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Thursday, August 20, 2015

I am happy

Photo credit: Hilary Flower
Cancer sucks dog balls. That said, I've had many, many opportunities for joy since my diagnosis. The best, most recent, resolved itself yesterday:

On Monday, my most dramatic symptoms seemed to return with a vengeance. Food got stuck so high in my throat that it constricted my breathing until I was able to eject it. Terrifying. My long-suffering oncology nurse checked me into the emergency room at Moffitt, where after what seemed a lot of dithering (and what actually amounts to a frightening dearth of staff) they fit me in for another endoscopy. It turns out the stent that was keeping me alive was no longer being kept in place by the cancer.

Upshot: the cancer has shrunk! I can now eat normally, as long as I chew carefully and remember to sip something at the same time. I'll be surprised if I don't need another stent before long, but at this point I'm happy to be able to eat. Which is something most Americans should be thankful for, I suppose.

Here's another ridiculously happy development: I'm soon to be a published author! My wonderful friend Jane Cawthorne and her amazing, brilliant writers' group the Crabapple Mews Collective, have put together this beautiful, professional-looking collection of my short stories.

These stories are linked by place; Pelee Island, where I spent several formative years.  My dear, talented friends Thomas Hallock and Julie Armstrong have offered to host a reading for me as part of their writers' collective. The latest breaking news is that St. Pete's exquisite Craftsman House has agreed to host a book launch for me as well.

In case you think Jane is my only wonderful friend, think again.

This gorgeous, baby-fascinating design
is made entirely of organic materials.
The lovely Surya Sajnani, of the gorgeous, green Wee Gallery (featured at different times in Anthropoligie and MoMA) turned her prodigious talents to gathering up funds to help me keep my house clean for the next six months. Without going into revolting detail, suffice it to say that chemo doesn't lend itself to a clean bathroom, or the energy to get it that way. And yet, it's critical to someone who is so immuno-compromized that she breaks out into a glowing crop of whiteheads exactly one week after her bi-weekly three-day chemo treatment.

But that's not all I have to say about the Sajnani-Pintos. David Pinto has been a careful and extremely insightful first reader of my work. All writers know how invaluable the advice from a smart reader and fellow writer can be. Surya and Dave have spoiled me rotten, and neither would admit it for a second.

The incredible Hilary Flower.
And they're not alone. My dear, too-generous-for-her own good Hilary Flower, always at the ready with delicious phở and a ride and moral support and smoothiesand anything else I needwas a quiet accomplice in the Germ Free movement
The inimitable Mary Harris.
With three kids and 9/10ths of a doctorate in Hydrogeology, she has a few other things to do with her time.

My dear Dr. Mary Harris, another partner in that crime, always has the perfect something at the ready, whether it's a cheery activity for the kids or a great Miso mix or a tasty, esophagus-clearing San Pellegrino or the latest scholarly article on alternative remediesor the loan of her wonderful  sister in law who also happens to be a gifted radiology oncologist. Mary's SIL, whom I've taken to calling "Dr. Kendra" spent an hour on the phone with me as she navigated the wilds of Montana with a car full of littles.

My dear Dee.
Dee Gill is another friend who's helped me through the worst days. When almost nothing would go down my sticky stent, she took me out for oysters, in the middle of the day. She's been there for me in so many ways, it's hard to itemize them all. And she was one of my very first, first readers, always ready to listen to me talk about my work, beer goggles at the ready.

Meanwhile, all my lovely friends are working in concert to keep my family fed and my weight up. We highly recommend the Take Them a Meal site, which allows people to co-ordinate these generous efforts. Having friends who are foodies is the most spoiling thing that happens, most days. My dear friend Jen Pace is battling breast cancer and they're using the same site for her... If you can, log in to Take Them a Meal, enter Pace and meals, and take Jen a meal.

Our dear friends the Stoicis are always there for us too. Here's a picture of our happy kids at Busch Gardens. Times like these, happy kids are a joy beyond all others. I know my dear friend Dr. Roxana Stoici is greatly affected by my prognosis, but she swallows her pain and uses her expertise to keep close track of things like my controlling my nausea, my own pain level,  and my daily bowel habits. Now that's friendship ;)

Oh, it seems a minor point, now, but I received my MFA in Creative writing from my beloved Solstice in July. The wonderful people at All Children's Hospital spoiled me rotten over this, with balloons and flowers and sweet congratulatory notes. Maren Twining, Candace Fennel,  Stephanie Smith, Shannon Gower Bethany Peters (whom I don't know but makes kick-ass salads) Thomas Mueller and Maxine Sutcliff have been so generous it's humbling.

Maxine even facilitated our use of a beach house in Englewood, where the kids saw five baby sea turtles scrambling to the sea, and were able to untangle one who'd gotten trapped in a clump of seaweed. It was wonderful to see a creature we thought was dead come back to life and fumble on its inexorable way to the water.

In the great tradition of saving best things for last, my wonderful son Aaron and his equally lovely wife Magali are due to deliver my first granddaughter tomorrow. If she's a traditionalist, she'll arrive several days late, but at least we get to expect her! Aaron and Mags will be absolutely fantastic parents, like my daughter Jordanne, so we can expect great things from the next (ginger?) member of the family.

These are not the only wonderful things that have happened. My grown up baby girl, Jordanne Fuller, has become a published authormore on that in another forumand my husband has started a PhD in Human Genetics at Clemson, which means he's going to take over the planet in about four years. Lucky planet.

Oddly, life is good and I am happy, most days, most times. Cancer is absolutely not a gift, but it sure helps you appreciate the gifts all around you. My gifts are in the form of friends. I have forgotten some in this post. Like Marilyn Marquez Mercado, who is always ready to cheer me up with happy video of adorable animals being adorable.

Luckily, there's no limit to the number of posts I can write, the number of friends I can acknowledge, the amount of happiness I can share.


  1. Aww mama :') I'm so happy things are doing well right now! I love you and I'm so glad you have so many people helping take care of you, the kids, the house and Adam. This whole thing made me light right up!

  2. Yay Team Tanya! You are indeed surrounded by wonderful people. Thanks for sharing.

  3. A great post!! Thank you for writing!

    1. Thank YOU for reading, Kat. Looking forward to reading your book about your dad.

  4. Thanks for reminding us all to appreciate our friends...

  5. So happy to read this (especially like the part about the baby turtles). Life is a roller coaster for sure. Keep on hangin' in there.

    1. It was such a magical night, Gail. You would have been enchanted. Although we did see a fish swim almost right up to the beach, snatch something out of the water and dash back out to the deeps. I suspect that was what became of many of the stumbling little babies. Bittersweet, but such and incredible experience.

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  7. I couldn't help feeling anything but joy at all of your wonderful news! ♡

  8. You are so amazing and I am proud of you for keeping such a positive attitude. That is the most beautiful gift to give the kids!

  9. Wow Tanya. Your words always touch me, rock me. You are an inspiration. A Light on this Earth.
    Thank You