Frequently Asked Questions...

Site Navigation and Content:
I heard there were surgery (medical, bloody, nude, boobie, etc.) photographs here, but I can't find them? Where are they?!

You will please take note that there are navigational links along the top of the page and also along the left hand side... one of the links listed along the top is 'Breast Cancer Photos, Reports, Etc.".  After clicking on this link the navigational links along the left hand side should change to include things like "Photos" and "Reports"... clicking on "Photos" will change the main page (which you are looking at now) to a listing of different cancer-related surgeries and other procedures and experiences that I've had photographed.  Clicking on one of the surgeries listed ought to take you to the page you're looking for (and probably some that you're not).  The photos may take a while to load completely in some cases, and please keep in mind that they are surgical photos and may contain blood and other ookiness... don't look if these things are going to offend you.

How do you get photographs of your surgeries?

I ask, nicely.  And way in advance.  In my experience, if I ask politely and give the surgeon time to consider it, they're generally willing to work in some sort of photography option.  In some cases I've brought my own digital camera and a nurse or other staff member has taken photos as time allows, and in other cases the hospital has already had a camera and staff member available for such needs.  I've not yet had a surgeon refuse completely, but I would understand if they did.  They're doing something important and a camera could be a distraction as well as a liability.  If you're about to have surgery my advice would be to be as polite and accommodating as possible and I'm pretty sure you'll be able to work out some way to get photographs.  I would credit these photographers, but in the first place I don't know who all of them are on account of being unconscious and in the second place I am keeping all hospital locations and staff anonymous out of respect for their privacy.

How do you get copies of all of those lab results and reports?

Again I ask, nicely.  I'm not sure, honestly, whether or not doctors and medical practices are required by law to release all of those documents to their patients, but I've never had anyone refuse outright.  I have, however, had some of them not be able to deliver them in a very timely manner, and that's somewhat understandable.  My file at some of these offices must be gigacious, and looking for a specific report, copying it, and sending it my direction probably takes a lot of time.  If you want to get copies of everything pertaining to your own medical condition, my advice would be to let your doctors know that this is your intention from the start, so they can have their office staff prepared to make you copies as a standard procedure.  Also keep in mind that copies of most of these things are sent to your primary care physician, so if you have a closer relationship with them it may work better to go to them for your copies.

What kind of camera and other equipment do you use to shoot your photos?

When it's my camera being used, I use a 4.0 megapixel CD Mavica by Sony (MVC-CD400), which I absolutely love for a number of reasons. For one thing, it burns to CDs (mini camera CDs), which is very handy if you're going to be taking a large number of photographs and don't want to worry about uploading photos or additional memory chips. For another thing, thanks to the aforementioned CD burner, the Mavica is about the size of a normal 35mm camera, which to me feels a lot better when taking pictures or video. Speaking of video, the Mavica does that as well... each CD holds approximately twenty minutes of video with sound.  Woot.  When it's not my camera (such as when the hospital or surgical team provides their own camera) I can't really say... usually I'm not even awake.

Do you really expect people to send you money?

Expect people to send me money?  No.  Hope some people might send me money?  Yes.  This whole process has been incredibly expensive.  A month of my chemo is something like seven thousand dollars, and my insurance doesn't cover all of that.  Of course the hospitals and doctors are very understanding and reasonable, but I'm pretty positive that I'm accumulating an amount of medical debt that I may very well never be able to pay back.  And those are just medical expenses... I used to get by (barely) with the resources I had available but now that I'm paying for extra drugs and treatments and traveling I don't have any money for anything else.  It would be nice to have even ten dollars here and there to buy the little things that I run out of like shampoo or vacuum cleaner bags or something to eat that isn't ramen.  If some stranger is entertained or educated by this site (which also costs a small bit of money, by the way) and wants to reciprocate with a bit of money, I am most certainly not too proud to accept.  I'd be glad to accept.  I would throw an 'accept help from the stranger' party.  Well, I would if I wasn't too poverty-stricken and sleepy, heh.

Speaking of, say I was interested in sending you money... how would I do that?

Well, if you have a credit card or PayPal account, there's a handy 'donate' button to the left there, at the bottom of the navigational links.  If you don't, my mailing address is listed under the 'contact' link, and money orders or checks are acceptable, too.  If you want to help out with things like art supplies those could be sent there, too.  Or baggy pants, even.  I could really use some baggy pants.  Or even gift cards to places where you can buy art supplies or groceries or baggy pants.

If you're so broke, why don't you get rid of some pets or move in with family?

First of all, I consider my pets to be family... there is seldom such a source of unconditional love as a family pet.  Secondly, I continue to be optimistic that this whole cancer treatment situation is a temporary hurdle that I will either move past or successfully work into my lifestyle and then wouldn't it be sad if I reached that point homeless and without my pets?  People are often quick to give up their homes or pets when things aren't going their way and this isn't really a trend I can support.  One of the funniest things I ever read online was an advertisement (fake, of course) from a couple looking to rehome their baby because they were about to adopt a pet, and a similar piece on a couple looking to rehome their children because they were moving to an apartment complex that didn't allow them.  Now, that being said, I did rehome some of my pets when I was first diagnosed.  I was raising chinchillas and sugar gliders (on a very small scale) at the time, and I was concerned that if my health declined or my treatments were too rigorous I wouldn't be able to give them adequate care.  I made a very difficult series of decisions as to which pets I would best be able to take care of, which pets I couldn't do without on an emotional level, and which pets really didn't care who took care of them as long as they got raisins at the appropriate time.

Website and Graphic Design:
Would you be interested in my services as an artist, graphic designer, or webmaster?

Erm... no. While I'm glad that people enjoy my site enough that they would like to participate in it's creation, it's my own personal project and I reserve the opportunities to work on it solely for myself and my close friends. I'm not interested in paying, trading, or even accepting for free the artistic or design efforts of anyone else at this time. If you're so amazingly talented (and I'm not saying you're not) then you should channel your efforts into your own personal artistic project, yes?  I don't have a lot of control over other aspects of my life at the moment, so I'm going to run with this one.

I think I could do a much better job on your site layout or graphics...

Well, good for you. Now stick it up your arse. I design my own site and graphics, and I enjoy it. There are a lot of people that do a lot of things better than me, and that doesn't mean I'm not going to do them. If you really want to put those skills to use, make your own site... I'm sure it will be so fabulous that it's the only site anyone will ever look at, and you'll put the whole rest of the internet out of business. In fact, perhaps you already did and some asshat is reading my FAQ from some sort of microfiche archive in a library of the future.

I have a great merchandising idea... are you interested?

Unfortunately, I can't really be bothered with merchandising at this time. There are only a few ways that merchandising can work, and none of them really work for me. First, I can deal with a business that creates merchandise for me when customers order it, but this is unacceptable in that the delay will be too long in getting the merchandise to the customer. Alternately I could pre-order merchandise from a business, but then I'm laying out investment money that I can't really afford on merchandise that may or may not sell. Yet another way merchandise can be handled is that the business in question handles the entire process and then cuts me a percentage at the end, but this also fails to work since I have no way to monitor the actual sales or the level of customer service offered to the purchaser. All of those difficulties aside, I haven't the time right now to even deal with merchandising in any way... my health and schedule just don't permit it. Should I decide to explore merchandising possibilities in the future, any efforts I make would be along the same lines as my efforts concerning my site in general... anything I couldn't do entirely for myself would be shared with my close, personal friends and not an outside agency or individual. If you really do have such a great merchandising idea, my suggestion is to go into business for yourself and make a ton of money, investing it in mansions, cabana boys, and rocketship underpants.

Would you be willing to do some design work for me?  How about some freelance illustration work?

Erg, that's a tough one.  On one hand I am amazingly poor right now and any paying gig would be fantastic.  On the other hand, the same fatigue, arthritis, and other unpredictable health issues that prevent me from holding down a regular job can easily prevent me from finishing any freelance work in a timely manner.  I guess the best answer here is... email me about it?  Perhaps if you're not too concerned about deadlines and it's not too large of an undertaking we can work something out.  Keep in mind, though, that it can take me a significant amount of medication in order to finish some of the design and illustration pieces you see here, so I probably won't be willing to take on commission work for less than what it would cost me to finish it.

Health Questions:
You mention a lot of other health problems... what are they?

I have systemic lupus, which is an incurable (at this point) sometimes hereditary (this is debatable) autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to lose track of what it should be fighting so it also attacks your own tissue and organs. This generally results in pain, severe fatigue, arthritis, photosensitivity, and organ failure. While the disease itself is incurable, most of the symptoms can be manageable to some extent through use of medication and careful living. Le sigh. I've also been diagnosed with an odd sort of narcolepsy. Not catalepsy, mind you, which is when someone falls asleep immediately and without warning (like you see in the movies), but a strong need to sleep nearly all the time (twelve to twenty hours a day) and a frequent inability to wake up. I've participated in many sleep studies and the results indicated that my brain waves were similar to those of a sleeping person even when awake... I wonder what I would be like if I was all the way awake, heh.  I have a crazy amount of arthritis in my spine that at times is almost crippling.  It's so bad that it showed up on some of the preliminary cancer scans and I spent an agonizing three days thinking I had cancer in my spine.  Not a lot of my health issues truly bother me, but this is something I'm always trying to remedy.  Recently (comparatively) I've also managed to develop a fairly aggressive breast cancer.  I totally did not win the genetic lottery.  In fact, when I found out about the cancer on top of everything else I called my parents and asked them if they were related to each other, but they didn't think that was funny.

How did you find out you had breast cancer?

I was on stage doing a striptease in a small, local club when I felt a lump in my breast.  Yep, I discovered my breast lump on stage, half-dressed, in front of a small group of strangers.  It felt wrong to me immediately (the lump, that is) but as it was a Saturday I waited until Monday morning to schedule an appointment with my family doctor.  He fit me in immediately, confirmed my fear that the lump was indeed a tumor of some sort, and sent me off right away for a mammogram which became an ultrasound which turned into a needle biopsy that came back "cancer".  All of that happened that first Monday, but it took a couple of days to get the full results back from those tests and about a week to continue with further scans and testing to determine whether or not the cancer had spread beyond my breast (luckily it had not).

Exactly what stage / type of breast cancer was it?

I'm using "was" here instead of "is" because hopefully it's gone now... the surgery came back with all of the edges being clean, and clean lymph nodes, and after over a year of other preventative surgeries and chemotherapies and such treatments I'm going to remain optimistic that whatever it was they got it all.  As for what exactly it was, it's been hard for me to pin down an exact answer as far as staging and type goes.  It was a large tumor and it grew incredibly fast, so they said it was considered more serious than other cancers that might have spread farther but weren't so aggressive.  The tumor doubled in size in just the two weeks between diagnosis and removal.  It tested positive for the HER2 protein, which adds another drug to my treatment regimen, and responded positively to hormone deprivation, which prompted me to go ahead with a full hysterectomy (okay, I've honestly always wanted a hysterectomy, so that part was kind of a bonus).  So, I don't have a pat answer for you here, but hopefully if you're truly curious the photos and lab results ought to be enough to tell you anything you want to know about what sort of cancer it was.

Physical Appearance (Tattoo Questions go here...):
Why did you ruin your body with all of those tattoos?

This question may seem strange to those of you who enjoy (or at least don't mind) tattoos, but amazingly I get it all of the time. There's something about tattoos that causes otherwise well-mannered people (who would *never* waltz up to somebody and criticize their clothing or haircut) to share their unsolicited negative opinion with the general public. Obviously, I don't consider it ruined... I happen to like tattoos and am very pleased with the pieces I have. If you don't like it, nobody is forcing you to look, and I suspect you will have a much better time in life after you realize that not everyone is going to conform to your personal standards of beauty and appearance.

Did you get the chest tattoo before or after your surgery?

This question tends to come from people who didn't (or don't want to) look at the surgery photos.  I got the dragon tattoo on my chest well before surgery... about ten years ago.  I was pleasantly surprised that they worked so hard to save the whole thing.  The medical profession's view on tattoos seems to have changed (for the better) in the last few years.  They even called in a second surgeon just to draw the surgical lines in such a way as to save as much of my tattoo as they could.

Did that chest tattoo hurt?

Well, all tattoos hurt.  It didn't hurt more than any of my other tattoos, really.  Well, it may have hurt more than the one between my shoulders... that one didn't hurt very much.  It certainly hurt less than the one on my tailbone, that one hurt like a motherfu... erm... that one hurt a lot.  If you've never gotten a tattoo before, I guess the best explanation is that tattoo pain is relative.  It depends on how sensitive your own body is in different areas, and it also depends on things like whether or not you've gotten enough rest and eaten a good meal that day.  One thing I can say, though, is that you should be very careful what you take for pain relief before getting a tattoo.  A lot of pain relievers thin your blood, and thinner blood can negatively affect how the ink takes to your skin (or how your skin takes to the ink, I don't know).  Definitely stay away from alcohol... not only does it thin your blood, but it also thins your judgment, heh.

Do you plan on getting any more tattoos?

Yes, but I don't plan on becoming an 'illustrated lady', exactly. I would like to finish the color on my chest piece, expand the piece on my tummy (to completely encircle my belly button), expand the pieces on my upper and lower back, and also get partial sleeves (from the middle of my upper arm to just below my elbow). These will mostly be traditional style floral and Asian designs, and won't be for quite a while... the way my finances are I won't be in the market for new tattoo work for a long, long time. Additionally, my tattoo artist up and moved to Michigan (or some other foreign country) and now on top of all of my financial hurdles I will have to research a new one... eep.

Personal Life:
What kind of example do you think you're setting for other cancer patients?

I don't actually think I'm setting an example, or establishing a reputation, for anyone aside from myself. This is my own personal website, and it doesn't represent anyone but me. If somebody is worried that other people may perceive them unfavorably because they share a common experience with me, then that person has a lot more time than I do and probably has had multiple experiences that I haven't (or at least they should). On a related note, does Pamela Anderson represent all actresses, does Dennis Rodman represent all professional athletes, or does Brian Griffen represent all cartoon dogs?

Would you be interested in being my friend, or meeting up with me sometime? Can we hang out?  Want to go on a date?

No, not really... I wouldn't be interested at all. I'm not interested in dating right now, and even if I was I wouldn't be looking for my Mister Right over the internet... I in fact wouldn't be looking at all (I would be content to follow my path in life until I chanced to run across Mister Right on my own, with no extra effort, when the time was right). Also, put yourself in my shoes for a minute... I have to sleep most of the day, and spend much of my time being ill, so I seldom have enough time to spend with the close friends that I already have... why would I spend even less time with my current friends to make time for a stranger? I don't, however, mind exchanging the occasional email with people who share similar hobbies or interests; just don't expect it to develop into anything more than that.

Is it true that you're an avid gamer?

Of course not.  I have to run away right now and not play any computer or role-playing games.  I will be busy not playing any games the rest of the day, in fact, so don't email me or anything.  In fact, I should go and not play some games right now...

What games do you play currently?

Currently I play EverQuest II and World of Warcraft, and I also participate in an AD&D d20 campaign that my friends run a few times a week when I feel up to it. In the past (when I could afford it) I played Ultima Online and Final Fantasy XI.. In the future I hope to go back to Final Fantasy XI (it's a lot of fun), but my time is so limited... poot. When I'm feeling nostalgic I occasionally play a game from my Infocom collection. I play pinball as well, of course, but I'm no wizard...



And now for something completely different... some questions that I frequently ask:

What the heck is up with that hideously dubbed Febreze commercial?  Can they not afford actors that can talk?  It's very off-putting...

If "lawyer up" means to protect yourself with lawyers, and "mob up" means to protect yourself with the mafia, why does "cowboy up" not mean to protect yourself with cowboys?

Well, that's it for now, but I'll be adding more questions as I field them in emails and in person.  If you can think of a question that ought to be included here, please feel free to email me about it.