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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Snowy Day Memory

 I freely admit that, at least from inside a warm house, I love snowy days. Today, here in Kansas, where the wind is teasing and tossing about the snow that fell last night, I'm easily reminded of this scene from Hearts Unfold. It's not coincidence I chose the wild wonder of a snowstorm in which to introduce the hero of this "very special love story." Snow is mysterious, romantic, even dangerous--like the meeting of two strangers. A meeting that will forever change the direction of their lives.

Through the frost-rimmed window, she saw that the snowfall had slowed, though the wind still whipped the tree limbs and spun little white cyclones across the yard.  Beyond the barn, just where the land dropped away to the hillside, a moving shadow caught her eye.  A deer, or maybe a cow, strayed and lost in the storm?  Stepping to the door for a closer look, she tried to focus past the blowing snow.  The shadow moved steadily upward over the rise, until she saw what could only be a human figure, trudging slowly in the general direction of the house.  Head down, swaying slightly, as if unbalanced by the force of the wind, he—or at least she thought it must be a man—was dressed all in black, the windward side of his long overcoat etched with white, and his bared head capped with snow.  There seemed to be something odd about his stance, and then she realized one arm was crossed over his body, as if bracing the other to his side.  In what must have been only a few seconds, she tried to assess his size—not very tall; his possible intent—obviously seeking shelter; and where he could have come from.  He had to be coming from the road below, but why would anyone have walked up a steep wooded hillside in a blistering storm?
As she watched, scarcely drawing breath, it seemed he raised his head and gazed for a moment toward the house.  Then in a slow, graceful spiral, he sank to the ground, disappearing into the snow.  If she had not been watching his progress across the yard, she realized she would never have seen him from the house, once he’d fallen.  Blinking, she wondered for an instant if she might have only imagined him, if he had been a mirage in the featureless white of the landscape.  But the pounding of her pulse told her otherwise.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

While You're Busy Doing Other Things

Recently I was called to task by a dear friend after I mentioned in my Christmas letter that "my cancer was in remission." He asked if I'd mind telling him what kind of cancer and how it was being treated. Shamefaced that I had dropped the C-word so casually and left him hanging, I dashed off this letter. (And before you ask, my friend does not partake of social media and we really do maintain our relationship via good old fashioned letters sent through the US mail.) After thinking about it for a few days, I decided that by posting it here, it might speak to someone who needs to hear its message. 

Dear E----,

Sorry to have overlooked sharing the cancer episode, but just credit my abysmally sporadic letter writing. With all that was happening at the time, I kept putting it on the back burner, but thanks to a benevolent God and a couple of fine doctors, it didn’t take me out.

The story goes something like this. For at least three years before John’s fall, if not longer, I would occasionally see pink in the toilet. Since I’d had numerous bouts of hemorrhagic cystitis in the past, I just went to my doctor and got antibiotics, drank plenty of cranberry juice, and never gave it another thought. Google “blood in urine” and you get urinary tract infection, so even the web vindicated my complacency. Not to discredit a very nice man and a pretty decent GP, but the doc I was seeing at the time wasn’t inclined to push for tests or raise concerns unless the patient insisted, which I didn’t.

As you know, in June of ’15, John took his fall and life turned upside down. My health, which really seemed okay, probably due to constant adrenaline rushes, was my last concern. But the pink was more frequent, enough so that even in his condition, John made note of it. By the following June, several things came together to change the situation. John was finally able to spend an hour or two on his own without me, my doctor retired and a very energetic nurse practitioner became our primary provider, and I was passing sizable blood clots regularly. Suffice it to say, this young woman was more proactive than my former doc. She sent me post haste to a urologist, who had a scan done that day and scheduled a cystoscopy for the following week. Verdict—a largish polyp, possibly a tumor, which was removed two weeks later and proved to be malignant. It was very close to the point where the ureter from the right kidney opens to the bladder, so a temporary stint was put in to keep things flowing. I was not far from a toilet for the next six weeks, but otherwise there was nothing in my recovery that I could complain about. 

I wasn’t at all surprised that it was cancer. I just felt grateful it hadn’t gone through the bladder wall or worse, because I was the one who ignored every message my body tried to send me. By the time I saw the new PCP, I was seriously anemic and, to be honest, could barely make it through each day, but I was still clinging to denial.

The urologist I was referred to is the kind of physician I immediately feel confident with, but when he suggested the most frequent follow-up treatment for bladder cancer, called BCG, I balked. This in very basic terms involves infusing the germ that causes tuberculosis into the bladder, which produces immunity against the cancer. Still worried I might have PFS—Physician’s Family Syndrome, whereby any member of a physician’s family will suffer any and all possible ill or side effects from any treatment of routine illness—which I had experienced when married to “my second husband the doctor,” I refused at first. The major side effect from the treatment is, of course, contracting TB. But during the next cystoscopy three months later,  more tumors had developed. I didn’t argue when the urologist said it was worth the risk. Having the lining of your bladder sliced and burned away in stages is no picnic! And more to the point, It was time I accepted that my life was worth risking even nasty, but treatable, side effects.

The treatments—six in all—went without incident and to date—last cysto in November—there’s no further sign of cancer.

So that’s the story. Bladder cancer and its treatment are not nearly as visible or dramatic as so many other types of cancer. If I hadn’t told anyone, no one would have been the wiser. But I did talk about it, and even post about it on FB, because my case was like so many others. We (women) put off addressing what doesn’t put us flat on our butts, especially when there are others with greater needs, until we put our lives in jeopardy. Ignoring symptoms is stupid! That’s what they’re for, to warn us that something’s not right. We both know of cases like mine that ended tragically. I will always have bladder cancer, but with the same kind of follow up, it shouldn’t be a problem. Many with other types of this insidious disease aren’t so fortunate. I know how blessed I am, in spite of my persistent denial, to be able to use the word "remission" with confidence.

My kind, compassionate urologist has retired as of this month, so I will have a new doc for my next cysto. I’m assured by everyone that he’s wonderful, trained at Mayo Clinic, and no doubt looks about 18. As long as he doesn’t rock my treatment boat, that’s fine. I’m just thankful that when I needed him, my original doctor was on hand to get me through this. Does it really take someone over 60 to understand the issues of caregiving and the limitations that come with age? That is a course I’d gladly teach to every med student in the country! 

For everyone reading this here on my blog, my closing is this. If you see yourself anywhere in my story, get yourself to a doctor, be honest with him/her, and get the testing and treatment you need. Life is precious. Don't let it slip away while you're busy doing other things. 

Love you! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

When Duty Called

There have been many in my family who served, back to the Revolutionary War, I'm told, all with their own stories. These are the pictures and stories I grew up with, of those closest to me.

  Serving in World War I--My grandfather Henry Rowlette, who never left Ft. Lee, VA in the year after he enlisted.

My great-uncle Levi Yeatts, my grandmother's youngest brother, who is buried in France.
Levi left behind his mother, ten brothers and sisters, and his fiance.

WWII Veterans--My uncle, Anthony Rowlette, who became a surgical nurse by the end of the war. He talked about serving on board the Queen Mary carrying troops to Europe, and bringing back the wounded, some of the same men, after D-Day.

My father, Guy White, Jr., who failed to meet the Navy's weight requirement and "hung around Washington, DC eating bananas" until he gained enough to enlist.

While I'm told my father would much have preferred a few combat tales to pass along, he never saw action while "floating around the Caribbean." Still, he was able to put his talents to work for his country. He not only chronicled the ship's travels, but photographed the entire crew and all of their adventures. (I still have many of the photos.) Of, course, his greatest service was painting this portrait of Buggs Bunny on the side of the ship!

Monday, November 6, 2017

And One Shall Become Two--FREE

If you were here from the beginning, you may recall the saga of my first novel, Hearts Unfold. It began like this. . .

Icky green and over 600 pages. 😥 A few people read and liked it, though. All an aspiring writer needs to keep going, right?
Eventually, as I kept writing on what was first Book Two and later, Book Three, Heart of My Own Heart, it dawned on me--remember, I was only "aspiring" at this point and learning slowly--that I had a series going.💡 But instead of continuing forward, I went backward. A series should be balanced, with installments more or less the same length, my OCD self insisted. So I split my first baby right down the middle--just as painful as it sounds--and thus the second book, Entreat Me Not was born! With new covers-- no icky green this time--I had a three book series under the title of Miracle at Valley Rise, with a fourth book under way. It looked something like this when all was said and done. Much better! 😌

This post is really to tell you that right now you can get all of this→
FREE! My gift to you. 📦

Miracle at Valley Rise Books One and Two are FREE from Amazon today and tomorrow. Just click here and you're on your way to Valley Rise.

"It's refreshing.... I look forward to sitting down with this wonderful couple each time I am able to snatch a few minutes to read. They are just like family."
". . . flawless, emotional, heartfelt and memorable!"
". . . compelling, exciting, thought provoking, and very hard to put down."