A year ago today I was begging my doctors to quit radiating my throat. I kept saying, "I'm cooked! I'm done! You're giving me the same radiation as you would a 300 pound truck driver. Can't we stop? Please. Pretty please?
At that point, I was only a few days from the end of treatment, and no, the famous Dr. Mendenhall did not stop but he did give me more pain medicine. (I was wearing a 100 mcg. Fetnenyl patch that would have felled the aforesaid truck driver.) Third degree burns to the inside of your mouth and throat and tongue are not the stuff of MY BRILLIANT CAREER. More like The Hurt Locker. Except I wasn't striding boldly into no man's land. I was curling into a fetal position and telling myself, "Just a few more days and you'll have made it through treatment without having to get a feeding tube." Lofty goals.
Sooo...all this to say that I am GRATEFUL to be well enough today to get on a plane and be able to READ tomorrow to a group of people from a book I wrote before I got sick about a woman who's convinced death is around the corner, despite all evidence to the contrary. A book I wrote in which one of the characters cannot make herself eat, and about whom, everyone else is worried sick. A book called EVERYONE SHE LOVED.
Since my name is Sheila and my family calls me SHE, the ironies reverberate. But on this day, I'm lucky enough to be cured, to have found the cancer in its early stage, to have had a wonderful insurance plan that sent me to one of the top five radiation oncology treatment programs in the country, and to have emerged from that grueling slash-and-burn ceremony with a very small chance of recurrence, reborn taste buds and even working saliva glands. (The things you don't know you'll miss until they're AWOL.)
THURSDAY NIGHT: NEWTONVILLE BOOKS 7 pm
BOOKS & BREWS: Where I'll talk and read from
Please join me. I'll be wearing a scarf made from my father's World War II parachute, and telling myself, a little old reading is surely something to celebrate. Hope to see any Bostonians I know there!
If you can't make it, or even if you can, here's a very homemade video that shows exactly what happens when you're Missing In Action and your dog has to find something to do with herself.