Remission and Romeo?

Some of my readers know that, among other things that actually pay the bills, I'm a writer. My published book, a novella, falls somewhere between Women's Fiction and Literary. I have a historical fiction middle grades manuscript that ought to be making the rounds as soon as I get up the gumption to hack out another query letter. There are three mostly completed romance-type novels in the works. I've even won a few awards over the years, mostly from the Wisconsin Regional Writers' Association, but lately I've branched out a bit.

Oh, and I'm a senior staff writer (somewhat in arrears at the moment) for the Mutant Reviewers From Hell. Seriously. Check out my Twilight review. Geek much? Moi?

Anyway, last year, in need of something to submit to a regional periodical, I went into an old novel-that-didn't-happen and mined out a scene that I wrote . . . oh geez, maybe in 2004. I changed a few things, generally cleaned it up and sent it in. It was accepted.

Get this: my protagonist was in remission from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. How eerie is that? Note to self: Do NOT do unto your characters what you don't want to have happen to you because your karma is seriously out to get you, Sue!

The periodical (The Wisconsin Writers' Journal) hadn't gone to press yet when I was diagnosed and the publisher, a dear friend, offered to pull the piece. I told him not to and it was duly published. I'm going to reprint it here because the dilemma it poses has been much on my mind lately. Also, it's very short. Here it is.


I tossed my duffle bag into the trunk, slammed it shut with more force than necessary, then turned. Daniel stood a scant ten feet away, hands stuffed deep in his pockets, hair rumpled.
"Sneaking away?"
"Getting ahead of rush hour."
His feet were bare. "Are you coming back?"
"I don't know."
He gave a short laugh. "There's something to hang my hat on."
"I told you already--"
"I know what you told me. I heard every word you said. The question is, did you hear me?"
"Yes." I had.
Remission or no remission, I love you.
And he did. I didn't doubt it for a moment. Here and now, in the coolness of a spring morning with the ocean's endless heartbeat in our ears, the sun playing in the green of the grass and dancing with the leaves on the trees, he loved me. Remission or no remission. Cancer or no cancer. Statistics be damned. He loved me.
If only I hadn't seen his eyes when I'd told him the truth. If only I hadn't traveled this path before.
"I'm not him," he said.
True. Daniel wasn't Eric. Eric couldn't cope. Maybe, just maybe, Daniel could.
Maybe there'd never even be a reason to find out. But eighty percent survival meant twenty percent mortality. To me, twenty out of one hundred looked like a massacre.
"Emily?" Closer now. Softer now.
I met his gaze. I owed him that much. The corners of his eyes crinkled, not quite a smile, the subtlest of encouragements.
It was so very tempting.
But I had seen his eyes. More than that, I couldn't- I wouldn't put anyone else in a position to have to choose. This time, I would choose. For both our sakes. Whether he'd ever understand that or not.
There wasn't any reason to put it off any longer, so I stuck out my hand in a brisk way. "Take care of yourself, Daniel."
For a moment, I thought he'd refuse, but then his fingers wrapped around mine. "You too."
We disengaged and I went to get into the car, but he stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. "Em?"
I turned. "What?"
His arms wrapped around me, his face in my hair, my cheek against his chest. I held him just as fiercely, and when his mouth met mine, I welcomed it.
In the end, I did leave. Daniel, propped against the pillows, silently watched me go.


(Please do not reprint without permission, folks. Okay?)

FYI, I've been divorced since 1998. I've had a few very short term relationships and one semi-prolonged bout of seriously pathetic unrequited adoration, but I've long since gotten to the point where I've made peace with my presumption of perpetual singleness. If I get swept off my feet, no one will be happier than yours truly, but no one will be more surprised either.

Having said that, it's Spring and even a middle-aged woman's heart sometimes wants to go pitter-pat for a significant other. And so, semi-academically, the dilemma in Volition interests me even more now than it did back when I wrote it. No matter who you are, I'd love to see some comments and discussion on this:

What the heck does a person in remission do when love comes knocking on their door? Making the ginormous assumption that one's potential swain professes their love regardless, do you simply throw caution to the winds and yourself into their arms? Do you beat them with the "reality" stick for a while? Do you show them pictures of you sans hair? Do you . . . run for it?

How do you know that what they're okay with now will still be okay if the worst should happen? How can you tell?

Taking it a step further (or back, really) is it even okay for the remissionally blessed to seek out . . . a potential someone special? Do you wait a few years to see if you stay cancer-free? Do you go for the gusto now? Putting aside the fact that no one really knows what tomorrow might bring, what do you do when your tomorrow has a forecast of 20% or 30% or even 70% malignancy?

I really want to know.

Interestingly enough, before the lymphoma, I had a profile on a popular singles site. I don't do the bar scene, nor do I "get out much" according to my friends, so it was sort of a passive attempt at letting Mr. Right find me. Yeah, I know, not very pro-active. Better than nothing maybe. I heard from many wonderful Nigerian men, however, who proclaimed that their hearts overflowed with the joy of my great beauty. I suspect Nigerian men need to find themselves some decent ghost writers in addition to someone willing to help them claim their six million dollar inheritances from the recently deceased General Suckabornevryminnit.

After my diagnosis, I left the profile up with the note that I was fighting cancer and off the market, but thanks for looking anyway. I received some really nice messages from people, including a few really supportive comments from cancer survivors. Then I received, "Liked your profile, when can we meet?" (Only not as well spelled.) Bald, ill and dubious, I replied, thanked him for the interest and asked, "Did you actually read my profile?"

"Yes," he wrote back immediately. "I liked the part about the cuddling."

Oh stop staring at me. Everyone likes cuddling. I can put cuddling in a profile if I want to. You'd do the same. It's a dating site. I was just . . . keeping it in the genre, okay?


"Did you," I inquired, "see the part about the cancer?"

This is his reply, verbatim: "yes Just would like to find someone so i'm not alone all the time.Don't you miss cuddling and sex?"

The knee-jerk reply that I didn't send was something to the tune of: "Well yes, by golly, I guess I do! But please excuse me if I don't take a break from driving myself to and from chemotherapy to slap on a wig and canoodle with you so that YOU don't feel alone all the time, you licentious, semi-illiterate, punctuation-deprived, self-absorbed turd-burger!"

What I actually sent was a polite "no thanks, but I wish you the best". This proves that Mom raised me right and that I am mostly a nice person. Luckily, he accepted that without argument. I really don't need an Internet stalker on top of everything else.

But that leads to another question, albeit a very cynical one. Does cancer make one an attractive target to total losers because of a presumed Desperation Factor?

(On second thought, maybe I don't really want the answer to that. )

Thoughts? Comments? Flames? Experiences?

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