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Memoir Monday 1

The Memoir Monday feature will be posted every other Monday.

This memoir writing is tough stuff. Many of my online friends are from a circle of published or soon-to-publish memoir writers. Most are based on hard subjects; illness and injury, death by disease or suicide, and abuse or neglect. You have to wonder why these memoirs are so widely read. At first glance those subjects are sad or depressing.

Why do we read them? I have always read memoirs and biographies. Sometimes I’m drawn in by pure curiosity, other times the author is covering an experience that I have had, or someone close has had. I want to know how they got through it. I want a blatant or even a subtle message of hope. Yes, hope.

The author lived to write about it, so maybe they have a secret of survival to share with me. Maybe they write so well, with that just-right stroke of humor, that I will be whisked away on their magic carpet for a few hours. I hold onto the hope that the author not only survives, but thrives after their crisis. Hope. I read memoirs for hope.

Hope may also be the reason that I keep hitting delays in my own memoir. August will be five years since Paul’s death. The memoir keeps pulling me back to the hard memories, when I am beginning to see the light of happy memories of Paul, in my everyday life. Yet…we both truly wanted to share our journey with others. We wanted to offer help along the way, for others in a health crisis, and we wanted to offer hope.

That is why I took on Memoir Mondays. I need to get this show on the road! I want to share this part of the journey with my community. I would love some feedback. I plan on exploring the topic of memoir, as well as some resource links for others who are writing memoirs. I’ll review some memoirs and announce it when my friends publish their memoirs. There is a large community of memoir writers online, so this won’t all be new information, but it will be what I think is interesting, and what I think you might enjoy.

In the mean time, here is some of the writing from within my own thick “Memoir” file.

 

A little background: My husband, Paul, spent a year in and out of hospitals, and in short-term housing near the main hospital, while fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia and the Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) that he got as a result of a bone marrow transplant. During that year, I kept family and friends updated by way of an online patient journal on Care Pages. The following excerpts are from the memoir I’m writing, and were written during a few days of the last hospital stay:

June 13, 2009 Last night we had our best sleep in a long time. That’s good, but really, we’re funnier when we go sleepless in Seattle. Since yesterday, Paul has a bit of medication-caused edema in his belly and arms. He is still taking walks around the hallway loop, 10-40 minutes a day. He’s trying to do his exercises, but his belly argues with too much movement.

The biopsies from Tuesday’s procedure showed that Paul has adeno virus in his stomach now. They have added two more drugs to fight it, and more fluids before and after the new antiviral. It’s a toss up which is worse, the virus or the treatment. The other drug protects him from the damage the antiviral causes. What a viscous circle. They continue to try and balance his glucose, but it keeps dropping low , then spiking high. They began a new plan today and it has stayed pretty even so far. Through it all, Paul pushes on to do everything he can to get better.

Wishing we were there,

Patti & Paul

June 14, 2009 (warning–talk of needles) Paul is doing better today. His cramping belly has let up a lot. This was ATG day, when they pre-medicate him, which sends him off to a pretty deep sleep. This eve he had his weekly x-ray. We walked earlier, and will walk again later.
Tomorrow is ECP day, when he is hooked up to a machine in his room for 3 1/2 hrs. I can’t remember if I told you all about it or not, but they put a large needle in a vein, then strap his arm to a small board to keep it immobile and straight. They take blood out, separate it, take one layer and treat it with a photosensitive drug, then pass the treated portion under UV lights, then the machine puts it all back inside Paul’s vein. I have read some encouraging studies about this therapy, and we are hopeful that it can help clear out the GVHD.
Everything they are doing will take time, so we are settled in for the long haul. We’re up for it, though. Whatever it takes to get us back home and Paul healed.
Husky stadium is outside our window, so we have been watching the flurry of graduation taking place this weekend. It is surreal to watch all these young people celebrating starting out their lives full of hope, from a hospital room window, where we fight for Paul’s life.
Paul says to tell you all, “Hi!” and thanks for all the support.
Paul & Patti

More background. Paul passed away in our bed at home on August 9, 2009. Less than a month later, I started back with my emails to friends and family, while I tunneled through grief and estate issues.

Sept 2, 2009 BLOG BLOG BLOG BLOG—It’s all about me! (I really know it isn’t)

Just tonight, I realized that I miss doing the updates about Paul’s health and our daily lives as fighters-for-his-life in a foreign land (hospital in Seattle). I thought that I could continue in a private journal, although the feedback is disappointing :>) So now I will write about me fighting for my mental life in this foreign land of Paul Is Gone. I will share the journey with you, because it is a habit that I still need.

I went to the doc today because a sore throat kept me up all night. I just have some infection in my throat and sinuses. With a few antibiotics I’ll be on the mend. I feel like hell, okay? I’m only up now, because Mark (family friend, lives close) signaled with his gate bell, that he was dropping off provisions, along with a mocha from my Aunt Judee. I couldn’t get back to sleep. I got up to see if no news was still good news—yes, it is! That means no evil attacks about the estate today. Someone spread the “rumor” that there was going to be a sale here this Saturday. Friends and family think the rumor was spread just to worry me, ahhhh, success for whoever started it!

I feel like such a scholar; I added “Judee” and “ahhhh” to the dictionary! There’s just something empowering about adding words to a dictionary… my personal dictionary on my computer…but STILL!

Finally, I changed the auto insurance to only cover my truck. One more thing done. Oh, that would be two, as I also called to get paperwork started for a small pension.

From the long, wide deck overlooking the back yard and acreage; A little after 8 P.M., and here comes that moon, right on time. That was my entertainment last night; watching as Jupiter chases the moon up the hill and over the tree tops. Much better than My Name Is Earl—sorry, Paul, but anything is better than Earl. I just realized that the moon actually rises in front of, and then above Jupiter. When the moon finally takes the lead, Jupiter resumes the chase across the sky. That’s way better than that episode when Earl got stuck in jail. I do not miss television. I would watch unlimited hours to have Paul back.

#####################################################

Thanks for being here,

Patti


19 Comments

EDDD 13; Waking Up To 8 Strangers In Your Room

 

Notes from a memoir in making…

Crap, the alarm didn’t go off. Okay, maybe it did, but I just set it two hours ago, so maybe we both slept through it. So, here I am on this cot next to Paul’s hospital bed, hair going every direction, eyes still stuck together and my brain on sludge mode. Without the elixir of life (coffee), and with a full bladder, I have to wake myself up enough to answer specific questions and protect Paul from cruel and unusual poking and prodding.

In a teaching hospital, this happens 5 days a week. Waking up to strangers in your room, and not screaming, “Get out!,” is an acquired skill. You can tell who the doctor is, because he or she is usually a snappy dresser, and freshly showered. The students either look intimidated by the doc and exhausted, or they look attentively up into the doc’s face, have brown noses and try for the matching snappy look, with a semi-pressed lab coat.

Either way, it is game on. Once in awhile I can get them to check back later, but usually they are in a hurry and won’t can’t change their routine. It is amazing how different their behavior is when I’m just waking, and still in bed, compared to when I’m dressed and alert when they arrive. I know they are not the enemy (at least I do on my good days), but I still have to make sure the facts they are using to decide Paul’s meds and treatment, are based on what he and I know to be the reality.

Paul is groggy, but always humble and accommodating. He knows I’m listening, making notes and generally on top of it. This is the best gift I can give Paul, who is on his 6th or 7th plan B treatment to try and stop the aggressive attack of Graft vs Host disease. The gift is allowing him to not have to remember medications, side affects and his vital statistics. If there is an issue to be discussed, he can lay and listen, while I rattle the cages to correct or get more information about his treatment.

I grab a hair clip, my notebook and pen and another day begins.

~~~~~~~~

Frosty garden colors and the end of the primrose. PHALL PHOTO 2013

Frosty garden colors and the end of the primrose.
PHALL PHOTO 2013

It’s almost midnight and I’m happy to report that I made it through another dreaded Friday the 13th. Personally, I think it is a lucky day. Turns out, I had neither dread nor luck today…but isn’t that lucky?

Thanks for hanging out,

Patti

Every Damn Day? Who’s idea was this anyway?

From writing challenge Every Damn Day December at http://treatmentofvisions.com/2013/11/26/evdadadec/


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Book Review: In the Body of the World: A Memoir, Eve Ensler

 In the Body of the World: A Memoir

 

In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler
Patti Hall’s review on Goodreads and Amazon

Oct 12, 2013
Recommended to Patti by: Elaine Mansfield
Recommended for: *Cancer victims and survivors. *Anyone with a female in their life.
Read from September 10 to 28, 2013, read count: 2
*I easily concede that this may not be the right book for everyone. I know that I would want to read it if I had cancer, but it may be too raw for others. Ensler does not filter out the horrendous things done to her body during her fight against cancer, nor the horrendous things done to the bodies of females in the Congo. I strongly value the message of hope that she brings to both subjects. Oh, and the “V” on the cover is not an accident.
Any possibility of love and respect for her body was taken away with the violation of it by her own father. Eve Ensler kept her body busy though, with good, bad and ugly actions. Years later, she began talking with, and interviewing women about their bodies. Part of the discussion was about how they could value and protect their bodies. Ensler wrote and published the Vagina Monologues and performed the play on stage. Her character portrayals are pure art. Other artists took on her role. The result of all that wondering and questioning can still be witnessed on campuses and theaters across the country. Ensler continued to interview women from every walk of life, and from around the world. There was only one thing that stopped her, or I should say, refocused her.
The plight of the women and girls of the Congo gave her a new focus. The Congo is a place where the rape, pillage, murder and destruction of females, from infants to grandmothers, are rampant. These crimes against humanity take place in collusion with the destruction of the Congolese earth. These crimes take place in order to mine the earth’s natural ingredients, which feed the rest of the world’s lust for resources and technology.
Not long after Ensler began to envision and ignite solutions with and for the women of the Congo, she encountered the destructive force of cancer within her own body. While the Congo women and earth continued to be attacked, Ensler was forced to retreat (although never out of contact) and fight her private battle. And a horrendous battle it was. Ensler writes about it like a gentle, yet ferocious mother. She writes in awe of the mighty foe. Her writing invokes a woman who is, at once, humble, brave, weak, passionate and grateful. As if that were not enough to compel readers, Ensler is also generous with her unvarnished honesty.The City of Joy is being built and run by the girls and women of the Congo. It is its own powerful force, envisioned and ignited by Ensler and her circle of supporters. When Ensler and her doctors were done slaying her cancer dragons, she went right back to The City of Joy. She continues to travel the world to garner funds for the V-Day movement to end violence against women and girl’s bodies. This daunting challenge is no less heroic than the fight to save her own life.

The loudest lesson Ensler offers her readers is hope.


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Midlife Collage Contest Essay, “Love, Laughter and Loss”

sunset, moon, coastguard

Sunset Moon & Coastguard Tower, Westport, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

As usual, the photo is unrelated to the text :>) I hope that the Coasties love this one. More photos of mine at phallphotos.wordpress.com 

One of my stories is in the  Midlife Collage contest this week (Monday through Sunday). It’s called “Love, Laughter and Loss” and is up against four other short stories. It only runs until this Sunday.

http://midlifecollage.com

This contest pays $50., but it asks more of the reader/voters;

  1. Facebook “likes” count a lot in the final judging. So, please click the Facebook link at the bottom of my story—it looks like a thumbs up.
  2. Please leave one of your thoughtful comments at the end of the story. Comments count for judging, only if they are more than a quick, “Great story!” What emotions, memories, thoughts came up when you read it? What did you think about the quality of writing? Was it descriptive enough? Logical beginning, middle & end?
  3. Please go to “Closing Arguments” (at the top of each page, in the header) and convince the judges which story should win this week and why. I usually copy and paste my comment from the story I want to win, then make it stronger for the judges.
  4. For you to “qualify” to give the judges your opinion in the “Closing Arguments” you have to click a box that says that you have read at least 3 of the stories.

Thank you for taking the time to do this for me.

Patti


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Souvenirs from My Heart; Postcards-Ten

Mural

Mural on Building In Westport, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

Here is the 8th installment of the serialized version of a section of my memoir, Souvenirs from My heart; The Patient Patient Advocate. We load my truck with Paul and his symptoms and head to the after hours clinic one last time.

Postcard 1 here.

Postcard 2 here.

Postcards 3 & 4 here.

Postcard 5 here.

Postcard 6 here.

Postcard 7 here.

Postcard 8 & 9 here.

cont. medical history document…

July 21, 2008 2:30 P.M. (Four months after the all-clear from the oncologist.) We went to the urgent care clinic to have a doctor look at the red spots that had recently developed on Paul’s feet and legs, and with the hope that they had something better to help with Paul’s difficulty breathing and itchy eyes. As usual, we went out in the hallway and waited for his name to be called—we didn’t want to be exposed to other people’s illnesses. After briefly speaking to the doctor on duty, Paul was sent down the hall for chest x-rays and blood draws.

 

We spent more time waiting outside of each lab, and then went back to the chairs in the main hallway. We sat flipping through magazines and sharing things that we discovered. Paul had the peculiar habit of reading magazines backwards. It drove me crazy, but always led to some fun teasing back and forth. (This sudden and incredibly vivid memory brings a smile to my face. It feels like it was just yesterday; like I had a visit with Paul.)

 

The receptionist finally called Paul’s name and the doctor led us into an exam room, carrying a small stack of lab results. The handsome young doctor had been confident, friendly and attentive to Paul’s medical issues when we spoke with him more than an hour and a half earlier. Now he was clearly shaken up, telling us that he had called in a consulting doctor, because Paul’s WBC (white blood count) was over 200 k. When he told us the normal range was 4,500-10,000, I felt light-headed, and Paul just stared at me (as if I held the answers he wanted to hear). His other lab values went too far in the other direction. I asked what that meant and the doctor said that he would rather wait and talk to the other doctor first.

 

A nurse came into the exam room to draw more blood.  I noticed that Paul was starting to look pale. I calmly told the doctor that I thought Paul was going to have another “episode.” I had already witnessed two, and I knew the subtle signs that even Paul did not recognize. When the doctor asked Paul if he was okay, Paul quietly said, “Yes.” I stayed calm, but insisted that he was not okay, that he was getting worse quickly. Assured by Paul, and ignoring me, the doctor left the room.

 

As the door clicked shut, Paul said he was a little dizzy—the very words he said before his last two “episodes”—followed by instant burning hot skin, wracking chills and profuse sweating. These signs were at least as dramatic as they sound. I had the nurse hold onto Paul, and then I threw open the door and loudly ordered someone to call 911. As you may recall, the last time (16 months earlier) that this happened here, Paul’s own doctor sent me (with only the help of another waiting patient) to get Paul into my truck and to the hospital. This action doesn’t really fit my usual personality, but I wasn’t taking any chances this time.

 

Postcard 10:

 

Health is such a blessing. We aging baby boomers seem to end up with more visits to the doctor, so why not be ready? Like young parents who drag a diaper bag everywhere they go, let’s make an appointment bag. Have it in the car or on the coat rack by the front door. Add a novel, puzzle book, or magazine, a notebook and pen. Add a bag of raisins, dried fruit, or nuts, and a bottle of water. Add whatever would help you stay calm during the minutes and hours of waiting time in medical offices. Be creative!

 

Other notes:

***The postcards are nearing the end (2 more), and then I hope to have some good news to tell you about them.

***From my last post: An article I wrote about the beginning love affair with my blue-eyed man has been selected to be in a PAYING contest later this month! Get your voting fingers ready again. 

***Again: Watch for Monday’s selection of pictures and quotes from some unusual reading places and habits of THE WRITE PLACE community members. That’s you, peeps:>)  Send your photo and quote to my email below.

***A NAME: My youngest sis suggested that we make the reading photos and quotes a regular feature here. “Reading Place” fits well with the blog site title, so that’s what we’ll go with. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

Email photos and quotes to me at: 1writeplacewordpress at gmail dot com

Thanks for hanging in there, and your comments are especially appreciated.

Patti


18 Comments

Souvenirs from My Heart; Postcards-Eight and Nine

Net Spool and Seagulls Westport Marina, WA PHALL PHOTO 2013

Net Spool and Seagulls
Westport Marina, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

Here is the 7th installment of the serialized version of a section of the memoir, Souvenirs from My heart; The Patient Patient Advocate. Paul has strange new symptoms,  another “episode” and we spend our last night at home for several months.

Postcard 1 here.

Postcard 2 here.

Postcards 3 & 4 here.

Postcard 5 here.

Postcard 6 here.

Postcard 7 here.

cont. medical history document…

July 14, 2008 The dentist verified that Paul had badly inflamed gum disease, with infection in his upper gums; his 4 upper front teeth would need to come out once the infection was eliminated. The dentist had never seen a disease progression as rapid as Paul’s. We set up a care program for home and a schedule to have the dental work done, beginning the following Monday. The dentist suggested that we go straight to an urgent care clinic to get prescriptions for relief of the stuffy nose and the gum infection. We did so and the clinic doctor gave Paul a prescription for an antibiotic and antihistamine. Paul saw no relief at all from these medicines over the next few days. We cancelled his dental appointment, since he wouldn’t be able to have the work done as long as he could only breathe out of his mouth.

July 18, 2008 Paul noticed red spots all over the tops of his feet and the front of his legs while taking his evening bath.

Postcard 8:

We now know that the red dots on feet and legs are another red flag for leukemia, especially in older men. We later heard of an older male in-law who died within weeks of seeing the red spots, because he never sought medical advice.

We called and talked to the pharmacist who had filled the prescriptions. She didn’t think it was an allergic reaction, but suggested that Paul see a doctor about it if we were worried. She seemed unconcerned.

July 20, 2008 The red spots were still covering Paul’s lower extremities. He stopped taking the antibiotic, just in case. Later that day he noticed a large, deep bruise on his inside forearm. We had no idea where it came from. For some reason, that one bruise, on top of everything else, really shook us up.

Almost a year earlier Paul hit his ankle with a piece of metal and it never completely healed…he did show it to his PCP during a routine exam, but his doc just shrugged his shoulders and mumbled, “Huh?” By July 20th, Paul and I were both confused and worried about his mounting symptoms. In my journal entry the next morning, I wrote, “We don’t know what’s happening with P’s health, but we held each other all night long. No late night TV. None of our nighttime silliness or midnight snacks. Don’t have to say a thing. I know that we’re both worried as hell. When I got back  in bed from peeing at about 2 a.m., he pulled me close to his chest and held on ‘til morning.”

That would be the last night for months that we slept in a bed together. It would also be one of our last good night’s sleep.

Postcard 9:

This postcard is a reminder to jot new or unusual symptoms in a family or personal calendar or journal. Between getting older, and the emotional confusion, should a medical crisis happen, it is easy to forget important little health details. Better yet, keep a family medical journal handy. What a time-saver if it is ever needed! You can buy these or make your own with online forms that you can print out at home.

////only 2 or 3 more installments////

Other notes:

***The postcards are nearing the end, and then I hope to have some good news to tell you about them.

***An article I wrote about the beginning love affair with my blue-eyed man has been selected to be in a PAYING contest later this month! Get your voting fingers ready again. 

***Watch for Monday’s selection of pictures and quotes from some unusual reading places and habits of THE WRITE PLACE community members. That’s you, peeps:>)  Send your photo and quote to my email below.

***My youngest sis suggested we make the reading photos and quotes a regular feature here. What shall we call it? How about, “You Read Where?” or “Where Do YOU Read?” or “Reading Places” or “Places I Read”  I don’t know, you guys come up with something, or do you think I should do all the work around here? Don’t answer that:>)

Email photos and quotes to me at: 1writeplacewordpress at gmail dot com

Thanks for hanging in there, and your comments are especially appreciated.

Patti


18 Comments

Souvenirs from My Heart; Postcards-Six

 

Hummer & Fireweed PHALL PHOTO 2013

Hummer & Fireweed, From front porch of former home, snapped 2 days ago. Rochester, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

Great Blue Heron, Rochester, WA PHALL PHOTO 2013

Great Blue Heron, From back porch of my former home. Taken 2 days ago. Rochester, WA
PHALL PHOTO 2013

 

Here is the 5th installment of the serialized version of a section of the memoir, Souvenirs from My heart; The Patient Patient Advocate. Paul’s disconnected and as yet to be diagnosed medical symptoms take a bizarre turn for the worse and he ends up in the emergency room. This is not sci-fi…

cont. medical history document…

In March 2007 Paul was hit hard again with the nighttime fevers and chills, and daytime fatigue. He eventually took time off work and stayed home to try and get better.

Paul was so hot and chilled for several nights in a row that we went to the after hours clinic where his PCP was on duty. As we sat in the waiting room, Paul quietly mentioned that he was feeling dizzy; I turned to him, touched his hand and asked if he was okay.

He was sitting up in a chair, but did not respond to my voice or touch and his hand that was under mine started to “float” up, even as I tried to hold it on his leg. When I let go of it, the hand and arm continued to float in the air. Then both arms were floating; his eyes were open, but looked foggy and vacant. He was completely unresponsive to my pleas for him to answer me. He was still loosely sitting up in the chair. I ran across the room to the receptionist and tried to get help.

Paul broke out in a body-soaking sweat. The staff, including his PCP, told me to get him to the ER (emergency room). A man we did not even know, a patient at the clinic, helped me get Paul into our vehicle and I drove him to the local ER. Although he was now responsive, but still very pale, the ER staff took him immediately to Triage and began asking questions and drawing blood.

Then Paul had another “episode” like the one at the clinic, less than 20 minutes before. He was bleeding from an attempt to draw his blood, and was again unresponsive…covered in sweat, then seemed to pass out completely…other staff rushed in to help and they got him on a gurney and into a treatment room and began treating him for possible heart attack.

Postcard 6:

I had been trying to get Paul to change doctors, as his was an older man (very) and was soon going to retire. He was far too casual about the issues Paul was having, especially since Paul had such a clean health history. So, please take time and consider whether or not your doctor is the best fit for you if you begin to have unusual symptoms and do not feel they are being addressed properly.  Another big point: call 911 if you have a medical emergency anywhere except a hospital. I did address this with Paul’s doctor and got a sincere apology. The doctor or his staff should have called 911. As it was, a complete stranger helped me get Paul into my truck, rather than the clinic staff. I was not in any condition to drive; this was the most bizarre and frightening medical emergency I had ever witnessed and I was so afraid for Paul.

Postcard 1 here.

Postcard 2 here.

Postcards 3 & 4 here.

Postcard 5 here.

Other notes:

Still not caught up on social aspect of my writing. Have not written or edited a thing:>( Bad writer!  Have worked outside on garden projects, which are nearing the length of my list of writing projects. Got new garden soil added to my friend’s back garden and added some of my extra irises and mystery bulbs. I’m helping him design a lower maintenance garden. Later, we took on the huge task of clearing the back area near Maggie (my home), where my pond and shade garden will go.  I feel much older and out of shape than I did a just a few days ago! The shiny side is that I am outside more and making something with lasting beauty. Oh, and I sleep a bit more.

Thanks for hanging in there, and your comments are especially appreciated.

Patti