Sunday, May 8, 2016

An update on me...

I'm still here!

Just checking in to say that in just about five weeks I will retire from my day job. I don't think this will sink in until it happens. Part of me thinks I can work for another couple of years, but most of me knows that it's time to step down.

This might be old news, but three years ago this month I was diagnosed with breast cancer. People find it hard to believe, but that was the easy part. Pathology revealed that there was a micro-invasive component of the tumor, so I underwent six months of chemotherapy. It was difficult, don't get me wrong, but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. A month after chemo ended I started experiencing complications. Eventually I ended up in the emergency room. After a week's worth of tests I was diagnosed with a bowel obstruction, and a large mass in my abdomen. Unfortunately, the blood tests indicated a chance there was more cancer.

Five weeks after chemo ended I had a massive surgery. The tumor was benign, but I had part of my colon removed, and was left with an ileostomy. Since I was weakened by the chemo, as you can imagine, I did not heal well after this surgery. I went back to the ER twice, and spent a month in a rehabilitation hospital, and then received the unfortunate news that I needed more surgery. And then after that, even more surgery. Three major surgeries between March 27, 2014 and March 24, 2015.

Once all that was done it was back to reconstruction surgery. I'm glad to say that the last of those procedures was completed two weeks ago. It took me a while, but I finally realized...hey, I'm all done. Now it's just 6-monthly visits with the oncologist until I hit the magic five year mark.

As for my writing career...every three months I still get a royalty check, and it warms my heart. I know I've said this before, but I do intend to complete the King's Trilogy. With retirement on the horizon, it's more of a reality now than it ever has been. After that I'm not sure.

To close, I'd again like to thank all of you who have supported me during this trying journey. I don't venture out much these days, but it's good to know there are still people out there who care.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another country heard from..

When I was young, that's what my mom would say when one of us piped in on a family discussion. So, here I am, piping in after what seems like a very long time.

I was very open about my struggle with breast cancer. I didn't mind sharing all the ins and outs, and ups and downs of getting diagnosed, having a mastectomy, and going through chemotherapy. It felt good for me to be sharing it somehow.

I finished my last round of chemo on February 21, and was declared in remission. I'll never be cured as the cancer got into my lymph nodes, so apparently there's always a chance it will come back. I felt great for a week, started to get back to feeling good again. And then, everything started to go downhill.

Although I was open about my breast cancer, I feel less inclined to be open about the roller coaster ride I've been on since the middle of March. Perhaps it's that I feel protective of myself. I'm convinced that what touched the whole nightmare off was the aftermath of chemo, starting with one of the more troublesome side effects and going forward into trying to recover from massive surgery a mere four weeks after chemo finished. My body just gave out and said, "no more, I can't do anything more now except make you worse." It was a classic case of what can go wrong will go wrong.

I'm not really better yet. I still have a few lingering nasties to deal with. I have little to no energy, but I am working with a physical therapist 3 times a week, and through that I'm able to do small things like go grocery shopping (did that this week for the first time since March). Of course, I have no stamina for writing, so again that will have to wait.

I have realized that I've let a few things lag that I'd intended to keep up with. First of all the "Wow" I was posting on Facebook. I was almost done with The King's Heart, and I suppose I can muster up the energy to finish that off. The other thing was the character journal entries for Brad and Scott. I finished Scott's, but still have to tackle Brad. Not sure if or when I'll get to that.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


I'm nearing the end of the hard part of my breast cancer battle. I started six months of chemotherapy in early September, and I now have three weeks left. I think this has been the hardest battle of my life. The first three months were the most difficult with the harsh chemo, and the last three months were supposed to get easier. In some ways they are easier, but in other ways it is just as hard.

During this enforced down time I have had a lot of time to think about my writing. My brain is too scattered and fatigued to do any actual writing. Instead I've been posting something called the "WOW" at my Facebook page. Basically it's an expanded synopsis, only I'm not giving away endings. There have been a lot of excerpts though. I started with The King's Tale, and I am now working on The King's Heart. One decision I have made is that as soon as my head clears I intend to pick up work on the third book in The King's Trilogy, The King's Son. This is mainly because sales for "Blue Moon" and "Red Sunset" have fallen off. Unfortunately I've realized two things about those books, I should have waited and published them as a full-fledged novel (along with the planned third novella in that series "Purple Dawn"). "Blue Moon" seemed to be well received, but "Red Sunset" was born into chaos, and I believe it is completely misunderstood. So, the project is shelved for the time being.

While on the subject of chaos, I once stumbled over some discussion of my work on an Amazon discussion thread. I've fortunately never been able to find this discussion again because some fairly mean things were said about me, and my work. Primarily the one contributor seemed to think that The King's Tale was perfect the way it was, and I was purposely torturing my characters by continuing the saga of Christopher and Dafydd. Okay, that's one person's opinion, but I had always meant to continue the story, even as I toiled away on The King's Tale. In my mind it isn't torture at all. This contributor went on the say my contemporary work all sucks. Well, that hurt.

The King's Son will be the story of Anwyll, and Christopher and Dafydd will suffer no more torture at my hands. Or not much anyway. When I read my notes for how I intend to end the book I suppose it might come across as torturous...but that remains to be seen.

I sincerely hope to dive into my writing once summer comes. That is going to be my reward to myself for staying strong through this cancer turmoil.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

If you have read Blue Moon or Red Sunset and are curious about the characters, here is the first of the "autobiographies"...this one is for Scott O'Doul.

The Story of my Life: Scott O'Doul

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Revisit The King's Tale via the Weekly Wow...

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Update on my struggle with Breast Cancer

Just a short update about my health.

The last I wrote I was facing chemotherapy, and as of yesterday I have completed four rounds of the heavier chemo (cytoxan and adriamycin). It has not been without its struggles as I experienced an uncommon reaction from the first round (chills and high fevers, and four days where I was barely functional). In a few weeks I start on 12 weeks of lighter chemo (taxol). A few months after that we go back to completing the reconstruction.

Unfortunately the chemo has affected me to the point where I have not been able to return to my day job. I was disabused of the notion that I'd be writing every day, as I have a hard time concentrating long enough.

To fill up time, the other day I read a diary I kept during my junior and senior years in high school. Aside from making me cringe and laugh at myself, I noticed that I did have the writing bug even back then. I mentioned three novels I wanted to write, and I frequently wrote little stories for myself. It was uplifting in a funny way.

I have two projects I'm trying to do to keep myself "out there." First of all, I'm revisiting my novels via a "weekly wow" on my Facebook page. I am posting them here too for anyone who is interested. I'm also planning to write two character journal entries. They will be "where did I come from" sketches for Brad and Scott from Blue Moon/Red Sunset.

Otherwise, I spend my day playing solitaire on my phone, and watching the Food Network.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A new post about my health: Breast Cancer

Whenever I get something major wrong with me, it's never something normal.

When I was in my early twenties, my lung collapsed four times before it was properly diagnosed. When it was, I was told that a spontaneous pneumothorax was a rare thing, and I turned up in the minority. Two major lung surgeries later (both before I turned 25) and I was cured. I had a suspicion I wasn't done with being weird medically though.

Here's a brief rundown of my fight with breast cancer:
  1. February: I had my routine mammogram.
  2. Soon after the center called to request I have it re-done.
  3. March: Re-take of the mammogram and an ultrasound.
  4. The attending radiologist said I should have a biopsy.
  5. Biopsy.
  6. Next came a phone call from my doctor, he said they found pre-cancerous cells. I fell apart.
  7. I met with a surgeon. He reassured me that the lab results from the biopsy showed I had something called an intraductal papilloma. Basically, there was a blockage in one of my milk ducts. Common, and in 95% of the cases it's benign. I breathed a sigh of relief.
  8. May: I had a lumpectomy, which is now classified as a partial mastectomy.
  9. The surgeon reported, when I went for the results, that I had something called encapsulated papillary carcinoma. It's very rare. So rare neither he nor the pathologist had ever seen a case of it. There were surgical margins, which meant there was still some of it left inside my breast. He presented 2 options, either go in for another lumpectomy, or have a full mastectomy. He said I could wait a few weeks, and during that time he'd consult with colleagues.
  10. I went to see an oncologist. The oncologist confirmed the cursory Internet research I'd done, encapsulated papillary carcinoma occurs in .5 to 1% of breast cancer cases. He had also never seen a case of it. He recommended full mastectomy. He also said because it was encapsulated I wouldn't need chemotherapy.
  11. June: I went back to the surgeon. He had spent ten days meeting with colleagues and the chief pathologist at the hospital. The pathologist said he wanted to review both results (from the biopsy and the lumpectomy) because he, the surgeon, and all the colleagues agreed that it seemed implausible that the diagnosis went from something benign to a really rare form of cancer. In the mean time, he said mastectomy was the way to go.
  12. I went to see the plastic surgeon. He gave me the rundown on what to expect for reconstruction.
  13. July: surgery scheduled for the 17th. On the morning of surgery, the surgeon came to see me in pre-op. He said that the pathologist had reviewed everything, and the diagnosis was changed. It was now considered common ductal carcinoma in situ (dcis). It was still a good prognosis though, because in situ means it is contained in the ducts. He expected they'd get all of it out, and that I'd be done.
  14. I stayed in the hospital two nights because the plastic surgeon (the most compassionate doctor I have in this whole nightmare) felt I needed more time to heal.
  15. Two weeks after surgery I went to see the surgeon, and the diagnosis changed again. They did remove an expansive dcis tumor. The surgeon quipped it was a "football field" (7.5 cm. According to a book the oncologist gave me, that's the size of a lime). There were no margins, so this time they did get it all. But...there was also a micro-invasive form of cancer both at the site of the dcis, and also in one of the four lymph nodes they removed. Prior to surgery they injected a radio-active isotope in my breast. During surgery they use a "Geiger counter" type thing to find what they call the sentinel node (the first lymph node in the chain). He removed two lymph nodes, and they were evaluated while the surgery continued. They looked "weird" so he went and got two more. This micro-invasive cancer (the cells were 1 mm in size) was only found in one of the four lymph nodes.
  16. I went back to see the oncologist. He had a hasty phone call with the pathologist right before seeing me (I heard him in the hallway). Bottom line, no matter how weird this is (the pathologist says in the report that it's "unusual to find micro invasive cancer with dcis, and that it raises questions") there was cancer outside of the breast, so the best course of action is an estrogen blocking medication, and chemotherapy. There's a website he used to show the odds, and the best odds for the cancer not coming back is a 6 month round of chemotherapy, and then the estrogen blocking drug for 5 years.
  17. I had a CT scan. Fortunately I finally caught a break in all this trauma, the CT scan was clean, no other cancer was found. This means that the surgery got it all. But, the chemo and the estrogen blockers are to help ensure it doesn't come back. Since I still have my right breast, this is the way to go. first chemotherapy treatment is September 4th, two days after my birthday. I'm told I will feel terrible for about a week. I'm also told I'll lose my hair. There will be a total of four heavy duty treatments, but the first one is the worst. Once those are done, there will be a weekly treatment, but it supposedly easier to deal with. I met the chemo nurses at the oncologist's office, they say I have a positive attitude, and that's half the battle.

I'm kind of a strange person. I tell people I'm not very curious. In other words, there are a lot of people who have wanted to take me under their wing and tell me exactly what they think will happen to me during chemo. I don't want to know. I want to find out as it happens. It might be different for me. Prime example of this is the tissue expansion process I'm going through. Countless people told me how much it would hurt, and that it's "worse than the surgery." I've found that it's not. Yes, it hurts, but it's not that bad. Believe me, so far nothing I've experienced has been worse than lung surgery...not even giving birth to a ten pound baby naturally!

What I recommend to all women is to get your annual checkup. I've had yearly mammograms since I turned 45. Even though this mass they removed was "the size of a lime"...I didn't feel it. The ob/gyn didn't feel it during my annual check up. I'm going to make it through this nightmare, and I'll be the one in five years saying "I made it."