Getting Back on Schedule

You all must have been praying double-time because from about 7 o’clock yesterday evening to most of today, Hook’s situation has improved:

  • Sunday 7:00PM: A great second shift weekend nurse, Justin, entered the hospital scene.  I was looking forward to having Nurse Daniel back because I didn’t want to break in another night nurse.   But Justin came, started chatting Hook up, asked him about his surgery and what he did for a living so that when I heard Hook crack a sleepy joke to him, I knew everything was going to be all right.  Hook seemed comfortable with Justin so by 8:30, I headed home and got a full eight hours of sleep.  I felt a little bad that I didn’t ask Justin his story about how he came to be in nursing, but I’ll do that tonight since I’ll hang around until after the nurse shift change.
  • Monday 6:30AM:  Nurse Roy took over for Justin and when I saw him, a sense of relief floated over me.  Roy was the back-up to Nurse Michael when Hook was in the real ICU.  When we met the first time around and he asked if there was anything he could get for me, naturally I said, “Margarita, frozen, no salt,” and Roy replied, “Make mine with salt.”   Roy is like the Edward Scissorhands of nurses.  He whipped Hook’s schedule into shape and within one hour gave me status updates on all liquids, physical therapist appointment, when we can expect to see the surgeon, and how the rest of the morning would look.   The room vibrated (I’m not kidding!!!) from his energy as he zipped around pulling sheets off, hooking things up, punching buttons here and there.  It feels so good to be taken care of!  Even Hook said, “He’s good.”  Roy always knew he would be a nurse growing up.  His mom and two brothers are also in healthcare, and he started volunteering in health service settings when he was 15 years old.  He said he’d thought about medical school but changed his mind after his first pre-med course.  The professor in Hook snickered when he heard that.  (The man even snickers when he’s drowsy!)
  • Monday 9:00am:  In walks Joyce, a 30-year, career physical therapist with a witty sense of humor and a joke bank to back it up.  She immediately went into action, giving Hook a play-by-play of how he was going to pull himself up and off the bed and into a standing position and how she would navigate the whole process.   Joyce has raised three sons, all in their 20s, and she said she enjoys her job even more now that she doesn’t have to worry about soccer practices and laundry.  She’s firm and insistent with her instructions to Hook which is exactly what he’ll need for this next physical stage.
  • Monday 10:30am:  A visit with the surgeon and the big spleen debate.   Our surgeon informs us that Hook is hooked up to more tubes than anyone on the floor and that his goal is to start removing a few.
  • Monday 2:30pm:  One of the outie tubes is removed!

Love is a Many Spleendor Thing 

Since yesterday, when Hook overheard a conversation between one of the weekend nurses and me about the reconstruction of his insides, he has insisted that he still has his spleen.   We’ve been circling this spleen thing ever since.HDU_spleen

You see, even though Hook can answer questions asked of him, he has drifted in and out of a drug stupor for the last five days.   Although he remembers more and more in between his wake-ups, in the first three days, he could recall very little about what was asked of him and what was going on around him.

The first time he asked me how the surgery went, I de-briefed him as the surgeon had de-briefed me.   Hook’s focus then was on the specifics regarding the smaller stomach which made sense given he was looking forward to getting back to eating.  All was fine until yesterday when he piped into my conversation with the nurse and from out of a slumber mumbled,  “No he didn’t,” and I said, “No he didn’t what honey?” and Hook said, “He didn’t take my spleen.”   Then he glanced at me with a sideways look and what I believe to have been a sneer that screamed, you don’t know what you’re talking about.   Then he fell back into a sleep.

Spleens aren’t exactly trending on the internet so here’s a quick paragraph on all you could ever want to know:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/spleendiseases.html

“The spleen unfortunately was an innocent bystander,” said our surgeon at the 10:30am meeting.  One of the arteries going into the spleen had suspicious looking nodes and leaving them behind was not an option.  When Hook kept on with more questions, asking about the 10% number regarding his pancreas (he questioned the accuracy of my information on that one as well), the surgeon confirmed that yes he cut away more than he had anticipated.  Hook said, “You didn’t leave me much,” and the surgeon replied, “I left you enough.”

And it will be enough because we will make it enough.

If all goes well the rest of today, Hook might be allowed to enjoy something other than ice chips as an entrée like a frozen ice pop, maybe even some broth, or tea.  But we won’t know that until the late evening.

Before I forget, this joke from Joyce the physical therapist is too good not to share:

A man is lying in bed in the hospital with an oxygen mask over his mouth.  A young nurse comes into his room and says she’s there to sponge his hands and feet.  “Nurse,” the man mumbles from behind the mask, “Are my testicles black?” Embarrassed, the young nurse replies, “I don’t know, I’m only here to wash your hands and feet.”  The man struggles to ask again, “Are my testicles black?”  The nurse pulls back the bed covers, raises the patient’s gown, holds his penis in one hand and his testicles in her other hand and looks closely and says, “No, your testicles are not black.”  Finally, the man pulls off his oxygen mask and replies, “That was very nice but, are… my… test… results… back?

My baby is gaining strength and thanks to our new nurses (Justin will be back tonight!) his body is getting back on track and back on schedule.  If it doesn’t, the nurses and the surgeon will have some exspleening to do …  😀 😀 😀

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The Beginning of Thanks not the End of It

I didn’t miss posting about Thanksgiving in Australia simply because there is no Thanksgiving in Australia at least not in the month of November.   Thanksgiving is one of the few U.S. holidays that is unique to Americans and oddly enough not grossly over commercialized.   We’re too busy giving thanks I guess.

Australia’s Thanksgiving

Australians have what some rumors call a National Day of Thanksgiving in the month of May.  It sounds like it was something conjured up by a Christian network in the mid-2000s and maybe (or maybe not) recognized by the Australian government.   But do Aussies actually celebrate this National Day of Thanksgiving?  I can only wonder without some Aussie input.

It doesn’t bother me that other countries might create their own day of thanks. Maybe your thanks will override our thanks since I’m sure everyone is not thankful enough.   I can already hear people saying out loud (mostly Americans probably), “I’m thankful, I am!”   Be more thankful.   If you’re healthy and you know it, clap your hands and be so very, very thankful.

No Thanks, Scary Thanks & Real Thanks

There is inner turmoil between my bethankful woman and my I’mpissedandscared woman and since this is not a Thanksgiving blog but only sounds like one, let me share my lists of No Thanks, Scary Thanks, and Real Thanks.

  • I give no thanks, nothing, nada, zilch to the doctors who have been treating Hook for the past six months but do not see him as a person.   Do I expect too much?  Maybe.  Except Hook represents for these doctors one of very few patients who is likely to become candy-free.   He’s not just a statistic so stop treating him like a number!
  • No thanks to– I have to say it: cancer.  That disgusting blob of killjoy which attaches itself to healthy cells and feeds off organs like a parasite.  With all the fat floating around in the universe, why couldn’t cancer attach itself to cellulite? We’d all sign up for it then.
  • More no thanks to a healthcare system that didn’t allow for a nurse practitioner to help Hook and me navigate the healthcare process until …wait for it…six months after we’d been navigating the system on our own.   In fact, I’ve been so upset about this for the past week that I couldn’t even post a blog.  (Yes, I’m blaming healthcare for my lack of writing!  Genius, no?)  No thanks for the added layer of bureaucracy.
  • A big fat no thanks to Hook’s oncologist who loves to answer a question with a question.  When I asked, “Should we get a second opinion?”  He answered, “Why do you feel you need a second opinion?” and I said, “Let me ask that another way.  Would you recommend we get a second opinion?”   His answer, “You could.”    Thanks for nothing, but shhhh, don’t tell Hook I wrote this.  He likes his fist-bumping oncologist.
  • Finally, I am not at all thankful for mastering the art of living-in-limbo in a constant state of ‘wait and see.’  It sucks.

Okay.  The no thanks is off my chest.   That was my fear and frustration talking.   Now let’s hear from my heart.

Scary Thanks

Scary thanks are those thanks I give because I know it could be worse (way worse).  I know I’ve somehow skated by and I’m not quite sure why I get to be part of the lucky group.  Scary thanks are those cosmic chuckles we all give from time to time when Good Blessings aren’t checking I.D.s at the door because not all of us would be admitted:

  • I give thanks that my life’s circumstances aren’t worse or worse than yours whoever you are whose life is worse than mine.
  • I give thanks that my husband is who he is, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.  If things get worse, please remind me that I wrote this.
  • I give thanks for those nurses who do answer our questions, who give us frank advice when it’s not always in their best, political interest to do so.  God bless all nurses always.

Real Thanks

  • For our families.
  • For our wealth of friends.
  • For our lack of debt because we like to live like monks.
  • For my work-from-home business.
  • For my stupid cat.

I’ll always be thankful that life in Australia was even a possibility, is still a possibility, and who knows maybe next May when some Australians celebrate a Day of Thanks, the Hooks will be celebrating with them.  It’s the beginning of thanks, not the end of it.  Sing it with me people!

Hook’s Surgery is Dec 6th  I’ll probably post twice that day.   I’ll either post or spontaneously combust and you can read about it on Twitter.  😦

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Where a Pancreas and Halloween Collide

Is it kosher to get excited about a pancreas?

We’re not frying it up in a pan or planning to serve it for Thanksgiving or anything, but we are pretty jazzed about Hook’s pancreas right now.   (Those are jazz hands on that tumor by the way.)  And just so you know how excited, this morning’s grocery list looked like this:

  • bananas
  • tequila
  • body lotion

Bananas are our breakfast of choice, the body lotion is for Hook because of the radiation, and the tequila is for momma.  🙂

Last week, Hook and I met with the oncologist and learned that the mass on his pancreas has shrunk and that “everything looks great, better than we expected.” Then yesterday, Hook and I met with the surgeon to hear whether he and his pancreatic posse believed Hook’s pancreas was good enough to be operated on.  The answer was “Yes,” and surgery has been tentatively set for Thursday, December 6th.  We’ll know more after meeting with the oncologist after Thanksgiving.

When we showed up for the appointment with the surgeon, he looked at us both and asked, “So how are things going?”

I answered truthfully, “Well, there’s been some nausea, increasing hair loss, and not much sleep.”

The surgeon replied, “I hadn’t realized he had those side effects.”

“No, no, no,” I said, “Hook hasn’t had any side effects.  I was talking about me.”

Between tossing and turning and waking up regularly at 3:14am in a panic, I would expect to have little to no appetite.  Instead, I keep eating and eating and eating.  It’s the overeating that’s making me nauseated I think.  And my hair, oh sweet Jesus, my hair strands are falling out in such great numbers that one might wonder if I’m the one going through chemo instead of Hook.   It’s the known unknown that’s weighing on me.  I have known something was going to happen (recovery, surgery, decline) but not when or what it would be.  It’s been that looming question mark hanging over our lives that has kept me on edge.   For the first time in my life, I wish I were a woman prone to tears, something, anything to release the stress out of my mind instead of pulling it into my body.

The survival rate for pancreatic candy is something low and not good.  I actually don’t know.  I don’t want to know.  I don’t think I can stand knowing too much.   It’s an odd place to find myself, openly choosing to be ignorant, fearing the unknown.  That’s why I’m counting on you …

Whatever You’ve Been Doing, Keep Doing It!!!

“How is Hook?” people ask.   If I keep telling you he’s great, you’re going to stop praying for him, thinking about him, wishing him well and I so need you to keep doing what you’re doing.  Keep sending blessings his way, good vibes, all your positive thoughts.  IT’S WORKING!!!!!

Writing that just made me want to cry.

Hook has had little to no side effects.  To look at him, you would never guess his body has been ravaged by chemo and radiation for the past five months.  He’s gained 10 pounds, his head looks like it might actually have grown hair, and his energy level has stayed more or less the same.   The only exception to this was toward the last month of treatments when a full work day was capable of tapping him out.

A colleague of Hook’s said he was like a cat with nine lives.   I like the idea of Hook as an alley cat, the kind who never seems to be starving but instead looks like he’s growing stronger, that cat who keeps showing up day after day and you know somehow they’ve figured out how to survive.  That’s my husband.

It helps that Hook takes care of himself.  He has swum five days a week for the last 25 years, and unless we have outside dinner plans, he sits down to a meal of a salad, a meat entrée, and a starch every evening at 6 o’clock.   It used to drive me crazy how programmed he was since I eat half my meals while staring at a laptop or while standing up.  Now, I’m thankful for his lifelong discipline, but I’m most thankful that he chose to bulk up on nutritional supplements especially since the doctors weren’t all that keen on him taking these in the first place.   I find it odd that western doctors are so unwilling to discuss nutrition when it’s so critical to the body’s ability to withstand the infusion of poison and laser beams.  But, Hook has been taking a basketful of supplements every single day for the past five months and I firmly believe that this is what will save his life.  That and your good thoughts.

Toward the end of our visit with the surgeon, the doctor took a long look at Hook and with amazement in his voice said, “Everyone here is bragging about you.  They’re counting on you to survive and look at you, you look great.”

Please, keep doing what you’re doing.   We’re counting on you.  I’m counting on you.  Hook is, too, even if he never says so.

Halloweenie in Australia

What?  I’m only 8 days late.   So I learned something about Australians and Halloween and how there’s been this terrible rumor going on for years and years in Oz that Halloween is a U.S. holiday and that the Aussies are sick and tired of Americans pushing their holidays off on them and yadayadayada.   The yadayada being that some not-so-nice-things were said by Australians about Americans.   To address this, I figured a formal letter was in order:

Dear Australians who detest Halloween,

Some of your fellow Aussies have told a bold-faced lie.   Halloween is not an American holiday.  U.S. employers are not giving their employees a paid day off to go trick or treating.  Halloween didn’t even originate in the U.S.   Someone said it had Celtic origins with the name derivation coming from something pagan, Hallow’s Eve I think, with All Saints for the Christians and dancing nuns or maybe it was dancing witches with autistic feet or autumn’s fest, yes, something to do with harvest and vegetables.  

Whatever.  

Look, the reason Americans celebrate Halloween is because we like to have fun, and we understand, truly we do, that our idea of fun may not be your idea of fun.   For Americans, it’s fun to pass out candy that we know will give kids cavities that we don’t have to pay for.  It’s fun to watch heterosexual men put on make-up and panty hose and pretend it’s a costume.  And it’s fun to say hello to our neighbors with children whose existence we otherwise ignore. 

But gosh Oz, are you really that annoyed at carving pumpkins, hanging spiders, and baking skeleton cookies?  If we had known …

Look, if you don’t want to celebrate a made up, commercialized evening of goughlish fun then don’t.  It’s not a law to party and drink, not like how Cinco de Mayo is.  But to say Halloween is an American holiday just hurts.  We only made up the idea so we could have an excuse to buy more useless stuff and to overindulge.   How can something that feels so right be so wrong?   We always make stuff up.   We thought you knew this about us.   We thought you LIKED that about us.

Oz, we never meant for you to feel pressured into snorting Halloween with us, and believe it or not, there are some Americans who don’t even like Halloween.  Or, at least that’s what we’ve heard, but no one’s ever actually met these people so maybe that’s just a mean rumor, too. 

Signed,

Don’t Make Me Send Hook’s Pancreas Down There

p.s.  We heard about how you put a balloon out to let trick-or-treaters know whether you’re a house that’s handing out “lollies.”  See?  Make it up as you go along, just like we did.

p.s.s. Can I get a Hallelujah for Hook?

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Gaining Everything But Australia

Hook has gained two pounds.  I’ve gained five.   Who gains weight during chemo?   It’s good news of course because Hook had already lost 10 pounds which was one of the red flags that brought us to the Hooks here and now.    But I barely reach 5’4” in height so five pounds on me looks like 10 pounds on my body and 15 on my moon face.

I wished I had titled this blog WTF except we no longer feel that way now that we’ve ridden out the Australia-that-never-happened fiasco.  Good-bye to a chaotic June, a calm July, and hello to a coffee-filled August.

But just for a moment, can I share all the good that has come out of the chaos?

Three Best Responses to Our Candy Situation:
• Srsly, WTF?  (on a card)
• WTF?  (via email)
• That sucks!  (in person)

(Remember, we’re calling the cancer, “candy“.)

Then there was what Hook deemed my stage of “denial” not of the candy but of our move to Australia.  It feels wonderful to laugh about this stuff because it was not funny when I was living it.   In my mind, I was already in Australia, had been there for several months, and I wasn’t able to come to a screeching halt as needed.

How It All Went Down

After we’d received the initial medical diagnosis via phone, we went in for our first visit with the oncologist.   (Everything is “our” and “we” now like we’re pregnant.)

To the oncologist, I said, “We were supposed to be leaving for Australia in July, for a year.  Do you think this will delay us by more than a month?” It wasn’t a question really.  I was trying to influence the obvious by stating what I hoped was a fact (denial).

The oncologist glanced at Hook before he answered, “Probably a little longer.”

I persisted with, “What, like two months, three months?”  I didn’t get an immediate response but saw a knowing look exchange between Hook and the doctor.

“We’ll have to wait and see how things progress, but I would say at least six months.”  The doctor replied to me but his eyes were locked on Hook’s.

These two science brains shared telepathic communique that no doubt relied on a ‘let’s wait and see.’   Hook is a wait-and see person.   Medical doctors are wait-and-see people.  I’m a hurry-the-hell up person.   But it’s not my fault, I swear.   It’s just that I was raised to believe a nap and a glass of water cured everything.

It was the appointment with the surgeon that set me straight. When I started in with my same line of questions, the surgeon replied,

“A month? No. Figure a year.” And just like that, Australia was gone.

Will we still go to Oz?  We hope so; we expect to.   Hook will reapply for a year sabbatical that kicks off in June 2013, a year later than our original plan.   He’s already earned the sabbatical so I’m sure his university will re-approve the dates.  And, we hope Curtin University in Perth is willing to go through the paperwork nightmare of re-submitting for a year visa for two.

Everything, though, depends on how this chemo + radiation + chemo sandwich treatment prepares Hook’s pancreas for removal (not all of the pancreas just part of it.)  Maybe we’ll be lucky and he won’t even need surgery.  That’s just me talking and not the surgeon.  Surgeons love to cut people open with their oncology cheerleaders on the side rooting them on.   Me, I’m not a fan of opening up the body illegally.  If blood is flowing unnaturally, somehow that seems illegal.

Your Advice Please

Q. What do I do with all the Australia paraphernalia I’d been collecting or had been given?

People gave me/us things. My former co-workers presented me with an Australia basket full of goodies when I resigned my position from the university. I cannot give this stuff back especially since half of it was edible – we ate and drank it already. It’s like we had a wedding and then annulled the marriage 30 days later. And all the Australia books I’d received, five in total. I stopped reading them because reading them made me want to ask the surgeon if he couldn’t just cut Hook open right now—today, how about 4 o’clock in our living room?—so we could get on that damn plane.

Q. What do I say to all those professionals I reached out to overseas in preparation for our journey to Oz-land, people that I was trying to build a business relationship with?

They don’t want to hear the personal, medical details of my life or Hook’s life and I don’t want to tell them. I mean, think about it, when someone says the word cancer what feelings do you have? What images do you see in your head?

The Hook Health Update:

– Treatments: It’s going great. Really. Hook’s response to his treatments is on schedule and what his oncologist has wanted. Hook will do one more week of chemo (three already finished) then take a week off before heading into five weeks of radiation and chemo combined. (I keep writing chemo instead of chemo-therapy because it’s a dumb word–therapy of poison.  Who creates this vocabulary anyway?)
– Supplements: What gets taken out of the body must be put back in. My by-the-book husband has embraced this lite version of alternative medicine by revving his immune system up with some heavy vitamin and nutrient supplements. And even though his western medicine oncologist poo-pooed the idea because God forbid we should include something that doesn’t HAVE A RESEARCH PAPER ATTACHED TO IT (I feel some hysteria coming on) Hook still takes the supplements.
– What next? After receiving five weeks of radiation and chemo combined, which will take us into early September, Hook will go back to a chemo only treatment for three to six weeks. All of this is to prepare his body for surgery in October or November – to remove the mass. Nothing is certain and anything is possible. That’s about as specific as I can be.

And I’d Like to Thank …

During our chaotic June, when we were temporarily living in Pflugerville, Hook stood in a friend’s kitchen with barbeque thongs in his hand, watching me sitting on the sofa drinking gin and tonics and giggling my way into oblivion with the host.

He said, “I’m the cancer patient here, and there are two able-bodied women in this house and I’m the one doing the cooking.”   Now that’s just plain funny.

Hook and I would like to say thank you to all of you who didn’t have to help but did, who have very busy lives but stopped for a moment and thought of us, prayed for us, gave us fruit, sent cards, gave us vegetables, got us a discount on something, passed on my name to a business contact, made a connection for us somehow.  I can’t possibly mention everyone before the music cues, but I must highlight:

  • AK & Chuck, aka Angelica and Charles Kelley: The Kelleys are forever destined to live with cats they do not own. The irony is they work hard to have this incredibly clean home free of hair, yet they keep inheriting animals from family or friends (like us).  It was always the plan that they would feline-sit Gatita for our year abroad, but in the midst of our double-move in June, we dumped off our cat with a “We’re not sure when we’ll be back to get her. Soon we hope. Oh, Hook has cancer.” Chuck loved on Gatita and allowed her to hiss and whine at his own cat, Ying, who is like the Kung Fu grasshopper of cats with his bushy white body and almond-shaped, blue eyes. Angelica and Charles had Gatita for a month and when I drove out to Cedar Park to pick her up, she wasn’t all that keen on leaving what she thought was her immaculate, new home. I found out later that Chuck had been sneaking canned food to the little heffer.

  • Kelly Scott: If you’re a single, hot babe who’s into smart guys who own a condo on the water in Port Aransas, you may be able to help us thank Dr. Scott. Kelly’s condo was ours for the asking and ask-away we did. In between chemo treatments, we rushed down to Port A so Hook could de-stress via hours of fishing, and I could pretend our lives were normal again. If I wasn’t going to be kidnapped from my own life, then water and beach were required. It’s not hard to stay positive when you have a view of the beach on a 24×7 basis. And who knows, with Kelly’s new hot bod (he’s training for something), maybe he’ll get down to Texas from his native Canada to enjoy his own condo instead of letting his friends-with-candy always use it.

  • Angela Loeb — career angel: Angela is an angel in disguise. She probably received my initial Good News/Bad News email like 9 o’clock at night and started emailing people at 9:01. (I’d sent out an SOS email before my initial blog.) From all of her e-introductions came a connection with someone that began with one conversation and turned into a long-term freelance recruiting gig as a Director of Executive Recruitment. It just doesn’t occur to Angela not to immediately help someone. In her next life, I’m quite certain she will come back as a cat in ancient Egypt, revered because of her wisdom and grace.

  • Friend of friend, Sandy Bannister, set up a lunch with her friend who was a former pancreatic cancer patient but was now seven years without pancreatic candy even though he’d been diagnosed stage 4 (which Hook is not) and he’d been given six months to “wrap up his affairs.” Sandy’s friend was a walking miracle because he took the management of his health seriously and how could he not since he was also a Ph.D of the sciences. Hook being the intellectual snob that he is would not have been as open to hearing about the use of supplements to combat candy if the advice hadn’t come from another science brain. John is a “survivor” (raise your hand if when you hear the word ‘survivor’ it conjures up freezing in an ocean overnight while holding hands with Leonardo DiCaprio with Celine Dion’s voice singing in the background) and he looks and feels fantastic at 72 years old with the face of a 52-year old. John, not Leonardo.

  • Honorable mentions: Scores of people emailed links to helpful information (please stop now) and I have gone to every single site sent, followed-up on all suggestions, and read every pancreatic candy survivor story. One business friend who’d survived an overnight freeze in the ocean with Leonardo, too, gave me the run down on candy websites and organizations that she’d used and how certain tools had served her needs. Insider candy info is the best. I’m a bit behind on follow-up calls to people who also spent time in the ocean with Leo, but I will call – I promise.

Home offers: Two of Hook’s colleagues offered to let us live in their homes while they were traveling during the summer when we weren’t sure whether to rent a house for a year or try to sponge off people’s good nature for a year. It’s kind of a big deal when someone tells you where a hidden house key can be found so you can enter their home while they’re away. It’s an even bigger deal when you don’t use that key to sneak into their home to see if they’d cleaned the toilets before they left.

So many people sent emails or texts with a caveat – no need to respond, just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you. Some people sent wildly inappropriate jokes that made me burst out laughing. One long-time friend, Beth, survived an overnight ocean date with Leonardo’s hands on her breasts —breast candy—and left a looooong voicemail of all the things she’d wished people wouldn’t have said to her while she was going through treatment. Only a candy survivor gets to say that.

But how is anyone to know what to say?

It feels awkward when I run into someone that I don’t know very well or who doesn’t already know our situation and they say, “Why aren’t you in Australia?” Or worse, when they do know and I know that they know, and they know that I know that they know and manners dictate they say something because it’s personal but not overly personal or I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Suggestions of Things to Say:

  • “I’m sorry” is good. And I’m sorry, too, for everyone that feels awkward around a sometimes awkward topic. But I’m mostly sorry we didn’t get to hop on a plane to Australia. %$@#* Clearly I have a problem with letting go …

“I just heard” works because you leave it open for me to steer the conversation to what I’m willing to talk about in that moment. I mean, I used to have a life before I was the wife of a candy patient and before healthcare became my entertainment (thank you for that saying Kay Bell).

  • “We’re praying for you” I like this mainly because I believe in the power of prayer. But if you say it, then you really have to pray, and do the whole sign-of-the-cross thing because then you’ll feel like you really prayed. A priest friend once said to me, in response to my declaration that Hook’s religion was nature, “If his religion is nature then he’s closer to God than most of us.” So yes, please pray for my little wasp-man.

Hook is closer to God than he realizes and getting closer by the minute if he doesn’t quit that damn smoking. He is down to two cigarettes a day which means his nicotine addiction is officially gone. It’s the mental addiction we’re still working on.

If none of the above responses fit with your style, try one of these:
• That sucks.
• Damn.
• Man, that bites.
• Let’s go get that drink finally. I’m buying.

As I come out of hibernation and start to re-engage socially, I’d like people to know that it’s okay for us to never talk about Hook’s candy. It’s okay if you never ask about it. Mostly, that’s my preference. I’m even okay with pretending like it’s not happening. Srsly.

(If I sometimes go on and on about it, feel free to backward-walk away and save me from myself.)

I empathize with people who want to know, need to know, care enough to ask so I struggle with sharing what I sometimes don’t feel like talking about with not being able to shut up about it. Like right now, with this blog.

All the Ways We’ll be Even More Prepared for Australia

It’s been my experience that if you can visualize something, you can make it happen. I guess when I visualized Australia I should have also visualized reading a newspaper, dated July 2012, in the harbor in Perth.

  • We’ll have an even deeper knowledge of Perth before we get there. Two years’ worth of initiating contact, introducing oneself, and holding SKYPE calls is even better than only one year.

More time to get all of our stuff online. Remember how I said Hook was still living in the 20th century? You can imagine how interesting it was for us to plan a sabbatical in the first place.

  • Time to read all the books people gave us as going-away gifts. We won’t be able to take all the Australia books but at least they will not go to waste.

I’ll have more time to stalk literary agents before I leave. I attended an agents’ conference the third week in June because I’d paid a non-refundable fee back in December.  Worst timing ever, but a much-needed outlet.  Writing is my avocation and the dream of any writer at one of these conferences is that an agent will discover us and we’ll write a best-selling novel and all will be right with the world. What it’s really like is two half days and one full day of agents on panels telling writers how not to piss them off, how to mind their manners, and how to breathe while writing. I was unprepared for the conference because I was being chased by roaches in our rental home and I hadn’t been writing or reading, only taking notes on what chemo does to the body and hey, where is that box with all the stuff that was in my office? I went, I scored, and I am holding my breath and will continue to hold it for at least 12 weeks because that’s how long it takes for a one-page query to be read so who knows how long it takes for 50 pages of a manuscript to be read.

Dear Lord, since you took away Australia in 2012, could you have that agent call me with a “we’d like to represent you” in 2012. Amen.

So yes, the Hooks are gaining:  gaining weight, laughs, and strength.

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