Monday, March 28, 2011

Prepare to be Walloped by a 2x4 made of Sunshine, whether it's cancer or publishing

Thanks y'all for voting in our Barry Manilow cover band naming contest.

And the winner is:


Stay tuned for our debut...

On to the post.

Every time we take my dad to visit a new doctor, we listen patiently to the spiel. We are quiet as he or she reiterates what a formidable foe cancer is. And then my mom opens her mouth, and I think to myself, I hope this doctor knows what he's in for. He's about to be whacked up the side of the head with a buttload of optimism. 

She will take whatever abysmal numbers they throw at her, and twist them around to suit her outlook.
Odds are 100:1 against us? "Fabulous," she says. "That means one person, somewhere out there, is beating the odds. Why not Dad?"

This attitude infiltrates every aspect of his treatment.

Yes, the chemotherapy causes my dad's hands and feet to swell and blister. Some serious ouch. 
His hands, twice their usual size
 But how my mom sees it is, "If it's doing that to your hands, imagine what it's doing to the tumors! This is so good."

Every break from chemo means my dad's hands will shed their outer skin, revealing the super-sensitive skin below.
Mom: "Isn't that new pink skin underneath gorgeous? It's like baby skin!"

She says this as she tirelessly and delicately massages his hands and feet. She knows how much it hurts.

As for the fact that he could only survive Disneyland in a wheelchair? 

Mom: "It's only temporary, and can you believe we get to use the wheelchair line? This is so good!"

Sometimes I get the sense that her optimism scares people. We hear whispers of "Doesn't she get what's going on? Is she unclear of the concept of Pancreatic Cancer?"

 I can tell you, without a doubt, she's totally clear on the concept. She just expects the best, and plans accordingly. And I've seen her expectations defy science, and fly in the face of those pesky numbers known as "The Odds".

For instance, my dad's chemo regimen knocks out his white blood cells, the things that fight infection. If his white count is below 1.5 he can't get a full dose. At 1, he might not even get any, because the danger of infection is too great.

After my dad's break from his first round of chemo, he knew he was still weak, and he was sure his numbers hadn't recovered enough. On the drive to the hospital, my mom repeated, "You're getting infused today. Get ready."

They tested his blood, and it was at 1.0. Borderline. They agreed to give him 80% infusion. Because this was only the beginning of his second round, the doctors thought there was no way his counts would recover for his next treatment, as he would have no break.

The next week, they made the drive to the hospital, and my dad was sure he wouldn't get the infusion. My mom said, "Get ready. You're getting infused."

My mom called me for support, and I was all, "Oh yeah, I'm with you. He's totally getting infused." But inside I was thinking, "There's no way he's getting infused."

They get to the hospital, draw his blood, and wait. The numbers come back. 1.9. 

There's no explanation. Those numbers didn't make sense. He got the full infusion.

And after Disneyland and Palm Springs, the sheer energy of the trip - and the fact that each infusion should have an exponentially detrimental effect on his white count - should've led to even worse numbers.  Plus, he was pretty sure he had a low-grade fever that morning.

They drive to the hospital. My mom says, "Get ready. You're getting infused."

His counts come back. 4.8. What the what?

How does this relate to publishing? You can probably guess, but I'm going to explain it anyway. 

Every person who's been published defied the odds. Every. Single. One.

And along the way, I bet every single author knew someone out there was saying, "Are you crazy? Don't you understand the odds?"

I'm sure most of you have heard me say this, but I found my first agent after a contest with my sister-in-law, titled "Who can get to 100 agent rejections first?" 

Let me tell you, I hit 100 rejections first. In your face! Boo-yah!

And with every rejection, my mom and I would get together and say, "That's one rejection closer to success!"

When my first book didn't sell, and I had to part ways with my first agent, my mom was all, "Glad we got that one out of the way. Now off to find a better fit!"

Even though I sometimes forget it, my mom reminds me there is a power to positive thinking. Believing something will happen in the face of incredible odds. 

I don't know the science behind that power. I don't have any proof. Would my dad's counts have the same acrobatic skills if my mom did not literally bleed sunshine and rainbows? Maybe.

Or maybe I'd be writing a different blog post. I don't know. I never finished The Secret. 

But I can tell you, my approach during the whole query/rejection stage helped me survive the long and arduous journey.  Survival turned out to be key. I could've easily given up after rejection number 99.

And my dad was supposed to be dead two years ago.

Here's to expecting miracles, when reason tells you not to.

Yesterday, I went over to my parents' house for our weekly Sunday lunch. I checked out my dad's hands, as I always do. 

I turned them over in my own hands, ran my fingers gently over the blisters and said, "If the chemo is doing this to your hands, think about what it's doing to the tumors!"

My mom said, "Hey! You're beginning to sound like me! Or maybe I'm beginning to sound like you."

No mom, I'm beginning to sound like you. And I hope it never changes.

Are you in the middle of querying? Or any other struggle? Feel free to siphon off some of my mom's unwavering, unreasonable, emphatic optimism. She can enthusiasm your butt off. Only she'll do it more eloquently.


  1. I particularly like the caption in the photograph.

  2. David- Ha ha! It's the truth. She's inhuman. Thanks for reading.

  3. so ... are your mom's sparkles and rainbows available for rental? because i could totally use some sparkly rainbows.

  4. Windy- Yes they are! All it involves is a simple blood transfusion. How are your veins? :) Actually, I'll bottle some up and mail it to you.

  5. I've been missing the mountains lately--could you have your mom move one on up here for me? That would be almost as awesome as she is. Thanks in advance....

  6. Robin- That's so funny, because when my dad was first diagnosed over three years ago, he and my mom went for a walk. She pointed to nearby Mount Olympus and said, "Do you doubt I could move that mountain for you? Just ask me!"

  7. I would certainly like more optimism. And sparkles and rainbows and sunshine. Thanks for the inspiring post!

  8. Jenilyn- I'll put it in an envelope and mail it to you! Be on the lookout for glitter in your mail box.

    Heather- thanks. :)

  9. Your mom is amazing! I'm glad your dad is doing well, I remember when my Grandmas went through all of that and seeing her hands swell.. its scary stuff! I might share this post on my blog :) I love it!

  10. Ohhh! Mount Olympus would be PERFECT! Thanks! Should I send GPS coordinates or will your mom want to pick the best spot herself?

  11. Andrea- Thanks for commenting, and please feel free to share it! :)

    Robin- She'll just aim north and throw.

  12. Um, yes. I would like a daily infusion please. Your mom sounds amazing. And I'm so glad your dad's numbers are doing so well, wow!

  13. How awesome to have a mom like that. I would love to have had a mom like that growing up. But, where your mom bleeds rainbows and sunshine, mine bleeds poison and lightning bolts. You're one lucky person to have a mom like yours!

  14. Sara- Thanks, girlfriend! Saw your bump on Facebook. Could you be any cuter?

    Jenni- Wow. Tell me how you really feel! :) I do know I'm lucky to have her. Feel free to adopt her in your life too. She is a surrogate mom to many!

  15. I truly believe in the power of a positive outlook. Anything is possible if you just believe it is. I'm with your Mom. Throw some of my sunshine in the mix. :)

  16. I might just take you up on that offer. Now, with all this being said, I do love my mom. She's just a little bit on the negative side and points out everyone's mistakes. If I can look passed that, then I actually have a fairly good relationship with her. So, maybe if you use your mom when I need encouragement, then we'll both be lucky. :D

  17. Jenn- Thanks for the contribution!

    Jenni- Sounds great!

  18. This post is so great. I absolutely love your mom's attitude. She sounds like a great person. We all need large doses of sunshine and rainbows. :) I hope your dad's numbers keep trending up! Tell him that he has a lot of people thinking about him and praying for him!

    BTW....wasn't the live chat awesome! I love WriteOnCon live chats! :)

  19. Wow Brod. Wow. That's all I can say. Yes, your Mom is one amazing woman. Of course she knows exactly what's going on - she's wicked smart - but there is definitely power in how and what we think. What a story - the infusion story. And the picture of your Dad's hands... makes me ouch.

    Great metaphor for writing, for life, and I'm so inspired by your Mom's faith. It's quite a statement of her character, and your Dad's too. Thanks for this. Love you guys!

  20. "When you believe something, everything in your body conspires to make that happen." That's Martine Leavitt on becoming a writer.

    I believe her, too.

    Thanks for the pep-talk, Brodi. I come from the household of so-called realism (thinly disguised as utter negativity). It's amazing I'm still breathing. But stubbornness can go a long way, too.

  21. Kristin- I thought I saw you in that chat! It was most excellent. And thank you for your kind words about my dad. We appreciate and feel all the support out there!

    Cath- Love you. With all our posts about Cancer, we should obliterate the disease within a few months, right?

  22. Wow, wow and more wow. Thanks for the reminder of why we should all be more positive. I love this quote, "The thing always happens that you really believe in; and the belief in a thing makes it happen..." Frank Lloyd Wright

  23. Elana- I love that quote from Martine. She rocks.

    Elizabeth- that is such a great quote. Thanks so much for sharing!

  24. Oh how I adore your family! Love that Joanie lady so much!! (And that doctor guy, too!) Sending love and prayers.

  25. What a great tribute and post! Your mom and dad are amazing! So glad I can count them as friends and neighbors!

  26. Mel! Thank you so much. I ran into your mom today- in the parking lot of TJ Maxx. She gave me the update on your family! It sounds like y'all are doing great.

    p.s. Please move back to Utah.

    Margaret- Thanks, sister. They are lucky to count you as a friend and neighbor as well.

  27. Your mom, your dad, and you are incredible people. Praying for your dad.

  28. Your Mom is amazing! We miss your Dad and can only imagine if his poor hands look this sore it has to be doing something horrible to that cancer! Loved your post. xoxoxox

  29. Wonderful post, Brodi. I love your mom's attitude. Thanks for sharing ... and for the encouragement.

  30. L.T.- Thank you. We need it!

    Heather- Thanks for reading. I will pass along your comment to my dad. He misses everyone so much!

    Donna- You rock.

  31. Death to the fluffy white bunnies! Thanks for the post :) I needed it. Your mom is amazing (and so are you of course). Ben loves her to no end! Good to hear positive news about your's to hearing more! Ben will keep praying for you (my contribution is NOT praying since I am evil laced with sin cleverly disguised under too much testosterone, facial hair, pessimism and cellulite)


    PS...are you coming to WIFYR? I am freaking, freaking, freaking out. Riddled with self loathing and angst. (Those are the appropriate conditioned responses, right?)

  32. Cam! It's been way too long! I am so happy you are doing WIFYR again. Are you in Holly Black's class? I think I remember you signed up for it.

    I'm going, but I'll only be going to the afternoon sessions. Can't wait to hang out there!

  33. I just love your Mom! I am so lucky to know you and your family! Love you all!

  34. bleeding sunshine and rainbows? a perfect description of our aunt joan. i love it!

    thanks for the post and photos. here's to positive thinking and defying the odds.

    love from your portland family -