So — last year about this time I posted that I’d just been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Not a fun thing to happen. Especially when my oncologist added that I had 4-6 weeks to live.
Having just survived the death of my husband, though, and being a list maker, I went to work.
All death-related documents (will, medical and financial powers of attorney, etc) updated. I wouldn’t have time to do everything, but I donated all of books and research materials on needlepoint to the Saco Museum, which specializes in needlepoint and samplers of girls in northern New England. I invited the librarian for my local school to visit and take any of the children’s books in my local library that they could use. Same with Wiscasset Public Library, who also were happy to take my librarian’s cart.
I set aside and marked (or gave, when they came to visit) jewelry and silver and etc. for my children and grandchildren. I called my agent to say the two mysteries I had under contract probably wouldn’t be written. My publishers were understanding. I published two historical novels that had been completed but were sitting in my computer. (CONTRARY WINDS, set in 1777, and FOR FREDOM ALONE, set in 1848 Edinburgh, Scotland.)
All four of my daughters visited — some for the first in years – to “hold my hand while I died.” One of daughters who’d postponed her wedding fifteen years announced she was getting married at the end of August. I suggested she move the date up to make sure I could be there. She did — and I was.
I’d lost all my hair after 2 chemo treatments, and was feeling weak, but otherwise was fine. Waiting for the severe pain I’d been told would come any day. My readers, many of whom I didn’t know personally, sent prayer shawls and cards and angels, and many prayers and thoughts.
And — I stayed alive.
In October I decided I needed to start doing things other than reading and watching British movies. (Much as I’d enjoyed doing both.) By now my children, all but Liz, who’d found a temporary job in Maine, had left. They had children and jobs to tend to. I started writing again.
November? I attended Crime Bake in Massachusetts, with the help of my fellow Maine Crime Writers Dick Cass and Bruce Coffin, who drove me back and forth.
December? Three of my daughters announced they were coming for Christmas — which they instructed should be “like the old days.” No writing. Instead, used energy I had to bake cookies and bread, decorated the house with the help of my daughter-in-residence, continued chemo and etc. Rested when I could. Was happy to see everyone for the holidays and meet a son-in-law I’d never met. January 1? Everyone left, even daughter-in-residence. I packed up Christmas decorations, rested, and ended up with a 2-week kidney infection that kept me close to my bed between chemo treatments. I warned agent and editor that the book I was working on wouldn’t be finished February 1.
March: finished new book (THREAD AND BURIED), did promo for THREAD ON ARRIVAL, which would be published May 1, and published JUSTICE AND MERCY, my first historical mystery. Also had tests that showed my chemo was no longer working. Began another chemo regimen.
April: Side effects from new chemo were not pleasant. Among others – neuropathy worse. I twisted my ankle and – fun! – broke it. My first broken bone. Stubborn, I insisted on going to Malice Domestic in Maryland, one week post-break, complete with heavy cast-boot. Thank goodness for friends who drove me to and from the airport!
May: Side effects worse. Mouth sores were so bad I couldn’t eat or talk. Somehow I managed to get to Maine Crime Wave on June 1 and spoke on two panels. (Skipped lunch.)
June: Since DEATH AND A POT OF CHOWDER was a finalist for the 2019 Maine Literary Awards along with books by friends Bruce Coffin and Barbara Ross (whose husband drove me) I attended the awards ceremony! (Congrats, Barbara!)
Testing showed the new chemo was not working. My condition was deteriorating. Did I want to stop all chemo and consider hospice? I took a couple of weeks to consider. Then, June 23 — surprise! I had a heart attack. That could be a whole blog, but it won’t be. Bottom line: after a catherization my heart was found to be fine. The anti-coagulants had worked. A good sign?
So earlier this week (July!) I decided to try one more – final – type of chemo. At least this one would have different side effects. And I’d just been moved to a lighter ankle cast. And survived a totally unexpected heart attack. Why not try?
This week I’m proofing THREAD AND BURIED, the book I wrote last winter. Next week, July 11, I’ll be speaking at a local bookstore. July 27 I’ll be at Books in Boothbay. Writing? I’ve been offered another contract, and have other ideas. Will see how I feel.
In the meantime, I’ve survived a year when given 4-6 weeks. Seems I’m ahead of the game …. and summers in Maine are special.
Now — off to my porch to enjoy the warm weather and proof a manuscript … And thank you to everyone who’s been cheering me on!