CONTEST ENTRANTS CLOSED. WINNERS WILL BE ANNOUNCED MONDAY, APRIL 28 OR TUESDAY, APRIL 29.
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Great news and Great reads! Lots to share in this world of DEALING.
Michael's mother called. "Michael's coming home. Can Ajers come over to play after school?"
"Yeah, they'll probably just do a board game or something, and you're welcome to come over to say hello too."
So amazing how a little playdate can shift a mood. I am so excited for Michael. I am so excited for Ajers. For two little boys to get their lives back to normal.
And here's some back-to-normal for YOU, nice sweet readers, who always are here to brighten my days when I need brighter days! Two book giveaways!
Just leave a comment indicating Welcome to Shirley, The Department of Lost and Found or simply BOTH and I'll enter you to win either or BOTH of these fabulous books, both touching on the subject of cancer, but I promise, both truthful and uplifting to read.
And something else uplifting: Pictures from Amazing Mimi, from our meeting in Chicago. Ain't SHE AMAZING!??!
VIEW PHOTOS HERE
Read below for a sneak peek excerpt from both books...
An excerpt from Welcome to Shirley by Kelly McMasters:
I stared at the dark lines of the Hudson River as the train rushed toward the city, and then through the scraggly arms of the pines as a different train brought me out to Long Island. It felt strange not to get out at the Mastic-Shirley station, and I suddenly wished that we could go back to our little house near the refuge. I wanted to return to the time when I was a child surrounded by friends as I swung at a papier-mâché donkey in my front yard, not a young woman going home to her sick mother.
I thought of the long white scar on my mother’s neck. When I was in third grade, my mother had a tumor on her thyroid gland. It was benign, but half of her thyroid had to be removed along with the growth. My father drove me to visit her before and after the surgery, and a doctor took a piece of paper from my coloring book and drew a picture of a butterﬂy.
“Your mother’s thyroid looks like this,” he said, pointing to the pen drawing. He drew a line down the center of the butterﬂy’s body, slicing it in half.
“We have to take out this wing, but your mother will still have this other wing.” I looked at the paper and I looked at my mother, somehow smaller under the scratchy white sheets in her hospital bed. I could see the small knob of tumor that pushed through her skin halfway up her thin neck. When she came home, the scar was an angry red at ﬁrst, but she sliced off leaves from her aloe plant, cracking the thick pulp open and smearing the gummy juice on her incision every morning and night. As the scar healed, the line turned white instead of fading into the rest of her skin.
My scars do the same thing. In the summers, when she is tan, the scar looks even whiter against her browned skin, like a piece of butcher’s twine. I wondered if this was what the scar on her breast would look like.
My father picked me up at the train station. He was quick to smile and joke, say the surgery was no big deal, everything was ﬁne. But his eyes looked tired, and when he rubbed them the purple skin of his eyelids rippled into folds where he had pushed the skin to the outside corner, and the folds stayed there. He had been working so hard for so many years; as he had hoped, he had been able to pay for all four years of college. He had become more handsome as he aged, the salt and pepper in his hair an attractive contrast to the blue in his eyes, but more than a decade of working as a traveling salesman had left its mark.
He had brought my mother back from the hospital that morning and had to go away overnight for business, which was why I was home. I could tell he was nervous, just wanted this to be over and for his wife to return to normal.
When we went into the house, there were ﬂowers on every surface of every room; all of the women my mother had driven back and forth to radiation appointments and sent angels and ﬂowers to over the years had returned the favor. The house smelled thickly of lilies.
Recuperating upstairs in her bedroom, my mother looked tired, but she was smiling. We spent the day in her bed, passing magazines back and forth, dozing and watching taped episodes of the Oprahshow. I made soup from a can and toasted some bread, the same meal she made me when I used to stay home sick from school as a child. The shadows grew longer across the walls, and I knew we would have to change her bandage soon. My mother motioned to the bathroom door.
“Okay. Let’s get this over with!”
I followed her into the bathroom, where she leaned her back against the counter, edging her right shoulder out of her white terry-cloth bathrobe.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” she whispered to me.
“I’m ﬁne, I’m ﬁne!” I lied. I tried to smile. I was terriﬁed to look at my mother’s breast.
The robe hung across her body like a sash. She bent her neck and tried to look at the place where they had removed the lump. She cupped her breast beneath her ribs with her left hand, and for a moment it looked like she was holding a baby to her chest. My eyes traced the bright blue vein that ran from her neck to her nipple.
The yellows and greens of the bruises clouded around the edge of the bandage. She worked the sticky edge with her ﬁngertips until she’d gotten most of it free. Blood crusted along the jagged teeth of the sewn-up incision. I looked at the thin white half-moon across the base of her neck and tried to imagine this new incision healed and faded instead of raw and pink.
“It doesn’t hurt,” she offered, looking at my face. “Not really.”
I turned the brown bottle of peroxide over in my hand and soaked a cotton ball, trying not to look at my mother’s face. I knew if I did I would cry. I slathered antibiotic ointment onto a fresh gauze pad and handed it to her.
“I can’t reach it, Kell. Can you press it on for me?”
Her voice apologized as she asked me. I tried to think of her breast as a knee or elbow. I remembered once when Margaret and my mother and I went for a bike ride when I was little, and I fell before we even got around the corner. The rough gravel had skinned layers off the top of my knee, leaving a slick white patch where the skin used to be. I watched, stunned, as little rivulets of blood pooled on the white patch and started to drip down my leg. My mother left our bikes on the side of the road and picked me up, my head to her shoulder and her arm under my legs. It was summer, and my mother wore a light yellow blouse and white pants. I tried to hold my bloody knee away from her, and she kept telling me to relax, not to worry, it was just blood. But she was too pretty to get blood on.
I snapped back to the bathroom and her purple and yellow clouds of bruise and did my best to press the bandage gently over the stitched incision where the doctor had pulled out a hard mass the size of an almond. The doctor had called earlier to tell us that the mass had been benign.
We should have been happy. But we knew how breast cancer worked on Long Island. Our relief felt very temporary.
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An excerpt from The Department of Lost and Found by Allison Winn Scotch:
If there were any good news of the day, it was that I was actually feeling semi-decent. When I first met with Dr. Chin, when I sat in his dignified office with Persian rugs and leather chairs and mahogany walls, he had told me that this was how it would go. There were three stages of chemo recovery. The first week, you feel like your insides are on fire, like the chemicals rushing through you might kill you if the cancer doesn’t. The second week, you sense that you might survive; it’s not that you feel normal, but you feel the absence of the afflictions that plagued you the last week, so in that way, it’s like you won the lottery. And the third week is the one where you can’t believe that you ever felt like such a steaming mound of shit. Chemo? You’re thinking. That’s the best you can dish out? Because that, my darling cancer gods, I can take without blinking an eye. The sick part of this pattern, which I’m sure you’ve already figured out, is that just as you’re on the cusp of returning to your everyday life, right as you press your nose up to healthfulness and start going about your business as you did before the disease mowed you down, you have to start it all over again.
Dr. Chin flipped through my chart on his desk, ignoring his assistant who kept paging him over the intercom, and explained that we’d be doing six or seven months of chemo, a round every three weeks, and based on my reaction to this treatment, we’d proceed from there. At some point along the way, either in the middle or at the end, they’d perform a mastectomy. They would take my breasts from me. He also spoke about what I could expect: fatigue, nausea, and the thing that I dreaded most—hair loss. “The aim of chemotherapy is to kill the fast-growing cancer cells,” he explained. “But what also happens as a result is that healthy cells are killed as well. So, for example, your hair follicles are in effect shut down. Fortunately, the human body is resilient and smart enough to know how to grow them back when we’re done.” He said all of this in the kind of tone that he’d clearly perfected after years of treating depressing cases such as mine. He was firm yet still reassuring, regretful yet still commanding. I sat in his office and stared at his numerous diplomas and awards and medical society memberships, and I simply nodded my head, a small acknowledgment of the inevitable, of resigned acceptance. It’s not as if I had a choice.
What I didn’t tell Dr. Chin, when he asked how I felt, because surely he was referring to my physical maladies, not the emotional ones, was that I was gutted. That the fear that ran through me was nearly paralyzing. That the sheer terror of his words, “you have cancer,” caused my breath to leave my body, and that nodding my head in resignation was all that I could do. Anything more simply would have been impossible, because, you see, I was frozen. I was 30. I was the future ruler of the free world. And yet…this. I was 30, and I had cancer. I was 30, and I had cancer. I replayed it over and over again in my mind because it didn’t add up; it couldn’t add up. This. Could. Not. Be. My. Life. And yet…it was. So I sat in his office, and I tasted the horror that comes from discovering you’re not invincible, and maybe it was the cancer, but more likely, it was the spine-chilling terror of my diagnosis, but I literally wanted to curl up and die. Because the sum of Dr. Chin’s words let me to believe that I might just do that anyway.
As I left his office, I remember thinking that I couldn’t feel my legs. That I was walking, yes, surely, I was shuffling down the linoleum-covered floor and through the dimly lit corridor, but how I was doing it, I don’t know. I remembered back to high school biology, when my teacher, Mr. Katz, lectured us on the “fight or flight” syndrome: that when an animal is attacked or put in peril, any unnecessary part of his brain function shuts down, that his body responds in a purely visceral way, doing what it must to survive the threat. But my own body, when faced with such a threat, was seemingly retreating. That rather than gathering its army to face the hell to come, it was already abandoning me. Already shutting me down. My legs were just the beginning.
But now, as I wrapped up the last few days of my first chemo round, things were indeed looking up. At least as far as my vomit/nausea/exhaustion/dizzy problems went. Which, I supposed, was something.
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Remember, a comment is all you need to do to qualify to win either book: Just mention which book you'd like, or if you want to enter to win both, go ahead and say BOTH! GOOD LUCK!