Thursday, 13 January 2011

Life is Fragile

Kalimera. Long time, no speak. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year and I wish you all the best for 2011.
Ah – 2011. One year to go til the fated year – if you believe in all of that. Who knows? The way the world is going there could be something in it. But for now, let’s all stay positive.
Today is a good day for me. My second novel in the Dream series is released through Red Rose Publishing. Once again, I take you on a Grecian journey to the imaginary island of Kuros {yes it is inspired by my own beloved Corfu}. We meet up with some of the characters from Dreamweek, Isabella and David Wells. Once again, the tale is set against the backdrop of the tourist industry but, more important, Fragile Dreams tells the tale of Ellie Rouva, a young woman recovering from Breast cancer; a woman whose life has been turned on its head and doesn’t know where life may lead her – until she meets Michael.
I originally intended this blog to be a follow on from the last; my ten top moments….but with the release of Fragile, I thought it might be a good idea to touch on the subject of breast cancer. I am somewhat of an expert on the matter, having been through it twice. Expert isn’t really the correct word; everyone’s experience is different, everyone copes in a different way. I would like to give you my take on it.
First off, it’s a topic usually I steer clear of discussing. Why? To be honest, after ten years of the disease being part of my life, I am a little bored with it. I hate all the drama surrounding it; the endless magazine articles, the survivors being wheeled out on chat shows, the hushed tones when folk find out what I have ‘been’ through. Yes, I have been through a lot but hey, so have lots of folk. What is it about the word, Cancer, which evokes such reaction? Someone says…. I have heart problems, liver disease and folk say – oh, that’s sad. But say Cancer and people pale before your eyes.
And that is what I hate most. It is an illness like any other and certainly not the hopeless situation folk have been led to believe– which brings me back to the endless MGM produced magazine articles. Listen up, folks. It needn’t mean a death sentence. Great strides have been made and positive mindset plays a huge role. Again, this is why I hate the Hollywood take on it all. Please, less of the drama.
One moment has stayed with me. It was my first time round. I was in hospital, recovering from a full mastectomy and reconstruction {now that was a barrel of laughs. Pain? Never again}. It was a Sunday evening. All the ward new intakes were scheduled for surgery the following morning. I knew they were scared; who wouldn’t be but what did we do? We set up a card ring and got drunk on laughter. I think, when the consultant came round, he thought we had all lost the plot. {He was bloody gorgeous, btw. Daniel Craig eyes and boyish charm. Bloody good doc too. Wherever you are, Mr. Drabble, we salute you}
A friend of mine constantly says to me. You are/were so strong. Strong? I had no choice. Once over the initial shock, I just had to get on with it. I was too preoccupied fighting the fight and looking after my kids to think about the outcome. As a mother, it’s just what I had to do. First time round, my children were young and probably scared. They knew I had lost my elder sister to the disease so there was no pulling the wool over their eyes. There was no way I could not be upbeat.
Going through both times, one thing struck me. The people around you often find it harder to cope. A word of advice to anyone who has someone close to them coping with Breast cancer or any life-threatening illness. All we want is to be treated as normal. I know that’s all I wanted. I only wanted my life to get back to normal. I hated the disruption – never mind the joys of Chemo and surgery. I wanted to be me again but the folk around me kept reminding me that I couldn’t be. Oh but you shouldn’t go back to work. Why the hell not? Better to be occupied than to lie around at home all day, feeling sorry for myself. I was going to throw up anyway so might as well get paid at the same time. I know the concern is well meant but please give the patient credit. We know what’s what. We know what we have to do to fight.
And please, don’t tell anyone losing your hair doesn’t matter in the scheme of things, and that we should just focus on getting well. Duh – a tad condescending, I believe. And, sorry, losing one’s hair is a big deal initially but it gets better. Quite fun wearing different hats. And don’t tell us we look fine when we know we look like an extra from MJ’s thriller video. We prefer honesty.
But there is a plus side to everything, even Chemotherapy.
1} No more leg shaving needed for months.
2} best diet known to mankind
3} You save a fortune on hair conditioner.
4} You can act crazy and blame it on the drugs.

So that is my rant for the day. I am sure there is a lot more I could say on the subject but I wanted to give a little more insight to the character of Ellie. To quote a line from Fragile Dreams.

“Thing is…well, the way I see it, everyone flirts with death. Every day of our lives we take risks. I am no different. My time just came around sooner.

I am not sure if this has helped or maybe will help someone in the future. As I said at the beginning, it’s a personal battle. No one handles it in the same way. What I can do is a little bit to help in the research so that, perhaps, in the future, there won’t be a need for a blog like this. I have asked my publisher, Red Rose, to donate any royalties I may make to breast cancer research. So, my dear friends, I leave you with a short excerpt:

“But, Michael,” Leaning forward, Ellie brushed his cool cheek with nervous fingertips. “We have no control over our lives. That’s one thing I have learned from all of this.” Embarrassed, she shrunk back in her chair. “I think that’s what annoyed Pavlos so.”
“Annoyed.” Honey eyebrows drew together.
“Oh yes.”Ellie failed to keep her contempt at bay. “For the first time in his life, Mr. Pavlos the Omnipotent lost control of me. To him, my illness was an irritation, a hiccup in his well-ordered life.
“Seriously? I find that so hard to understand. Surely he was afraid for you. Perhaps it was his way of dealing with his fears?”
Ellie laughed. “Maybe. Granted, he made all the right gestures, spouted forth with meaningful phrases but his words were empty. Actions do speak louder and his clearly stated I was a disappointment and I’m sorry. I’m putting you in an awkward position. Pavlos is your boss.”
“He’s not my boss; I only work for him.”
His forcefulness surprised her. His eyes held defiance. Ellie surmised that his outward tranquil nature disguised a vein of steel.
“Please...” The glint dispersed. “Go on. What do mean by disappointed? Surely he didn’t blame you for being ill?”
“No.” Ellie rummaged in the fruit bowl and pulled out a ripe strawberry. Biting into it, she shrugged her shoulders. “It’s how I handled everything that he took issue with. You see, when the doctor told us I would need a full mastectomy I thought Pavlos was going to throw up. The thought of it horrified him. His perfect wife — flawed? He wanted me to have reconstructive surgery but I refused. He begged, actually. First time he’s begged me for anything but I didn’t give in. And why should I?” The words scraped at her too dry throat, a stockpile of resentment clawing up and out of the depths of her months of despair. “It’s my body, isn’t it?”
He covered her forearms with comforting hands, making the hairs there stand to attention. His touch, again, threatened to release those tears. How long had it been since Pavlos had shown such sincere affection? Too long. She couldn’t cry. It would be too awkward. “And then,” she pressed on, fighting against waves of emotion. “When my hair fell out, I refused to wear a wig. I don’t know why really. It seemed…well it was the ultimate insult. My body was in enough pain without having that added discomfort. Can you believe losing my hair upset me more than anything? Silly isn’t it, to be so vain when one’s life is hanging in the balance. At least that’s what my dear mother in law told me.” She didn’t need to hear his answer; gut instinct told her he understood. “As for my friends, they said that it didn’t matter in the scheme of things and that I should focus on getting well. As if being pumped full of poison every three weeks isn’t ‘focusing’ enough. People can be so patronizing.”
“I agree.”
“Thing is…well, the way I see it, everyone flirts with death. Every day of our lives we take risks. I am no different. My time just came around sooner. They told me I should stop trying to be brave. I’m not brave, only realistic.”
“You won’t die.”
“I know.” She fashioned what she hoped was a convincing smile. “You won’t let me.”
“You won’t die.”
Silence engulfed them, a cotton wool cloud blanketing reality.
“How can you be so sure? Ellie whispered, almost too afraid to ask, wanting it so much to be true.
“I just am. I…I feel things. Here.” Capturing her trembling hand, he brought it up to span his chest. “Here….in my heart. You’re afraid, Ellie. Don’t be.”
Ellie drew in her breath, holding it until she felt faint. It was as if a whirlpool sucked her down. How did he know that? She’s never admitted it to anyone; not even herself.

Fragile Dreams – purchase link