Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cancer. Show all posts

19 January 2021

The Return of the Prodigal Writer


I figured I should do an update post about why I haven’t been on SleuthSayers for over two months now. I have a lot to say but don’t know where to begin. So I’ll start with:

THE BAD:

I guess I’ll begin at the beginning: Towards the end of October, right before Halloween, I was feeling really weird, so fatigued I could barely stand up, as well as other fun symptoms. My wife and personal doctor finally talked me into going to the ER. Long story short, the ER types said I had cancer and if I hadn’t come in when I did I could have been dead by the following weekend. That’ll sober you up. Of course, there might be some out there who like that idea, but hopefully not too many. At least if you want to kill me, kill me in a book not in real life.

So I spent the vast majority of November (and much of December) in the hospital. In and out 3-4 times, but mostly in. Because after the first dose of chemo, which worked well on the cancer but which also sent the rest of my body into the nine circles of Hell. But instead of greed, gluttony and other alliterative layers of Hell, it was more like pain and boredom. And I created my own circle of Hell: anger.

This isn’t my first bout with the Big C. But it’s a much worse experience than last time. My body is rebelling against the treatments. I had to be in the hospital for all kinds of transfusions of blood, platelets, white blood cells, antibiotics, Snickers and more. I was even on dialysis for a while, but luckily my kidney functions have come back.

I’ve been poked and prodded everywhere. It reminds me of this bit from Alice’s Restaurant: “An' I proceeded on down the hall gettin' more injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff that they as doin' to me at the thing there, and I was there for two hours, three hours, four hours, I was there for a long time going through all kinds of mean nasty ugly things and I was just having a tough time there, and they was inspecting, injecting every single part of me, and they was leaving no part untouched.” Nope, nothin’ untouched or unexamined or undiscovered.

THE UGLY:

Things seem more on track now. I’ve had 2.5 doses of chemo now (maybe 3.5 by the time you read this—a half because they had to stop the first one mid-track. Unfortunately, for a couple of the remaining chemo sessions, because of the special chemo they’ll be using, I’ll have to be checked back into the hospital so they can keep track of my labs again and make sure things aren’t too out of whack. I’m not looking forward to that. Being in the hospital is horrible on so many fronts. Depressing. Being woken at all hours. Stir crazy. Lousy TV choices. Mostly crappy food, though some was surprisingly good. Horrible, uncomfortable beds and more.

Plus these days it’s filled with Covid patients. And because of so many Covid cases I couldn’t have any visitors.

THE GOOD:

Hopefully, things are on a better track now. I’m still having reactions to the treatments, but hopefully my body is responding to them.

And most of the nurses and assistants have been terrific with a couple mildly bad exceptions. But one of the Clinical Partners saved my life when I had a seizure because of all the crap they’re doing to me. I owe him big time!

I asked one of the nurses if the medical shows on TV are accurate and she said they have the doctors doing all the stuff that nurses do in reality. I’ll remember that next time I write something set in a hospital (although I probably won’t want to write anything remotely medical for a while…). And I know it’s cliched but these people are truly heroes. 

I’ve been in life and death situations before, not the slow burn of cancer, immediate, no time to think situations. But now, with plenty of time to think, I can think of all the things that can be done, all the opportunities I missed in life, etc. But hopefully the cancer continues to respond to the treatments and things will get better by and by.

THE TAKEAWAYS:

You know you’re in trouble when you look forward to hospital food, but at least that says you have an appetite, which is a good thing.

One of the first nights I was there 4 or 5 burly security guys were escorting a guy who had tried to escape back to his room. I didn’t understand why he tried to escape then. I do now.

Hoard mustard and ketchup and other condiments. Often, if you order something that requires a condiment you have to order it separately. Sometimes you get what you asked for, sometimes not. If you order 3 mustard packets you’re lucky to get two. If you get three, but don’t use them all, save them for the next time you need mustard and they shortchange you. 

Be nice to nurses. Self explanatory.

~.~.~

I want to thank Rob and Leigh for stepping in and putting up emergency posts to fill my spots. They were terrific.

So that’s my story, kind of short-handed. But hopefully I’ll mostly be back on SleuthSayers, though medical issues might still cause me to miss a post or two. But it’s good to get back to some semblance of normal. And good to “see” you all!

~.~.~

And now for the usual BSP:

The Blues Don’t Care has been chosen by the terrific and well-respected crime magazine, Suspense, as The Best of 2020 Historical Fiction Novel. I’m grateful to the fans, staff and contributors of Suspense for this terrific honor, which came totally out of the blue. And, besides infusions of platelets, as you can imagine I needed an infusion of good news right now… 

And not only did Blues win a Best of 2020 Award from Suspense Magazine, but Coast to Coast: Noir, the third volume in our Coast to Coast crime stories series that I co-edit with Andrew McAleer, also won a Best of 2020 Award from Suspense Magazine in the Anthology category. So I’m thrilled about both of these awards:
And Blues Don’t Care was also on two other best of/favorites of 2020 lists:

DeathBecomesHer, Crime Fiction Lover: Top Five Books of 2020 

and

Aubrey Nye Hamilton, Happiness is a Warm BookFavorite Books of 2020

Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website  www.PaulDMarks.com

12 November 2017

Breathing


by Mary Fernando

I still remember standing there, in that hospital room, decades ago. We had news to tell the patient and her family. Although at first it didn't look like it was going to be a bad diagnosis, it was indeed, very bad. That is medicine in a nutshell: we see behind and beneath and in the end the news is ours to tell, but not to craft.

As we told them the news the patient and the family held their breath. A whole room not breathing. Me too.

Afterwards, my supervisor, not fooled by my tough exterior - which I have found fools no one at all- gently said to me ‘When patients tell us their stories and let us help them, it is a privilege. Never forget that. Even if the story ends in tragedy, it is a privilege. Honour it by serving those who trust you.” Sometimes you are lucky enough to find people who define you, who are in your life and shape you to be better. This was the man and he shaped my approach to patients for the decades. It taught me to serve. To know it is a privilege. And that patients don't breathe when the news is bad.
I scuba dive. In the boat, at the dive site, the ocean stretches out, and there is a sense of glass and ripples. Diving in, there is coral, turtles and fish. I love that there is another world under the water. I love the beauty of it and how hidden it is. Most of all I love being able to breathe underwater as I move forward deep in the ocean.
Back to patients. There is nothing that prepares you for what medicine is either. What the surface of medicine looks like is nothing like the truth of the practice. Yes, you help. Yes there are medicines to offer but the reality is the stories. The ability and privilege to immerse yourself in the lives of patients where you see their hopes, their loves, their fears and finally, even their deaths. And this brings me back to breathing.

In many books, authors will say that, in response to bad news, people feel ‘punched in the gut’ or ‘their world collapsed’ In reality, what I have seen is that patients, and the people that love them, hold their breath. And I recently learned why.

I have had many people who have shaped me, made me better, because goodness knows, I have needed that, perhaps more than most people.

The person who shaped me most, I met when I was about 6 or 7. She had a blond pixie cut and bright blue eyes. We were the same age but she was much smaller than me. When the large school bully kicked the cello she was carrying, she grabbed his arm and twirled him around and around and sent him flying into a wall. She would wander streams, ride her bike in the woods, and strangely, at the corner store while the rest of us bought chocolate, she would buy a carton of milk. An original from start to finish. I did what any sane person would do: loved her for life.

In our teens she grew and became a 5’10” blond beauty, who towered over me. Which was fitting because she was built for the life she wanted to lead - bold and strong.

Over the last fifty years, she and I have talked every few days. When she headed off to Europe at 18, with a backpack and panache, I stayed in university and worried about her. When she wandered into the woods for long camping trips on her own, I would worry while writing my exams. She got a PhD and turned into a crack research scientists who still takes off for lone camping trips that worry the crap out of me. The real truth of who she is to me is that she was the first person who came when my children were born and the first to come every time I needed her. If she detected a tremor in my voice, I would find her on my doorstep even if we lived in different cities and she had to travel for miles.

This summer, while we sat sipping coffee on a patio of a restaurant, she gently told me that she had breast cancer. I stopped breathing. I looked at her, blond hair now darker and longer, lines around her eyes, and I finally took a breath. Because the not breathing was wanting to stop the world, to go back to before, when illness wasn't real. And the breathing part was because I knew that I had to breathe and move forward. Because she needed me. Because I needed to be there. Every step.

And I was. The mastectomy was hard, and I was there for that. I was there at the hospital, and when she was home, we laughed in our zany way about all things cancer related. Then after she had eaten the food I had made for her, she gently told me that that cancer had spread to her bones. I couldn't breathe. This time, my lungs simply refused to take in any air. Then I did. Because I had to be there for that too.

When tragedy hits, and in books it must, I think it is important to dive in and write about breathing. Because that tells the story. Of wanting to stop time, and go back. Of breathing and moving forward.