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!
Lea, you are such an inspiration and remain in my prayers!
You amaze and inspire me.
You are a very resilient and special lady. Good
I think of you often and am so glad you are still with us. Love and hugs to you and your family.
Lea, your strong will and GOD’s grace is phenomenal. You’ve come a long way. Keep up the positive attitude.
Praise God, so glad you are still alive. You are so amazing and strong. Blessings to you and hoping you are stronger than ever this year.
You are amazing. I have kept you in my heart since your announcement, so cruelly close on the heels of Bob’s departure. Each new accomplishment, as it flashed across my screen, was a tremendous triumph. Keep working. You are loved.
You are so brave! I also pray for you! I admire your dogged courage to finish these books! I am so sorry ! Thanks for taking the time to update us.
Oh my, I’m crying reading this. Best wishes to you.
You are one tough lady. What you’ve written here will give others afflicted courage. Bless you.
You should write a book on how to maintain such a positive attitude in the face of adversity! Looking forward to next year’s update!
I am hoping to get to Bath and see you. You are amazing and resilient—an inspiration.
Good for you, Lea! Love your spirit. I went through treatment for stage 4 Lymphoma a few years ago. Acquired a touch of neuropathy but never broke any bones. I’m cheering you on!
Lea, you’re nothing short of amazing. I lost both my mother and grandmother (her mother) to pancreatic cancer. When I read about your diagnosis last year, I cried for you. I cried for me. I cried for everyone who has been lost or lost someone to this hateful thing. But you, you have made me smile today. Life threw one rock after another at you this year, and each time you turned them to pebbles. We’ve never met, we’ve never talked beyond a few FB messages, but you have been and remain in my heart. God bless you dear lady.
Bless you Lea! I am so impressed. I barely can get out of bed and manage the stairs with my colon cancer. I’ve not done any of the preparation for my departure, still need a will, who knows where anything paperwork is, etc. I spend most of my time reading whatever my neighbors find for me in the free book bin at the local bookstore or from my stash in the basement. Recently I noticed my ability to hold a book is diminishing. But thanks to a freebie from Rosemary Stevens I have tried an audiobook on my phone and loved it. I can’t afford to buy any but one a month but if anyone knows about free ones or how to find them, I would truly appreciate it. Lea please keep proving the doctors wrong, I will keep you in my prayers and continue to admire your tenacity and courage , I am using you as s role model.
Lisa, most libraries have audio books and librarians +/or staff that will borrow from other libraries on request: if not, they will extend the request on your behalf. May life be long and gentle with you.
You are an inspiration to others, myself included. Still wishing you the best possible outcome. Keep fighting!
Just finished Justice and Mercy while we were on vacation. Loved it.
Leah, you are truly amazing—you are inspirational and awesome—your writing, your incredible spirit, and your resilience are a gift to all of us.
Lea, you are amazing, girl! You keep on keeping on and we will all continue to read all you write! Enjoy the days of summer and despite the junk, enjoy waking up every day to a world of fans who love you! Hugs!
<3 <3 <3 <3
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I love you, Lea.
Love you, Lea.
I am finishing the book, “Death and a pot of chowder”, which I have thoroughly enjoyed, and was doing research to find book two of the series, and found this essay written by you. Touches my heart that you continue writing and living your life as fully as possible in spite everything. I pray that the treatments will work well for you. Bernie Seigel, author, first taught me that miracles are possible regardless of diagnosis, and you are an example of that. God bless you and your family. I look forward to reading more of your books.
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