- Yesterday I was planning to go sign the papers closing on our new house. I was excited, except for the fact that I’d been a little under the weather for a couple of days from a bug I picked up at the otherwise really fun Poets in the Park festival in Redmond on Saturday.Then I got a phone call. The cancer tests I’d had done last week were back in. The tumor marker test for carcinoid syndrome – a type of hard-to-find, hard-to-catch, slow growing cancer that can cause, among other things, asthma, hives, stomach issues, weight and blood pressure fluctuations, and liver tumors – was off the charts high. My gastro is the one who ran these, but he’s never seen results like mine before – and he’s 70. Next step: endocrinologist and oncologist. How odd that the gastro – not any of my other specialists – thought to run these tests. How – I guess – lucky that he did?This is probably a treatable cancer, and though the tests indicate it’s already advanced (the higher the number, the more/larger tumors you have, and mine are “sky high”) I still have reason to hope. Still more doctors to go – hoping to find a really good endocrinologist and oncologist with some experience with this rare kind of tumor – and some more likely uncomfortable and expensive tests ahead, before scarier things like chemo, radiation therapy, and surgery. Of course I’m nervous, and not looking forward to the bad stuff. But…
I have several conditions – including being born with a single kidney, a rare heritable bleeding disorder, and my mystery neurological stuff – that could kill me before this cancer does. And really, who’s to say I won’t be hit by a truck or catch pneumonia again? I mean, that’s not cheery, but it is factual – none of us really knows what time is left. So I’m not despairing. I’m hoping for a few more years to hang out with my husband, family, and friends, to write and enjoy the beautiful Northwest.
All of this is to say: what weird timing. What is that joke? Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? Well, I couldn’t be busier making other plans – with a house to renovate before we move in, a book to launch this fall, grant applications to turn in, thinking about my next writing projects. I’d actually been feeling hopeful after the all-clear from the last round of cancer tests, ready to maybe even look for work-work again, not just freelancing. But I guess I’ll be putting that, among other things, on hold. For now I’ll just be happy to wake up and plan things for the new house, snuggling Shakespeare the cat (who has a new habit of cuddling right up on my chest when I wake up in the morning) and trying to figure out how to make life as good as it can possibly be, as long as possible. And hoping to find some great doctors as partners in fighting this.
Full Cover Reveal of Field Guide to the End of the World, Plus Tinderbox Review, Amethyst Arsenic, Monarch Review + Poets in the Park!
What? You say you want a post full of poetry news, and you’re tired of all my health updates? You’re in luck! Today’s post is nothing but poetry news!
The ARC is almost ready to go out for Field Guide to the End of the World., and just as it was finalizing I received two acceptances from journals for poems in the book – so they made the acknowledgements list. The full cover is presented here for the first time, with Charli Barnes art on the front and back! I love the way it looks like an old-fashioned college field guide. Matthea Harvey’s blurb is featured on the back cover; the other blurbs (by some of my fave writers, including Jason Mott, Sandra Beasley, and Ryan Teitman) are on the inside cover. I’d love to hear what you think!
If you want a sneak preview into the book, a few poems are now available online!
Thanks to Tinderbox Poetry for featuring two poems from the upcoming book in its latest issue, “Post-Apocalypse Postcard from an American Girl” (yes, that is a Tom Petty reference) and “Remnant.”
Thanks to local Seattle mag The Monarch Review for featuring “At the End of Time (Wish You Were Here):” http://www.themonarchreview.org/at-the-end-of-time-wish-you-were-here-jeannine-hall-gailey/
And thanks to Amethyst Arsenic for featuring “Introduction to Evolutionary Biology” in their latest issue!
Also, an appearance at this Saturday’s Redmond Poetry event Poets in the Park. I’m reading at 11 AM and giving a persona poetry workshop (free!) at 5 PM! Here’s the full schedule with all kinds of great local poets:
More of the Rollercoaster Ride – Cancer Scare Part 2, New House/New Computer Stress, and Trying to Embrace Life Despite
Well, you know how I said my cancer scare was basically over? Well, the joke’s on me, apparently – I went into the gastro this week (among fifty other doc appointments) and I had some odd test results that along with my symptoms are now pointing to a different rare cancer they want to test for. SO they’re not dangerous tests, just expensive and take-a-long-time-because-only-Mayo-Clinic-does-these types. Not the end of the world, but not exactly what I wanted to hear literally a week or two after I’d been told I was in the clear.
Finally on a new computer with the dreaded Windows 10 after the last one buzzed and ground to nearly a halt (that’s probably my last Mac for a while, too.) I am adjusting – slowly – the awkward new keyboard on the admittedly faster and more powerful laptop and the awkward newness of Windows 10 (although both make doing all my everyday business – from writing e-mails or poems to managing files – slower and more difficult.)
The inspection and appraisal on the new house are done, so we’re getting contractor bids for some minor fix-up work tomorrow. It makes getting into the new house feel more real. I’ve picked up paint samples (getting rid of some awful mustard, peach, and pistachio color schemes) and am already started sorting, throwing out, mailing away and otherwise minimizing possessions in preparation for our first move in 4 years – a record for us, in our 22 years of marriage, by the way. Maybe this time we’ll make it all the way to five years! 😉 So we’re getting our house after an eighteen month search; on the downside, soon all of our hard-won down payment money will go away. Sigh. Goodbye, bank account with money in it!
In the middle of a week of terrorism and murder on the news, frustrating, stressful doctor appointments (I think, literally, seven in five days) and work stuff which I am just now getting back to after several months sidelined – I am trying to get back into my embrace of life, despite, despite, despite. I wrote two new poems in the last two days – and I got several rejections. I’m wrestling with formatting issues on the new book and I’m working on a tricky application that’s due in a few days. Our June has so far been cool and rainy, a far cry from the blazing-hot ninety degree weather of April and May. The barn swallows have returned – here they are looking sassy, next to a bed of water lilies – and the lavender and roses are in full bloom. I’m definitely planting lavender at the new house. I always forget how much I love its smell, the way its little purple bristly flowers open up like paintbrushes. And the baby bunnies are proliferating. I want to plan more coffee dates with friends, go to more galleries and readings. Spend more time staying away from hospitals, forgetting the pain of my body, the testing, the constant drain of blood draws, and more time doing the things I actually want to do in my life. I hope I will be able to get back that life soon. In the meantime, feel free to send happy health and home energy this way.
The last few months have basically involved me running a gauntlet of danger, stress, and rejection (you can read a bit about why starting at this post in Feb.) I was told I had malignant stage 4 cancer – multiple times, and after multiple tests. Some of these tests involved injecting me with multiple kinds of stuff that could basically kill me to help the docs figure out whether I had cancer or not (and I dodged a liver biopsy that several docs really pressured me to get.) I went to so many specialists that I can’t even list them all. During that time, I also unsuccessfully hunted for a house with many turned-down offers in a super-hot market AND had a record number of poetry rejections. The universe was handing me a lot of not-great stuff. 2016 was feeling like it was set up to be my worst year ever.
But here’s the strange turn in this story – yes, I was for sure miserable and grumpy during parts of the last few months. But I also started noticing small happinesses I had been ignoring or maybe even bypassing in favor of doing the practical, the business-like, the normal. I took more pictures of flowers – the cherry blossoms, the tulips, the lavender. I went on more walks and took more notice of the cool breezes and warm sun as the seasons changed, the smells of herbs and the birds that wheeled above me. I kissed my husband more. Even when I felt completely terrible and fearful, I woke up to the small kindnesses of those around me. I received notes from family and friends that I still have pinned to my wall, and remembered that love that is many miles away is still love. When some doctors drove me crazy with what turned out to be wrong diagnoses and bad medical advice, I felt so thankful when other doctors were extra thoughtful, put in more effort to be empathetic, and didn’t give up on what turned out to be a fairly complicated and difficult case. When my ankles and other joints worked, I felt grateful to be able to walk. When my stomach wasn’t acting up, I felt grateful for the delicious food – a cherry muffin, a cheesy omelet, a good avocado – I was able to eat. I flew on a plane for the first time in six years to go present a panel at AWP LA – and had a great time. I feel thankful for the encouragement and friendship I’ve been shown, and as a writer, despite the repeated head-thumping rejections, I feel like I’ve also been extraordinarily lucky in my opportunities thus far.
As we hid the mid-point of the year, we’re set to close (finally!) on a great house in our dream neighborhood at the end of the month. Although I’m still going through rounds of tests and specialist visits, the consensus from the doctors now is that I don’t have cancer, but a rare sort of tumor that we have to observe to make sure it doesn’t grow or turn into something malignant – but that’s a turn for the better. And I’m starting to turn my attention writing-wise, as we get ready to launch my fifth book Field Guide to the End of the World this fall, to new writing projects – what’s going to come next? It’s a good feeling, to be hopeful, expectant and looking to the future – instead of an end. But the past few months have taught me that looking at the end is sometimes a good way to sweep out of the way the doubt and fear, the ennui and annoyance that keep us from grasping tight to every good moment that comes our way.
In other news…my review of C. Dale Young’s The Halo went up today at The Rumpus! Young’s narrative involves surviving medical trauma and sprouting wings, so definitely worth a read!
Thanks to Michael Meyerhofer and Atticus Review for this feature of poems from my upcoming book, Field Guide to the End of the World. I hope you enjoy this “sneak preview!”
I’ve been a little under the weather since the Skagit Poetry Festival but managed to try and get a little inspiration. The Woodinville Lavender farm has one field that just came into bloom – no bees yet, just the sweet clean smell of little purple flowers (and lavender lemonade in the accompanying shop!)
After a doctor’s appointment downtown I got a chance to stop by Open Books and then to a quick tour of the Pioneer Square Art Walk, to my old favorite gallery, Roq La Rue. They had a new one-artist show up by Meghan Howland called “Your Magic is Real.” This was the piece I liked the best – a woman who seems to breaking through a wall of wings called “Forager.” Sadly, Roq La Rue is closing on September 1, so if you get a chance to visit before then, do it – they have two more shows to go before that.