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Now in our ninth calendar year!
PCR #436 (Vol. 9, No. 31) This edition is for the week of July 28--August 3, 2008.

MOVIE REVIEW
"Mamma Mia"by Mike Smith
FANGRRL
FANGRRL Returns With Two Top Ten Lists & A Plea For A Piece of ED's Birthday Cakeby Lisa Ciurro
RETRORAMA
Happy Birthday To Retrorama!by ED Tucker
FILM BIZ 101
Strike: The Case For Unionsby Corey Castellano
ODDSERVATIONS
VHS Grindhouse: How to Make a Monster (1958)by Andy Lalino
SPORTS TALK
Favre Saga Continues .... Philly Wins Championship .... Catfighting In Carolina: Update .... Griffey Traded To Chw, Bay Escapes Tampa Bay .... Belichick Loves Cameras .... Team Usa Showing Off In China .... Indianapolis Colts Vs. Washington Redskins .... a by Chris Munger
MATT'S RAIL
It Is To Rock .... .... .... tby Matt Drinnenberg
MIKE'S RANT
Cheesus Christ .... Shark! .... Another Bond First .... Dunbar, Not .... You Never Give Me Your Money .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1956 Should Have Gone To... hby Mike Smith
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FANGRRL by Lisa Ciurro

FANGRRL Returns With Two Top Ten Lists & A Plea For A Piece of ED's Birthday Cake

*click* Thereís no place like Crazed Fan Boy. *click* Thereís no place like Crazed Fan Boy. *click* Thereís no place like Crazed Fan BoyÖ

It worked! We're home, Toto. Home! And this is my room, and you're all here. And I'm not gonna leave here ever, ever again, and -- oh, Auntie Em and Uncle Nolan -- there's no place like Crazed Fan Boy!

My column has been on hiatus for the past several weeks because Iíve been busy filming a 70s-inspired, gore-soaked, futuristic sci-fi/horror film called..........oh, wait, that wasnít me.

Unfortunately for me, I wasnít doing anything that fun and creative these past few weeks. On June 19, 2008, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. I had my thyroid removed on July 21 and I returned to work part-time today (July 30). Besides the obvious time off needed for surgery and recovery, I had a lot of time-consuming research to do and a stack of paperwork to complete (and then more paperwork on top of that stack!), so I told Nolan I needed to take a break.

When I spoke to Nolan a couple of days ago about returning to PCR, he asked me if I planned to write about my health situation. I told him I had not planned to, because (a) thatís obviously not the usual PCR fare, (b) I didnít want to bore anyone with my personal medical stuff, (c) I didnít want to deflate the weekly website shenanigans with a depressing downer of a column, and (d) after working hard to properly represent the double X-chromosome group here in the fanboy world, I didnít want to be automatically relegated to the ďdelicate, sickly femaleĒ section of the testosterone bus because of this (Ďcause Iím the same ole fangrrl that I was before).

Nolan said that he thought I should write about it (only if I felt comfortable sharing, of course). Several people have contacted him to check on me, so he thought PCR readers would be interested and would want to hear how Iím doing. He also mentioned that it might be helpful to others who have encountered or might encounter similar situations, which had not occurred to me at all.

Sharing publicly isnít a problem. Iím a blogger. To bloggers, life experiences donít count unless you chronicle them online. [Which reminds me: Iím posting updates for my family and friends at www.caringbridge.org/visit/lisac2008.]

Since my column this week is a silly Top Ten List, I decided to post my health info in the same format. If this isnít your cup of tea, no worries. Skip down to the first line for the regular part of the column.


The Top Ten Things About Lisaís Column Hiatus And Health Problems That PCR Readers Want To Know But Are Afraid To Ask

1. Did I Hear You Correctly? Cancer?? You Have Cancer??

Yes. Stage 1 (the earliest stage) of papillary thyroid cancer (the most treatable form of thyroid cancer). Iím still in a little bit of shock myself.


2. Whatís The Prognosis? Are You Going To...Um, I Mean...Whatís The Prognosis?

While acknowledging that thereís always a chance that a meteor will fall out of the sky and land directly on my head, Iím planning on living to 100. My prognosis is very, very good. The tumor was very small and this type of cancer is very treatable. The American Cancer Societyís website lists the five-year survival rate for Stage 1 papillary thyroid cancer at 100%. (The lowest 5-year survival rate Iíve come across in my research is 94%, but Iím going with the ACS odds.) I have a wonderful doctor and an amazing support network.

I had surgery (thyroidectomy) last week and Iím having radioactive iodine therapy in September. I'll have to take medicine the rest of my life, I'll be more susceptible to other types of cancer, I might have residual side effects of the surgery and treatment to deal with the rest of my life, and I'll be on a permanent schedule of blood work and ultrasound tests from here to eternity, but I'll live to be 100.


3. So Where Is One's Thyroid And What Does It Do? (Is This Some Sort Of Womenís Issue?)

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the throat (that everyone has, not just women) that regulates metabolism by controlling vital hormones. It's part of the complicated-but-fascinating endocrine system.


4. You Donít Look Sick. What Prompted This Discovery? What Caused Your Doctor To Look Into This?

Long story short: I have a common autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis (named after the Japanese doctor who discovered it in 1912 or so), which means that my body was attacking my thyroid and that sooner or later my thyroid would have failed. My primary-care doctor has been monitoring me regularly for years for this and a zillion other things. Several months ago, my doctor said "We've never done an ultrasound of your thyroid, have we? We should do one, just to take a look."

I had an ultrasound in April, which showed that I have an 8 mm nodule on my thyroid. Lots of people have thyroid nodules for lots of reasons; most nodules are NOT cancerous. [According to the American Cancer Society's website, 19 out of 20 thyroid nodules are benign (non-cancerous).]

Because I have a cousin with thyroid cancer and because I'm paranoid -- er, I mean cautious -- my primary-care doctor and I decided that I should go ahead and have a biopsy to be sure. I found an endocrinologist/thyroid specialist in Sarasota and had a biopsy on June 13 (Friday the 13th!!). Yadda, yadda, yaddaÖpapillary thyroid cancer diagnosis.

So, in my particular case, there were no "warning signs" or anything glaringly wrong. The nodule is too small to be seen or felt on my neck. This was a case of proactive management by a great primary-care doctor who saved my life by saying "We should do an ultrasound."


5. What Causes Thyroid Cancer?

Thereís an established connection between radiation exposure and thyroid cancer. Not the typical number of X-rays most people get throughout their lives, but prolonged exposure to radiation (like the children in the 1950s who were treated with radiation for acne and scalp infections) and nuclear power plant accidents. A different, less-treatable kind of thyroid cancer has genetic causes.

Risk factors include being female, white and young. Thereís no proven correlation to diet, lifestyle, smoking, cell phones, alcohol use, etc. like with some other cancers (although healthy living is always better).

I have no idea why I got it. Some researchers believe that thereís a genetic link for papillary thyroid cancer (remember my cousin?) but there has been very little genetic research done in this area.

All things considered, I would rather have won the lottery.


6. So What Happens Next? Do You Have To Have Chemo And/Or Radiation?

No, thank God. Thyroid cancer is a quirky little cancer, very different from all other cancers. The thyroid is the only part of the body that absorbs iodine (which it uses to help provide the bodyís cells with energy), so thyroid cancer is the only cancer treated by radioactive iodine therapy.

Yesterday my doctor gave me the preliminary pathology report results and said the cancer had not spread, was non-invasive, and that I most likely would not need additional treatment, pending the final pathology report. There was a question about whether or not it had spread on the microscopic level, so they send my samples to a specialist at Johns Hopkins for a second opinion.

I found out today that the cancer did invade the thyroid gland a little bit, which puts me in the Intermediate Risk of Recurrence Category and means that Iíll have to have radioactive iodine therapy in six weeks.

Basically, Iíll have to go on a very restricted, low-iodine diet (no seafood, preservatives, chocolate, beans, dairy food, etc.) for two weeks before treatment, and then have a series of shots in the days before treatment, all of which will make any remaining thyroid cells hungry for iodine. Iíll swallow a pill of radioactive iodine, which will kill those hungry thyroid cells while ignoring the other cells. I will literally -- seriously Ė be radioactive for a few days while the stuff works its way out of my system.

Iíll have to have follow-up scans to see if any scrappy thyroid cells managed to hang on, but hopefully that will be the end of it. Then Iíll have to be tested every six months for a while to make sure the cancer doesnít come back or buy a vacation home in other parts of my body.

Itís serious business, but Iím very relieved that I donít have to have chemo and I wonít lose my hair.


7. So If Youíre Radioactive For A Couple of Days, Will You Glow In The Dark?

Nope, but for three days I canít be around people or prepare food for anyone. I have to prepare my food separately, eat with disposable utensils, yadda, yadda, yadda. Iím lucky in that I will be taking a very low dose. Some people, including my cousin, take much higher doses of radioactive iodine and have to stay in an special hospital isolation ward at the hospital for a couple of days, where the medical staff wear protective suits and all that. I will be on a much lower dosage, because my tumor was small and my cancer not greatly advanced or invasive.

Iím keeping my fingers crossed that Iíll develop some cool superpowers and that if/when I do, Terence and John Miller will immortalize me in a Radioactive Grrl comic strip.


8. Why Didnít Nolan Give Any Details When He Announced That Youíd Be Gone For A While? Why Did He Make It Sound Mysterious And Secretive?

I tried to talk Nolan into just taking down my column link and waiting to see if anyone noticed, but he didnít go for that. I gave him permission to write whatever he wanted about medical leave, surgery, illness, whatever, as long as he didnít give details of my specific diagnosis. I gave him my permission to give the specifics directly to anyone who inquired. I just didnít want something along the lines of ďNews Flash: Lisa has cancer!Ē posted on his homepage. (Not that Nolan would write it like that, of course.) I didnít want to freak people out, and quite honestly, I wasnít ready to see that particular phrase in print myself at the time. As I mentioned in Readersí Comments that week, I still planned to be on the message board; it was just the labor-intensive weekly column writing that I needed a temporary break from because I had a lot of things to do in a short period of time.


9. Is Cancer Contagious? Is There A Chance I Could Catch It From You?

No, you can't catch it from me. Cancer is not contagious. Is stupidity?


10. So How Are We Supposed To Treat You Now? Are We Supposed To Ask How Youíre Doing Or Do You Not Want To Talk About It Or What??

I canít speak for other cancer survivors; I can only speak for myself. Different people would probably give vastly different answers to that question.

Hereís my answer: Iím the same person I was before. If you want to share stories about family members with thyroid problems, go right ahead. If you want to ask me detailed questions, Iíll be glad to answer. If you know any sickly offensive cancer jokes, I wanna hear Ďem. If you think this is too personal or too gross or too whatever and you never want to utter the ďC-wordĒ Ė no, I mean the other ďC-wordĒ Ė in your lifetime, thatís fine with me. If you ask me how Iím doing and you are truly interested in more than the polite ďfineĒ response, ask me. If youíre now wary of me and feel safer avoiding me, knock yourself out and keep your distance. (Itís your loss.)

Iím not obsessed with having cancer. I donít need to re-hash the gory details ad nauseam. (Although this very long column would seem to prove otherwise.) Cancer has caused a fundamental, seismic change in my life that I'm only just now beginning to understand. It is part of my life now and part of who I am. Iím not thrilled about it but I didnít have a choice in the matter. All things considered, Iím doing ok. Iím cracking rude jokes with my husband (ďI canít do the dishes. I have cancer.Ē) and shopping online for a humorous cancer survivor T-shirt to wear to the next Tampa Film Review (right now the leading contender reads ďDUDE whereís my thyroid?Ē but I canít quite decide).

I don't need special handling. I still just want to hang out with friends and talk about movies, books, TV and the latest message board happenings.

Iím still me.

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Ok, so this probably isn't the best thing I've ever written, but I was still on my pain meds when I wrote it, so at the time it sounded brilliantly awesome.


Ten Things I Learned While Watching Mindless TV Non-Stop For A Week While Recovering From Surgery

10. The weather in Miami is amazing. Living in Miami means never sweating, having a high humidity-bad hair day, or getting sunburned after prolonged outside exposure. Plus you can wear stylish blazers and jackets all day without overheating.

9. All bathrooms have old-fashioned, claw-footed bathtubs surrounded by candles, plants and potpourri. And no toilets.

8. Even though crime scene investigators spend long hours hunched over collecting specimens or peering through a microscope, almost all of them are fit, thin, toned and attractive.

7. Computers are extremely fast and powerful and never crash or freeze. Hacking databases, repositioning satellites and performing complex searches require only five seconds of typing.

6. Work is a fun, exciting place full of attractive and outgoing people who you either want to hang out with or date.

5. Even if you donít speak a word of Spanish, you can still keep up with and be entertained by ŅQuť Dice la Gente?, the Spanish-language version of Family Feud.

4. If you watch enough medical mystery, ER re-enactment, crime investigation and behind-the-scenes coroner shows, eventually youíll be able to correctly guess the diagnosis within the first 15 minutes.

3. Most Americans are messy, disorganized, overweight, out of shape, broke, lonely, unfashionable, clumsy people who canít cook, discipline their children, control their drinking or plant a garden. No need to worry, however, because whatever the self-help shows canít cure, the reality shows can exploitÖer, I mean celebrate.

2. Any time a man and a woman work together, there will be unspoken, unrequited, will-they-or-wonít-they sexual tension between them, which will make them dress stylishly and exchange witty banter without ignoring any of their job responsibilities.

1. You should never eat BBQ chicken while watching an episode of CSI. Really. NEVER.

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THANK YOU to everyone who posted comments or emailed me recently to express your support and ask about me. I really appreciate the sympathy, empathy, support, concern, cheerleading, encouragement, love (not the mushy kind, stop it), friendship, war stories, medical/legal/financial/nutritional/social/spiritual/emotional/psychological advice, tough love, black humor and kindness you offered me. You sustained me more than you will ever know. I plan to start answering my email tomorrow, so if I owe you a response, itís a-cominí (Iíve been a little busy lately). Thank you.

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Thanks to ED's column about the one-year anniversary of his PCR column, I realized it's the one-year anniversary of my column also. I could have sworn that ED and I started at the same time, but according to the archives, we started one week apart (July 23-29, 2007 issue for me; July 30-August 5, 2007 issue for ED).

I came nowhere close to submitting fifty-two columns, but at least I didn't earn a bad-columnist tombstone in the 2007 wrap-up issue. (And thankfully I didn't blink and don't have spinach in my teeth in the photo at the top of my column!) I severely underestimated how much work it is and how much time it takes to write a weekly column. I also underestimated how much fun and rewarding it would be. I am honored, thrilled and grateful to be a PCR columnist. Thanks go to those of you who read my columns -- all five of you -- and thanks go to Nolan for this opportunity.

Here's to avoiding the 2008 bad-columnist tombstone!

ED, can I sneak a piece of your birthday cake?




"FANGRRL" is ©2008 by Lisa Ciurro.   All graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.