Like a slow knife penetrating the gut, the doctor’s test result briefing was bad–though we didn’t understand most of his terms, we could tell by the expression on his face that there wasn’t much in the way of good news. But then came a word we recognized; tumor.
The thing about cancer is that it’s often a silent, sneaky bastard of a killer. The tumor in our case, though, had blocked her GI tract and created a problem not directly cancer related. The blockage is what ultimately revealed the cancer, so for that we should be grateful–if one can be grateful for a cancerous tumor.
Looking back now over the past year, we can see how it snuck up on us. The loss of energy, the minor but frequent stress injuries, and the digestive issues that occurred with more and more frequency. We had made the decision to leave the farm and move back to our house in town as things got harder for her. Then a discovery this week as I tried to budget for the upcoming months of expensive care and a further reduction in income as I all but abandon my authoring life.
My life as a writer seems to coincide perfectly with the slow progression down the cancer spiral; a map of my Gretel’s illness and we didn’t even know it. It makes sense now; as my beautiful Gretel (Diane) became weaker, injured more frequently, and suffering from longer bouts of low energy and depression, so did my bestseller ranking and book sales.
At one point, I was one of Amazon’s top 100 Thriller Authors, basking in the glow and celebrity of the fickle viral reader thrall. I was in heaven. I had reached what every writer hopes for; being read by the public at large, not just friends and family, and making an actual honest living at writing. Six books went to the top 20, and five books to the top 10. When my first and sentimental favorite went to number 4 in Political Thrillers, I thought all my hard work had paid off and I’d now be able to give my beautiful Gretel everything she ever dreamed of.
But then she got sick. My time got split, and the author networking slowed. Then she got sick again and shortcuts were taken in the form of auto-this and auto-that taking the place of direct engagement with my marketing. As a pure Indie with no publicist and no publisher, the art of promotion is solely in the hands of the author.
The highly anticipated sixth novel rolled out effortlessly, on time at the end of November, to huge pre-sales, jumping to the top 10 weeks before it was even released. But by then, my beautiful Gretel’s mood was sour most of the time despite her sincere efforts to combat it. Another trip to the doctor with flu like symptoms was dismissed, as luck would have it, as the flu. A long, lingering, life sucking flu that would not go away.
Christmas came and went with no improvement and ranking fell with it…but I never put two and two together. As my own low mood swallowed me, I began blaming myself for my Gretel’s slow trog into real despair. “If I were a better author, promoter, speaker, agent, publisher, etc, she would be doing better and I wouldn’t feel like such a loser.” What a hate filled liar cancer is…sucking the life from those it touches, silently stalking and draining, all the while leaving you to believe it’s your fault.
I don’t know if or when I’ll get back to writing. My hope is as we engage in my Gretel’s treatments, her energy will return and family/friend help will create a space for me to finish what I was working on. But the hard work is ahead of us…intravenous chemo therapy is draining, body altering, brutal–and that part of our journey hasn’t even begun yet.
My intent is to pound at the keys a few hours each night as she sleeps, but I have to admit, this new schedule, along with the emotional stress, has already sucked the strength out of me. It’s as if I’m back in basic training, a zombie, feet moving because the order is given to move them. But each rest stop is an opportunity to close my eyes for a few moments, and each meal is scarfed down quickly so any remaining time can be meted out to sleep…even if standing in formation. “Hurry up, swallow, swallow…you can taste it later.”
I’m almost afraid to think about bestsellers again. It’s so far away and thinking of the future–any future–is unthinkable, painful, unproductive. The only goal is getting to remission. Worries about money, income, comfort; none of it means anything until there is remission and all the while as I spend more time now with my Gretel than I have in years, I can’t help but feel I’ve somehow let her down. Like if I had been more insistent about her health, or made the connection between her decline and my dereliction of all things authorly, I’d have somehow been able to intervene on her behalf.
I want to look ahead. I want to dream of taking her back to Europe…to that cute place in Switzerland that she always wanted me to see. But the truth is, there is only treatment, radiation, chemo, meals and her comfort to be thought of. Reality is far too crushing when snapping out of the fantasy and is best left tucked away in the back of the mind for later. Later…the new dream. Later is the new dream.
If you liked this post, then please like this post S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Political Thriller/Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook.