November 2013

Mammogram Time!

So, since I’ve been doing this more or less out on the internet, might as well finish the process off.

Today I had my mammogram! (It would have been last week, but back, out, ouch.)

It was…hmm. It wasn’t awful, actually, nor scary, nor anything. It did use up my entire store of Cheerful Coping, which means that I am spending the rest of the day resigned to accomplishing nothing much. (This may be a personal thing.)

And my boobs aren’t thrilled with me right now, I won’t lie. Although it’s less pain and more that kind of weird hyper-sensitive skin ache you get when you have the flu. I am very aware that they are there. Things Have Been Done To Them. They Are Not Amused.

But it’s not like when I got the IUD, when I went into fetal position for a day. Still, mileage may vary.

So I went in, and the tech was very nice. I had moved all my fears of “It’s cancer!” to “The tech will be mean and squash my boobs and won’t stop when I yell “ARRRGGH!” This turned out to be unfounded. Everyone was very nice. Gave them my information, name got called, went in. (The waiting room was somewhat emotionally uncomfortable, I grant you–if there’s an antechamber where everyone is in their own private little hell, the waiting room of a radiologist/oncologist is high on the list. Still, my time was short and I had Angry Birds.)

Also, I got really lucky. It was hot back there. We’re having cold weather and the heaters have kicked in, but the techs were sweating and muttering about how the thermostat was busted. Score one for the person not wearing a shirt!

Stripped to the waist, got the Super Fashionable Green Drape, took my deodorant off with a wet-wipe (that was unexpected) and then faced…the Magic Waffle-Iron.

I mean, it’s a bigass high-tech imaging device that looks like a cross between a dentist’s X-Ray machine and the Orgasmatron from Sleeper* but it’s basically a Magic Waffle-Iron. The tech took my information (again) and checked it against the wrist band they’d given me.

“Do you get a lot of people sneaking in to get mammograms?” I asked.

She stared at me.

“Well, you’ve verified my identity three times now, so I’m wondering if this is a problem…I mean, if I was going to sneak in and get a procedure done, it would NOT be this one–”

“No one is sneaking in,” she said, and gave me that look people give me when they can’t decide if I’m a moron, trying to be funny, or have some kind of disorder.

Once we established this was my first mammogram, however, it was all good. She promised that if the building caught fire, she would not leave without me and that we would not be dragging the Magic Waffle-Iron through the building behind us. She promised to stop if it was too painful.

I found the Boob-Mouse–I’ve gotten good at finding it–and she taped a little tiny metal bearing to it as a marker. So, boob out, on shelf,  leaning in at weird angle. She arranged everything where it should go, then Magic Waffle-Iron squashes everything like liquid on a microscope slide.

It wasn’t fun.  But it was on the discomfort side and didn’t really shiver over to actual pain. And it was over fast–Waffle-Iron would squash, I’d say “Okay, that’s far enough,” she’d say “Stopping there,” she’d step behind this little glass partition to check the monitor, and then I’d have to lift my chin because it was in the way of the Waffle-Iron (I kept doing that) and then there would be about a three count, and the Waffle-Iron would release.

The top sheet of the Waffle is transparent, so you get to see yourself rolled out like a particularly egregious nippled biscuit.

The tech fiddles around the partition, and then the Waffle-Iron swings sideways (at least this one did) and you repeat the process and get an angled shot.

“Ooh! Can I look?” I said.

“Uh…sure!” (I don’t know, she seemed a little surprised. Do people not WANT to look inside their boobs?)

So I went behind the little partition, and there was a picture of my boob, looking like a cloud formation. The tissue close to the chest was dark, then it became a lot of white cloudy stuff. She pointed out a large round shape in the white-on-white. “That’s the big one,” she said.

“But there’s one there, and there, and there–” I stopped. Cysts as far as the eye could see.

“Oh yeah,” she said. “You have a bunch in there.”

I paused. I had never felt anything but the Boob-mouse. Suddenly I felt weirdly infested. “What’s that dark spot, right there? That looks scary.”

She gave me a pitying look. “Oh, honey. That’s normal breast tissue.”


So, that’s what cystic breasts look like. Huh.

They did the other one, since it would be really awkward to check the right breast and have the left quietly harboring cancer. It, too, was full of cloudy white.

Then a second run at Boob-mouse, with a more precise (i.e. smaller) top layer on the Waffle-Iron. That actually got pretty unpleasant, as Boob-mouse had by now figured out that Something Was Going On and it was being compressed to half its normal size and was getting pissy about it. But the tech warned me that it would be more uncomfortable, and again, never lasted more than a long three count.

I think this may be one of the very few procedures that are probably easier for someone with larger breasts. I mean, I didn’t enjoy it, but there was a lot of tissue to work with and they weren’t tugging or anything. (I expect there’s an upper limit to this, though–you can only squash things so far.)

Not fun, but I’d totally go for that rather than having my teeth cleaned. And I like my dentist. (Not that this is a choice anyone ever offers.)

(That said, if you have body issues, and/or you really don’t like a stranger hauling things into position, this may be pretty emotionally wracking. I am too old and jaded to get upset and they were very professional, but let’s face it, somebody is gonna be handling your breasts, no two ways about it. This would undoubtedly be very upsetting if one were a teenager, or had a rude or heavyhanded tech. Plan accordingly. People will be touching you.)

Then it was off to the ultrasound. This was pretty straightforward and much like the one other ultrasound I’ve had–apply slime, stick weird wand that looks vaguely like an electric shaver into slime, wiggle.

“Now, I can’t tell you anything,” she said up front. “It has to go to the radiologist first, and then either I’ll be able to tell you what it is or he’ll come talk to you, but I’m not allowed to make any diagnoses or say anything about what I’m seeing.” (This struck me as fair, though probably deeply nerve-wracking–I was glad she admitted it up front.)

“Fair enough,” I said. “But if it’s boob-clams, you have to tell me.”

There was a noticeable pause while she stifled something—I choose to believe it was laughter—and then she said “I will tell you if it’s a boob-clam.”

(It wasn’t a boob-clam.)

Now, I have never looked at any proud parent’s ultrasound and seen jack shit in it. Tell me it’s a baby, I’ll smile and nod because obviously it’s important to you, but for all I know, it’s an ultrasound of a Labrador’s intestines. A male Labrador. Whatever magic-eye puzzle trick there is to seeing a baby, I don’t got it. It’s a staticky smear.

Cysts, though! Wow! Those suckers are black! You can see the Boob-mouse from space! (Plus a small satellite in the same vicinity.) It’s like that one fractal with the big black blob and the little small black blob sticking off it, on a sea of mottled pixels. That is some contrast!

Anyway, she looked at it, said “Okay! Now I go talk to the radiologist…I’ll be right back…” and I got through two levels of Angry Birds (while lying on my back with a towel over my chest) before she returned. “Good news!” she said. “They’re all cysts. Let me show you the big one…” She pulled up the image, walked through What Makes Us Sure That’s A Cyst (black = fluid filled, a discernable and roughly symmetrical edge, and something I didn’t quite get about clear contrast from behind, but she pointed out a brightly lit patch beneath the Boob-mouse and apparently that satisfied the criteria.)

Then—and I absolutely want to give her credit for this!—she said “You did absolutely the right thing coming in, just because it’s a cyst doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been something worse, we get women in all the time with large lumps that they’ve just ignored and which are bad, so if another one comes up, definitely tell your doctor.”

My gut feeling is that there’s probably a lot of women who (like me!) are freaked out, afraid it’s cancer, and then when they find out it’s nothing, they get embarrassed. (God knows why—something about how we’re socialized, I guess—but when terror goes sideways, it’s all too likely to turn into shame.) I think being told by the medical professional that you did exactly what you were supposed to do and to do it again is really helpful. So–err–dunno if any medical techs in this field read my blog, but if you do, do that! That’s good! That helps! That means I’m likely to treat the next lump as “Thing to get checked out, just in case,” which is healthier than “Great, another one,”** or “OH GOD THIS TIME IT’S THE CANCER.”

So that was my experience with a mammogram. Feel free to post yours, positive or negative, below.

And finally—a BIG thank you to everybody who posted about what to expect from one, on earlier blog posts! So many routine medical procedures are shrouded in mystery, and hell, we’re already afraid we’re going to die, one more anxiety on top isn’t helping anybody. I’m grateful to everybody who shared their stories—it really helped!


*I have just dated myself terribly.

**Not that it might not come to that, realistically.

Tumblr Attack!

I got one. For some reason. I don’t know. There’s a gap in my memory and the smell of burnt toast.

Anyway, I’ve been posting sketchbook excerpts in it. The few people who followed me in a blinding moment of enthusiasm have probably been rather disappointed that all they’re getting is crappy doodles of undead hamsters and pirates from 2005, but hey, I have to amuse myself somehow!

Good news, everyone!

Nine Goblins is on iBooks! You go to the app, you type in “Nine Goblins” and it’s THERE and it’s a BOOK! WOOO!

*pant pant pant*

No love from Kobo yet, but you can’t have everything.

Far more importantly, if you ask me, Brandon the border collie is back from the vet. We have been very nervous in the House of Wombat because he’s started falling down the stairs and occasionally wiping out on corners at speed, and that is Not Good in an old dog, particularly a Jumbo Size one in a breed with known hip issues. And once he goes down, being Jumbo Size and somewhat arthritic makes it hard for him to get back up. (He’s also got dormant Lyme, so his joints are creaky anyway, but his fear of stairs has gotten a lot worse in recent weeks, and we were getting very worried.)

So it was with great relief that the vet informed Kevin that Brandon is, in fact, blind in one eye. His hesitance on the stairs now is probably not pain but the simple fact that he can’t SEE the stairs very well–he takes the shorter flights fine, but the big staircase in the middle of the house is just a mass of wood-grain stretching to infinity. Adding non-skid tape to them probably helped, once he got over his initial alarm that Something Had Changed Without His Approval, since there are now large black bars marking the treads.

(That last is totally a border collie thing…the beagle could be utterly blind and would cheerfully hurl himself down the stairs because they’ve always been there BEFORE, right? But Brandon is very intelligent and also has limited respect for his humans’ intelligence and prefers to think his way through things himself. He has no problem going UP the stairs, probably because the next one is always at eye level.)

There is no treatment for the blindness—we could spend a lot of money to find out if it’s the eye or the brain behind it, but since they couldn’t fix it either way and his bloodwork’s not turning up scary, there doesn’t seem to be much point. We were already planning on moving Kevin’s office back downstairs so that Brandon can be with his human most of the day without having to tackle stairs–god willing, he’s got at least two or three years left, and this’ll cut down his stair adventures to morning and evening.

So, err…yaaaaaay!

The Rat Balancer

Evan came from a long line of angel balancers, but he only wanted to balance rats.

“I have no interest in balancing angels on pins,” he said, “nor cherubs on tuning forks, nor toasters on seraphim. I wish to balance rats on poignards—not the points, for that would be unkind, but on the pommels.”

His family disowned him, except for an elderly great-aunt. She had him over for holidays. He made his own friends and found that there was money in rat-balancing at parties and corporate events, and in the end he was very happy.


The Last Trump, With Birds

So I had this dream last night…

In between the usual complicated foolishness, I was birdwatching. There was a beach with a strange watery bridge over it, and on the bridge were enormous dippers (a bird) and piebald herons and other birds that probably don’t really exist. I looked around vaguely for Tina to come tell me what the birds were, because I couldn’t recognize them, and was that a swimming sparrow? Huh.

Then suddenly the Archangel Michael landed in the middle of the beach, in a glory of wings, and apparently it was the Last Judgement, the End of Days, all that good stuff.

He was accompanied by a four-winged Beast covered in eyes (because I READ the Book of Revelations at a formative age, thank you!) and an elderly, rather genial man in robes.

“Pardon,” I said to the old man in robes, “can you tell me, do archangels count as birds? Can I put them on my lifelist?”

“Sorry,” he said, “they’re not birds. But the Beast Before the Throne there is pretty close, and I think you can count him if you get a good look.”

“Thank you,” I said, training my bins on the four-winged Beast covered in eyes. “You’re the Prophet Elijah, aren’t you?”

“That’s me.”

“I should go mention this to my friends,” I said, once I’d noted the fieldmarks on the Beast.

“Oh, probably.”

I packed up my bins and went back to my friends, who were at the bar. “So, it’s the end of the world,” I said. “We might want to get out of here.”

“Can’t just yet,” said one of them, carefully weighing little metal bits into a scale. “If we leave now, there’s a chance it’ll end badly.”

“Okay,” I said, looking toward the sliding glass doors that were, for some reason, on one side of the beach, “but we shouldn’t stick around too long.”

Something that looked like a fairy jumped from an upper window and landed hard on the ground. “You should have used your wings,” I said, as he picked himself up.

“I’m trying to learn how to do without them,” he said.

“Well, I guess that’s a good skill to have. Great landing, then.”

I wandered into an elevator, where an ancient dog lay on the floor, on a filthy blanket. “Want to come with me?” I asked the dog, a very old Rottweiler/Doberman sort of dog. He sighed, heaved himself up, and came with me.

A black panther wandered down the corridor and gave me a disdainful look. The old dog growled. On the beach below, I could hear the sounds of the end of the world.


So according to Smashwords, Nine Goblins has been approved for “Premium” status, which means it’s supposed to go to the various other bookstores.

It’s in the Barnes & Noble Nook store.  (yay!)

Not, alas, up in the iTunes or Kobo stores yet. Does anyone with more experience about this sort of thing know how long roll-out takes on those?


(And, since they tell me I’m supposed to be marketing or something feebly resembling it, you can totally order Nine Goblins on Amazon and through Smashwords!)


So I spent Saturday through Wednesday in Minneapolis, signing all the Kickstarter rewards for the Digger omnibus, and first of all OH MY GOD THEY ARE SO AWESOME LOOKING and also there were a lot of them.


And by a lot I mean eight pallets.

This photo, incidentally, is after we’ve gone through a couple and you can’t see the Wall ‘O Digger spines behind me and also they hadn’t delivered the softcovers yet.

(The softcovers are also really swank.)

Here is the wall of signed copies and then we ran out of space and started putting them back in boxes.


Also, these suckers have weight. They come in at four pounds apiece. You could club an intruder to death with one. It is amazing how much more impressive they were than all six of the Digger volumes stacked up–even though they’re nearly the same size, something about there being a spine with DIGGER on it makes it really look like eight years of work.

But yes. Lotta books. Lotta BIG books.

This meant a lot of signing.

A lot of signing.

All the signing.

Also, there were posters. And postcards. About a thousand of those.

Toward the end, I started to get a little fried…


(Horribly, I think I was trying to look perky for the camera in this one. Kevin assures me that all the other photos have been deleted. Apparently they were…not flattering.)

And then Tuesday morning, with a load of softcovers rolling into the warehouse, I woke up, had breakfast, went to get up and…


I made a noise. It was not a scream, largely because screaming would have used my back muscles too much. I had just thrown my back out in spectacular fashion, one of the worst I’ve had in years, possibly the worst I’ve had—it was a really impressive level of pain. Throwing your back out at any point isn’t fun, but there’s a spectrum between “Uh oh, better lay down, there goes the rest of the day” and “suspended alone in the bloody void with the God of Back Pain.”

“Yo,” said the God of Back Pain.

“‘sup,” I said. “Haven’t seen you for awhile. Incidentally, AAAAUUUUGGHGHH!”

Kevin got me downstairs into the bedroom–getting my legs on the bed involved more noises-that-weren’t-screams–and we moved into Damage Control Mode, because there were still a whole lot of books to sign and I had a flight home tomorrow morning.

(The reason? Those darn heavy omnibuses. You can see me sitting at the table up there, and I was pulling the books toward me with my left hand, signing, then twisting in the chair and stacking them. My own damn fault, both for setting up a poor workflow and for writing a goddamn four-pound epic.)

Ironically, my signing hand? Great shape. Didn’t need the wrist brace, the elbow brace, any of it. I could sign another thousand of them and then punch Larry the intern a few times* and not break a sweat. It’s never the things you expect.

So, we got a heating pad on it until I could move again. Kevin ran out and got thermarest back-heating doohickeys. We drove Dale’s super-comfy office chair to the warehouse, and they set it up, and I stood bolt upright with the weird little hot back brace and…signed.

I was forbidden to lift anything. They slid books in front of me, on an elevated table, I signed, they took the books away and boxed them. (They let me check off the invoice numbers on the master sheet, so at least I did that much!) In between pallets, I sat in the office chair, reclined back all the way.

And stuff got signed.

And I flew home yesterday–an IcyHot muscle patch, incidentally, can REALLY fill the cabin of a plane with aroma, quite a throw on those things–while Kevin fretted and lifted all my bags and finally took me home and put me to bed.

I’m in a fair amount of pain, not gonna lie–but stuff got signed.

And dude, those omnibuses look AMAZING.


*We are friends from way back. I do not punch most interns.


One of these days, when I actually have a month I’m not traveling (or weeping gently over the next load of Dragonbreath art) I should do a drawing a day thing. I don’t actually enjoy drawing all that much (I love painting, and drawing is the necessarily evil step TO painting) and maybe if I had to get in the habit of drawing random crap, I’d loosen up a bit and not spend so much time glaring at my sketchbooks. Although I’d want to do it digitally.

Won’t be this month, though. Off to Minneapolis to sign Digger omnibuses on Saturday.

Anyway, random twenty-minute doodle.



One of these days, when I actually have a month I’m not traveling (or weeping gently over the next load of Dragonbreath art) I should do a drawing a day thing. I don’t actually enjoy drawing all that much (I love painting, and drawing is the necessarily evil step TO painting) and maybe if I had to get in the habit of drawing random crap, I’d loosen up a bit and not spend so much time glaring at my sketchbooks. Although I’d want to do it digitally.

Won’t be this month, though. Off to Minneapolis to sign Digger omnibuses on Saturday.

Anyway, random twenty-minute doodle.

Archeopteryx Girl

The Archeopteryx girl was fat around the middle

her skirt was very short and her socks were much too long.

She had teeth inside her beak and her legs were thin and scaly

and she carried her umbrella like a samurai sword.

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