Saturday, March 28, 2015
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.