An Overdue Update

The booboo from hell.

Before I get into the meat of today’s post, a short public service announcement:

His Parisian Mistress, which is book 1 of the historical romance series, Scandalous Famiy–The Victorians, is for today and only a few more days free on all booksellers, including Stories Rule Press.

Get your copy on Stories Rule Press
(which is really me in publisher disguise)

Get your copy at your favourite bookseller

Plus, the two other books (currently) available in the series have been discounted by 50% for the duration of this short term promo.

And back to the regularly schedule program:

The Booboo from Hell

I’ve been remiss, quite by accident. 

As you might have intuited from my Bookfunnel News emails each morning, I have had some health problems lately. 

Everyone whom I thought wanted to know how I was doing I have been sending updates on my progress via direct emails and on Facebook.

But I overlooked putting an update here on my blog.  I was blind to the oversight until I received a few puzzled emails from readers who get my BookFunnel emails (with their enigmatic references), but do not do Facebook. 

As my health issues are impacting the release of books, this post will give you all the nitty gritty details.  Going forward, I will keep you posted, too – but not as frequently as I update on Facebook. 

I have been struggling with back and neck issues going back to mid-2021.  My chiropractor said it was pinched nerves, and he did provide relief.  For a while. 

In January 2022, I slipped on ice while shovelling snow.  I didn’t fall, but the sideways slip cranked my neck, and I felt something crunch.  My chiropractor tried to work on the new pinched nerve but it was far, far too painful.  For weeks I was in constant pain, ate pain-killers like candy, and slept a lot.  I spent most of my day in my recliner, too.

Doing anything at all became a problem.  I couldn’t lift my arms, especially if I was holding something even moderately heavy.   Bending to empty the dishwasher was agony.

I suffered through this for months, while my chiropractor tried to adjust everything and give me some relief.  Somehow, I kept my writing up.  I didn’t miss any deadlines, although I was close, once or twice.

My family physician took a battery of tests, including an x-ray of my back.  Which is when we discovered I had three vertebrae with compression fractures (i.e., my back was broken), and nearly a dozen broken ribs. 

I figured I had broken everything when I fell off my garden shovel in May, but my doctor disagreed. 

My pain did not subside.  I was still chewing pain killers like candy.  Getting out of the chair was agony.  Getting out of bed in the morning was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  I hyperventilated and shuffled along until the first pain killers of the day kicked in.  By now I had progressed to using a cane to get about. 

Around this time, I also started to notice that parts of the left side of my face was numb.  The jaw, and up to my temple.  This was, I presumed, a complication from the pinched nerve in my neck, which had never been resolved, and for which I was still getting severe headaches and pain.

Because of the fractures, it was presumed I had severe osteoporosis, but when I had a bone density scan, we learned I only had mild osteopenia, not even full osteoporosis.  And so the mystery continued.

One of the tests results showed a high degree of proteins in my urine, which concerned my doctor, so she referred me to a nephrologist (kidney specialist). 

The kidney specialist phoned me herself the next Sunday morning, and asked if I’d ever heard of Multiple Myeloma (MM).  My voice shook as I asked if that was some type of cancer.  She said it was a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, which produces excess white blood cells – a useless kind of cell that crowds out the hemoglobin, and leeches calcium from bones.   Which might explain why my spine and ribs were spontaneously breaking.  She referred me to the Cross Cancer Institute.

I started to research MM and my research was sobering, because I was showing every classic symptom that MM sufferers go through.

By the time my appointment at the Cancer institute arrived in the last days of September this year, I was braced for the diagnosis.  The oncologist confirmed that I had MM, and the gargantuan machinery that is the Cross Cancer Institute swung into gear.  Suddenly, I had a chemotherapy schedule, training to complete, and dozens of blood tests.  Multiple doctors, pharmacists and their assistants were phoning me to walk me through what came next.

I happened to mention to one of the doctors, a hematologist, about my numb face.  I had mentioned this to many doctors in the past, but all of them dismissed the numbness as a side effect of the pinched nerve, which confirmed my own suspicions. 

This doctor, though, paused and frowned.  “That doesn’t sound right,” she said.  She went off to look at the battery of x-rays they had taken of my entire back just that morning.  (I have had so many x-rays taken, lately, that I’m surprised I don’t glow in the dark.)

The x-rays were inconclusive, because the vertebrae in the neck are very hard to see, typically.  The jaw and skull hide them. 

But the hematologist got stubborn.  “Then we’ll do a CT scan,” she declared. 

It took four people to help me lie down flat on my back in the scanner.  I was in agony, but had to lie still.

The CT scanner showed what the x-rays had not:  The C1 vertebrae, the one just under the back of the skull, was fractured and curling in on itself and pressing against the spinal cord.

I wasn’t allowed to move, after that.  They fitted me for a neck brace and wouldn’t even let me sit up to have it put on.  They eased it onto my neck while I remained lying down.  Then I was transferred to the biggest hospital in the city, and referred to a neurosurgical team.

I had emergency surgery two days later, and the team inserted titanium alloy plates, rods and pins into my head and neck, to prop up my neck and protect the spinal cord, which the C1 vertebrae could no longer do.

I came home from hospital ten days later.  And two days after that, learned I’d brought COVID home with me.  

I had had major spinal surgery, a cancer diagnosis, lost nearly 60 pounds because I had no appetite, and now COVID…and it still hadn’t been quite two weeks since I’d first visited the Cross Cancer Institute.

I had trouble focusing or paying attention to anything, once I got home.  It took a good couple of weeks for me to even be able to focus upon text on my computer screen.  I was taking opioids, now, not just Tylenol, and sleeping always seemed like a better option.

It was a miserable few weeks.  I used to be able to sit on the ends of my hair.  Now, thanks to the surgery, my hair had been shaved at the back of my head and the rest had to be trimmed to just above my shoulders.  I had an open incision up the back of my head.  And I still couldn’t get out of the recliner without help and a lot of pain.

I also started chemotherapy in that time.  Luckily, I had no major side effects, for I had a lot of other issues to deal with.

Writing fiction, in that time, came to a grinding halt.  I could barely process emails, and felt tired after clearing out my inbox.

About three weeks after returning home from hospital, I eased myself out of bed one morning and got dressed (which required sitting on a chair, and taking breaks in between donning each garment).  I put on my shirt, and my hand brushed the back of my head. 

My hair was wet.

The surgical incision was weeping.

We dashed to my nearest Emergency Room, for infections when you’re doing chemo can be life threatening.

The ER confirmed my surgical wound was infected, and immediately put me onto an antibiotic drip.  Eight hours later, they referred me to the ER of the hospital where I had the original surgery.  And nine hours after that, the ER admitted me to the hospital itself. 

The next day I had yet another emergency surgery.  The neurosurgeon who had completed the original surgery would have to reopen the wound, and clean out the infection.   

They took swabs of the infection while they were cleaning it out, and would analyze them to determine which bacteria had infected me.  Those tests can take up to ten days, so I remained in hospital until the bacteria had been identified, and a more specific antibiotic could be prescribed.

The infection was deep enough to be classified a bone infection.  The tests showed that the bacteria was a mild one (there are some life threatening bad boys out there), but I would have to undergo six weeks of IV antibiotic treatment.

They installed a PICC line.  This is a permanent IV that is inserted into your upper arm, and is threaded through the larger veins in the arm and chest, to deliver antibiotics to the big vein near the heart.  It simplifies the delivery of the antibiotic, as normal IVs clog up in a couple of days, and my forearms and the backs of my hands were nearly all black from bruises caused by IVs while I was in the hospital.

Then I was sent home, again. 

This time, I recovered more quickly, because after tapping into the expertise of everyone who spoke to me in the hospital, including hematologists, orthopaedic surgeons, general physicians, infectious disease doctors, physiotherapists, pharmacists, occupational therapists and nurses with decades of experience, I experimented and learned something vital:  Sleeping on my side, which I had done all my life, was aggravating my broken ribs and probably wasn’t helping my fractured spine, either.

So I made myself sleep on my back, with the bed slightly raised (because lying flat was agonizing).  And within a few nights, the permanent pain around my torso, that flared from chronic to acute with every little movement, had eased enough that I could get out of the bed in the morning, and not hyperventilate with the pain.

Mark bought me an incline pillow, so I could continue to sleep on a “raised” bed on my back, at home.  I’m still using the pillow, and now I’ve progressed to the point where I sometimes forget to grab my cane when I move around the house, and I can get through the day with only one dose of Tylenol, and no opioids.

I visit the IV clinic each day to get my antibiotics, and will until mid-December.  In the meantime, because chemotherapy and antibiotics are sort-of polar opposites, my chemotherapy has been put on hold.

This might have been an issue, but when I consulted with my oncologist, he said that in the mere 10 days I had received chemotherapy before I landed back in hospital, my response had been so positive, that the proteins in my blood were down to just above normal. 

Without chemotherapy, those numbers will start to climb again, but they will linger at the low level for a few weeks, which is enough to complete the antibiotics course (which is important) and not suffer any negative impact from delaying chemotherapy.

It also means that when I do get back to chemotherapy in late December, it’s likely I will respond just as well, and the chemotherapy will be successful.

Also on the positive side, my kidneys have settled down and are functioning just below normal.  The slight negative is a result of the cancer, which will self-correct as I go through chemotherapy.  The nephrologist (who was the first to mention the C word) has said she doesn’t need to see me anymore.  My kidney functions can be monitored by my family doctor. 

In the meantime, because I’m nearly pain free and far, far more mobile than I have been for months, I am back to writing fiction. 

Which is part of the reason I’m writing this post.  My production schedule has been completely disrupted.  I’ve missed release dates and I’m whole books behind where I would have been, had I not gone through these multiple crises. 

Although I’m writing once more, I’m not yet back to my previous level of output, and it’s possible I’ll never get back to that hyper-productive level ever again. 

So, books you’ve been looking forward to will be delayed.  I’m sorry about this.  I hate letting you guys down.  It’s one of the reasons I didn’t like to publish my production schedule, and get your hopes up about upcoming books.  I preferred to announce a new book once it had been written.  Because life tends to throw wrenches when you least expect them.

My plan is to finish every series that is yet unfinished, which includes Adelaide Becket, The Endurance, Project Kobra, Scandalous Families—The Victorians, Kiss Across Time, and Once and Future Hearts.  I won’t be starting new series until these are almost done.

As I have done until now, I won’t announce release dates until I’ve actually finished the book and the release is guaranteed.  This avoids disappointing you, and takes pressure off me.  I can complete books as fast as I can manage, instead of sweating out a deadline.

And that’s where things currently stand.   I’ve glossed over a lot of detail (such as losing all my hair with the second surgery – they buzz cut everything).  The updates on FB have more in them, but I don’t want to swamp your inbox with emails about this.  If you can access Facebook and you want more detail, check out my public page there;  Or if you’re a member of the Hangout group, you’ll find the same updates there. 

So, stay tuned.  If you don’t want to miss news about releases, consider subscribing to my email list (and if you’re reading this post inside an email, you’re already subscribed). 

I’m happy to answer questions if you have ‘em.  Comment below, or reply to the email.


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