Saturday, March 28, 2015

Right thing, wrong time? Maybe, maybe not ...



Sometimes, the right thing happens at the wrong time.

Last summer, I received an e-mail from Brett Harper, the son of the late Edie and Charley Harper, asking me if I would be interested in writing the main essay for a book about his parents' early work as artists.

Flattering? You bet. Was I interested? No.

A few days before the message hit my in box, I'd decided it was time to stop up writing about other people's art, and to focus on my own art. I'd already quit writing for an online arts zine, and for a local monthly.

But, hmmm, a book? It would be a one-shot deal. It would pay the studio rent for a nice chunk of time, freeing me up to work on collage series I kept putting off. And it would be about artists whose work I enjoy.

So, I said yes. The publisher, Pomegranate Press, was fantastic to work with. I had complete access to the Harper archives, including the letters that Charley wrote to Edie during World War II, which Harper archivist Chip Doyle had finished scanning just before my deadline. There were plenty of surprises along the way, and although I don't find writing to be easy I love the research and ended up having - dare I say it? - fun!

Topping off this dream job: the editing process was painless; a few questions and tweaks, and that was it.

Fast forward to now, the week of Harper Ever After's official release. A huge feature about the book appears on the cover of the Sunday Cincinnati Enquirer's A&E section. Books start landing in stores. PR begins. Where am I? Here's where we come to the second part of "right thing, wrong time."

I am lying in bed for days on end. My stomach is churning. My fingers and toes are numb. My nose won't stop bleeding, and my eyes are so watery there are times that reading is impossible. I can't taste much of anything, but eat because I know I have to. My hair is gone. My bones ache. Waves of nausea run over me. Cold sores blanket the inside of my mouth.

In short: chemo. My Stage Four breast cancer, which my incredible oncologist has kept at bay for a little more than five years, is active again. We discover this by accident. Complaints about pain in my right hip, which I am convinced is not from cancer, lead to a PET scan.

I was right; no cancer in my right hip (it's later diagnosed as bursitis). It's in my left hip, left femur, left ribs, and spine.

Well, damn. Cody (that would be Dr. Robert Cody) swings into action. My regular maintenance chemo, which is really more "bio" than "chemo," gets ramped up with two more drugs. One is Taxotere, a drug that whomped my butt during my first high-level chemo adventure in 2009.

Ugh. Do NOT want it. What was it I said, maybe yelled, after the initial chemo was ending? Oh, yeah, "I will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, EVER do this again."

But the past four years have been so incredible ... the start of a new career, and business; The Kid's graduation from college (which I was certain I would not live to see), then, her Master's Degree; Mr. P's continuing love, humor, and pending retirement; amazing times with friends and family.

I bite the bullet.

Three months have passed. There are two more treatments to go. It takes longer to bounce back each time, and I start withdrawing from the world and into myself.  Then, I pull myself back out again. Not by myself but with plenty of help from family and friends. True friends come through at times like this, ignoring my inclination to hide.

In early May scans will determine whether this has worked (fingers crossed). Those will be followed by a quick operation in June (a problem caused by the chemo).

By July, I'll be raring to go. Actually, I'm raring to go now, and do have windows of feeling relatively okay. Usually a few days before the next treatment. But even then, it's been impossible to work on collages. So, I've focused on the greeting cards.

As for my 15 minutes of fame, via Edie and Charley? Even if I'm not gadding about shooting selfies of me with book displays, fielding interview questions, or massaging a sore wrist from book signings, I've come to realize that maybe this isn't such a wrong time. Opening the front door the other day, and seeing the box of books on my front porch was the perfect pick me up. I still can't stop smiling.

  

19 comments:

  1. Thank-you for writing this post, Sara. As a culture we seem to have been trained to hide our hurts, the bad times, leaving those of us who have experienced big, hard problems feeling like we are so alone. I have watched your last four years in total awe as you reinvented yourself on such a grandly ambitious scale. Who knows what tomorrow holds? But whatever, I do know I want to live like you do - full throttle, pedal to the metal. Congratulations on all your triumphs.

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    1. Thank you so much for the comments. We do try to gloss over things, for many good reasons. But life is all about the trials, tribulations and triumphs. See you soon I hope.

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  2. You inspire me!

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  3. You continue to amaze me. First when you were so helpful to the gallery as a writer and then as a gallery member and amazing artist. Now....more evidence of the amazing Spirit I have seen over a number of years. You set an example to help others :)

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  4. Sara, your ordeal sounds grueling. But I also share your awe and gratitude that these past 5 years have opened up so many doors..and I am praying with you that the next 5 bring even MORE opportunities for joy, love and laughter, oh and lots of ART!!!!!!!! <3

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    1. Time. that is the benefit of treatment that works. And since the first diagnosis, I have been given that time, and in the course of it, my life has changed. For the better. I can't deny that, even when I am flat on my back!

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  5. Goddamit Sara this is just not fair! Keep trucking and all my thoughts are with you for good results in May.

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    1. Thanks Janet. Be seeing you this summer. Hear there is, um, a major show with your work in it? Am I right???

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  6. Wonderful REAL post, Sara.

    I already submitted a book request to our library - we MUST have this here in Loveland, Colorado. After all, if we are an "art city" this book belongs here. :)

    In your balcony, ever cheering you on ... so love your art ... sending you good energies wrapped in love daily.

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    1. Thanks MJ! Hope the book makes it your way.

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  7. I love and admire you deeply. You an inspiration to more people than you can imagine. We miss having you at 5th St. Gallery. Hope to see you very soon.
    Love,Kay Hurley

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    1. Kay: I have been missing you all, too. Honestly. If my life hand;t been so topsy turvy the past few years, I would still be at 5th Street. Meanwhile, love seeing you all thriving, and must stop in!

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  8. Love this. Been thinking about you, especially after I found a Caswell on our Pate family tree a couple weeks ago, N.C. 1800s.
    Fight on, art warrior!
    Congrats on the book. Pomegranate does lovely work, as do you.

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    1. Nancy: Hmm. My dad has been mentioning N.C. Caswells, but I think it was a pretty common name. That said, well, you never know. Thanks for the congrats, Pomegrante does do wonderful work, have bought their books, cards, etc. for more years than I can count!

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  9. Congratulations on this huge accomplishment. Fingers crossed

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  10. Where can we get your book that generates the most money for you?

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    1. I have it available at my studio at Brazee Street Studios in Oakley now. Obviously, my hours area bit sketchy as I head into the final rounds of chemo in this session. But I am in and out. If you are out of town, I could ship it to you. Please feel free to e-mail me.

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  11. Or cards and your work in any medium?

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    1. Much of it can be ordered online via my web site if you click on the the dollar amount on the listing. Otherwise, original collages and prints are primarily available at my studio. As are cards. But the cards are at a slew of area shops that I like to encourage people to visit. (Shop local, as the current mantra says.) They are listed in the side rail. (PS: Thanks for asking, and thinking about my bottom line.)

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