Warning: This blog post won’t include Friends Gifs… I’m just as disappointed as you.
As the warning above states, this post isn’t as humorous as the first one I wrote, sprinkled with perfect gifs from my favorite television show, Friends. But the topic is something I believe you can relate to.
Did something ever happen to you that changed the person you are internally?
What I mean is, the person you are now is not the person you used to be, but you keep pushing to warp back to the person you were.
Okay, yeah, I’m talking in circles, so I’m just going to lay it out here.
For the past three weeks, I have been writing Brandon Salter’s story for the Bedroom Games box set. For those of you that haven’t read our Bedroom Games series, I’m going to give you a quick lowdown. Brandon is the brother of our heroine, Mia, in the first book of the series, “Cold as Ice.” Four years before “Cold as Ice” took place, Brandon was a professional and hopeful Winter Classics snowboarder (which if you don’t know is the Olympics, but trademarks and all). During training he falls and suffers a traumatic brain injury, ending his career. “Cold as Ice” is about his sister and his ex-best friend, Grady Kale, who are both heading to the Winter Classics (we aligned it with the 2018 Olympics in Seoul).
And I’m going take this opportunity to shamelessly plug the Bedroom Games here because if you haven’t read the series, the box set is releasing on December 31st and you can currently preorder it for only $0.99!
Back to me writing Brandon’s first draft.
As Piper can contend, I either whip the books out or they drag on forever. Never in between as much as I try to commit to a certain word count per day. For some reason, I just couldn’t figure out Brandon or his story. Which meant this short novella was taking me just as long as our full-length novels to write. Of course, it doesn’t help when Thanksgiving lands smack-dab in the middle, your kids are off for an entire week and you’re hosting. BUT it really just came down to me not knowing what Brandon’s outward goal was. What did he want in life?
Now I’m rewinding you back to four and a half years ago.
If you read me as Michelle Lynn, specifically my contemporary romance, Detoured by Love and you read the author notes in the back, you are aware that in July 2014, I was diagnosed with a form of leukemia. (*hands in the air) Don’t go gasping. It is a highly treatable form of leukemia taken with an oral pill. But there is no cure and many people still lose their lives every year to Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. Although I live a normal life with only minimal side effects due to the medication, others face debilitating side effects and sometimes the medicine doesn’t even work, so I don’t want to downplay the diagnosis either.
At the time of my diagnosis, I felt great. I mean, I was a mother of five-year-old twins and was a year into my writing career, so, tiredness wasn’t a warning sign to me. The Michelle I knew, the one I’d lived with for all my thirty-eight years, died that day with the doctor’s word ‘Leukemia.’ Now I trust doctors but when a doctor tells you, ‘you have cancer, but you can take a pill for the rest of your life and live.’ Seemed unrealistic to me. Since CML is a rare disease, I thought for sure I was the one that treatment wouldn’t work for. To add to my disbelief, two months after my CML diagnosis I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer to which my oncologist said, ‘would be like lightening striking twice’. Now, thyroid cancer is more prevalent than the CML, but two cancer diagnosis months apart that aren’t related? Rare. Rare. Rare.
How does my diagnosis and Brandon’s accident relate? We both became different people. Yes, I am aware Brandon is a fictional character. LOL.
As for me, I grieved for that blissfully naive life before diagnosis when you believe nothing will ever harm you. Maybe it’s because I didn’t a life changing event growing up. My parents are still married after fifty-one years (defying the odds of marrying in their teens). Other than my brother’s ongoing addiction problems for the past twenty years there isn’t much to say. With the exception of a grandmother, I did lose my grandparents at a young age. My sister and I both went through infertility issues, but she was blessed with triplets and me twins, so it’s hard to remember the agony we went through to have them now.
Back to me and Brandon.
He died that day on the halfpipe.
Now even after my diagnosis, I was a little depressed that I would have to take this pill, which some called oral chemo, for the rest of my life. And since I decided to be real to you about this, I’ll admit, I wanted an acute form, so I could fight the cancer and go on with my life. I realize now I was a complete idiot by even thinking that. I remember looking at my husband right before the doctor was going to come in and give us the diagnosis and saying, “I just need to live thirteen more years. Once they’re eighteen, they can survive without me.” Looking back now, because hind sight really is twenty-twenty, I feel horrible for disregarding our future together. The time we’ll have with one another after the kids leave for college. And I’m also not naïve enough to believe my kids won’t need me once they reach eighteen. But I was a different person then than I am now. I was scared and mourning my future like I received a death sentence.
Brandon is similar to me. He is mourning his future because it can’t be what it was five years before. It took some time to figure out that he was a character that didn’t really have an external goal because he was still understanding and coming to terms with who he is now. Sure, he had overcome so much physically from the accident, but he was stripped of his dream to become a professional snowboarder again. If you read our Cockamamie Unicorn Ramblings at the end of each book (Do you? I always wonder if readers do or not. If not, I highly suggest you do because you can find out a lot about how the book inspiration came to be). If you read Cold as Ice’s, you’ll know the inspiration for that book was Kevin Pearce, a professional snowboarder and Olympic hopeful who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2009 right before the 2010 Olympics. Now, at the time, we weren’t thinking Brandon would ever get his own story. Brandon was strictly the driving force between Mia and Grady, the reason they hated one another. But readers wanted Brandon, so we thought it’d be a great addition to the box set.
Now travel to last Thursday with me. (Yeah, I tend to ramble and jump. Just ask my husband, it’s the only trait of mine he finds annoying. Haha)
So, I head to downtown Chicago to see my oncologist as I do every three months. They do bloodwork and examine me to make sure my disease isn’t progressing. We live about forty-five minutes away and if you’ve ever been to Chicago or driven through Chicago you understand why when my appointment had to be changed to eight am, my husband and I decided to spend the night before in Chicago instead of waking up at four in the morning. See, I’m giving you way too many details.
Anyway, on my last two visits, my doctor has brought up stopping treatment. Now, a tad more information about CML. There are five drugs right now to treat CML. I’ve been on two. The first one after eighteen months gave me plural effusions (water around the lungs that restricts oxygen), a common side effect for that specific drug. I’ve been on the other one for almost three years in March. My disease has also been undetectable for almost three years. I’m aware there have been some medical trials of patients stopping their medicine and right now about fifty percent are able to stay off medicine successfully. I should mention here, throughout the years, I have always asked my doctor if I could lower my dose or whether they have a cure coming? I was always told “no” to lowering my dose. My doctor’s thought being, “why fix it if it isn’t broke?” After, I would leave the doctor and tell my husband about other people on the discussion boards who were cutting their doses and the disease hadn’t progressed. But I never went against my doctor.
Four and a half years ago, I probably would have jumped at the chance to stop my medicine. I like to think I was fearless and a semi risk taker. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always hated heights and roller coasters aren’t my thing. I’ve never bungee jumped or skydived for fun. But in life, I like to think I’m a fighter and always ready to take a chance. I divorced my first husband due to verbal abuse. I trusted love enough to marry a second time. I went through six rounds of artificial insemination and two rounds of In Vitro Fertilization until it was successful. I quit my job and took the plunge to write full-time. I’ve always played the odds.
But now things are different. Go off the medicine that is saving me? All those fears from diagnosis rush back. I’m comfortable now. Yeah, every night before bed when I have to take the pill, I’m a tad annoyed, but it’s a small price to pay for stability and safety in my disease.
On Thursday, on our way back from the city, I looked at my husband and said, “Remind me what I would have done?”
He smiled and said, “You would have gone off the medicine.” His hand ventured over the center console and landed on my thigh, rubbing up and down. “But that’s not you anymore.”
Now I don’t know if it was my husband’s words or not that finally flashed Brandon’s quest to find where he fit in neon lights in front of me. But I did write over six thousand words on Friday and was able to come back after a weekend and finish it off with another six thousand words on Monday.
My husband is right. I’m not who I was. As I wait for my molecular test results from my visit on Thursday to come back, I’m not as anxious as I was at the beginning, but there’s still that ‘what if the disease progressed?’ thought in my mind. When the email pops up saying, ‘test result’ and I click to access my patient portal, my mouth dries and my heartrate speeds up. I still never want to jinx the results in any way by speaking about my future before I see negative in black lettering.
Still. I miss that girl who would have said, ‘fifty-fifty shot? I’ll take it.’ That’s one in two. After all, my infertility doctor told me it was only a fifty-five percent chance I’d have twins by putting in two embryos. He said if I was his daughter, he’d tell her to put one in. My husband and I said, two is better than none. We won with twins.
So, I guess this whole reason behind this blog post, other than sharing a lot about me as a person, is… life is full of opportunity, choices and consequences. Every day we’re changing and evolving from the person we were the day before. Sometimes when life gives you pause, you find out exactly what you’re made of.
And I think life is worth living, and to live life fully you have to take risks every now and then.
As I wrote ‘The End’ to Brandon’s story and passed it along to Piper, I realized, that I struggled with writing his character in the beginning, but he became clearer to me once I figured out he was me and I was him.
So, thank you to the readers who begged us for Brandon’s story. I learned so much about myself by writing him!
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Okay… I can’t NOT include a Friends gif!
One more for fun…
And… my molecular results came back. NEGATIVE!