Monday, October 20, 2014

Medical Maladies "R" Us

So today I am the white rabbit. "I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!" Because I was at the pediatrician's office with my sick youngster getting a horrible-tasting antiobiotic for her sinus infection. But that's pretty tame compared to what our family has dealt with in the past.

You ever heard the saying for doctors diagnosing ailments: When you hear hoofprints, think horses not zebras? Well, here's a picture of our family:

Image courtesy: imelda

Yep, we're zebras.

Case Number 1: Daddy's headache. Almost nine years ago, he woke up with the worst headache of his life. I told him to go back to bed. Three hours later, all better. Next day, same deal. Day three? Headache didn't go away. He saw an eye doctor and his family doctor. Zip. He lay in a dark room in agony for several more days. The pain continued, his parents came to stay with us, and he finally insisted on an MRI. (All the while I was caring for an 18 month old and 3 months pregnant with number two.)

On the day of the MRI, I told him I hoped they would find something and that they could treat it. When he got home, we had an answer: brain tumor. That afternoon, he was admitted to the hospital and the next morning he had surgery. The tumor was located in a space in the middle of the head called the third ventricle. It had grown big enough to block the flow of cerebral spinal fluid which caused the headache. The surgeon created a bypass for the fluid and later my husband went through radiation. Today he is normal. BUT, if he had done nothing, he would be dead. So listen to your body and advocate for yourself!

Case Number 2: Micada's swollen ankle. When she was two, I discovered that her ankle had swollen up twice the normal size. But she was walking on it and acting normal. We got X-rays that day (nothing was broken) and a cast was put on. (She picked neon orange.) When the cast was removed, the ankle was still swollen and another X-ray showed the same as the first: nothing. We had an MRI. Finally a blood test showed she had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, (and the medication supertrain began). We also had to go see an eye doctor because the inflamation was in her eyes, a condition known as uveitis. If that had not been treated she could have had serious damage to her vision.

Case Number 3: Mom's stomach ache. Two years ago, I woke up with a sharp pain in my right abdominal region and after moaning and stumbling around the house for a couple of hours, my husband said, "Do you want to go to the emergency room?" I really wanted to stay home and tough it out, but this pain was different and strong, so I said yes. Turned out it was a kidney stone. I got serious pain meds but had to wait for the stone to work itself out. Luckily, that only took another four hours. Unfortunately, a follow-up X-ray showed another stone was in the same kidney and it worked its way into my urethra three months later while on Christmas vacation. That one took 4 days to exit. Youch. But I knew what was happening, I knew how to handle it, and what medicine I needed.

Case Number 4: At forty I started getting mammograms and right away the scan showed an anomalie, so I had to get a biopsy. Yeah, that hurt. But it turned out to be a calcification, not cancer. Whew. Later I found a hard lump the size of a peanut near my armpit and thought, "Okay, this is it." But that wasn't cancer either, just a blocked sweat gland.

So, don't be afraid to get things checked out. I've taken my daughters to the pediatrician with fevers as low as 99.4 degrees F and they've had ear infections. (Other times they've had nothing.) Our cats are part zebra too. One was peeing outside the box: diabetes. With treatment, she has lived to 17 and is still with us! The other was losing weight and peeing out of the box: kidney stones. With daily fluid injections, she survived a year past diagnosis. (Miss you, Sidney.)

Okay, I'm off to read about other zebras.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Insecure Writers Support Group

I'll admit it. I have nothing brilliant to add to the IWSG Guide To Publishing. Instead I have a problem, an insecurity problem. I've been publishing short stories in an online science fiction and fantasy magazine. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, I like working with the editor, and it provides a writing credit when I query novels. Now that I've published six stories, the editor has offered to e-publish them together as a collection.

To better describe my reaction, let me introduce two of the many voices in my head: Boldly Optimistic (or BOP) and Cautiously Pessimistic (or CAP).

BOP: Wow! This is so cool! My first published book!

CAP: Really? The magazine's readership is small. They don't have a big advertising budget, so you know what that means.

BOP: No problem! I'll hire a copy-editor! And a cover artist!

CAP: That's the easy part. What about marketing?

BOP: Oh. That.

CAP: Yeah, that. Is marketing what you want to spend your time on right now?

BOP: Hmm. I was hoping to dive into research for a new novel. I'm also querying agents for a finished novel.

CAP: About that. What would an agent think of an e-book with 5 sales and zip for reviews?

BOP: Well, you've got to start somewhere. It would be great practice. A learning experience!

CAP: But is this the right book to publish (virtually self-publish)? Few traditional publishers would touch a short story collection with a ten-foot pole (especially by an unknown newbie) and you, with no experience, think you can market such an animal? Seriously?

BOP: Umm. (Shuffles feet).

CAP: You should wait. See if an agent bites on the current novel. See if you can publish a short story in a more widely read publication.

BOP: You're just chicken. Sooner or later, every author has to learn to market their work.

CAP: What's the rush?

BOP: It's an opportunity!

CAP: It could be a mistake.

BOP: Bwuck-buck-buck-BU-GAWK!

Okay, those two need a time out.

Self-publishers, what made you take the plunge? Those of you pursuing the traditional route: how do you keep pushing when the odds of success are so small?