Finally we’re to the fun part. Not that writing and editing and all of that isn’t fun. Geez, how could I survive as a writer if it wasn’t? But this is the definitely the part I’ve been waiting for: getting to share what I wrote with all of you.
And here it is at last: How to Save a Surgeon. I’m usually super nervous about reading reviews, but there are some good ones already out there. (And I especially loved Liberty Ann’s review over at CUDDLES PLEASE.)
And now let me tell you a story…
I hadn’t introduced Eliza’s brother Jackson in One Night in Vegas with the intention of writing a book about him. If I had, I probably would have chosen a different name for him so people didn’t think of Jackson Avery from Grey’s Anatomy. Then again, Jesse Williams is ridiculously hot, so maybe there’s never a wrong time to think about him.
…anyway. I should have remembered the romance novel commandments: Thou shalt not introduce a hunky brother without also writing his story. My editor asked for a book about Jackson and then I had to come up with an idea for what to do with him. Since he was a workaholic, it made sense to me that the only way he could ever spend time with somebody was within a medical context. Which meant this almost definitely had to be a medical romance. I’d never read that many of them (I lean towards pirates and cowboys), but I figured I’d do some research and let the characters drive where it went from there.
Ha ha ha. The world had other plans. Instead of my research involving leisurely days on my ereader, highlighting and bookmarking all the really good bits (isn’t this what everybody does?), my research ended up a little more hands on than that. My step-father slipped on some ice out in the woods and broke his ankle, so I had to call an ambulance and literally run out to find him. It was bad enough that he needed surgery and months of recovery, which lead to me spending entire days hanging out at a hospital and many long discussions with his surgeon about his care at home.
Okay, that sucked, but broken bones happen, right? Well…about a week and a half after he broke his ankle, my best friend–who’d been mysteriously ill for a while but couldn’t get a diagnosis–collapsed at home. In a pool of blood. Luckily, her roommate happened to be there and got her to the hospital. Finally, she got a diagnosis, but it was a bad one: cervical cancer, which had spread well beyond surgical options and had even taken up residence in her lungs.
So the rest of the writing and editing for this book? Written in abject terror. We’d been friends for sixteen years and the thought of losing her was as incomprehensible as imagining my life without me in it. My best friend didn’t want to hear statistics about her odds of survival or how long the oncologist thought she’d live, but we all knew it was pretty dire. Not wanting to upset her, I’d look up survival rates based on how far the cancer had spread on my own, then go and freak out to my mother (my other best friend) about how empty the world would be without her.
But fear and dramatics weren’t what my best friend needed and as scary as it was for me, ultimately all of this was about her. Her health, her feelings, her experience was what mattered, and if we lost her we could all grieve on our own time but until and unless that happened she needed all the support, love, and happiness I could muster for her because it wasn’t about me. If you’ve already read my book, some of this might start sounding a bit familiar.
Without surgery being an option, she went through chemo. If you’ve been unlucky enough to have a condition requiring it or one of your close loved ones has, you know how miserable chemo can be. The treatment is poison, with the hope that it will poison the quickly reproducing cells of cancer faster than the rest of you, but you’re still being brutally poisoned in the hope for a cure. Because I’m apparently a glutton for punishment, I chose to reread The Girlfriend during all of this and became a sobbing, snotting mess for two days solid.
Edits wrapped up and my book was on its way to getting published–and I’d gotten far more medical research than I ever wanted along the way–while my best friend’s treatment continued. I feared how much time I had left with her and how much of that precious time would be taken up with the book instead. She had a CT scan a few weeks prior, but we had to wait for results. And wait. And wait.
Just before my book came out, just before promotion kicked into high gear, my friend finally got results: they couldn’t find cancer. It was gone. They’d have to do followups and all of that, but it looked as though the misery making chemo had done its job well. Even now, it’s hard to fully accept it and let go of the constant companion of fear. Like a rainbow after a hurricane, it’s baffling and hard to trust.
And yet…rainbows do come after hurricanes. Even the worst storms come to an end. Horrible things that should by all rights kill us can be halted in their tracks by modern medicine and the amazing people who’ve dedicated their lives to it.
Congratulations to my best friend Maggie and thank you to all the people out there ensuring people like her get their happy endings.