Red Hot and Radioactive

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best you have to give. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Halo Head

Halo Head

Ten years ago this week — a gloomy Friday in May 2004 — I sat shivering in a small room in a San Antonio medical center, scared out of my wits, because my wits were about to get zapped.

In 2001, I was diagnosed with a pituitary tumor. A surgeon removed it, but a couple of cells must have escaped, because three years later, my little something extra came back. This time, because it curled around the carotid artery, it was inoperable.

After weighing options (of which there weren’t many), we decided to go with gamma knife surgery, a form of targeted radiation. That day, forevermore known as FryDay, the doctors numbed up my head, screwed a metal frame they called a halo into my skull, attached a lead colander to the frame, then clipped the halo (and me, because I was attached to the halo) to a table that moved in and out of lead-lined box that contained the radiation source.

The colander filtered 201 beams of gamma radiation into the spot under my brain where the hyperactive pituitary cells were multiplying at a turtle’s race pace — slow, but steady. Produced by radioactive cobalt, each gamma ray itself was relatively harmless, but where they intersected, they zapped tumor material like salt on snails.

I’m extremely fortunate that, so far, I haven’t seen any negative effects from the radiation. However, ten years marks typical time that the pituitary starts fizzle out, if it’s going to fizzle. So now the real countdown starts.

When I first learned that that my lagniappe had returned, I was really upset. But we got through FryDay as best we could and went on with our lives, just like Eleanor said we should. Likewise, I can’t dwell on the state of my pituitary gland now. I just have to accept what comes and keep on going. I can’t say I’m all that courageous, but I try to do the best I can, every day.

To commemorate a decade of FryDays, I made a batch of Red Hot Fudge. Come grab some and help me celebrate!

3 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 package dark chocolate chips (12 oz. or so)
1 jar (7 oz.) marshmallow creme


  1. Heat sugar, butter, milk, cinnamon, and red pepper over medium heat to a full, rolling boil in 3 qt. heavy sauce pan, stirring constantly.
  2. Boil on medium heat until the candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees F, stirring constantly.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and add the chips to the mix.
  4. Stir in the marshmallow creme.
  5. Stir until the mixture thickens and starts to look dull, and pour it into the foil-lined or buttered cake pan. Let it cool for a couple of hours, then cut it into bite-sized squares.
  6. Store the fudge in air-tight containers.