>Them’s The Breaks

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Once again, I’m putting off that post I started a while back. Just in case you’re wondering…it’s about FOOD! LOL However, after reading Cathy and Mac’s posts this week, it got me thinking (that’s always a bad sign) because their posts touched on a couple of things that hit really close to home over the past 30 days.

SADS

Ever heard of SADS? What about teens dropping dead on a playing field doing athletics? That’s SADS or sudden arrhythmia death syndrome. There are numerous causes, but one specific cause is Long QT, which is a disturbance in the heart’s electrical system. Layman’s terms — the two chambers of your heart alternate the task of pumping blood through your body. When one chamber finishes its pumping action it signals the other chamber to beat (pump blood) with an electrical charge. The difference in time between when a charge is sent between the chambers is reflected in one’s QT on an electrocardiogram (EKG). When the electrical charge doesn’t go off the heart stops. Hence sudden death.

The Movie “John Q” Got It Right

There are different types of Long QT. Some are easily detected by symptoms, others can only be determined through genetic testing. Here’s where insurance is a real pain in the ass. Natalie said it best in her comments. Insurance companies are evil, greedy monsters. Getting preauthorization is understandable. But when they question you, your family doc and even a specialist as to why you need a test it’s frustrating. They act like they know more about what’s good for you than your doctor. Umm..hello?? Did I miss an appointment with you for a one-on-one evaluation? So tell me, what part of “pay $900 for a lab test now, or pay millions when I die and my DH sues your pants off” don’t you understand?

Ok, after a fight the test is approved. You’d think it would be easier to get the girls tested? Nope, we’ve been rejected three times now. The doctors might have to arbitrarily authorize surgery for Oldest and Baby just to err on the side of caution. Why would these insurance idiots refuse a test when the mother is POSITIVE? These people would drive a Vulcan into Pon Farr even if their mating cycle weren’t for another five years.

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock

With blood drawn and out for testing, I buried my head in the sand trying to forget my 50/50 odds of having one of the five Long QT genes. Do I sleep? Nope, I’m tired and afraid. Do you think I spend my time writing? Nope, I’m too depressed because I’m tired. I don’t write, I don’t sleep, but I DO eat chocolate. Four or five pounds of milk chocolate maple creams in the past month and a half. Yeah, if the gene doesn’t kill me, chocolate will. But then death by chocolate might be a good thing. Of course if I live, I have to go back on a diet! Grrr.

The genetic results come back. Bad news. I have Long QT. But WAIT, I don’t just have the ordinary Long QT. I have Long QT3, which is the deadliest killer of them all. It makes your heart stop in your sleep and unless someone is monitoring you. Bam! The party’s over. The fat lady has sung and left the opera house. If you’re not an opera fan, then that’s probably not such a bad thing. Naturally, the good news doesn’t stop there. Long QT3 isn’t treatable with oral medication. So what are my options you ask?

Door Number 1, Door Number 1 or Door Number 1

Well, there’s this little invention someone created back in the late 60s called a pacemaker. The doctor began explain the procedure and got three sentences out about how they would insert it into my chest before I held up my hand and said, “I think I’m gonna be sick.” Minutes later, the DH is scheduling my surgery while I sit next to him in a numb state. I knew it was a possibility, I just didn’t really think it would come down to the wire. I thought I was being a drama queen. I really thought I was over-reacting like I always do. Turns out I wasn’t. For an Alpha female, I was quite malleable for a few hours. The DH actually lost a BIG window of opportunity there!

Instead of taking advantage, the DH insisted I have surgery right away. He knew if I waited, I’d try to talk my way out of the surgery. In fact, I tried that very thing up to the last minute. And by last minute, I mean I was lying on that cold, steel table with tears rolling down my cheeks ready to scream out that I didn’t want to go through with it. But then the nurses started asking me about my girls, and I knew I couldn’t back out. The risk of dying without the pacemaker installed was greater than my dying from the operation. So a little more than 72 hours after my doctor’s visit, I had bionic equipment installed. It took less time to install that pacemaker than when we got our new garage door two weeks ago today! What is it with me and Thursdays? LOL I now have a 4-ounce mechanism the size of a credit care inside me that feels like it weighs close to a pound. While the installation procedure is relatively simple, the emotional aspects are far more complex.

The Aftermath

With the surgery over, I can joke about how I prepared a notarized medical directive (with specific instructions for religious types and politians), wrote special letters to each of my daughters and my husband. I organized my affairs with friends, my agent and publishers. I planned out my funeral. My funeral would have RAWKED with songs like Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive (there’s an oxymoron! LOL) and Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend. I expressed my wish for a Xena-style funeral pyre (ok, so I know that won’t happen in Virginia, but a girl can dream!) but I settled with knowing my ashes would be spread in Douthat State Park. Finally, I dictated my funeral be a party. A big, loud party, just like me. Oh and my request that folks send $45-75 to the SADS organization instead of buying a floral arrangement that would die just like me.

Death-Defying Moments

In truth, there’s nothing like looking death in the eye to make you rethink your priorities. But I did more than just look death in the eye. Technically I was dead at several different points during the operation for up to ten seconds each time. They have to test the pacemaker to make sure it’s working. The only way to do that is kill me off a few seconds each time. Wasn’t it Natalie who recently had a topic entitled Killing Your Darlings? I can sooo relate here. ROFL I’m just wondering if my psychic powers will be enhanced by these death-defying moments. (And YES, I’m serious!)

The next big hurdle will be next week when we take the girls to an electro-physiologist. Surgery may or may not be in the picture for Oldest, while Baby might be safe for the moment. So I’m still not out of the woods emotionally. How do parents with sick and dying children manage? It’s scary and heart wrenching. You have stay cheerful outside when inside you’re falling apart.

Home For The Holidays

With all that explained, I’m going to kick back to Mac’s post about the hustle and bustle of the holidays. For the last few years, I’ve not gotten so frantic over the holidays. I’ve decided it’s okay if I use the Pillsbury pie dough as opposed to making mine from scratch. This year more than in years past, I know it’s going to be okay if supper is a little late getting to the table. I’m with my family. The choices we make in life can never be confirmed as the right ones; primarily because we don’t know what the outcome would have been if we’d made a different choice. What I do know is this. Even if it means I have to give up my beloved shoulder-restraint rollercoasters that do loop-de-loops at blistering speeds, I made the right choice to go bionic. And trust me; you can not imagine how earth shattering it was to be told I couldn’t ride Apollo’s Chariot again. *weeping* Rollercoasters are life’s blood to me. I LIVE for air time! (Whispering here so the doc doesn’t chide me) ….the pacemaker’s rep said I might be able to try to ride in a year. WOOT!! Now I have to convince the DH to let me ride. *grin* Remember when I said he lost a window of opportunity? He didn’t get my promise that I wouldn’t try to ride again!! LOL

Cathy, Natalie and Mac (my GabWagon.com cohorts) — thank you so much for your thoughtful, caring support through all this. I’m blessed and honored to count you among my friends. When it’s all said and done, I at least have a new experience to draw from for my writing! However I do have to get accustomed to being the bionic woman. I just wish the part came with the body of a drop-dead gorgeous redhead with green eyes and a body to die for. Some days I just can’t catch a break. *grin*

Monica

>Standing Naked and Vulnerable

>The Nike Girl?

Today, a post I wrote is up on The Knight Agency blog. It’s a post I’ve been working on for some time. And by time, I mean that for the past year or so I’ve had discussions about this topic with my husband, close friends and my agent. I wavered between coming out into the open or staying hidden in the warmth and safety of keeping my own counsel. For me, wavering is virtually unheard of. I’m a Nike Girl. I just do it. So when I tell you that it took me a year to make a decision, please understand that I did not make my post lightly.

The Why

I wrote my post for one reason only. I wanted to help other women like me. Even if it’s only one woman who comes to believe in herself again, then standing with my soul naked and vulnerable in public will be worth it.

Signs

I believe in signs. Yesterday when I was panicking and thinking maybe the post might be a mistake, I saw a fellow author announce they’d just done their first book trailer and asked for comments. I’m always happy to give opinions, and I went to watch the Kerri Augusto’s book video for Strawberries in Winter. I watched in amazement at the words coming across the screen.

If you write it, you will be free.

I knew then I was doing the right thing. God only has to hit me upside the head with a skillet one time for me to accept I’m treading the right path. That line from Kerri’s video came at me out of the blue, and it reassured me that no matter what happened; I’m going to be just fine. I am reposting my TKA blog here. Monica

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Romance. I’ve been reading it since I was 12 years old. The first time I “fell in love” was when I read a Harlequin Romance. I think the name of that book was Beat of a Different Drum. Others romance books followed, and I believed in love’s happily ever after with all my heart.

I believed it right up until the night I was raped by the man who’d taken me out for the evening and then decided he was entitled to something he wasn’t. Right now you’re probably gasping in shock. Me—I’m sitting here teary eyed, wondering how to frame my words in way that make sense and yet don’t sound maudlin. I sit here wondering if sharing my experience is the right thing to do. Wondering if I really have the courage to post this. It’s a direct confrontation with all the emotional ugliness that still lingers inside me. I also have no doubts that there will be sympathetic people and those who will be cruel.

So why tell my story? I’ve considered doing so for some time now. I would read something about forced seduction or hear about the blurred line between erotic romance and erotica. I’d express my belief that while love and hope are constant themes running through romance, there is still a strong “fantasy” component in romance books. In all of those instances, I knew my experience had played a major role in shaping my opinions, but fear kept me from speaking out. I knew I’d be vulnerable, and I don’t particularly like people seeing the chinks in my armor.

But little things prodded me closer toward this moment. Things like a friend reading one of my novellas then telling me afterward, that while reading my book she felt sexy for the first time in her life. I’d already begun to acknowledge that my writing was helping me overcome some of my sexuality issues, but here was a new twist. My writing had helped another woman feel sexy and beautiful. I found it to be a damn powerful statement. It made me wonder what sharing my experience might do to help more women feel better about themselves.

Women like me who have great difficulty trusting anyone, who resist physical intimacy and who question their self-worth. I wanted to share the message that it’s possible to survive rape or domestic abuse and eventually develop a healthy romantic relationship with someone who loves you. I wanted to help other women understand that sex can be beautiful, fun, playful, loving and wonderful despite the past.

Was my “sex isn’t bad” revelation easy to come by? Hell no! I’ve been married 21 years, and my biggest challenges throughout my marriage have been trust and intimacy. I struggle with those demons on a daily basis, and on occasion my husband has paid a high price because of my struggle. Even when you’re with someone who loves you a lot, trust still doesn’t come easily. And physical intimacy is based in deep emotional trust. The fact that my husband and I are still together is a testament to how much he loves me. I would have left me a hell of a long time ago.

I’ve had family comment that they don’t understand how I can write explicit sex considering my past. Trust me; no one’s been more surprised by that than me. I didn’t expect writing erotic romance to be therapeutic, but it has been. It’s helped me reclaim some of my self-worth. As an erotic romance writer, I believe that love and hope are integral themes in romance books. I can believe in those themes and yet remain true to my belief that strong fantasy elements are always prevalent in romance books. There’s always the happy ever after, there’s the hot, hunky hero and the lovely, sexy heroine. They both have issues, but they manage to work them out in the span of a book. They ride off into the sunset, leaving the reader with that feel good sensation. In real life, it doesn’t always work that way, but that’s why I think romance books are so important. They give us hope. The make us feel good. They make us either believe in love or they give us hope that love might actually exist somewhere out there.

With erotic romance in particular, there is an even more powerful message. Erotic romance gives a woman a choice. She’s empowered to read on or put a book down. She’s able to explore her feelings about sex in a safe environment. In other words, she’s in charge. If a book’s content becomes too intense, walking away is perfectly fine. Erotic romance gives women permission to be vulnerable and explore subject matter that may be difficult for them. It’s a safety net for the reader who’s making a choice, not having something forced on her. When it comes to writing erotic romance, it’s safe because I simply delete anything I find frightening or uncomfortable.

Has writing erotic romance washed away all my pain, all of the darkness? No. It’s not some magical elixir. I’ll always carry the pain and darkness of the rape inside me. What my writing has done is empowered me. I’m able to take back some of what was stolen from me. I find it easier to believe my husband when he tells me I’m a beautiful, sexy woman. Five years ago, I didn’t believe a word of it. Does that mean I believe those words all the time? No, but with every page I write, it gets easier to believe I’m sexy, I’m beautiful and I’m worthy of being adored.