Thursday, January 26, 2012

Eighteen month old Izzy came to visit this week. She's a rambunctious English Bull with a lot of puppy still in her. Jessica has been taking care of her for us while hubby recuperates from his stroke.

She certainly made Rick's day. She's calmed down a lot and we're hoping to bring her back home this summer. We'll need to fence in a portion of the yard though for her to run in. Not the brightest when it comes to watching out for cars and we live on a corner lot. And look at those paws. She can easily knock you down, but is as gentle as they come.

I just got back from the doctor's office a few minutes ago. According the the surgeon, everything looks great. Had the staples removed and am now sporting several butterfly bandages.  Removing them wasn't nearly as painful as I thought it would be.  As the incision heals though, the skin and tissue around it pulls. My movements are still very restricted—can’t lift anything heavier than a half gallon of milk and I can’t bend over (it pulls the incision terribly).     

I did, however, find a handy tool my mother-in-law, who used to live with us, left in the closet.

I didn't realize how clumsy I was until the moment I couldn't bend over to pick things up. The old "claw" has been a life saver! LOL


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finally, after months of not writing, I looked through the third book in my Harper series, Grave Witness, that’s been in perpetual progress for what seems like an eternity and began to write again.

Granted, the creative juices didn’t flow back in all at once.  No, it was more like a trickle, drop by drop until I found my voice and got back into the character’s head again. 

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. My writing was always in the back of my mind. Its absence was as painful as the anticipation welling inside a child's head while he sits in his doctor's office waiting to get a shot. I knew my return wouldn't be easy and I was right. It took a lot more than desire to force myself into the old chair in front of my computer to concentrate on the plot.

Just like a runner warms up before getting on the track, I had to prep my mind which had turned to mush over the past several months I spent dealing with matters that had nothing to do with writing. Life and family comes first and don't we all know it.

At any rate, the best way to “prep” is by reading. Sometimes, I’ll read random chapters from my favorite novels and let the author's words soak in.   I also love reading about unsolved crimes and turn the clues around in my head and wonder why.  It makes for a great, “what if.” And then there are the how-to books and journals.  I have more than I can count and a few of my favorite are stacked up on my desk now as I write to remind me that if I did it before, I will do it again.
Sadly, that first chapter I’d written months before—the one that seemed so perfect didn’t feel terribly right any more.  It’s not a bad chapter. In fact, I actually like it. It's just not the perfect beginning. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with it. It’ll probably get bumped down possibly to third or fourth. The important thing though is that after a few days, I wrote a new beginning. It's short and may not the best--it is after all a first draft. Ironically, but not news to any writer, I spent more time on the opening paragraph—that all important portal to the rest of the book, than I did on the remaining 800 words.

Time will tell if they are the perfect opening words. Still, I tend to beat myself up when I can’t get it “right” and when that happens, I love reading quotes about writing from other author. That's when I know I'm not alone. 

Consider these little gems a pep talk.
“Never polish the first chapter until the last chapter is written.” –Tony Hillerman
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” –Earnest Hemmingway.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” –Sylvia Plath

“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” –Tim O’Brien

“To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Writer's block…a lot of howling nonsense would be avoided if, in every sentence containing the word WRITER, that word was taken out and the word PLUMBER substituted; and the result examined for the sense it makes. Do plumbers get plumber's block? What would you think of a plumber who used that as an excuse not to do any work that day?

The fact is that writing is hard work, and sometimes you don't want to do it, and you can't think of what to write next, and you're fed up with the whole damn business. Do you think plumbers don't feel like that about their work from time to time? Of course there will be days when the stuff is not flowing freely. What you do then is MAKE IT UP. I like the reply of the composer Shostakovich to a student who complained that he couldn't find a theme for his second movement. “Never mind the theme! Just write the movement!” he said.

Writer's block is a condition that affects amateurs and people who aren't serious about writing. So is the opposite, namely inspiration, which amateurs are also very fond of. Putting it another way: a professional writer is someone who writes just as well when they're not inspired as when they are.” ― Philip Pullman
“Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.” ― William Goldman

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A New Day

We were under a winter storm watch yesterday afternoon. It started to sleet around 4 PM just about the time our son Tracy and I returned from the market. Woke up this morning to what looks like about 2-3 inches of snow. It's freezing, but the temperature is supposed to get up into the 40s tomorrow. That's how it is here in Indiana. If you don't like the weather, just stick around a minute or two.

A few days ago, I mentioned neighbors and friends and how great they've been to my family, especially over the pasts several months. As I was working on the post, I heard a snow blower outside my window. Our next door neighbor, Neil, had our front sidewalk and the walk leading up to our front door cleared off. So sweet of him. He's not in the best of health either, but that's the type of person he is. 

Jessica has been caring for our 50-pound puppy (will be 2 in July), Izzy, since last summer. She's my husband's dog and was/is more than we could handle after he went into the hospital. Izzy is well ... massive and doesn't understand she's not a lap dog--granted she gets away with it. Anyway, Jess took her to the vet this morning for her annual check up and shots. Doing well--still holding her girlish figure.

Moo is mine. :)

I started to work on my novel again this week. It's the first time since May that I've had the clarity of mind to do so and I'm feeling quite good about it. So wonderful to finally feel as if the worse is behind us.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Angel of Courage

Great news today!

The pathology report came back negative on the six additional lymph nodes they removed on 1/12.  Now it’s on to the next step in the process--the first round of chemo in about four weeks.

The surgeon removed the drainage tubes from my side about an hour ago which were causing me discomfort this week. Feels SO much better.

Our daughter Jessica gave me this angel of courage the day before my mastectomy. Today it's doing a victory dance!!

I have to admit I still can't quite wrap my head around this. All I know is that I've received a new lease on life I didn't even know I needed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Where would we be without them? 

I've lived in Muncie since I was 13 and have worked at the local university for 31 years. In that time, you might say I've met a few people. Some have been passing acquaintances while others have become dear friends.

From the first day I took Rick to the hospital on June 3, to the day I announced I had cancer in November, my work colleagues have been absolutely amazing. Everyday someone would bring in a piece of pie or soup, some brought in casseroles for me to take home so I wouldn't have to cook. Some days I'd go into my office to find a card on my desk.

One friend bought me Danielle and Oliver Follmi's, "Latin American Wisdom for Every Day Revelations" ... just because... (she knows of my Spanish heritage and knew I'd love it)  while another gave me a 2012 daily planner that includes a daily biblical verse. It's already jam packed with appointments through March. :)  Nearly every day, one of my work pals has stopped by to ask about Rick and/or Jessica and Tracy. Often our talks end with a hug.  I returned to work in December after my first surgery to find a beautiful Poinsettia and card from my co-workers. Imagine the ripples my latest news caused.

Sometimes friends are waiting for us in the least expected places. One of my regular stops on campus is the post office located in our student center. I usually go there at least every other week and over time, I've gotten to know the ladies who work there on a casual basis. Our conversations usually revolve around the weather, etc. A few weeks ago, I needed to drop off some mail which included several payments to doctors, etc. I told the attendant about Rick's stroke, she shared a similar experience with a loved one. We chatted a bit more while I waited for my change, and then  went back to my office. Two or three days later, I opened my mail at home to find a note from her assuring me 2012 would be better and a gift certificate for a free coffee. I hardly know her, but the fact that she took to the time to show her concern is more heart-warming than I can possible say.

These are a few of the cards I've recently received from family and friends. Some are hilarious! Love them!

When I began to write fiction in 2002-03 I joined numerous online writers groups. Over the years, several of these writers and I became friends. Most I've never met, some I've talked to on the phone, but for the most part, our friendships have developed and grown through the wonder of e-mails.We've shared in each others joys and triumphs as well the losses over the years. We've exchanged photos of our children, pets, and gardens. We've helped each other edit our books and shared a few jokes.  The point is, every morning I wake up to countless encouraging e-mails from people I've never met, know like the palm of my hand, and who simple want me to know I'm in their prayers. One of my writer friends, has sent me a card on a weekly basis. Wow!

No list of friends would be complete without a mention of our fantastic neighbors. Not a day goes by when one of them doesn't call or e-mail or offers to run an errand, or take one of us to the doctor, etc. Love you guys!!

So I have to laugh whenever I pre-register at the hospital for a procedure and they asked, "Do you live in a safe environment? Do you have a support system?" God love them, if they only knew.

Thank you all for your kindness!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In typical Indiana style, the weather has been crazy. A bitter four degrees on Sunday, a high of 54 by the end of the week. This morning I woke up to the sound of pouring rain. I think I'll do some writing today. It's time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The days leading up to the surgery on Friday morning were far worse than the surgery itself. Within two hours, I was in recovery and when I came to, I was amazed at how well I felt--no pain, no nausea or dizziness. Yay! I spent the night in the outpatient surgery center--lucky me I was the only patient in the ward and slept like a baby.  It's amazing what rest can do to lower your blood pressure. It dropped from 154/70 to 113/35 which  is normal for me. I have to say the only discomfort I have are the two drainage tubes/bulbs that thankfully keep fluids from pooling in my body.

By early Saturday afternoon, the temperature had remained at a steady 14 degrees, but the house was filled with the smell of the pot roast that had been cooking in the crock pot since around ten that morning. I sent out a few e-mails to several nieces/nephews and friends after which I spent a wonderful leisurely day playing Monopoly and watching movies with my family.

It was still bitter cold here in Indiana yesterday. At least the sun was out and for a few hours in the afternoon, I sat near a sunny window reading, "Writing Lessons You Can Learn From The Master ... Write Like Hemingway."  It actually reads more like a biography, but it's interesting. I have so many books stacked up and waiting to be read. Thought I'd start with this one in the hopes it would inspire me to write again.

I'm seeing the surgeon again today. Hope he's able to remove the tubes.


Friday, January 13, 2012

The Big Day

I got off work early yesterday. My sister drove two hours and arrived just ahead of the snow. The bitter cold evening called for a big pot of pumpkin soup and deli sandwiches.  Thankfully, Tracy's college night class was cut short and I was thrill to have both our children, he and Jessica home for dinner. Even Rick was able to enjoy a small cup of soup ... something that hasn't happened in a long time. It was a wonderful evening of sharing stories and lots of laughter--just what we all needed.

I finally went to bed around 11:30 last night. Not sure if I slept. I remember tossing. I don't remember my dreams and now, it's 5:50 AM. I'm the only one up.  As I sit in the dark writing this post, I feel amazingly calm and I'm reminded of a quote a dear friend of mine shared with me yesterday (author unknown).

If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them.  When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope?  We have two options, medically and emotionally:  give up, or fight like hell. 
I certainly intend to do the latter!

Surgery is at 10:20 this morning. All prayers and happy thoughts are welcomed!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Another Morning At the Doc's

This time it was hubby's turn. They performed an esophageal dilation in the hopes it would help him swallow.  After the stroke, his esophagus closed up and has been receiving his nutrients via a feeding tube in his stomach.  Rick, daughter Jessica, and I were at the facility four hours for a 15 minute procedure.  Basically, they inserted a scope down his esophagus to his stomach, checked to see that everything looked okay and then began to dilate the esophagus tissue. Time will tell if the positive effects will be permanent, but for now it seems to have worked and he’s thrilled.

 He was supposed to have had this done on December 28. We spent all of December waiting for the GI's office to call with the orders to get him off his blood thinner (a must to be off the medication for 7 days prior to having the procedure done.). Three doctors were involved, his GI, his cardiologist, and our family doctor. We must have made more the a dozen calls to get some answers. The response was always the same, "Someone will call you back." But they never did.  Finally, on December 27, it took a surprise visit to the GI’s office and two nurses who spent 2-1/2 hours to figure out which office had dropped the ball.

This was frustrating to say the least, especially because hubby had high hopes of being able to eat something on New Year’s Eve. The important thing now is that it's done and he's physically feeling better, and the boost to his spirits goes without saying.

My sister is coming tonight. Can't wait. One day and counting. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A ray of hope

A good day is when the oncologist's first words are, "I have nothing but good news."

The PET/CT scan indicated no trace of cancer anywhere else in my body.  No need to remove the lymph nodes either. What a relief!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The New Year Ahead

As the old saying goes, “Out with the old and in with the new.” Unfortunately, sometimes the old follows you into the New Year, stirs things around. When that happens, there's nothing left to do but to continue to deal with it.

I never thought the words would ever come from my lips. I mean, cancer is something that happens to someone else, right? It's not suppose to hits close to home, but in November 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I had a lumpectomy on December 2, and am scheduled to have a mastectomy this Friday, January 13. Contrary to superstition, I'm told 13 is a lucky number--let's hope. Fortunately the cancer was caught in a very early stage during a routine mammogram. This development comes on the heels of my husband’s stroke in June from which he is still recovering. Needless to say, I had no problem bidding 2011 goodbye. On the flip side of things, when life turns things topsy-turvy, it lets you see things from a new perspective and that's not entirely bad.

I wasn’t going to blog about this or make it public. In fact, as active as I have been online since 2004, this is the first article I’ve written since my husband’s stroke. However, several close friends have encouraged me to journal my thoughts. After letting it all sink in for several weeks, I've decided that it may be good for the soul after all. More importantly, if my experience helps another ... well that's what it's all about, isn't it?

Last Sunday I had a PET/CT scan. I was instructed to go on a low-carb diet/no dairy/no sugar for at least four days prior to the scan. I decided to play it safe and did it for seven. Bad timing considering all the cookies and candy we had left over from Christmas. Ugh!  My only thoughts while I was slipping in and out of the scanner (quite comfy I might add) were of food. Whatever I decided to eat was going to be loaded with carbs.

Normally a pillar of strength, as the surgery date draws near, nervous, anxious tears seem to be just beneath the surface. I hate that. Yet, in spite of the challenges ahead, and there will be many, I can't help but feel grateful that I listened to that little voice that told me get checked in November instead of the usual time in March--thankful  that this "pest" was caught early, and the team of doctors on my case is treating it aggressively. Most of all, I'm grateful for the love and support of my amazing family, wonderful friends and neighbors, great co-workers, and faith that God hasn't led me this far down the path to let me fall.

So ... I've only made one New Year resolution--to add “cancer survivor” to my bio.

Hope to get the results of the PET/CT scan this afternoon when I see my oncologist. More later.