Thursday, April 23, 2015

When God Offers You A Potential Dream Come True

Dear Lit Loves,

Here's a nugget of wisdom that I learned this week from watching home buyers try and nickel and dime me and my husband as well as pressure us to take ridiculously low offers on our home: 


That's it for this week folks.  I'm waiting to hear from two publishers about book

Keep reading and learning,


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thoughts On Being A Patient Advocate for a Friend or Relative With Cancer

Dear Lit Loves,

Well, I was quite struck today upon seeing the news that Taylor Swift announced that her mother had been diagnosed with some form of cancer.  Having been a part of a family of cancer warriors, I immediately wanted to give her some advice from a Generation Xer who has experienced both friends and relatives combat the big C or cancer.  Obviously, most people realize that I write in the memoir genre and much of what I write about deals with what my family has been through when it comes to cancer and its treatment.  Honestly, I would love to be able to send someone like Taylor a completed book demonstrating and outlining our experiences, but alas, it's been deemed by the great powers that be in publishing not to be a worthy book topic nor I a famous enough person to warrant having a book involving cancer published.

At any rate, here are the finer points to remember when being a patient advocate for someone newly diagnosed with cancer:

1)  Make sure, doubly sure, you get the entire pathology report on the specific cancer with which a person is diagnosed.  This is crucial.  Make sure you also ask about the stage of the cancer and whether the cancer is slow-growing or aggressive.  The answers to these types of questions will dictate treatment protocol.  Also, I've always kept a copy of my father and mother's pathology reports involving cancer because I could inherit it myself and it would be informative for my doctors in the future in terms of diagnostic screenings and treatment.

2)  Make sure a cancer patient has someone to accompany him/her to oncology appointments, labs, and treatment.  I can't stress enough how critical this is.  I've watched many times at various cancer centers and it is so true that if you have someone with you, you get better care.  It's not always possible for a person with a cancer diagnosis to remember everything a doctor or nurse says.  Sometimes, the patient becomes panic-stricken and it's always good to have someone with you for support and to take notes and ask questions.  Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

3)  Follow a cancer patient's lab reports closely.  It may be you, the patient advocate, who first identifies that your friend or parent with cancer is low on hemoglobin, platelets, or red blood cells.  You want to make sure the doctor or nurse is monitoring for these type of side effects during the course of cancer treatment.  You also want to make sure that the cancer patient gets the transfusions he/she needs in a timely manner. 

4)  Although people will want to visit with a cancer patient, often he/she only has so much energy.  People generally mean well, but it's okay to say that someone is in need of rest or to even let people know that the patient does best with short visits.  Obviously, there will be days when a cancer patient cannot or is unable to receive visitors.  Just be polite, but assertive and informative as an advocate for a friend or loved one with a cancer diagnosis.

5)  Cancer treatment changes a person.  There will be side effects of surgical treatment for cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation.  My dad can no longer tolerate sweet foods.  His taste buds have been forever changed as a result of multiple treatments for lymphoma.  A friend of mine found that radiation therapy made her violently sick while chemo caused no nausea whatsoever.  It all depends on the individual and how their body reacts to the treatment.  Also, there can be confusion and memory problems related to cancer treatment.  My dad refers to this as "chemo brain" when he is unable to remember someone's name or the precise word he is trying to retrieve. 

6)  Go to a hospital where you can get the best cancer treatment.  I'm very serious.  Some cancer centers are better than others.  Some university research hospitals are on the cutting edge of cancer treatment; they are aware of the latest treatment advances and drugs that are in the pipeline with a clinical trial.  You want the very best minds to be trained on the cancer patient and you also want doctors and nurses with vast experience with the type of cancer your friend or loved one has. 

Those are my words of wisdom today for Taylor Swift or anyone else who finds themselves in the position of having a friend or relative diagnosed with cancer.  I wish I could send people a book that relates me and my family's experiences with our healthcare system, oncologists, cancer, and the entire cancer treatment/remission/cure process.  If it doesn't happen soon with a major or independent publisher, I might just have to self-publish because obviously, there is a need for these types of books even if the publishing world doesn't yet see the importance of it.

Till my next post,

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What I'm Writing And Reading And Why

Dear Literary Loves,

Oh well, you know it's been quite a full load these days when it comes to my life.  Someone recently asked me what I write and of course, when I said "memoir", this person asked me, "Are you famous or something?!"  Well no, but there's always tomorrow, dude.  Not all memoir writers are celebrities.  This confounds a great many people, but seriously folks, have you checked out the biography section of your bookstore lately?  Some of us memoir writers aren't famous, but damn, do we have great stories to tell!  Don't get me wrong, I am no Joan Didion or Sue Monk Kidd.  If you want lyrical, poetic, and fancy schmancy writing, I am not your woman or writer.  On the other hand, if you want a forthright southern gal who lays it on the line, doesn't mince works, and gets on with the story, hey, I might be your gal!.

These days I have four manuscripts that I have completed.  The first is about life with Meniere's disease in which I chronicle what it was like to get diagnosed with Meniere's disease at age eighteen when no one in the ENT department at Chapel Hill Hospital had ever seen anyone that young with the disease.  I go on to relate the other strange and intriguing syndromes I have acquired as I have journeyed into my twenties, thirties, and now mid-forties.  I discuss some really revealing interactions and gross mistreatment I encountered while navigating our health care system and some of the best research hospitals in the country.  Some of these situations would make you drop your teeth.

Also, I have a manuscript about what it was like to be a first year teacher thrown into the mix of an inner city middle school.  I discuss some of the pitfalls first year teachers encounter, the violence within our middle schools today, and reveal some of the real reasons teachers are leaving our public schools in droves.  I never went into teaching to get rich; I taught because I am good at it and have especially strong interpersonal skills.  Teaching is like being a lead actress in a movie; you've got to know how to really engage kids or you lose them right from the start. 

I write about family strife, in particular, the year in which my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, my dad's lymphoma returned and required a stem cell transplant, I had to undergo Baerveldt surgery at Emory Hospital for Uveitic glaucoma, and my husband was let go at a tech company and went on to start his own company.  If that's not enough to make you sit up and say, "well damn!", I also reveal how my family came to grips with my sister becoming my brother.  My life is one wild ride after another and I'm not ashamed to say it.  It actually provides me with a lot of seriously good writing material and helps me understand the world in a deeper manner.

Additionally, I wrote a manuscript about what it was like to help a friend and former teaching colleague through a distressing diagnosis of neuroendocrine cancer.  The interesting part was that this was accomplished via phone calls as we both lived in different states.  My friend was a fiercely independent woman who absolutely loved teaching.  Her life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with cancer.  She had no family history of cancer and was truly frightened by her diagnosis.  My colleague relied on mostly her friends to help her through what would eventually be a terminal illness.  And the book brings to mind the importance of family involvement, taking care of advanced directives, the helpfulness of Hospice programs, and what happens when you find yourself staring down the barrel of your own mortality. 

Presently, I am reading a great many books on life and death and what it means to "be mortal".  This was brought about by my dad's third recurrence of anaplastic large cell lymphoma.  He's undergoing monoclonal antibody treatment now and I've seemingly become an expert in not only his treatment, but how to interpret lab results, what dangerous symptoms and side effects to look for, and how to be present in the moment.  It's an adventurous life.

Till next time,