Necessary Things in Life: Unconditional Love and a Can of Whoop-Ass

I know it’s pretty normal to stop and reflect from time to time on the things we are thankful for in this life. You know: things like our families and friends, jobs, health, etc. While I am extremely thankful for these things, I have reason to pause of late and really reflect on the things I am most thankful for. Things I am truly grateful for and would never want to live without. The last several weeks have been very trying for me personally, and this is a rather personal post.

The focus of this post, however, is not me and my woes, and believe me, I could write a rather LENGTHY post outlining all of the things that have made the last several weeks tough for me. I am, instead, going to write about something that is weighing heavy on my heart right now.

We found out in early October that my sister-in-law Tammie had acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), which is a very aggressive form of leukemia. She is in her mid-forties and has a husband and three beautiful children who depend on her. She underwent months of treatment in Kansas City at KU Med Center’s Cancer Center. Tammie’s body fought hard though she was tired, but she DID NOT give up. After completing her chemo, monitoring her counts closely, and having “clean” bone marrow scrapes, she was officially in remission.

Tammie went home and resumed her life. She began a much healthier life style and joined an exercise group in her community to help her stay connected to people, stay active, and have the extra support she needed. Tammie was doing well.

And then she wasn’t.

Her counts started falling and Tammie found out two days ago that her AML is back and she must have a bone marrow transplant.

The other shoe we hoped would never drop, dropped with a thud that shattered that hope in a single instant.

Fortunately, when Tammie was first diagnosed with AML, her siblings were tested to determine if any of them might be a match should she need a transplant in the future: three of them were matches. We couldn’t believe it. From what we understand, it’s lucky for one sibling to be a match, but to have three matches is pretty remarkable, and now one sister and two brothers are her lifelines.

My husband is one of the matches. He went to Kansas City the evening we found out Tammie’s AML was back along with two

Photo credit: CafePress

of his sisters, one of whom is also a match, so other tests could be performed to determine which of the three siblings is the best match for Tammie’s transplant.

My husband himself is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in early January 2003. He had surgery to remove the cancer and underwent months of chemo. In late July of 2003, he was officially in remission and continues to be cancer-free nine years later. We were incredibly lucky, and I am so thankful our children still have their father and I have my husband.

Thinking about this, and trying to process the sheer gravity of it all, is pretty overwhelming. While it’s a no-brainer that whichever one of them is the best match will donate the necessary bone marrow without question, and his or her part of the procedure is clearly the easier of the two physically, the emotional toll involved will still be great.

It’s a tremendous amount of responsibility to bear when you think about it—this bone marrow donation is potentially the difference between life and death in the most literal sense possible. I pray one of them will be able to help Tammie open an old-fashioned can of Whoop-Ass and kick this leukemia right out of her body and stand next to her in victory shouting “AND DON’T COME BACK…EVER!!”

Yesterday we found out that my husband’s brother was the best match and he would be the donor. Today, we found out he has a heart condition that will prevent him from donating. The heart condition is not life-threatening, but it is enough to eliminate him. My husband and his other sister must go back to Kansas City early next week to undergo a battery of tests to see which one of them will be the donor.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like for them or anyone else who has been there. Or those who will inexplicably find themselves in the same situation someday. I don’t know how Tammie stays so positive, although I’m sure she has moments when it all seems like the worst possible nightmare. And it is.

One thing I know for sure is this dramatic turn of events definitely makes me more grateful for my family, my health and that of my family, and unconditional love. And great big cans of whoop-ass.

Whatcha Reading?

So it looks like I’ve been neglecting you again. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you, because I have. A lot actually. Please forgive me for not taking better care of you.

Well, I’ve been posting quite a bit on Facebook, Twitter, and my brand new writer/author page (also on Facebook) lately about some great books that I’ve recently read and/or have recently received in the mail and just started reading (or will be reading soon), and I thought I’d share them here as well.

What I’ve read in the last couple of weeks:

First up is John Green’s Looking for Alaska. This is John’s first published novel, and it is pretty damn amazing. John is also the author of the brilliant The Fault in Our Stars, which I read earlier this year.

Next up are a couple of short stories: Unstrung by Neal Shusterman and Ryann in the Sky by Jammie Kern. (Jammie NOT as in pa-jammies, but as in Jamie with an extra “m.”)

Unstrung is an interlude between Unwind (my favorite Shusterman book to date) and Unwholly (book two in the Unwind trilogy), which is due out August 28, 2012     *squeeeeee!!!!*

Ryann in the Sky is a cool modern spin on the myth of Orion and is part of a forthcoming anthology of short stories entitled Mythology High. Jammie has two additional short stories that will also be a part of this anthology, and I’m anxious to read them!


What I’m reading now:

I’m juggling a few books right now: two for grad classes (The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins and Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskill) and two for fun. I’m reading Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford in anticipation of meeting him at the KATE (Kansas Association of Teachers of English) conference in October and Danny’s Mom by Elaine Wolf. Danny’s Mom isn’t due for release until November 1, 2012, so finding an advance reading copy in my mailbox earlier this week was a happy surprise. I’ll post a review later this fall.


What I’ll be reading in the not so distant future:

Drum roll please……

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles! I’ve been so anxious to read this book, and my friend Kelly who lives in Indiana tells me I better have lots of tissues handy as I read. Don’t worry my friend, I do.


So, what are YOU reading?

The Best Laid Plans Usually Get Thrown Out The Window

Has it really been nearly a month since my last post? And when did August get here?

I’ve had a crazy busy month that left little time for things like blogging and what not. Oh, and  I just finished a graduate class on eighteenth-century Restoration British literature, which kept me immersed in reading, reading, reading, and writing, writing, writing. The upside is I wrote a damn fine paper on eighteenth-century marriage practices and theories, which just may turn into the Master’s thesis I never intended to write.

Aside from taking this class, I’ve had a lot going on over here and I haven’t really talked about it in this forum. I’m talking BIG changes, and I’m not quite sure where those changes will take me. But here it is in a nutshell: I turned in my resignation for my teaching job in March and have no new teaching job to go to in just a few short days. YIKES!!

Now before you start trippin,’ this was not something I did on a whim or without TONS of consideration, soul searching, or many, many, many long conversations with my husband. Truth be told, I was pretty miserable in my middle school teaching position. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE teaching. With all of my being. But I teaching middle school just isn’t for me, and I pretty much knew that all along. I attempted to move into a high school teaching position for over a year within my own district, but never got anywhere; it became clear that I would need to make a clean break if I were to have any luck achieving my goal of being a high school English teacher.

Unfortunately, even with several interviews that went quite well, I was not offered a position. I knew when I resigned in March this would be a possibility, but I was fairly sure I would score a new position before the new school year began. I was wrong. Now, I’m a smart girl (really I am—in spite of what you’ve just read) and did not go into this without a Plan B. I just didn’t want to have to implement said Plan B.

Plan B entails subbing in my local schooldistrict—which is not the district I worked in—and going to school full time to finish my Master’s degree in English, which I could conceivably finish in the spring. I’ve also been kicking around the idea of getting an MFA in creative writing, but that would add at least another year to my program. Additionally, I have been looking to the future, and the fact that I would really like to teach at the college level—not necessarily the university level, but a community college where I could teach literature classes or creative writing would be fine with me. Okay, so I really DO want to teach at the university level, but that requires a PhD and the thought of writing a 300+ page dissertation makes me want to run away screaming. Loudly. Oh, and it would also mean I would have to have multiple publications by totally legit publishers. Ugh! But who knows? Maybe someday.

But for today, I will simply move forward and reach a couple of goals I have set for myself: finish my Master’s degree and focus on my writing. I have a novel to finish, remember?

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