Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I Am Taking A Break: My Father Died And Publishing Has Become The Bane Of My Existence

Dear Lit Loves,

I'm sorry but I can't give you any reviews of newly released memoirs right now.  My father experienced his third recurrence of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma in February 2015.  Before his long-time oncologist retired, he located the lymphoma and devised a treatment plan for my dad.  Dad had already been through six rounds of CHOP chemo and a stem cell transplant.  He was like a title bout fighter; someone like Floyd Mayweather, except dad got in the ring against the evil known as cancer. 

This third cancer recurrence called for Monoclonal Antibody Therapy, most likely anywhere from six to eighteen rounds of it every three weeks.  Dad survived three rounds of it.  A new oncologist replaced the oncology guru that had been with dad forever.  On May 8th, dad had a PET scan and there was no sign of the lymphoma.  Unfortunately, there was a lower lung infection or what I call pneumonia.  His oncologist placed him on Augmentin.  Dad was extremely short of breath over Mother's Day weekend, but he didn't want to go to the hospital.  By Monday, my mom called the cancer center to leave word for dad's new oncologist to call her because dad was getting worse, not better.  No one returned my mom's call.  So I called the cancer center the next day to complain.  That same day dad's oncologist's physician assistant called mom crying and upset. I guess this happened because someone had chewed her out about not returning mom's call.  Mom told the physician's assistant that dad was not doing well.  Since dad had an appointment with the oncologist the next day, it was decided that he would wait to see the oncologist then.

On Wednesday May 13th, dad went for a visit and examination by his oncologist.  He was short-of-breath, not steady on his feet, fatigued and his feet and ankles were swelling.  The oncologist decided to place him on 60mg of Prednisone and contine with the Augmentin antibiotic.  My mom called the oncologist on Friday, May 15th, 2015 to inform the oncologist that dad was getting worse, but again, the oncologist wanted dad to remain on the same antibiotic and steroid. The oncologist did want dad to see a pulmonologist, but she advised mom it could take some time to get an appointment.   By the time I saw dad the weekend of May 16th and 17th, it was evident he was experiencing severe respiratory distress and in the throes of pneumonia.  Mom took dad to the emergency room the next day where after a chest x-ray and CT scan, it was determined he had bacterial pneumonia, was in respiratory failure and a air pocket had formed outside his lung which indicated lung collapse.  Dad was immediately placed on intravenous antibiotics and moved to a different hospital.

Dad never came back from the pneumonia or respiratory failure.  His heart soon failed and our family was advised to move him to Hospice.  He arrived at Hospice on June 8th, 2015 and died at 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 9th. 

Subsequently, I helped my mom make arrangements for dad at the funeral home and plan his funeral service.  The next day I went with her to finalize the cemetery arrangements.  The funeral was Friday June 12th, 2015.  So there is a big hole in my life right now and I don't feel like talking to anyone.  I will be reading and writing because for some reason it proves therapeutic for me.

In the meantime, I have four editors who would like to peruse my memoirs and potentially acquire them as books; however, there appears to be no literary agent on the face of God's green earth who will represent me.  I've been told I can't be represented because I'm not on Facebook, do not have 25,000 Twitter followers, am not a celebrity, am a "nobody" and there was the one literary agent who wanted me to write more like Joan Didion.  That last one threw me too because I'm a southerner and Joan Didion and I are worlds apart in our lifestyles and writing.  Anyway, one small publisher appears to love rejecting my work.  Their Chief of Publishing informed me "No one finds your material interesting".  And another medium-size publisher rejects anything I send them because I'm persistent and probably bug the hell out of them.  The other independent publisher I've tried, where you do not need a literary agent in order to submit material, says "You write well and have great material, but you have no following or popularity; therefore, we can't acquire your material".   At this point, I'm just sick of the whole damn process.

I'm tired, speechless and really don't want to be bothered.  I promised my dad I would not give up on my endeavor to be traditionally published.  I have kept my end of the bargain because I keep writing, querying and submitting manuscripts.  The publishing world has not kept up their end of the bargain and doors keep getting slammed in my face.  Personally, I'm used to just knocking the damn doors down and walking through anyway, but right now, I don't have the energy.  I hope my drive and tenacity return one day, but right now my world is shattered in a million pieces all over the floor and I don't have the foggiest notion of how to begin picking up the pieces or much less how to glue them back together.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Dear Mr. Devon Still: My Dad Is A Stem Cell Transplant Survivor

Dear Lit Loves,

I'm directing this blog post not to discuss the insane process of attempting to obtain publication as a new writer or review a recent memoir that I've read.  I'm taking the time to write to Devon Still who plays for The Bengals and his daughter entered a hospital on May 5th to have a stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. 

Dear Mr. Still,

Hi, I don't know you, but I've heard of you and am fascinated by your daughter's story.  My dad was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma is 2003 after experiencing deep vein thrombosis.  He was given six rounds of CHOP chemo and went for seven years cancer free.  In 2009 at the age of sixty-seven, the lymphoma returned and he endured more preliminary chemo before entering Wake Forest Baptist Hospital for a stem cell transplant.  I was told the odds of the stem cell transplant even working for him was 50 percent.  Dad's a trooper so he decided to go for it.  He went through wipeout
chemo for the first two weeks after already undergoing pheresis to harvest his own baby stem cells which would be reintroduced to his body following wipeout chemo.  It was tough.  He experienced atrial fibrillation, infections and at one point broke out in a body rash due to not being able to obtain platelet transfusions in a timely manner.  He grew weak and did not want to eat.  Later, he was able to have his frozen baby stem cells thawed and reintroduced to his body.  There were additional complications following this including some kidney damage, but he pulled through and was determined to be cancer free.

For five years, dad remained cancer free following the stem cell transplant.  This January he noticed he was having problems with the leg in which the lymphoma always reappears.  He had two biopsies and a PET scan and we learned his cancer had indeed returned five years after the stem cell transplant.  Dr. G, his long time oncologist, decided to try Adcetris which is a targeted chemotherapy drug and I think is also known as monoclonal antibody therapy.  Dad was able to complete three rounds of this therapy.  Recently, he developed a lower lung infection and started having breathing problems.  Finally, my mom took him to the emergency room after he became worse following a course of antibiotics and steroids.  He had pneumonia and an air pocket had formed outside his lung which in turned caused a portion of the lung to collapse.  He was recently hospitalized and given high levels of iv antibiotics and steroids.  He was ready to proceed with inpatient rehabilitation therapy at a local hospital.  On Friday, May 29th, he collapsed and a trauma team of doctors were called to stabilize him.  I later learned he had pulmunary edema, some permanent kidney damage, atrial flutter as well as a disfunctional mitral valve along with a failing heart.  Fortunately, I am a fierce patient advocate.  A brilliant cardio-thoracic doctor came to see my dad.  He started dad on Lasix to drain the fluid from his body.  He saw dad needed blood and started giving dad two pints of blood over the next eight hours.  He also started dad on an appetite stimulant.  By Sunday, May 31st, dad was still weak, but speaking and giving himself a sponge bath.  My brother went to the hospital to help give him a shave and cut his hair.  Dad ate his supper Sunday evening and was watching an Atlanta Braves game.  Today, his medical team will re-evaluate his condition and probably move him to Acute Care where the cardio-thoracic, pulmonary, and nephrologist doctors can monitor him closely. 

None of this has been easy.  And we're not famous people so we've had to get help the best way we could as a family to weather the storms.  I'm trying to get our family's story about all this published, but no one thinks anyone wants to read about cancer and additionally,  I've been told I am not famous; therefore, my story would not be profitable.  I'm like my dad, a warrior, so I still endeavor to become published.  My thoughts and prayers are with you Mr. Still and for Leah Still as well as your family.  Just so you know my dad has survived great obstacles in the course of treatment for a rare lymphoma.  He is my rock and I am his fierce patient advocate.  My advice is to stay strong, pray and know that others are fighting to overcome the beast known as cancer as well.  We have walked in similar moccasins and I hope my dad's story gives you hope.

In Peace,