Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Writer's Christmas Prayer

DEAR GOD, Jehovah, Allah, Goddess - sorry, I know You have many names and it’s my journalistic soul that wants to cover all of them. Forgive me if I get it wrong – I’m rushing the research a bit here.  I do appreciate Your taking the time to listen, as You have done so many times in the past. You must be extra busy with deadlines at this time of the year, because fires, floods, famines, storms, droughts, wars and general stupidity do not stop even in this holy season. With all that going on, I hope You can also find the time to celebrate with us the joy and peace that belong to this season.

There have been so many times when You have pulled this tattered manuscript of my life out of the heavenly slush pile, and even when Your reply has been a gentle rejection note, there is always been encouragement to go on using the talents You have loaned to me. You have forgiven the times I have been grouchy on life’s deadlines, when I failed to appreciate the wonder of the opportunities in new contracts  You have offered, and the many times I have ignored Your submission requirements in hopes that You would see past my mistakes into the willing prose of my heart.

Having said all of that, I feel selfish even asking for more, but here goes:

1)     It’s a bit of a cliché, but I would join with so many, many others to ask You to give Mankind – and I say MANkind because the male of the species seems to be more inclined to conflict than we females, but maybe I’m biased – if You would just give them all a bit of a shake and tell them it’s time to make peace not war.

2)     Please ignore the mean things I said about the intellectual abilities of publishers or agents who rejected my work – I didn’t really want You to strike them. Honest.

3)      There are so many of Your people in need, hungry, homeless, afraid, in pain. Maybe You could inspire those of us who have so much to heed Your teachings and work towards a more equitable society. Perhaps You could even slip a little extra blessings into the Christmas stockings of those who have been courageous enough to stand up for what is right.

4)     Please forgive the times I’ve cursed at my computer; the technology You have given us is truly a blessing and it was just the heat of the moment;  I didn’t mean a word of it. Really.

5)     Of course, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t invest this prayer with a little personal self-interest. First, I want to thank You for all the people who have bought my books – the nice reviews always feel like a warm GodBreeze to my soul.

6)     Then maybe You could run to a dollop of forgiveness for all the times I left undone the things I ought to have done, and done those things I ought not to have done? Let’s not get into specifics now, eh? That would be a bit embarrassing and take up too much of Your time. We both know what they were. However, if you could see your way to making me a better person, and a better writer, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of help in getting through the edits for the next book, I would be very grateful.

 I can’t promise that I won’t screw up some more, but Dear Lord, I’m trying to be better.

Thank You. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Larry the Lump - More Famous Than Me? (Cancer Diaries)

It appears that Larry the Lump, that little knot of confused and disaffected cells that has nested in my left breast, is more famous than me. That is something I do hate him for.
Oh, I can accept that his appearance in my left breast is purely random. Sure, he doesn't actually mean any of the harm he has caused me. Nothing I or anyone else has done likely caused his existence.
I can live with the prospect of surgery soon; I can cope with the sometimes very debilitating side effects of the drug I am taking.
I can definitely enjoy the idea that Larry's estrogen receptoring little presence is being quietly starved of estrogen because of the treatment. Shrink and die, you little beast!
But what I hate him for is that he seems to have caught the imaginations of so many people.
Really? You ask.
Yes, indeedy.
My regular blogs, where I meander on about writing and life, usually enjoy the attentions of a few hundred readers.
But blogs where Larry is the star, we're looking into the four figure numbers of readers who log in to read his adventures. Yes, Larry is more famous than I!
Although there has been a kind of secondary benefit to me for blabber mouthing about this cancer, a lobular tumor that doesn't show up on mammograms.
I know that this concept, that there are breast cancers that the mammogram may not pick up, has been food for thought for quite a number of readers and friends. Indeed, some have sought further medical checkups. Sadly, at least one woman has been diagnosed with cancer after she insisted on a breast ultrasound after hearing about the symptoms that finally led to my diagnosis.
Strangely, many people have commented about my willingness to give Larry the Lump centre stage as I talk about this experience. The words courageous and brave have been used, and yet that's not how I feel.
For one thing, as a writer and journalist, I think that knowledge is power. If you know the possibilities, you can perhaps prepare or protect yourself from them. I know I was shocked to learn that all the mammograms I had had faithfully over the years had failed to pick up on what the oncologist says is a tumor that has been around for five or six years without detection.
I belong to a generation in which the word 'cancer' was never spoken. In my family home, if totally pushed, you might refer to the 'Big C', but never THAT word. It was as though mentioning it would bring the curse down on someone's head. Even the close relatives of people who had actually been diagnosed were advised by doctors not to tell that person he or she had cancer. It was such a scourge that people feared a victim - and that was the word used then - would commit suicide rather than face the odds of dying from the disease.
So I talk about cancer. Everyone I know knows, and hundreds more people who have never met me know. And there is a benefit for me, too - all the love and support, prayers and good thoughts I have received must surely be causing some kind of ripple in the ether, because so far my test results are looking good.
I can only repeat: if you have pain or discomfort in your breast don't assume that if the mammogram is clear there is no problem. Ask for further investigation.
And educate your doctor - mine told me there was nothing wrong because the mammogram was
clear. When I finally got a biopsy and MRI, the little beast was more than eight centimetres long and growing lustily on a diet of estrogen.
Even so, I still resent Larry's popularity. That he should be more famous than me!
Sometimes, even on his starvation diet, I think he's laughing....

NOTE: I was shocked to discover that there is actually another Larry the Lump mentioned in a blog by someone with throat cancer! And I thought I was so original! Here's a link to that other Larry: