you have it. Thirteen more sleeps before I have to do this in close proximity to lots and lots of people. It's absurd. And I'm still only at 71% of the goal, so step up, You.

Tired. Over-sunned. Dry mouth and sticky hands. Feet smell. Bad.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Jazz Police/Black Block Hybrid supports Charity

I have two of these banners. Who wants to hold/wear the second one on the 10th of July?

They sent me a Shirt for "Racing"

In 31 days' time I will not be racing, but I will be somewhere in the back of the crowd with all the other people who are 'running' as best they can but struggling because they didn't know what they were getting themselves into, or because they are balancing an egg on a spoon or wearing a novelty costume as part of the challenge they decided to undertake as a fund-raising stunt. But I will be looking very stylish. 

1. I will be RED (this happens after five minutes: face, arms, knees/thighs), and there will be fear on all sides of me that I am about to collapse due to said colouring. After an hour this may be true, and I'll have to keep moving for longer than that. It's not my fault that my legs are short and stubby.

2. I will have hair that may or may not be altered for the occasion. I have been trying to grow it, but it may be necessary to revert to a really retro style, circa 2008, baby. That involves a little pink and some awkward bald bits and some black marker. Maybe. We'll see how I feel about it as the date approaches.

3. I will also be wearing a very special shirt for special people on a special team that isn't all the other teams. It's made of that special slippery icky flammable material used for a lot of athletic wear. It arrived this afternoon and, despite being 100% polyester, I am pleased to say that it is in the size I specified.

Behold, for I AM SPORT. 

Meanwhile, key information contained in the Official Event Programme: "Text 'toilet' to 80097" in order to be directed to the nearest shitters on the race course. It is recommended that runners "arrive well-hydrated", but are also advised to "be sensible and go to the toilet before leaving home". Should I drink water or not, then? Piss or not piss? And if I take a laxative at 11pm on the evening prior to the race? Then I would be able to cross the finish line with various fluids trickling down my legs. "Gatorade will be available at the finish on Whitehall'", so I suppose I can always re-hydrate if I let it all out while running.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Hammer Smash Enemy

::: Just in case it isn't clear what is going on in the post below, and why :::

The details of my situation are complicated and I won't go into them (ask me sometime, if you like). But the evidence for my conviction is strong. 

What can I say in short? Mobile phone liked me immediately because it found that I was one of those who is just a bit more susceptible than others to the high-risk factor of developing brain cancer from bullshit portable microwave ovens. Love at first sight. Isn't that sweet? So sweet it could make you vomit?

Now, I promised myself years ago that I would point out to people the dangers of wireless devices whenever an appropriate opportunity presented itself, including to my friends, and then after mentioning it I would not continue to drone on and preach about it. That simply wouldn't be fair, as these devices are so commonplace in nearly everybody's daily life that it's practically illegal to not own one. That, and it's tedious, it's boring, and no one wants to know, and obviously not everybody in the world is going to develop a brain tumour because they have a mobile phone (even though the chances of it happening sky-rocket as soon as you pick one of those things up). 

And yet I can't help shaking my head, or growling, or gritting my teeth, or making my little insinuations - as I have done throughout this blog, and in my little campaign, and every time I tell someone that I have a brain tumour. It is difficult enough to try to spit on my own head at the enemy within, but it is actually harder to let go of my resentment for the object I know played such a massive role. Perhaps I feel that I need something tangible to function as scapegoat? It certainly helps to be able to point a finger and retain hatred for a thing, and being angry is quite thrilling, really. But this is too simplistic, and the role of the thing in this whole scenario is far too prominent to let it pass by unnoticed. Brain turd, greatest enemy, you were born of a storm started by an object that interfered with my corporeal electricity.

So let's consider this post, right now, to be the official moment of a full declaration of hatred of the device that did this to me. That device, and its networks which are not being researched extensively and urgently enough to "prove" the risk factors to a logical-positivist public. The telecommunications industry is one of the most profitable in the world. As we know very well, there is nothing - including human lives - that will stop the capitalist appetite. Which company is going to actively encourage research that will damage its profits? Et cetera. My advice: quit wireless. (They should put that on the NHS). Cigarette, anyone?

That said, I'll now retreat to my low-level criticisms again. Who am I anyway? Cassandra? 

Enjoy the smash-up. I wasn't able to have it on video, unfortunately. That would have been slightly more exciting, although admittedly, for the sake of keeping pieces close by for the lovely stills, and for the sake of preventing shrapnel from flying around and endangering the cats' feet, I attacked the things inside a plastic bag. The original New Year's Eve smashing of several years ago was out on a road, covered in ice and snow, at midnight, and involved flying sparks and a lot more melodrama. What is in the photos below is a rather nice, tidy presentation. Well, whatever. Pretty pretty.

Bad News

Well, it hasn't been the greatest day, and I'm sorry to have to share this information, but it's pretty important and it's going to affect all of us, as of now. It's not the easiest thing for me to say, but I have to do it.

I have found a brain blob fighter girl who is vastly superior to me in terms of both blog and warrior strength. 

Samantha Kittle, of Chicago. She's having a harder time than I am, but with way more style, and not for the express purposes of committing emotional blackmail on her friends and family like I am. She's far more respectable and way more cool. I'm just a hermit and beat myself up for not being able to manage my skoolwerk, rather than enjoying the fact that I am alive.

I encourage you all to go and investigate - she's really quite amazing. But don't leave me, just don't leave me. I'll turn a blind eye to your little infidelities as long as you promise to stay with me. And give me your money (ha) because I start to fade a little after the 6km point, which is a bit lame considering the 10km run is two months away. But come on, make Brain Tumour UK feel like something is being accomplished, and make me feel like a Firework, because Katy Perry says I am, although when I'm tired and bored at 6km, I stop believing her.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Smashed on My Birthday

It was my birthday a few days ago. It took a little extra time to get this post sorted out. But now it's here. Let's pretend it's still my birthday.

Today it is sunny and there are things growing in my garden. This pleases me.

In celebration of this, and in acknowledgment of today being my Special Day since the first time I took a breath of air on the planet, I have prepared a simulation of New Year's Eve 2007/8. The items in question were found discarded on a night bus somewhere in south London. Now they prepare to meet their end.

This time I am taking the precaution of removing the batteries first, which when smashed will leak in the garden, and I don't feel good about that. I don't actually have soil in my garden (it's very sloppily paved from its ex-car park days), and the flowers and radishes and carrots and beetroot and potatoes in the immediate vicinity are in containers, but I have to consider the quadrupeds. Or, cats, as some people call them. 

This is not to say that removing these batteries from my plan of wreckage means I will "responsibly dispose of" them ("recycle", yes, "recycle") in their unadulterated state, passively allowing them to be shipped off to China to poison humans and animals over there. And to disobey labeling and just toss them straight in the bin means they'll go to a bit of land or a section of the nearby off-shore irradiated liquid that some people call the sea. So it's not a clear-cut NIMBY situation: we will all be drinking the acid from these batteries, just like we drink it from billions of other batteries all the time. I just don't want my quadrupeds or green growths to be in immediate danger of concentrated poison in the garden. In the components of a mobile telephone, the radiation emissions during operation simply don't compare with the INSTANT DEATH of ingesting battery acid.

Not that there aren't benefits to INSTANT DEATH. I am tempted to just go ahead and smash the batteries and let them leak all over in the name of exterminating squirrels, aphids, and a small selection of fungi and parasitic infections that prey upon my plants. It is not entirely confirmed whether it is the quadrupeds or the squirrels that are responsible for digging up seedlings and bulbs. (NB: squirrels not included in the category "quadruped". They are evil. I care not for the number of legs they have. 'Twould be better if they had none at all). There is indisputable evidence that the cats have had their way with some of the larger containers where the greenery is barely established. They have been caught in the act. But there is also evidence of squirrel misdemeanors, mostly in the form of bulb theft or nut relocation. They are returning for their winter booty - although during my very thorough digging and re-shuffling of dirt for planting I only found two nuts. And I put them aside for retrieval. Who's been trodding on my land, then? 

Perhaps cats and squirrels are conspiring together? Just when I thought they were enemies, they rise against me.

But look, I'm not withholding squirrel food. They have little stashes spread out in all the gardens. And the cats are fed to bursting, plus they have free reign over birds and mice outside. Somebody here is taking the/a piss. Or the squirrels are just too stupid to realize that it doesn't matter how many times they dig their little holes in the same pot for a non-existent nut - it isn't going to suddenly materialize. The cats, on the other hand, know when they're in trouble for something, and they know what is not permitted. And they also - unlike most cats - stay out of pots, especially when something is growing in them and the soil is wet. They find the sensation on their paws to be rather icky. So it is possible to gauge - based on soil consistency and moisture, size of holes (or lack thereof), and which container is under attack - who the culprit was. And it's turning out to be squirrels more often than les chats.

My rage is usually with aphids. I have to crush them all individually and occasionally spray them with garlic and dish soap, which is a lot of work. Snails and slugs? They now have a designated weed-filled resort area that keeps us all happy. Plant diseases are deeply upsetting - sometimes there just isn't a remedy, even if I were a hard-chemicals-gardener. BUT. I have never harboured ill-will towards a squirrel until about 3 weeks ago. I have ceased to be amused by their fat butts and stupid twitchy tails. And so I consider carefully, and seriously: should I put squirrels and INSTANT DEATH together? Here they are together in this sentence. Shall I put this poetry in motion?

No, no, no. How could I. I suppose the squirrels are alright. I'll crush an aphid but I cannot touch the squirrels.

Because I might get rabies.

Anyway, let's get back to what I came here to do. I made the decision to remove Lithium-ion battery from said device. Here we go now, time to smash it up:

For those of you in the market for a new phone, your choice might benefit from the fact that the Samsung phone took longer to break than the Nokia. Such durability.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Brain Coral

Faviidae from the Indo-West Pacific and Read Sea. Deepest thanks to all who have brought me up to 54% of my fundraising goal, both at the donation site, and by paper method.

Apparently you can buy these and keep them in an aquarium. But at your peril. I suspect they wouldn't like a simulated environment, like most other living creatures don't. It's not a matter of Do they have consciousness or Do they have emotions or Can they feel pain. They are brains. 
Not to be messed with.