"Author Parks piles too much on Gwen Marcey's shoulders. The forensic artist is loaded down with a snide ex-husband, a bratty teen daughter, and is a breast cancer survivor. Her feats of physical exertion were just unbelievable for this reader."
I quoted this comment because it wasn't the first time someone had said this. I mean, really? Could someone reasonably have had all those problems I dumped on my character at once? And been able to do all that she did?
The funny thing about this is that it never occurred to me that Gwen was going through more than she could handle. After all, my life is somewhat of the template for Gwen. Gwen was two months from her last chemo treatment when the story opens. The picture of me (yeah, that's me. Not Uncle Fester from the Adams Family,) is about three months into chemo. Two weeks after my last chemo treatment, September 15, 2004, I drove from North Idaho to Sacramento, taught five workshops for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International.) I had a booth for those three days, then drove from Sacramento to San Jose and taught a 40-hour series of forensic classes, followed by a two day art show. Then I drove home.
While going through chemo, every other week for four months, I continued to work on art, writing, and teaching forensic classes. My mom was dying of emphysema and I took care of her for dinner Monday through Friday, weekends, and holidays. I ran our kennel of Great Pyrenees and continued to work on our ranch.
Stamina? I didn't think about it. I did what I had to do. I had to work. I had to take care of mom. Gwen is the same.
As for lousy ex-husbands, mine took the cake. We were divorced after almost fifteen years of marriage (much like Gwen.) He remarried. Then killed his wife. He's serving 16 years to life in prison.
I guess for a lot of folks, Gwen has more than her fair share of problems, but I don't think they are unreasonable. No one said life was easy. It's how you go through life, how you persevere, keep faith, and have the right attitude that gets you through the troubling times.
I posted Hebrews 12:1 on my refrigerator. It's still there. The last line you'll see in my books, because it's one of the things that got me through:
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
And Hebrews 12:2 completes the thought:
"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
The main character in my novel, A Cry From the Dust, is about two months past her last chemo treatment for breast cancer. I don't think I've ever read a book where the protagonist is in remission. As the saying goes, write what you know, and I am a breast cancer survivor. I don't mind talking about it at all. I sorta figured God had a reason, so all I had to do is stick with the plan. The photo you see here is me, mid cancer treatment. Like my wig? That sucker was ITCHY!
I had a lot of strange ideas about cancer, chemo, doctors, hospitals, and dying. Mostly I didn't think about them at all. I'd never been in a hospital except to visit someone. The doctors I knew were friends. You died when you got cancer. Chemo made you violently sick and all your hair immediately fell out.
I discovered you didn't have to die from cancer. My oncologist gave me a printout on my survival chances (now there's an eye opener!) I had a 79% chance of living longer than five years if I had surgery, chemo, and hormone treatment. Living longer than five years? Good heavens, I figured I wouldn't need to think about dying until I was really old! Well, I'm coming up on ten years in remission, so the printout was right.
Chemo is a trip. I had a port surgically implanted just below my collarbone. The port was about the size of a half-dollar with a small tube that took the chemo straight to my heart. Every other week I'd go to the cancer center, pick up paperwork, walk across the hall and have my blood drawn and tested, return across the hall and meet with the oncologist (a great guy!), go upstairs, have a nurse poke a needle into my port, be seated in a comfy lounge chair, and get plugged into the chemo machine. The chemo itself isn't painful, only cold. In fact, the effects of chemo usually took two days. Wednesday was chemo day. Thursday I got a shot in the stomach to boost my blood, and Friday I got hammered. This was a problem because my mom was dying of emphysema and my care-taking duties started Friday night.
It took two treatments before my hair fell out, and oh! was that an ugly sight. I made an appointment with Nora to get it all shaved off (what was left.) When I entered the salon, everyone went dead silent. No one would look at me. The all knew. Nora whispered, "do you want to go into the back?" Huh? I figured I'd get some humor-mileage out of this. "No," I whispered back. "Give me a Mohawk." So she did. She shaved it all except a line of hair running down the middle of my head. Of course, there was only about twenty hairs left up there. We giggled at the look and shaved it all off.
Well, enough of the cancer story for now. Yeah, I feel fine, thanks for asking. :-)
Fine artist, forensic artist, author.