Last June 17 — about fourteen weeks ago — I was dizzy, and visited the emergency room of a local hospital here in Maine. Twenty-four hours later I was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, metastasized The doctor who gave me the news said I might have a year to live, if I was lucky.
I had no idea I was ill. I’d spent the past several years caring for my husband, who’d died April 9. Since his death I’d updated my legal documents and taken care of my husband’s estate. I’d planned to spend the rest of 2018 catching up with writing deadlines and settling into a new normal.
Now everything had changed.
During the following three weeks I had three biopsies, many blood tests, two MRIs, and my first chemo treatments. When all those results were in, my oncologist told me that my condition was worse than he’d first thought. The lesions on my liver were close to blocking bile ducts; when that happened (which would be in either hours or days) I’d develop a serious infection which would kill me. I didn’t have “maybe a year”. I had, at best, “two-three months.”
I wrote about my situation on Facebook and on this blog and was overwhelmed with notes, calls, flowers, angels, prayers and thoughts. (Thank you, all!)
My priorities changed. I decided to self-publish two historical novels that hadn’t sold, but that I wanted to be out in the world. I contacted libraries and schools where I’d agreed to speak, and warned them I might not be able to be there as I’d promised. I met with the friend who’d agreed to be my literary and personal executor, and went over what I’d want him to do after I died. My four daughters all visited Maine to be with me. On August 9, with just the immediate family present, my youngest daughter, who’d been engaged for more than fifteen years, got married on the front lawn of our home. I still felt well — and went for regular chemo treatments and took heavy doses of antibiotics. Every week I had blood tests to see how my body was reacting.
A week after Liz’ wedding my blood tests came back with “atypical” results. The lesions on my liver had shrunk dramatically, and my white blood count was way down.
My oncologist shook his head. “This doesn’t happen,” he explained. “You might have months to live instead of weeks.”
Again, my priorities changed. The two historical novels I wanted to publish are now on Amazon. In the past six weeks I’ve bought a wig and spoken at two libraries and one school. My agent is encouraging me to get back to writing, and is looking at an historical mystery I’ve finished.
Yes — I still have stage four cancer. I’m tired a lot of the time. One or more of my daughters are with me, and take me to chemo treatments, run errands, bring me juice to drink and nag me when they don’t think I’m eating enough.
I’m trying to get back to writing, but it is hard. How much time do I have?
I don’t know. But, then, do any of us?
In the meantime, I’m still here. I still thank you for all your thoughts and prayers. And, on good days, I can write a little.
No, this isn’t fun. I’m frustrated by being unable to plan very far ahead. I’m so glad I was able to take care of my husband when he needed me, and that my daughters are trying to take care of me now.
But death is a part of life — and I’m still here, planning for the release of my next mystery October 30 (THREAD HERRINGS). And thanking all of you for supporting me and understanding in this difficult year.