It’s a very good day. An important day. An anniversary.
No, not a wedding anniversary, or a dating anniversary, or a birthday.
Today marks one year since my husband had a drain tube pulled after six months of complications from surgery to remove a cancerous tumor that invaded his pancreas.
The difference between this year and last is almost beyond comprehension. Last year at this time, it was a struggle to try to feel merry. We had Christmas lights on the house only because our neighbor was quick to climb on the roof to help. Our tree? That was because my parents were sweet enough to drive an hour to haul it in and put it up so we could decorate it. And the general atmosphere around here? While we were so very thankful for husband’s treatment and his doctors, we were still uncertain of the immediate future. Not that anyone can ever be certain of the future, but you don’t realize how much you take for granted until you’re steeped in worry every second of every day.
This year? This year he’s been caught whistling Christmas carols behind the bathroom door as he gets ready in the morning. The lights on the house were up a day after Thanksgiving. He’s giddy at the prospect of presents on Christmas morning. I’ve come home to find Christmas music playing in his home office as he works. He couldn’t wait to help me address the Christmas cards. He was excited to get the tree, put it up, and wrap the presents that went beneath it. In fact, this might be the first year that he wanted to be involved in seeing all the gifts before they were wrapped instead of settling just for knowing what was bought.
This is a man who has fully embraced the holiday and the feeling of family. So happy Winter Solstice! I’ll take 12/21/18 over 12/21/17 any day, for as grateful as I am for this day last year, I’m a million times more grateful for every moment we’ve had since.
Maybe it doesn’t quite have the ring of Indiana Jones, but I think Indie Author Storms has a nice sound to it. So why did I decide to go indie and what’s next?
I’ve been writing seriously for seven years, querying for four, and have four completed manuscripts—some of them with quite wonderful feedback from agents and editors. And until the last year, I really wanted to take the traditional route to publishing.
So what changed?
Cancer is one hell of an eye-opener. And when my husband was diagnosed in April of 2017, it didn’t just change the rules; it changed the entire game. He’s doing well now—a year and a half cancer-free. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t celebrate this. (Insert happy dance emoji right here!)
But his diagnosis wasn’t all.
At the beginning of my foray into Writer Twitter, I made friends with a wonderful professor and writer who had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She documented her journey in life, and through diagnosis, and I had the pleasure of beta-reading for her about a year and a half ago. As with most interactions on social media, we dipped in and out of each other’s profiles here and there, commenting and leaving digital hearts in our wake. I learned only recently that she passed away in June.
Found out today that an internet friend passed away. Loss is hard even when you don’t know a person well. People touch lives in ways we can’t even imagine. Be kind, friends. Love one another. 💔
Before she succumbed to the terrible disease, she followed her dream and published Blooming Out of Darkness: A Memoir about Cancer, Spirits, and Joy. The book, which sits on the bookshelf beside my piano, is a stark reminder each and every day—a reminder that we don’t always have the time we think we have. Between Alicia’s story and my husband’s ordeal over the last year, I’ve decided that it’s time to take the next step in the journey to authorhood.
There’s a beautiful change in perception that occurs when you reach your forties. (Okay, I’m not quite there, but I’ve got less than a year, so…) You begin to care less about what other people think or what other people would do in any given situation, and so much more about what you feel and how you can be good to yourself.
Indie authorhood is me being good to myself. I’m ready to have the fun, to release a book baby into the world, to take the next step and grow as an author. A Thousand Years to Wait is my gift to the world, yes. But it’s also a gift to me. And I hope we can enjoy it together.
A Thousand Years to Wait will be released on April 30th, 2019. You can add A Thousand Years to Wait to your Goodreads list here. Check back for excerpts, teasers, a cover reveal, and more! I’ll be updating regularly over the next six months.
If you want to know the value of a year, ask anyone who has faced this kind of diagnosis or worse. We were lucky. His was only a stage 1B. Prognosis is good. Our future is optimistic.
But that doesn’t stop me from asking ‘What if?’ a hundred-thousand times a day. What if things had been different?
So if you want to know what a year is truly worth, spend an afternoon with a cancer survivor and ask them to share their experience. And never take for granted another year, another day, another minute, again.
June 5, 2017 changed our lives forever. I have felt a level of gratitude every day of this past year greater than I could ever have imagined. If you want to know the value of one year, simply ask yourself, “What if?”
Hey, writers and readers! It’s once again that time when everyone you know in the writing world looks back and reflects proudly on their accomplishments throughout the past year. I’ll admit that when I look at the writing statistics of other writers & authors this year, I immediately relapse into another bout of Imposter Syndrome. Just who do I think I am, anyway?
Sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished very much at all, and that’s why I decided to publish my list of 2017 statistics. Given all the things that occurred in the Personal category, I guess I didn’t do so badly in the Writing category all in all…
Manuscript words written: >71,000 Manscripts queried: 1 Query rejections: 40 Query no responses: 9 Requests for partial: 3 Requests for full: 2 First draft manuscripts finished: 1 Second draft manuscripts finished: 1 Third draft manuscripts finished: 0 First draft manuscripts started: 1 Total accumulative completed manuscripts (2011-2017): 3 Writing conferences attended: 1 Online pitch contests entered: 3 Writing friends made: too numerous to count Blog posts written: 32
Jobs applied for & not offered: 2 Internships applied for & not offered: 2
Letters to congress sent: 110+ Rallies & marches attended: 2 Petitions signed: A lot Political posts on social media: enough to annoy a lot of people
Days caring for cancer survivor: 209 Trips (as driver & caregiver) to Emergency Room: 3 Days spent in hospital with loved one: 11 Trips to Philadelphia for medical care: 23 Days as Mom: 365 (24/7) Lives led: 1
HappyHolidays, friendsandfamily! Thisistheofficial2017StormsChristmasletter! (Look – I even went red and green! Festive!)
Before you start in on me about how lame I am for sending you to my blog for warm wishes of holiday cheer, remember it’s been a fairly tough year. Go easy on me. I opted to forgo sending cards this year for several reasons. First and foremost—time. As most of you know, there’s a lot going on and I’ve been juggling kids’ school schedules, projects, dance classes, various doctors appointments, dentist appointments, and writing in attempts to get it all done. I’m tired! Secondly, suffice it to say that I’m not feeling all that jolly this year, so the thought of addressing and stamping seventy cards just isn’t…well, in the cards. And lastly, I don’t wanna.
So, there you have it.
Now, onto the more cheery parts of this ‘letter.’
We are still here. 2017 hasn’t managed to knock us out just yet. (Give it time. I guess there are two more weeks left in the year, but we’re hoping for the best.) Nate still has a drain tube in his abdomen. It’ll be 23 weeks this Friday. Our next appointment with the good docs at Interventional Radiology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is this Thursday, but neither of us holds high hopes for the drain tube being removed. And that means we’re probably going into the new year with a drain. I cannot even begin to count the ways that this sucks.
My kids are amazing. No, seriously. They are. They have handled things this year that no adult should be asked to handle. They have done so with courage and grace and I want to award them gold medals. Why is there no ‘Best Kids on the Planet’ award?
Nate has gone back to work on a strictly work-from-home basis as of December 4th. This is great news as it no longer means we are ready to pawn off heirlooms in order to buy groceries… Hooray for food without debt! (And for companies and bosses who are amazing and accommodating!)
I am still writing, tweeting about writing, and—apparently—blogging about writing. I finished up my third manuscript this year while continuing to pitch manuscript number two to literary agents. So far, no major progress. I had several requests for a full read (which is a huge step in the right direction) and some really great feedback on said manuscript. But ultimately, no cigar. Hoping to start pitching book number three by early next year. In the mean time, I’m 20k words into my fourth manuscript and moving right along. What’s a writer if she’s not writing anyway? (Oh, that’s right. A stressed mom who is barely holding it all together. Yes, okay, I suppose I’m that, too, these days.)
Now onto the more serious parts of Christmas, or at least the more sentimental parts. Despite our rollercoaster of a year…
Wait. That implies that there were upswings… Let me rephrase.
Despite our alpine slide of a year, we are incredibly thankful for so many things. Amazing friends and family who have been there for us in every possible way. They’ve provided emotional support, emergency babysitting and pet care, gifted us with gift cards to movies and ice cream shops to help keep our lives as normal as possible, helped with homework and school drop offs and pick ups. They’ve cut our grass and shoveled snow from our walkways (not in the same day, of course) and they’ve paid anonymously for our kids’ dance classes. They’ve listened when I’ve felt alone, offered a shoulder when I needed to cry, and handed me a pillow when I needed to scream. They’ve offered financial help and assistance navigating health care and disability insurance. They’ve helped us keep records for our taxes and offered to lend us money (because let’s face it—we’re not rich enough to actually own heirlooms to sell off).
And this is what I am most thankful for this Christmas. I am thankful that we have a network of friends and family that’s bigger than the heart of the grinch (after it grew three sizes) and people who care so very much. We are so grateful.
I hope 2018 is a better year. For you, for me, for all of us. Love to all, family and friends. Thank you for giving us something to be thankful about this 2017. I wish you a happy and blessed holiday season!
It’s Saturday. More specifically, it’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I’m supposed to be happy. We are full-fledged into the Christmas season. I should be baking Christmas cookies (and eating half of them) while my husband strings the lights outside and I watch from the warmth of our living room. The kids should be bouncing off the walls and playing Christmas music. Instead, we’re doing nothing we should be doing and it hardly feels like Christmas at all.
In fact, Thanksgiving, with the exception that we got to spend it with my family and my mom made another fabulous meal for the books, pretty much sucked. Older child had the stomach virus two weeks ago and now quite suddenly has severe panic attacks (most likely due to her father’s prolonged physical illness whether she recognizes it or not). She couldn’t enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t even manage a bite of dessert. Younger child had lice three weeks ago (that was fun) and we’re still vigilant with our checks to make sure we’ve taken care of the issue. And husband now seems to have a stomach virus on top of all else.It’s 11 a.m. and he’s still sleeping. My guess is that he was up all night. I couldn’t tell you for sure because older daughter has taken his place in our bed the last three nights so that I could make sure she got real sleep.
I have so much to be thankful for, but it’s really difficult to remember when everything around you seems to be falling apart, falling down.
Falling Down. I might be showing my age here, but remember that Michael Douglas movie from the early 1990’s? The main character essentially has a nervous breakdown and starts randomly killing people before ultimately taking his own life. I was 15 or 16 when I watched it with my brother on t.v. one night and I remember being utterly disenchanted. I had just wasted two hours of my life to watch a guy go crazy and shoot people up before killing himself? What was this crap? What was the point?
Let me just say: I get it.
I get it. I get it. I get it. (No, no need to call anyone to have me psychiatrically examined. I won’t take that route.)
Watching the outside world tank over the last couple of years has been depressing enough and being part of the #resistance movement has been taxing (especially as a major introvert who just wants a blanket and a good book, dammit!), but when you’ve got life also screwing you over on a personal level at the same time, it’s almost too much to take.
Remember when I thought seven weeks with a drain tube was a long time? Well, my husband has had one in for 19 now. His next appointment is December 7th, so that will bring our total to at least 21 weeks. Short-term disability runs out on December 2nd. He’s trying to figure out if he is able to go back to work, even with his drain in, and I’m not sure he’s at that point yet. His sleep is miserable (as a result, cognitive function isn’t always top-notch), he’s frequently in pain, and he’s irritable (which might not be the best state for the customer-service aspects of his job). We were supposed to talk it over last night, but talking it over wasn’t a possibility when he ended up battling a stomach virus all night, because a tube in his abdomen apparently wasn’t enough misery. Because he needed another hurdle.
Because apparently the universe isn’t done throwing shit at us yet. I keep wondering how much more it could possibly have in store, but I’ve learned it’s not good to ask the question aloud.
Despite it all, I am still thankful. I am. I am thankful for medicine, for incredible doctors who have brought us through the most difficult times and quite literally saved his life. I’m thankful that, by some miracle, we managed to discover the cancer early. I’m thankful for others’ stories who help us get through. I’m thankful for friends, old and new, who continue to offer support of every kind. I’m thankful that he didn’t need to follow his surgery with radiation or chemotherapy. I’m thankful that a miserable drain tube can prevent the need for another surgery.
I am thankful. And nothing the universe throws at me will ever change that.
We are, I hope, at the end of this long medical journey (at least the immediate journey), but since I never seem to be able to say that with any degree of certainty, it’s really hard to believe it even now.
And after five months, I’m mentally depleted. So, no new rambling blogs, no new pages in my current manuscript, no edits on the last one, and no queries on my old one. I’ve been thinking (a *lot*) about writing and editing, but honestly, it just scares me right now. I’m 100% positive that it’s due to my mental state from playing home-care nurse for so long, but I’ve reached an awkward position as a writer that I haven’t been in for quite some time, the place where I begin to contemplate if it’s worth pursuing publishing at all. The stage where my brain whispers that I’m not good enough, that my stories aren’t interesting, that my plot lines are too predictable, that my characters aren’t worth following.
I know this voice in my head and I usually tell it to shut the hell up and sit in a corner to think about what it’s done. Then I tell it that it’s going to stay in that corner until it figures out how to play nicely with the other voices. (Okay, that just sounds creepy…but you get the point.)
But lately? Lately I don’t have the energy to police what my children are eating for dinner (Frozen packaged pierogies? Again? Sure, whatever keeps you alive, kids!), let alone to police my self-deprecating internal writer’s doubt.
I know this will pass. So in the mean time, hey—I wrote something. It’s a blog post about absolutely nothing, but it’s 365 more words than I’ve written in a very long time.
I watched the sunrise with my best friend yesterday. From the thirteenth floor, caged balcony of a Philadelphia hospital, we braved the early morning chill and watched the sun slowly bathe the buildings around us in a golden glow that made even Philadelphia look almost serene. (Almost.)
A Bryce Canyon sunrise, it was not, but it was still one of the most beautiful and one of the most stirring sights I’ve seen to date. I stood on that concrete precipice with the man who not 48 hours before was in excruciating pain and couldn’t have even thought about leaving a bed. And yet, yesterday morning he was up and walking the hallway at 4 a.m. and sparring good-naturedly with the nurses.
He’s back. My best friend is back.
We’re looking forward to his being discharged (probably tomorrow) and I couldn’t be happier that this entire experience will soon be nothing more than the faint echo of a memory. I wish I could say this memory will be as cherished as those from our cross-country trip two years ago (it won’t be), or that this endeavor was as enjoyable (it wasn’t). When we traveled the country together for three weeks, I learned a lot about us and about our relationship. It was as strong as I’d always thought and we’re better than just a husband and a wife. We’re best friends. This experience, though a polar opposite to our travels, served to reinforce that. My husband is, and always will be, my very best friend through thick and thin.
To those of you who have been following, and to the many people who reached out to me during this time, I can’t thank you enough. There are no adequate words to express how much your support means to us, how great your friendship is, and how much we love all of you in return. It is entirely true that you cannot ever realize the true extent of how much you are loved until you have to rely on the people around you. Our “people” truly shine. Thank you friends, family, and every kind stranger who has reached out. The world needs more of you.
That’s all I can think as I sit in this hospital room, watching my husband snore softly as he recovers from an invasive surgery that left him with no spleen, no gallbladder, lost lymph nodes, and half a pancreas.
Why would I think this?
Because I’m the one who always imagines every scenario. I’m the one who always thinks the worst, even when there’s no evidence that the worst is actually going to occur. I’m the one who has imagined every pain, every injury, and every possible way to die. One might say I just like to be prepared, but the truth is that I wasn’t prepared for it to happen to someone else, to someone I love.
That’s not to say that I think about this stuff often. I don’t. But I guess you could say I think about it more than most. I live in my head a million lives I’ve never lived out loud. I imagine that’s the case for most avid readers and writers.
My husband isn’t like that, though. He’s my superhero. He lives for the moment—each and every moment, and to see him reduced to lying in agony on a hospital bed, exhausted from the pain, the common complications, and lack of sleep is both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. He’s always so sure of things. He’s always so positive.
I have faith that I’ll see the man I know again and probably soon, but at this particular moment, “soon” feels like forever.
But this, too, shall pass. I am a student and the lesson is patience.