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.
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:
February: I had my routine mammogram.
Soon after the center called to request I have it re-done.
March: Re-take of the mammogram and an ultrasound.
The attending radiologist said I should have a biopsy.
Next came a phone call from my doctor, he said they found pre-cancerous cells. I fell apart.
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.
May: I had a lumpectomy, which is now classified as a partial mastectomy.
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.
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.
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.
I went to see the plastic surgeon. He gave me the rundown on what to expect for reconstruction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So....my 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."
I never planned to go public with this because I thought it
would be all over by now, but at each juncture it gets more out of control. So,
I've decided to share this crazy story.
In February I had my annual mammogram. A week later they called to tell me I
needed to have it redone, and that I had to schedule it for a time when the
radiologist was there. Because that would mean taking a day off from work, I
opted to do it on the first day of my Spring Break. Also, I had major lung
surgery 30 years ago, and I suspected that whatever they were seeing was scar
tissue from that surgery as the adhesions have been bothering me more lately.
During that second mammogram they also did an ultrasound, and that's when I
began to suspect something might really be wrong. They found a mass. Of course
it was impossible to tell anything about it from the ultrasound, other than the
fact that it didn't look anything like a cyst. They scheduled me for a biopsy
the following week.
During the biopsy, usually if the needle is inserted and the mass deflates then
it is a cyst, and they take a fluid sample to test. Unfortunately, that didn't
happen, and in fact I heard the doctor say the word necrotic tissue. This also
led me to believe it was left over scar tissue. They took a tissue sample,
inserted a marker, and I was done.
Three days later the doctor called to tell me they'd found pre-cancerous cells.
I panicked, as you can imagine. The following week I called a surgeon to make
an appointment, and through scheduling conflicts and all, the appointment
wasn't until the end of April. During that appointment I was informed that it
was an intraductal papilloma, and that in 95% of those cases there's no cancer
involved. I had to have what sounded like a fairly complicated procedure to
remove the tissue, and that was scheduled for mid May.
For that procedure I had to go back to the imaging center, and during a
mammogram they inserted a needle in the spot where the marker was left. This
was worse than it sounds, being trapped in the mammogram machine for almost 20
minutes! A wire was attached to the marker and pulled through the skin, and I
was admonished to move as little as possible on the ride back to the surgery clinic.
From that point on it was pretty straight forward. They put me under local
anesthesia, and removed the mass. It then had to be sent back to the imaging
center to ensure the marker was removed, and I stayed under anesthesia while
that happened. I had two days recovery, and on the third day I had the most
pain, but I'm pretty much back to normal now.
The pathology reports were ready yesterday, and because we all thought I'd get
a clean bill of health, my husband didn't go with me to the appointment. My son
took me over, but he wasn't in the room with me when I got the news...I have
cancer. It's an encapsulated carcinoma, and apparently it's very rare to have
one in the breast. In fact, the surgeon has never seen it before, so he says he
needs to meet with his colleagues to discuss it. Even in the lab where they
analyzed the results the conferred with one another according to the report. We
agreed that we'd either talk with him on the phone, or make another appointment
before we decide exactly what to do. There are 2 options, the more radical of
which is a full mastectomy.
Just like when I write m/m romance novels, I can't do anything normally. I
write a historical romance, and while the history is fairly accurate, the
homosexual history is not. Thus, The King's Tale is a hybrid that is
either scorned, or loved. My health has always been that way too. When I was in
my early twenties, both of my lungs collapsed spontaneously. Fortunately not at
the same time, but it was something that was very rare. So now, while the
prognosis for this type of cancer I have is good (it says that right on the
pathology report, and the doctor said to me, "If you had to get cancer,
this is the kind you'd want to get!"), it's still something out of the
ordinary. My husband made me cry yesterday when I told him I can't do anything
normal, he said "That's why I love you!"
I don't mean to dwell on this, so I won't update about it again until it's
hopefully all over. That was the reason why I had kept my silence until now...I
was hoping it would be "nothing."
Finding love in the wrestling arena is unlikely, and a
relationship based on the illusion of control isn't easy. Scott
O’Doul and Brad Fraser have managed both: one night under a blue moon's light
they found they meant more to each other than either expected. Their
comfortable world is shattered when Brad is released, and he must head to Japan
if he wants to keep wrestling. The work is exciting but lonely—six weeks seems
an eternity. Once Brad and Scott reunite, they vacation at a lakeside cabin and
find the miles apart have brought them closer—but they’ll need courage if
illusion of control is to become the heart of love.
I'm not sure why people get so up in arms over contractions.
It's like they're the new adverbs or something. I've read, in more than one
place, people saying they couldn't get into a book because of a lack of
contraction usage. Really?
The original place I read it was in a review of Blue Moon. The reviewer
didn't like the fact that Scott rarely used contractions.
Oddly enough, along with the fact that nothing ever
happens in my books, I really get into character building. I
was building Scott's character with his lack of contractions. I don't want to
give too much away about Red Sunset, but Scott is beginning to unbend, and
now he's starting to use contractions. Maybe after Red Sunset comes
out I'll write another post about that.
The latest knock on contractions came in a generic post about medieval
romances. The person didn't mention which medieval books they read, but since
I've written two myself my hackles went up. I got the impression that the
medieval speech was too difficult to read due to the lack of contractions.
Great. As if my semi-accurate speech patterns weren't enough, now there are
droves of readers who balk at the lack of contractions.
I will not apologize for the lack of contractions in either my medieval or
contemporary works. I have my reasons for not using them (character building in
the contemporary works, and semi-accurate language in the medieval works). It's
just one more thing to add to the list of "why I'll never read your stuff
The writing isn't bad but the story is dull and the characters aren't fleshed out. When I read, I want to get wrapped up in the book and feel something but all I felt with this one was boredom. There are no emotional highs or lows and no excitement.
Don't get me wrong, this 2 star Amazon review for Blue Moon doesn't really irk me all that much. It's the person's opinion, nothing more. Granted, I read it and think...no highs? no lows? Whu....? Are you sure you were reading my book? But, whatever, I'm sure the knock was what the entry title suggests...nothing happened. In my books...nothing happens. They're love stories. My sole purpose in writing them is to study the human condition as it pertains to how love works on the emotions. There's no action. My characters aren't spies, or vampires, or shape-shifters. They don't do anything except exist in their worlds. They are kings, woodsmen....wrestlers! They live mundane little lives, but they burn with passion and have all the emotions that fill people who are in love. I can't get mad at people who read my books and are disappointed with the fact that nothing happens, and believe me, this is not the first time I've been accused of being "boring." Reading should be an escape after all. For me the escape is diving into someone else's normal world and going through all their ups and downs as they revolve around love. I'm fascinated by that, so I write that. I can see where that doesn't work for other people. It's kind of a shame when they feel the need to give low ratings for my work...as the above reviewer notes, the writing isn't bad. But...it happens, and I've grown accustomed to it. Twelve days into the new year, and I've still yet to write anything. Still trying to get my mind out of the whirlwind of things that have happened over the last few months, and I'm sure within a week, or two (or several) I'll be back at work on the next boring little book. I can't wait!
Rowena Sudbury lives in southern California with her husband, son, and their wonderful rescue dog. Her love of reading was born in the fifth grade, and she began writing soon after that. Writing has always been her passion and escape from the real world.
Rowena finds herself thinking through the minds of her characters quite often, to the point that she always has to carry a small journal with her so she can capture their thoughts and weave them into stories when she gets home.