I don’t usually spill my guts to anyone but my closest friends. I just don’t. But my critique pals here at WITS have been pressing me to share the obstacles I’ve faced in my writing life this past year.
I argued that people don’t want to hear my personal sob stories. I mean, everyone has them, right?
“But that’s the whole point,” Jenny told me. “You aren’t alone in this crazy journey. No one is.” Laura added something like, “Maybe someone else will feel less alone after reading your blog.” And quiet little Fae . . . well, she verbally throws up her fists and is ready to punch out anybody who says anything mean. <g> I can’t tell you how many times she’s invited me to stay at her house when I’m especially blue.
You know how sometimes you’re just chugging happily along and the man or lady upstairs decides you need a few “extra challenges?” This past year has been like that and then some.
If this story sounds like YOUR story, read on...you're not alone.
Life was good. The kids had flown the nest and were doing well in their own careers. I was starting a new book, preparing to update my backlist for e-publishing and trying to decide if I’d send my finished book to publishers or just e-publish it too. My husband and I were looking forward to a river cruise in China.
I was sitting at my computer in California in July, 2011 when my thirty one year-old son called from Fort Worth, Texas. “Mom,” he said.
I heard it in his voice. Something really really bad had happened.
That something turned out to be 10 ½ centimeter mass in his chest. It was sitting over his heart and leaning against his wind pipe, causing severe breathing problems.
Writer or not, there’s no describing that moment. All the old clichés come to mind: lump in my throat, feeling of falling into a dark deep pit, etc etc etc. And they are “all” absolutely true.
48 hours later, I was on a plane to Fort Worth. My husband was on a business trip in Thailand. My son’s wife was pregnant with their second child and was on bed rest. Everything fell on me.
Instead, I became nanny to the four-year old, housekeeper and nurse. Between my son’s doctor’s appointments and his biopsy, I drove him to the ER for breathing problems and heart stress.
My husband arrived a little over a week later. He and my son were headed for the cancer center at MD Anderson in Houston when they realized they’d forgotten something and turned the car around. It was a blessing because my daughter-in-law had gone into in labor. My son detoured to the hospital, so happy to be there for the birth of his daughter. An hour later, he was back on the road to Houston.
The diagnosis was 4th stage large B cell lymphoma.
Traveling five hours to and from Ft. Worth was out of the question so we rented an apartment close to the hospital. My husband returned to his job in California and while my daughter-in-law took care of the babies in Fort Worth, I moved to Houston to care my son.
I tried to write, certain it would ease the stress of the dire situation, but our schedule was tight and when I did have time, I was too exhausted to make the effort. Between chemo sessions, there were hospital appointments. Some days we arrived at the hospital at eight in the morning and didn’t return to the apartment until 9 in the evening.
And my son was so sick.
With the exception of a few blogs here at WITS, there’s been no writing.
But the gals here, and even some of you here in the comments, helped bolster me up and kept me going when I began to wonder if my past (real) life was nothing but a pleasant dream.
That’s the thing about writers . . . More than any other professional group, they love and support each other above and beyond the call of duty.
When I felt guilty for wanting be home instead of Houston, my writing pals told me it was okay to want my life back. They also understood that even given the chance to return home and leave my son’s care to a stranger, as a mother I could not.
At the end of January 2012, my son received clinical remission. I returned home and slowly settled back into my life. In April we received news that he'd relapsed. Another small tumor was growing over his heart, this one wrapped halfway around an artery.
I won’t lie. I cried my heart out . . . for him and for myself.
On the first run of chemo, I’d watched him endure hellish tests, violent illness and terrible depression, a side effect of treatments. I just didn’t know if I could do it all over again.
I wanted my life back.
I wanted my writing.
I wanted the best time of my life returned to me.
And of course, I wanted my son free of this horrible body snatcher.
All of these feelings gave me a horrible case of the guilts. At the same time, I could not leave my son to make this journey alone. He's the bravest man I know, my hero.
We rented a new apartment and he started new chemo treatments in preparation for stem cell replacement. We suffered another blow. The chemo failed to shrink the tumor which meant no stem cell replacement – at least not yet.
After a 20 rounds of radiation, we’re now waiting to hear if he can continue on to stem cell replacement.
Am I writing yet? Yes and no.
I write in my head all the time but haven’t started the new book. I have, however, started updating one of the books from my back list. My daughter types the chapters, making it easy for me to step in and edit or add material. And thanks to my sister, who cared for my son in my place, I managed to attend the RWA National Conference this year. Laura Drake arranged the hotel and all I had to do was fly home and attend.
These gals at WITS have been my angels and, in some respects, so has this blog. And I can’t forget my old critique group in Texas, Lyn Horner and Gloria Cope who have helped me as well as my daughter-in-law in Fort Worth with the babies.
When I do have the time and energy to write that new book, they'll all be there to kick me in the butt and cheer me on.
Thank you, ladies . . . with all my heart.
During the darkest days, when you’re in the middle of one of life’s detours, you'll find friends and a support team in places you never dreamed you’d find them. As I writer I can only hope to one day write such wonderful heroines.
I can never give up, not on my son and not on my writing.
Have you faced obstacles and crises in your life that made you want to give up? What was it that helped you not give up? We'd love to hear your story (if you're able to share) down in the comments.