Friday, July 25, 2014

The Worst Novel In the History of Humankind

If there is a lesson to be found in this life-crushing medical nightmare of mine, it’s this: most things aren’t that bad in comparison.
To be honest, my unexpected illness kicked off an avalanche of bad shit in my life. But as I sit here this morning at my desk by the window, I am proud – maybe even a little surprised – that nothing’s made me crack quite yet. People sometimes tell me I’m the strongest person they know. At this point, I’m staring to think they might be right.
Here are some challenges I’ve faced since all this started (not necessarily in order) and how the “new and improved” Susan has chosen to react to them.
My mother died last October. I was devastated and I miss her every day. But as woo-woo as this may sound, I still feel her.  Maybe going mano-a-mano with death myself has left me more open-minded about life and energy, but I swear she is still here. I believe she'll always be.
My son wrecked my car. Sure, I was hacked off, but he wasn't hurt and it was just a car. I got another one. I don’t let him drive it.
My brain took so long to heal that my income stream dried up. Some books were finished years past their deadlines or not finished at all. But I kept going, one month at a time, hoping for the best, having faith that I would eventually be able to write like I used to.
Then the day came that I couldn’t afford my humongous medical co-pays. Next, it was my living expenses. I had to drain my savings and much of my retirement just to keep going, but, hey, at least I had savings to drain, right? It’s not like I had to declare bankruptcy.
            I had to declare bankruptcy. I lost my beloved old house. But I managed to find a nice, single-story home to rent while I got my life back on track, a place big enough to operate as home base for my college-aged kids. During this time of transition, my friends rallied around me, gifting me with love and support and furniture moving. It was easy to see that I was blessed. I held on to the gratitude. I hung on to the belief that it would get better.
           Even when it didn't.
The sweet, loving, and generous man to whom I had given my heart decided I was too much effort. No, this is not the young “hottie” from my earlier blog, though it may have a familiar ring to it. This man is my age. I'd known him for twenty years. He was a friend. But after about a year as a couple, he decided he was done. No particular reason, he said – he just would rather play Frisbee golf than be with me. Ouch! Didn’t see that one coming! So what did I do, you may ask? Did I chase him down like a dog in the street? Of course not. I’ve never been the dog-chasing type, even when I had two legs. I simply let him go, set him free to chase his Frisbees. It felt like a betrayal, and it hurt a lot. 
But something else started to hurt more. The dull ache in my “good” leg got so painful I couldn’t continue physical therapy, and doctors found a congenital malformation of my right hip that would need surgery in early 2015. The joint disintegrated much faster than anticipated, however, and the pain got so horrible that I was confined to my wheelchair 24/7. The surgery was moved up to August. Yes, it’s rotten timing, since I’m in the middle of several writing projects. But it has to be done. 
Next up: I had to hire a lawyer because my ex-huuuuh . . .  whoops! I almost forgot that I’m not allowed to talk about this. So I'll just say that  the absolutely last fucking thing I needed right now was a court battle with the father of my children, the man I was with from the age of twenty-two to forty-five. But that’s exactly what I got.
And as the pièce de résistance . . . drum roll please . . . the IRS is really mad because I’m still behind in my taxes, despite my best efforts to catch up. The bright side is I’ll probably get a lot of writing done in federal prison, where there are fewer living expenses and distractions. Plus, my kids won’t be able to hit me up for cash at all hours, with the metal bars and all. Think of the savings!
           And so, dear blog-follower, I have survived all this and more. Sure, I can get ratcheted up about crap occasionally, but not the way I used to, back in the B.A. (before amputation) era. Nowadays, life seems simpler. I do my absolute best at any given moment and have faith that everything will be all right – or it won’t. I’ll make it through – or I won’t. And there is no point in twisting myself into knots over shit I can’t control, right? 
Then one morning . . . oh, Susan! Susan, Susan, Susan, Soooo-zaaaan! What were you thinking? How could you? Haven’t you been tortured enough for several lifetimes? What in the world possessed you to go online to see if anyone had reviewed your latest novel?
            Yep. They had.
"…awkward, raw underage sexuality …"? 

An anonymous review had appeared in the June 30, 2014 Publishers Weekly. For the non-authors reading this, a review in “PW ” is considered a coup. With thousands of books being published in print and e-format each month, having your popular fiction novel selected for a PW write-up is a really big deal. I’ve had PW reviews before, and some of them have been wonderful. It’s quite affirming when that happens. However, the review of my upcoming August release, The Sweetest Summer, was anything but affirming. Have a look-see:
“Donovan (Sea of Love) opens this ostensible romance with a most unromantic prologue of obscenity-laced, macho dialogue among adolescent boys. The most profane and contemptuous of the lot grows up to be 32-year-old Clancy Flynn, a divorcé and a coward. Oh, and the chief of police, because this is a romantic thriller, with a child in peril, a slimy federal politician, and more than a few laws broken—many of them by the heroine, Evelyn McGuinness, who crosses state lines to abduct her orphaned niece. Once past the decidedly off-putting entr’acte, Donovan lays down a plot that entertains, but it’s staffed by characters who clearly exist to fill a genre slot or set up a few gags. The obvious puppet strings prevent strong reader identification with the story’s imbroglios, situational or emotional. The success of the story hinges on flashbacks to 14-year-old Clancy falling in love with Evie the first time, and the awkward, raw underage sexuality will make some readers squirm and others sigh. (Aug.)”

That is, by far, the worst review I have ever received in my fourteen years as a novelist. Perhaps it is the worst review, period, of any novel ever written in the history of all humankind. It took me days to uncross my eyes.
All my writer friends said, “Let it go. Let it go.” They are right, of course. It isn’t worth getting worked up about, especially since I don’t even recognize the novel described, because it’s not the one I wrote. For whatever reason, the nameless individual’s evisceration of my little book was way more than a review of a paperback mass-market romantic comedy/suspense beach read featuring teenagers who kissed a few times and once rolled around in the sand while fully clothed. Only that person knows what fueled such a spasm of polyglot-tastic spite.
So here's the question: Am I going to let The Church Lady’s book review take me down? Of course not! Not after fighting so hard to remain alive and hopeful these last couple of years. That would be ridiculous.
I decided to have a little fun, instead.  I got out my thesaurus, then found my French and Italian dictionaries, and voila! I wrote a review of the review! Check it out. It’s short:
           “Anonymous (Publishers Weekly) -- take that ostensible imbroglio of a book review and shove it up the off-putting entr’acte of your genre slot.
      Susan Donovan.”

Hey, I said I was strong. I didn’t say I was a saint.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Grapes of My Wrath

Let me start by saying that this essay is not an insensitive rant against people living with cognitive disabilities. I feel a great deal of compassion for my fellow humans with limited intellectual function. Like all of us everywhere, they are perfectly imperfect beings. I am aware that you might have a child with a mental impairment. Or a sibling or neighbor. You might even work with children or adults with cognitive limitations, and to all of you, I send my sincere blessings. I mean no offense.
But I have an announcement to make:  That's not my disability. I got ninety-nine problems but my frontal cortex ain’t one. My brain has always worked pretty darn good. It still does, despite all I’ve been through. And just because I lost a leg in a freak medical catastrophe and now rely on canes, crutches, walkers, or wheelchairs to get around in the world, it doesn’t mean I’m intellectually limited.
You might be scowling right about now. You may be saying out loud – “Whaaaat? Well, of course not, Susan! Jeesh! Everyone knows that!”
Wrong. As I have learned, everyone does not know that.
I discovered this one morning when I went to the gym to meet my fitness trainer, Chad, for one of our appointments. I drove up, strapped on my trusty little knapsack, and exited my car – slowly and carefully. I then stepped up on the sidewalk and, with the help of two canes, made my way to the gym entrance. All the while, I noticed a woman in my peripheral vision, standing by the door. Since I need to focus on the movement of my feet (the real one and the fake one) I allow myself only brief glances ahead as I walk. Here are the steps to this dance:
1.  Glance ahead.
2.  Look down and walk, walk, walk, walk.
3.  Glance up again.
4.  Look down and walk, walk, etc.
         The whole time, I knew the woman was there, waiting for me, holding open the door as she studied my sassy stroll. I looked up.
         Oh, craaaaap.
        “Well, good morning to you, honey!” She was in her early sixties and dressed quite nicely – a lot nicer than me, anyway. Her hair was styled and her jacket matched her yoga pants. She was leaning toward me a bit, a sweet, sweet smile plastered on her face, her eyes blinking with exaggerated friendliness. I notice that she was bent at the waist in that position adults sometimes assume when speaking to a child. Or a puppy. Or a simpleton.
            I stopped. I felt my eyeball twitch. Wait. What’s going on here?
“You just keep coming, honey. I will stay right here where I am, holding the door open for you just like this!” She spoke slowly. Her words were overly enunciated. Her tone was sugary sweet. Her voice was as sugary sweet as the blueberry pancake syrup at your neighborhood IHOP.
But this wasn’t possible. Seriously. Didn’t she just see me get out of my car? Wouldn’t that imply that the State of Maryland had found me competent enough for a driver’s license? She can’t possibly think I’m –
“Come on, now! Don’t give up! You’re almost here!”
Perhaps I should stop at this juncture and admit something. If you’ve been reading my blog all along, you probably know this already, so forgive me for pointing out the obvious. But here’s what I need to come clean about: I cuss too much. A lot of this cussing takes place in my head, but still, I do a lot more cussing than your standard middle-aged romance author should. I like cussing. It feels good – you know, it cleanses my energy field and all that shit. And I have a few favorite words and expressions I turn to when nothing else in the English language will do.
So as I stood there in front of the lady who clearly thought I was mentally disabled, I wanted to say every single one of them. But then Arleen’s mantra spoiled the fun. As my best friend always reminds me, they mean well . . . they mean well . . . they mean well.
           So how is one supposed to respond in a situation like this? I’m not sure Emily Post covered that scenario. I just smiled and said “thanks,” as I let her hold the door for me.
           Moments later, when I described the encounter to Chad, his eyes got huge with disbelief – just before he exploded into laughter. I don’t think I’d ever seen him laugh that hard before, nor am I likely to in the future.
          These encounters happen every so often, and for the most part they’ve all blended together in my memory. There is one experience that stands out, however. That would be the incident with the grapes.
          Last year at this time was my daughter’s college orientation. Kathleen is my youngest, and I really wanted to share the experience with her, but I didn’t know how I would get around all day on my own. Fortunately, Kathleen’s father decided to come, too. Unfortunately, that meant I’d be spending the day with my ex-husband as he pushed me in my wheelchair. The idea put the fear o’ God in me.
I'd like to go into detail about this, but because of some pesky legal matters of late, I’m not supposed to talk about John on social media (not that I ever have) so I’ll keep it brief. John might be a wonderful physician and a near-genius, but the dude isn’t all that observant. Our kids sometimes refer to their dad as “Mr. Oblivious.” Therefore, I was prepared to spend a day being knocked into curbs, nearly dumped over ledges, banged into concrete planter boxes, and abandoned in hallways. And I was. The best, however, was careening through campus streets in a pummeling rainstorm, nearly getting hurled from the chair when John steered me into a giant pothole.
But enough of giant holes.  Let’s move on to the grapes.
That afternoon, while our daughter, Kathleen, was out getting oriented to college life, John and I were in a lecture hall attending a financial aid seminar for parents. We were in the very back of the room, where I could remain seated in my wheelchair without getting in anyone’s way. At intermission, John went to the men’s room and I hung back to check my voicemail and email. Since it was crowded, a steady stream of people passed in front of me on their way to the lobby. I was in the middle of reading an email from my literary agent when I heard a woman’s soft voice.
“Do you want some grapes, sweetheart?”
I didn’t pay any attention, because I figured the lady was talking to her kid. God knows I had spent dozens of years schlepping around fruit and granola bars in an effort to keep my children from melting down in public.
“Would you like some of our grapes?”
It was much closer that time. The overly sweet tone of voice and the careful enunciation of words made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I was having déjà vu. I slowly looked up from my iPhone to see a lady in her late thirties hovering close to me, bent at the waist, smiling and blinking, holding open a plastic baggie of grapes about an inch from my nose as her terrified preschooler hung onto her leg. “Do you like grapes, sweetie? Are you allowed to have grapes?”
I know. I know. She meant well. But think about it. How many times have you attended an event and had somebody invade YOUR personal space and offer you grapes from a plastic baggie? Or, conversely, how many times have YOU leaned down into the face of another adult – a stranger at a financial aid seminar, for example – and asked them if they were allowed to have grapes?
Yeah. Me neither.
So my mouth fell open. Honestly, I didn’t know what to say to the chick with the grapes, but I was pissed. I hadn’t been drawing any attention to myself in any way. I was in the back of the room checking my iPhone. I hadn’t swallowed my tongue. I hadn’t slithered down onto the floor. And I certainly hadn’t snapped my fingers and yelled, “Yo! I need some grapes over here, bee-yatch!”
So how did I react to her condescending intrusion? I gave her a quick smile and said, “Thank you, no.” Then I went back to my iPhone, reviewing an ad for my latest novel that my publisher was placing in USA Today.
Is it any wonder I’ve decided that leaving the house is overrated?


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Kids and Old People Don't Count

They mean well.”

I wish I had a dollar for each time my dearest friend, Arleen, has said those words to me in the last two years, often while coaxing me off the ledge. I know she’s right – people who see a one-legged lady hobbling around on crutches, sitting in a wheelchair, or using what is clearly a prosthetic leg can be caught off guard. They can say awkward things in an effort to hide their shock or make light of an uncomfortable situation. But here’s the truth: since making my debut in the world as a chick with a missing limb, strangers (and sometimes friends) have felt compelled to make the most ridiculous, insensitive, jaw-droppingly stupid – and yes, even hilarious – comments about my physical being.
Some of the events I will be sharing over time sound too strange to be true, but I assure you, they are one-hundred-percent real. And let’s be clear – I’m not even counting kids and old people.
Having had little ones of my own, I know kids come from a place of curiosity and innocence, and they’re only trying to figure stuff out. That’s why I don’t mind encounters like the one I had at a Kohl’s department store early on in my recovery, when a little girl stared with her mouth hanging open, pointed at me, and yelled, “Mommy, mommy! That girl’s leg fell off!” And I will always treasure how the adorable four-year-old son of my fitness trainer pulled his dad aside one day and whispered, “Is she a robot?” I always try to answer kids’ questions with a smile. I remember when my five-year-old grandniece, Annabelle, first saw my prosthetic leg. She scowled from a safe distance, checking it out from top to bottom. Eventually she was brave enough to touch it. “Why do you have a special leg?” she asked. I was happy to tell Annabelle that my leg got sick and doctors gave me a very special leg so that one day I could take the dogs for a walk like I used to. “Oh,” she said, and then went to pet one of the aforementioned dogs. She never asked about my leg again.
At the other end of the spectrum, senior citizens tend to offer condolences (“God bless you, dear”) and tell me about their own health issues. Some launch into long conversations that assume I lost my leg because of the exact same health problem they face in their own lives, whether it be cancer, diabetes, circulatory problems, automobile accidents, or falling off the ladder while pressure washing vinyl siding. I had one lady come up to me, shake her head, and say, “That darn di-ya-beet-uss!” I try my best to smile and thank them for their concern, because how can I be annoyed by nice old people with equally serious afflictions? I’ve had some time to think about this, and I’ve developed a theory about these kinds of encounters. I think senior citizens are motivated by the basic human need to be assured we are not alone. Giving and receiving connection is a way to calm the fear of mortality, a way of saying “we’re all in this together” or, “I hear you, girlfriend.”
What bothers me is the stupid shit people between puberty and Social Security say and do. And let me tell you – there is no shortage of stupid shit out there.
I’ll never forget the first time I experienced the shock of someone else’s insensitivity. I didn’t even have to leave the hospital to get my first taste. A visiting friend pulled a chair to the side of the bed and had this to share: “I don’t know how you can go on. I would’ve pulled out my Glock and put an end to it.” Another visitor said, “I’m glad to see you haven’t given up on life.”
Huh? Glocks? Give up? What the fuck? Truly, at that point I didn’t even possess the self-awareness to consider giving up! I was alive because of the adrenaline-producing instinct to survive whatever any given day would bring – surgery, pain, pumps and hoses and needles, hallucinations, loneliness for my kids, etc., etc. The concept of “giving up” hadn’t even occurred to me as an option     . . . until that moment. Thanks a lot.
They mean well . . . they mean well . . . they mean well. . .
Once I was discharged from the hospital and began venturing forth into public, I realized how difficult it was going to be to keep my shit together and not lash out at people. A man at church saw me trying to get into the choir loft by going up the steps backwards on my ass. “I feel so sorry for you,” he said, shaking his head. At a graduation party for Arleen’s son, her neighbor (a man who knew all about what I’ve been through) looked at me and said with a grin, “So, can I try on your fake leg?” A gasp rose from my daughter, Kathleen. She gripped my hand in hers. Kathleen guessed what was going on in my brain. She knew that if I had been physically able, I would’ve jumped up, removed said fake leg, and beat him upside the head with it. But, since I didn’t want to ruin the party atmosphere, I simply replied, “Maybe later.”
One particularly memorable morning early on in my physical therapy, I was late for an appointment and found there were no parking spots, handicapped or otherwise. I circled the lot for fifteen minutes, crying because I was frustrated and feeling mighty sorry for myself. Eventually, I staked my claim on a spot being vacated, only to have to cuss out the jerk who tried to steal it from me. I got out and began the long and painfully slow trek to the entrance. As I inched forward on crutches and my temporary prosthesis – in ninety-five-degree weather, tears and sweat running down my face – a whole cornucopia of negative (and just plain false) thoughts began looping through my head: I can’t do this any more. It’s too hard. I can’t go on. Look at me. I’m a cripple – a sweaty, crying, cripple. I’m a freak. I can’t even get to an appointment on time. I’m alone in the world. I can’t handle this another minute. . . 
And then I saw her, a woman heading my way with “that” look on her face. I prayed she would pass me by. But no. She shook her head and made a few tsk-tsking sounds, then said, “You’re a better person than me, honey. I’d have just crawled up in a ball and died.”
Seriously? What in the hell makes a person think that saying that to a crying chick with a fake leg and crutches would be even remotely helpful? 
I bawled the whole way to the check-in desk, immediately reaching inside the Plexiglass window for a Kleenex. The receptionist said, “Oh, we cancelled that appointment. Didn’t you get our voicemail?” Back to the car I went with my crutches and fake leg, sobbing.
Another one of my favorite encounters occurred just outside the same physical therapy suite. As I approached the automatic entrance door, a woman hurried down the hall of the medical center, coming right at me with a determined glint in her eye. I knew this was going to be bad.
“Let me get the door for you,” she said.
“No thank you. I’ve got it.” I had learned the hard way that this particular automatic door opened in the wrong direction, and if you weren’t careful to give it enough clearance, you could get smacked.
“No, let me get it for you.”
“No, really. I’m fine.”
She tapped the automatic opener. The door flew open and hit me in the forehead. I almost fell over.
“Oh, my God! I’m so sorry!”
“That’s why I told you I could get it myself.”
“Here. Let me try again.”
Unbelievably, she pounded on the opener once more, but my crutch hadn’t quite cleared the arc of the swinging door. I almost fell over again.
They mean well . . . they mean well . . . they mean well . . . As Arleen reminds me, this kind of insensitivity stems from social awkwardness.
Yeah, whatever. But why are the socially awkward drawn to me? Can’t they take their awkwardness elsewhere?
Since I’m on a roll here, I’ll tell you what else pisses me off. I walked through this world on two legs for more than fifty years. It wasn’t until I began hopping around on one leg with a walker or crutches that I began to notice how many of our common idioms assume we all have two legs, two feet, and two sets of toes. A nurse once told me the secret was “putting one foot in front of the other.” I wish I were joking. I’ve also heard “take it one step at a time.” Then there was, “you’ll soon be back on your own two feet,” and, “you put your pants on one leg at a time like everyone else,” and the ever-popular “you have to learn to walk before you can run.”
But that stuff rolls off my back compared to some words and phrases that cause me to CRINGE. To me, they feel condescending at best, cruel at worst. Perhaps I’m overreacting. Or I’m too sensitive. Or I haven’t yet worked through all my anger. (Ya think?) Regardless, here is a sampling of words and phrases that make me shiver with irritation:  Stump, disabled, crippled, handicapped, physically challenged, inspiration, heroic, an example for others, triumph of the human spirit, special, courageous, new normal, your changed circumstances, catastrophic life event, amputee, I don’t know how you do it, well look at you!, you have such a good attitude, bless your heart, keep up with the good work, and aren’t you the brave one?
Maybe all this bothers me because it’s not how I want to be seen in the world. I know I’m more than a brave amputee with a good attitude, but it’s the label I often get nowadays, like it or not. It’s funny, really – I spent my whole life struggling to be anything but ordinary and average, and now I’d give my left leg to blend in again.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Church of What's Happenin' Now

For those of you who've been reading this blog from the beginning, you might recall that I promised the truth. This entry won't be funny or entertaining, but it will be truthful. I'll write more later when I'm feeling grounded and positive, but today I'm going to come clean about what's happening with me right now, and why I haven't checked in lately.

I need to have major surgery next month, and I'm scared out of my mind. It's an irrational, all-consuming fear with enough energy behind it to shut down my life.  I'm doing battle with it as I type these words. I thought I had figured out a way to keep this terror at bay, but I guess it's an ongoing process.

I first encountered this fear about six months after I got home from the hospital.  I was driving to a doctor's appointment -- one of a dozen on my calendar for the month -- and happened to pass by the hospital just as the Medevac helicopter was taking off. As I've mentioned before, I don't remember my helicopter ride to Maryland Shock Trauma on December 4, 2011. At least I don't remember that I remember it. But the experience must be deep down inside my brain somewhere, because when I saw that helicopter lift off, heard the propeller, and felt the rumble, I completely lost it.

Immediately, my body began to shake. I couldn't breathe. It felt like a thousand pounds had just been dropped on my chest. I broke out into a sweat and started to sob. I couldn't steer the car, and had to come to a stop on the side of the road to pull myself together. The thing was, I couldn't seem to get a handle on what was happening to me. I didn't understand it, yet it had taken me hostage. Because I couldn't name it, I couldn't "reason" myself down from the panic.  I don't know how long it took, but eventually, I did manage to start breathing and stop shaking. It left me drained and lost. And I was late for my doctor's appointment.

A few days later, I was driving home from the grocery and saw a car accident about six blocks down the street, with police cars and ambulances blocking traffic. I saw a flash of red -- one of the cars involved was red in color. My 17-year-old daughter drove a red car at that time. Within seconds, the terror latched onto me again. Same scenario -- shaking, sobbing, sweating, struggling to breathe. I pulled onto a side street and began to call Kathleen's cell phone repeatedly. Then I texted her. No response.

Yes, of course there are thousands of red cars in my state. And there were dozens of reasons why Kathleen might not be able to return my calls and texts at that particular moment -- such as the fact that she was in play rehearsal at the time. But none of that registered with me. It was sheer panic and anxiety and F-E-A-R.

Not long after, a therapist diagnosed me with Posttramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I was shocked. Me? But I soon learned that I had experienced what was basically the perfect storm for developing PTSD -- a traumatic injury that resulted in a brush with death and a loss of "physical integrity" accompanied by  intense fear, horror, and helplessness. Well, OK. Yeah. That sounds about right. I guess I do have it. So over time, my therapist helped me develop cognitive techniques to deal with the disorder. I wrote down my fears. I talked to friends and family. And I found that breathing exercises, meditation, and prayer helped a lot, too, because they required me stay in the present moment and not get swept up in my spiraling thoughts, where danger always lurked and the worst possible scenario was ready to pounce.

But PTSD is a sly little bugger, and the second I learned I was headed back to the operating room it wiggled its way back into my psyche.

The surgery has nothing to do with my amputation. Once I got my prosthetic leg and continued with physical therapy and rehab, I began to experience a great deal of pain in my intact leg, my right leg.  It  was severe and radiated from my hip to my back and down to my knee. It got so bad that I couldn't continue with physical therapy. So I went to see a specialist down in Baltimore, and it turns out I have a congenital malformation of my right hip. What I thought was garden variety osteoarthritis was actually a major problem that requires a total hip replacement.  My right hip is disintegrating, and I've been using the wheelchair more and more as I try to deal with the pain. The truth is that without the surgery, not only will I never walk again, but I will be in constant pain even while sitting in a wheelchair.

When I heard this news, I freaked out. Flashes of operating rooms went through my mind's eye. I felt that old sense of helplessness and despair start to choke me.  I've had more than 20 surgeries during this ordeal, and almost all of them occurred when I was too spaced out to know what was going on. But the last few? Oh, I remember them well. The cold, sharp air of the OR. The tangy smell of drugs and disinfectants. The feel of the anesthesia pouring into my veins. The hushed voices of all the masked people in that room working to keep me alive . . .  and all the pain associated with waking up. And I'm supposed to go in there again? Willingly? Knowingly? What if I've used up all my good  operating room juju? What if this time, I don't survive? What if the surgery goes badly and I'm confined to a wheelchair the rest of my life ANYWAY?

What if? What if? What if??????? Breathe, Susan. Breathe. Relax your mind. Be in the moment. Know that all is well, and all will be well.

So, yeah. My surgery is August 18th. I wold appreciate it if you could keep me in your thoughts.