Some of my readers may know that since June of this year, I've been battling a fast-growing form of lung cancer...which has my doctors baffled because I am a nonsmoker. That's right, never smoked a day in my life, yet I have the classic smoker's lung cancer. No explanation for what triggered it. Maybe on a cosmic level I was bored, writing about life and death situations in my books and stories, but without much empathy for what life - and the loss of it - really means.
When I was admitted to the hospital it was an emergency life and death situation. Could barely breathe from the tumor in my left lung pressing against a bronchial tube. Since then, I've been in the OR twice, am halfway through a 6-cycle chemotherapy treatment with possible radiation at the end, and had two transfusions. It's a scary ride, and some nights my husband and I have held each other and cried.
We won't even speak of the cost, over $100,000 and still climbing.
Every day it's a constant fight to keep all my internal systems functioning. At any given time my white platelets may be too low, I might have scary-level anemia from not enough red blood cells, not enough potassium, not enough magnesium, not enough fluid intake, the list goes on...not to mention the ordinary daily process of kidney function and avoiding constipation. I've lost over 20 pounds because it's hard to keep food down on a regular basis, and many of my favorite foods have been ruined by the salty metallic taste the chemo drugs cause in my mouth.
All this is daunting to say the least, but there have been some positives as well, which is really the point of this post. The outpouring of support and encouragement from friends and the wonderful company I work for (I'm currently on leave of absence from them but hope to return before the end of the year), the selfless help of people who went out of their way to make things better for me, and so much more. I was also amazed at the number of writers I'm associated with who have their own cancer survival stories to share. The biggest positive of all is the upgrade in my prognosis status for survival from "poor" to "good" with the goal now being long-term remission.
What has this done for me as a writer? I think it has made me less cerebral about the big issues of life and death. So easy to kill off characters on paper. But having stared my own possible quick demise in the face, my perspective is changed forever. I hope it will infuse my storytelling with a level of immediacy and empathy that was missing. We'll see....