Monday, March 31, 2008

Tanya Writes About the Strange Day

A few years ago my hero and I rocked out at a concert of an oldies group from our college days, The Moody Blues. Our daughter had gotten him tix for his birthday. One of their songs has always struck me. Isn't life strange?

It is, isn't it?

Last night I couldn't sleep. Too much caffeine. These days, I'm mostly decaffinated, but yesterday I indulged in that international coffee Cafe Francais, my guilty little pleasure, while we watched John Adams. Hence the energetic sheep and demons that danced in my head when I tried to sleep. So I got up to, what else, blog and computerize.

In searching Google for tags that might come up for my blog, I came across a strange and awful new fact: Research is proving that firefighters have a 102% chance over other workers of getting--testicular cancer!

After the ruined knees and rebuilt shoulder, the hearing deficits from sirens raging in his ears in the moronic days before the department provided guys with we get a "perk" like T.C.

But my hero had a bit of a good night. And after watching the Food Channel much of yesterday afternoon, he got a bit of appetite back, even wrote down recipes to try. (He's the Top Chef of this family.) And although we await more dagnabbed bleo tomorrow, we have every expectation of a positive outlook...

So after making him some oatmeal, I went to check my e-mail, a morning ritual. (well, make that morning, noon, night, midnight et al ad infinitum.) In my inbox was a post from a cyber-friend I hadn't heard from for a little while. Now, I've never met her, but we connected while blogging at a now-defunct romance blog.

When my hero's tribulation began in late January, Darlene immediately placed his welfare in God's hands through prayer chains, particularly American Christian Fiction Writers--she writes inspirationals. All these weeks, knowing people all over the country are praying for him has brought us such comfort.

But Darlene's e-mail blew me away and not in a good way. She hadn't written in a while...because her 23-year old daughter recently committed suicide.

I am speechless with grief. There can't be anything more terrible than losing your child.

My hero and I spoke with our beautiful daughter just last night. Held our handsome son tight just Saturday. Hugged that little grandson while he squirmed and squirmed. (his mommy, our precious daughter in law, had to work.)

Across the world-wide-web, I open my arms to Darlene, beseeching our Lord to help mend her broken heart.

To turn her tears into miracles.

Because my hero and I, well, we've got a family to die for.

Tanya Writes About the Darkness and the Screams

They're all in my head. The dark times, the screams. Sometimes I remember watching an old Jimmie Cagney movie on TV...White Heat, I think, when he rushes around in escape and it's like the camera is his eyes. That's how it is sometimes. My eyes are in someone else's head. I see but it's all too unreal. It must be happening to someone else.

Last week was a toughie. I guess to do its job, chemo builds up and up and up inside my hero. The vile endless fatigue that besets him had me rage and weep all day when alone in the car. For three decades, he's been the one I unload on when demons come--a bad rejection, a row with my difficult mother, an insane headmaster. But now when I need him the most, I can't burden him.

But I am a Christian. I know Jesus is out there somewhere. Easter still rings in my heart and deep down, I know His footprints are beside me. Still, my faith has taken some deep dumps. After a "nadir" last month, I confessed to my hero that I'd lost my faith for two whole days. He just chuckled and said, I bet that pissed God off. And I was okay then. Today after church, a friend sat and prayed with me. Now, I'm not a hand-waver, holy-roller type. This was kinda personal. Yet it worked. I felt the love, the amazing grace. The power of miracle.

I'm just human. When the screams in my head don't stop, I depend on God's mercy to quiet them, His light to shine through my darkness. I admit though, it doesn't always happen on my schedule. There's the human rub.

A writer pal sent prayers and love with this proverb: When the going gets tough, the tough get on their knees. Well, I'm not so tough, but I am kneeling big-time.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tanya Writes About Testicular Cancer #3

I was too tired to write yesterday, about our last scheduled day of BEP, the week-long all-day stretch. But my hero, dang, this one knocked him out with the first drip. I don't mean it makes him unconscious like anesthesia; it's just an all-consuming exhaustion.

He says no one who hasn't gone through it can understand. I try, but I believe him.

He just curled into a baby-ball, knees drawn. And thank you very much, that pinched a nerve in his hip and now he has pain. I remember writing about Mrs. Coleman a while back, who realized a new non-chemo ailment was just Satan messing with her. Well, Satan, you aren't going to win here either!

And I drove home. This is quite a decision for my he-man to make. I'm a perfectly good driver but a man who spent twenty years driving a fire engine is allowed to be a perfectly good critic.

Even though in normal times it pisses me off.

Now we wait...for a couple more blasts of bleo. For scans. For opinions. For GOD WILLING, remission.

And today, most of all, we wait for our baby grandson to arrive. He'll be here in about ten minutes, and my hero is already showered, up and about.

In spite of that damn hip!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tanya Writes about Oncology Nurses

Once I read that angels are Labradors with wings, and as the "mom" of three, I've tended to agree. Until now. Angels are nurses. And earning their wings right now are the oncology nurses who are keeping my hero comfortable while making him well. And letting me know they're concerned about me, too.

Linda and Abby are both cancer survivors. They asked for Oncology on purpose. Of course they've confided their experiences, their treatments, their recoveries. The fear, make that downright terror. The all-consuming exhaustion. A romance reader herself, Linda has visited my website and tells everybody about my book. Abby comes in every day to see which picture we've brought of our little grandson, he of the big cheeks. A mommy of two little boys, she wants to pinch those cheeks.

Keri is a ragin' Dodger fan and constantly ribs my hero, who is not LOL. Yesterday she brought him a gorgeous book on Body Worlds since my hero missed the plastination exhibition last time around, but we intend to get to it this time. Wow. And Primrose makes sure my hero always gets "the room with the view."

As we left Oncology just a bit ago, they all called out, see you tomorrow. They know it's the last day of the last prescribed, week-long BEP. Now...we have two short bleo infusions over the next couple weeks. Then scans.

Then the results.

So keep bombarding heaven we get good news. When this all started, our local mountains were covered in snow that lasted those whole seventeen days from ultrasound to chemo. Unusual in this land of sun. But they helped me focus on Psalm 121 which has become my mantra. I will lift my eyes until the hills...from whence comes my help (which is) The Lord God who created heaven and earth.

Today the hills are wearing as much green as Ireland.

Ah, how beautiful.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Tanya Writes About Getting Reviews...

Well, when they suck, you pretend they don't matter. But hey, that' s not happening with Midnight Bride! I've gotten four great official reviews in a row. Everybody, including the editor who picked the story for publication, remarks on how wonderful the characters are. Sigh. I'm happy.

Romance Junkies said that MB "reinforced my love of historical American romance novels. Her characters bring to life all the charming characteristics you'd expect in ths kind of story...throw in some unexpected events and some unexpected visitors and you have the making of a book you won't be able to put down."

The best "review" of all, however, came from my dear friend Nancy, a dedicated romance reader. She said the same thing...she couldn't stop reading.

BTW. When you read MB, "Nancy Jane" and her boy "Nate" are, well, named after the real Nancy and her son...

Thanks, everybody.

For links to all my reviews, visit my website

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tanya Writes About Locks for Love

I thought it was the most romantic thing when (fictional) Samantha's (fictional) boyfriend Smith shaved his head when she lost her hair to chemo in (fictional) Sex and the City.

Sigh. Now, I know it's easier for a guy to do it. Bald heads are even kinda in. Nonetheless, that's what I wanted to do for my hero. Cut off my hair when he lost his. And I found a real-life place that accepts hair to make wigs for chemo patients.

My hair is indeed long enough and I was so ready for a noble, selfless act. Until I learned from Locks for Love that bleached hair doesn't make the cut. When I complained about their pickiness, my hero just told me not to waste my hair. It was a lovely thought, he assured me, and my motive was good. Even though he claims my 'do reminds him of Eric Idle circa 1985, he admits he didn't want me to cut it off.

And it's blonde for a reason. Forget the "blondes have more fun" thing. I already proved that wrong when I went blond in college. Had as much fun as when I was light brown. Now it's all about the gray. Not that I'm old. I surely am not. But...with two young-adult children and a toddling grandson, anyone can figure out I'm, well, not thirty-something any more.

But I am air-headed and disorganized no matter how hard I try. This care-giver thing really strains my abilities, or lack thereof. So it got me thinking: maybe the dumb-blonde rep is real. Maybe it's because the bleach poisons our brain cells.

Dunno. But I found a cute joke that I thought I'd use to conclude:

A blonde decided to go horseback riding. As she mounted a spirited stallion, the horse sprang to action, causing the blonde to slip from the saddle. Grabbing the horse's mane, she hung on for dear life, then switched to an arm lock around the horse's neck.

Finally she fell off. Her foot caught in the stirrup as her head bounced on the ground. She was mere moments away from unconsciousness when to her great fortune--

The Target store manager saw her and shut the horse off.

Bye for now. Today was a bit better day. We're moving out of the nadir, or lowest point of a cycle. So my hero will be rarin' to go for Easter Brunch.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tanya Writes About Tuesday

Well, today has been both good and sucky. Sucky things first: well, chemo in general despite that it will eventually give us health and life. But today was the half-hour bleo I.V. Dang, that little bag of goo totally knocks my hero's feet out from under him. He was tired just walking to the parking lot afterward.

Whew. For the first time since all this started, he wanted me to drive home! Now, we're talking forty-minutes of me behind the wheel! And in our new car, too. Believe me, he does not like to ride when I drive even in the previous car. The only other time was after the barf-a-rama in Yosemite last century, when most of the herd passed the stomach flu around. I escaped and ended up driving our Jeep Cherokee pulling a trailer all the way to Fresno. Wow. I cringe just to think of it.

Today he held himself to just one snide comment as he watched some needle jump around some dial on the dashboard. I said, Either go to sleep or look out the window.

Now for good things: I found that a new Dollar Tree just opened up! Ever a cheapskate in search of a bargain, I went in just to look and came out with four bags of essentials. Better: I picked up a few groceries --including soft food for my hero--and did not end up in tears! Yay.

Best: an e-mail from a close family friend. My hero has known Tommy since Tommy was a newborn. Tommy just read the blog and wanted me to remind my hero that he is Tommy's hero, too, has been all through childhood.

Well, it's mutual. When we married, my hero said, "I want only two things; otherwise, have at it. I don't want to write my own vows, and I want Tommy as my ringbearer."

He got his way! Both of them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Tanya Writes About Irony

Oh, when I taught freshmen English, those little dudes and dudettes learned irony so well. Romeo fell for his great enemy's daughter. Well, crap happens. Not ironic. But her falling back in love with him. Hmmm. What were the odds?

Remember Della cutting off her gorgeous hair to buy Jim's watch fob while that adorable son-of-a gun sells his watch to buy her...the tortoiseshell hair combs?


But irony doesn't happen in real life like it does in a great author's carefully-thought-out plot. It's days and weeks and months of every emotion from elation to despair. My hero had three surgeries in the last 3 1/2 years to repair knees and a shoulder ruined by a career clmbing mountains and ladders, carrying equipment that would break anybody else's back, and having a roof fall in on him. So this year, his new years resolution was not to be an invalid anymore. He was gonna start living his old life.


We're caught in a vortex of symptoms that just don't let up. Each day brings some new, inelegant surprise. When the doctor said chemo would kick my babe's ass, dang, he wasn't kidding. That's the unkindest irony of all: medicine making him sick before he can get well.

Well, my hero is not an invalid. I misspoke. It's just that normal life is on hold for a while. It hits me most when I grocery-shop, and all around me homemakers are buying rib-eye steaks or talking on their cell phones to "Honey, what do you want for dinner?"

And I'm trying to find popsicles for his sore mouth that don't contain lemon or orange, and sugarless candies for him to suck on which, BTW, are found in the diabetic section at the drug store. I get so jealous of those normal women that I hate myself.

I bawl all the way home, but make sure my eyes are dry when I walk in the door. He needs me to be strong.

Too bad I'm such a wuss.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tanya Writes About the Hero's Journey

Why would I write about testicular cancer in a blog titled Tanya Writes Romance?

Because it's all about a hero's journey. Not just my hero, but all the folks out there faced with life-threatening or life-altering ailments.

Like Mrs. Coleman throwing up in the wastebasket in the oncology waiting room. It wasn't because of the chemo, she said to her caregiver. It was Satan messing with her again and she wasn't going to give in.

Or Mr. Brown, a well-dressed gent in an attractive trench coat. He told the receptionist the last scan hadn't been good, but he was okay with it. He's had a good life. When he laid down on a waiting-room settee, shivering, she promptly came to his side with a hug and comfort. And hope.

We've got some other heroes in our personal lives: my godson, born with a rare genetic malformation that causes life-long disabilities with no chance for cure, yet he gives joy to everybody around him. The father of my daughter's sorority sister stricken with ALS just before graduation fought a valiant battle for three years. Our friend Karen is knocking down breast cancer with the energy of a prize-fighter.

And now my own personal hero, who is always the model for my fictional ones. Strong and quiet-natured with no alpha-arrogance, dark-haired and light-spirited with a good sense of humor no matter how black the day. Who always puts my needs and feelings first.

Heroes. Gotta love 'em.

My hero. I love you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tanya Writes About Testicular Cancer #2

Last night I sponsored a mammogram for a woman who can't afford one. I mean, not everybody has the good health care we do. We went from ultrasound to chemo in seventeen days.

Even though pain in the orchie isn't a typical symptom, our doctor didn't mess around. Yes he prescribed antiobiotics in hopes it was an infection, but just in case, he sent my hero to ultrasound. From blogs I've read, other guys were jerked around with antiobiotics for months before ultrasound in the cheap hope it was just an infection. Which it never was. One guy even had to order and pay for his own ultrasound.

Now anybody reading this might wonder why a girl writes about testicular cancer in the plural first person. Well, it's because my hero and I definitely are a we-us-our.

I liken it to pregnancy and childbirth. He didn't physically experience the nausea, the heart burn, the bloating and weight gain...the misery of labor or the barfiness of episiotomy stitches. But he was there every second of the way in empathy, in heart. I do no less now.

In fact, he gets food cravings when his lack of appetite lets him. And then I make or go get whatever he wants.

It's the least I can do.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tanya Writes about Orchiectomy

Why isn't it a testicle-ectomy? You know, like tonscillectomy or appendectomy? What is an orchie anyway? All I knew it as was the ball that helped give me my babies. But it had to go. It turned naughty.

It was supposed to be a hydrocele. After all, hernias get tweaked when a guy climbs up into the garage rafters to do his New Year clean-up. When he moves heavy potted plants around to make room for builders to tear down our old fence and put up the new one.

That's all. Hycrocele.

Or infection. Or cyst. Or benign.

But it wasn't any of those, and the sucker had to get ripped out. My fireman held so well. What else would we expect from a guy who chased flames for thirty years? By the day of surgery, the urologist knew from blood markers that it was malignant. I was the wreck now.

Try holding your sobbing daughter in your arms when you tell her THAT news as her daddy is wheeled into surgery. OMIGOD.

But I do believe in Him after all. Despite the black moments, the demons that come in the dark night. The screams inside my head that some days never stop.

He's napping now, in his soft knitted cap with the brim. He wanted a cool hat for his cold head; we got it at a trendy shop where 'boarders go and didn't feel old at all.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Tanya Writes About Testicular Cancer

Hmmmmm. They are terrifying words to write. My husband has cancer. My husband has to have chemo.

Even though it's been five weeks, I can barely write them, much less read them. Worst of all, publish them. Sometimes, the screams inside my head don't stop.

Normally I write romance novels. But somehow, the creative flow dries up when your own personal hero has to get so desperately sick before he gets better. The doctors promise us a cure. But promises can be broken.

Five weeks ago, the hernia turned into testicular cancer. Well, the doctor knew it was a hernia but he was worried enough about something else to order an ultrasound. After that, the something-else "might" be a granular cyst. According to the internet.

But it wasn't. And my personal hero, in spite of being a hot, young grandpa, was way past the demographics of any guy with testicular cancer.

But that's what it turned out to be. Every two days, we got clobbered with worse news. The testicle got ripped out, the CT scan...dammit. Now, I believe in the power of prayer, but hey, God, throw us a bone.

...We just finished the fourth week of chemo now. Which is: a five-day onslaught of cisplatin, each day six-hours long. Then half hours of bleomycin every Tuesday for two weeks. OMIGOD, these simple thirty-minutes knock him so low. Then you repeat.

Now, this is a guy who chased flames up mountains, who stopped up floods, who rescued people and saved their least he has the aptitude to jab himself with hypodermic needles to raise his frickin' white count.

In the meantime, how totally unimportant is the e-book I released a few weeks ago?

It's not important at all.....