Thursday, August 22, 2013

You've Got A Friend In Me...


A group of people recognized by birth, by marriage or by co-residence.

A basic social unit consisting of parents and their children.

All the members of a household under one roof.

A group of persons sharing common ancestry.

I am sure the word FAMILY brings a lot of memories and thoughts to your mind, whether it be your family growing up or your current family that you are raising. I have a different idea of what a FAMILY is. My FAMILY growing up was me and my daddy-Jo Beth and Norma are never to be considered my mothers at all. I was an only child of parents that were both only children. I had no aunts, uncles or cousins. My BIO-FAMILY is an interesting thought as my male DNA unit and female gestational unit are both lying SOBs. My BIO-FAMILY also has many half-brothers and sisters. There is David, Connie, Janet, Peggy, me, LuAnn, Lonnie, Linelle, and twins LeEllen and Karla. Out of the 9 sibling I have no relationship with any of them and I have never met my two brothers and one sister. I am good with that as they have no clue about me and I don’t want to know them either.

  When the road looks rough ahead
And you're miles and miles
From your nice warm bed
Just remember what your old pal said
Boy, you've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me...

Your FAMILY has your past, your memories that you were too little to remember or details you are missing. Jo Beth died when I was 9 and my daddy died when I was 24. The only two people on the planet that could fill in the blanks in my past and my childhood are dead. I am left with missing images of my past and what I think to be true but no real proof that they are true.

I have two friends that I consider my “FAMILY” that have bits and pieces of my past, Sandy who I met in first grade and Margie that I met in fifth grade. Of course they were kids growing up and were not in my life everyday but they are the closest thing I have to FAMILY or sisters on this planet. Over the years we all have gone our separate ways but have managed to find each other again. Never really very far away and always feels like home when we are together.

When Heather died I tried to contact Margie and failed. I ended up calling her mother in law and leaving her a message to have Margie call me. The moment she got the message she called me right away and we have not really been out of touch since then. Shortly after this Margie got very sick and following lots of things learned she has cancer. My heart broke as my dear friend had to face cancer and all the ugliness it brings.

 You've got troubles, well I've got 'em too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together and we see it through
You've got a friend in me...

The past year has not been nice to Margie and has her still fighting for her life with a slim chance for a cure. We have had several chats about death and I have shared my experience with Heather with her. I saw Margie when she was visiting her daughter her in Arizona over Christmas. Things looked good and after a surgery life could begin again. Surgery came and things did not go so well. She spent a few weeks in the hospital trying to recover. Margie had the highest hopes heading into testing in May. She told me very matter of fact that she felt great and her cancer was gone. Unfortunately the tests showed otherwise. In May we made plans for me to come visit in June, then July and finally plans were set for August.

Margie and Sherry by the river
It was very hard to see my dear friend suffering so much. I will never understand why such good, sweet people are made to suffer such extreme pain. But Margie’s smile never dimmed and her eyes sparkled like they always did. Underneath all the drugs and surgeries was my childhood, lifelong “sister.” She is my FAMILY as she holds many years of my past that no one else has. We talked and laughed about the ‘old’ days and all the fun things we did when we were young.

True face of cancer
I was not allowed to drive in high school and was forced to take the bus to and from school. That lasted about a week and then I decided I needed to have a different way of getting home. Most days I walked home with Margie. Her house was about halfway and I could stop and have some food and fun before going home to my hell. On the hot days I would cool off and on the cold days I would warm up at her house. We also had piano together and would practice many afternoons. Margie made mac-n-cheese with the velveeta kind of cheese, waffles with pecans and TAB soda to drink. Her mother bought coconut chocolate chip cookies all the times because she thought her girls loved them. Truth was I was the one eating them every afternoon. It was such fun being at Margie’s house with her and her sister Cammy. Our sleepovers were fun as well.

 Some other folks might be
A little bit smarter than I am
Bigger and stronger too
But none of them will ever love you the way I do
It's me and you
And as the years go by
Boys, our friendship will never die
You're gonna see
It's our destiny
You've got a friend in me...
~Toy Story~

After graduation we both got married, with me living in Phoenix and her living in Albuquerque. Our lives have been intertwined ever since. Margie and Duane got married on December 10, 1983. I called Margie in March 1986 to tell her about Jenn being born and she told me she was pregnant. Rochelle was born on December 10, 1986. I remember the call and how shocked Margie was to have a baby on their anniversary and we both laughed. It was even funnier when I had Heather on December 10, 1987. It could not have happened this way if we planned it to happen.

One trip back to Farmington many years and kids later, Margie and her two kids and me and my three kids met at McDonald’s, had lunch and then went cemetery hopping. Yes, being from a small town you go back and visit the two cemeteries. It was an afternoon of laughter and memories. Fast forwards many years and Margie and I are eating lunch at KFC, well, I ate she drank and our chats sometimes turned to funerals and death, only this time it hits home almost as hard as Heather’s death as I feel like another part of my past, my FAMILY is slipping away. 
You make me smile...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Exactly What I Envisioned....

When Heather was first diagnosed with cancer we were all in shock and questioned why us? Why her? For some strange reason I grabbed my camera and began taking photos right away. I wanted to document this event. Why? I don’t know. It just seemed to be a natural thing for me to do. Heather was thankful for me taking photos as she wanted to look back at her journey and see how far she had come. Some people have asked how I could take photos at a time like this. My answer is I don’t know, but in the stress of the moment it might have been the way I kept myself together without falling apart. Looking back now at the over 300 photos we have of Heather’s journey through cancer they show her strength and incredible courage in the face of something so horrible most of us would run screaming from the building.

As time moved forward and Heather went into remission she and I had an idea to write a book and put the photos in it. We wanted to show the true face and side of blood cancer. The part no one talks about or sees unless you live through it. It was supposed to be Heather’s story as told my us and then we would do mother/daughter book signings and be this world famous author duo.

When Heather died, I put the thought of a book in the back on my mind. I really wanted to do the book still in honor of Heather and all she had been though, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to share my Heather with the world. It was too raw and emotional for me. I was not able to speak her name without crying in the beginning. There would be no way for me to do public book signings or public speaking without breaking down and sobbing. Honestly no one wants to listen to a mother sob as she is trying to speak. For the most part I can talk about Heather and tell her story without losing it. I may have to stop and breathe for a minute but I don’t fall into a mess of tears anymore. This is good and bad as it means I am getting further from the trauma and also she is becoming part of my past.
Bill's cover on the left-publisher's cover on the right (middle name spelled wrong)
My Porcelain Doll was the title and the only title I have ever thought of for the book to tell the story. No other titles ever popped into my head. I also knew the exact photo I wanted for the cover. I was kind of going for a shock value with the photo since the title makes it sound like a beauty queen life story, not a cancer fighter story. Bill made a mock up cover for my book and I loved it. I knew what I wanted the cover to look like and I would have the publisher design their cover, but I reserved the right to use my own cover if I did not like the one they designed. I wrote the back cover and wanted it to be very hard hitting and personal. The kind of back cover that makes you want to buy the book right there. I had a word limit of 100 words for the synopsis and 100 words for the Author notes. Well, I figured I had a total of 200 words and I wrote 160 words for the book summary and 40 words for the author notes. I was not sure they would approve this change. I also made a mockup of what I expected the back to look like as well.
concept of back cover
My book has jumped into super-fast mode right now and should be available for purchase very soon, in a matter of weeks not months. The November 8th release date has been moved up. I do not have an exact date but an in the final stages of production currently. I knew the book cover would be coming sometime this week but did not have an exact day when they would be sending it me. It arrived via email today and I was blown away as I had not told the publisher my ideas for either cover. They did exactly what I envisioned.
The book cover-PERFECT!!!
The emotions I am having are mixed and everything from extreme sadness to overwhelming pride and joy. My book is my loving tribute to my Heather. It is my deepest words and thoughts as she battled cancer and then died. The book also contains 85 black and white photos that tell a very powerful story as well. I know there will be some people who will think our photos went too far and how can we share such personal and horrible photos. I can, because I lived it and parts of it was horrible. What Heather endured was awful and so was her death. The photos put a face with the story. I will admit that I am scared as her story, my story hits for the world to read.