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Didn’t expect to hear from me so quickly, huh?

Have I ever told you that Austin is a snorer? Like a hear-him-from downstairs-snorer? He’s loud, all night long, snargling and snuffling and waking anyone around him. This is relevant because sedation can be dangerous for those at risk of respiratory failure. We’ve run into this problem before over the years, but he usually needs to be sedated for only a short period of time. For radiation or CTs with contrast, it’s a half hour maximum that he’s actually sedated and only a few minutes in the machine and out of the range of the doctor’s watchful eyes. MRIs can take up to two hours.

We went to sedation today around 12:30, after steering Austin away from food all morning. We had packed a good “lunch” for him to eat around 4pm when he would finally wake up. The nurse went through her procedures and then the doctor arrived. He looked in Austin’s mouth and quickly left the room, returning a minute later with a tongue depressor. He called me over to show me Austin’s huge and swollen tonsils, explaining how this is a problem, and all along I’m thinking he’s just pointing them out, advising me kindly to see an ENT, sharing tangential information. But no. Then he drops the bomb. “We can’t sedate him; it’s too dangerous.”

He has to go through anesthesia instead, which doesn’t hold these same respiratory risks (although is a bigger deal in other ways that I can’t quite explain). Of course, anesthesia couldn’t fit us in today and the MRI has now been rescheduled for next Wednesday. In the afternoon. On a day when his class is going on an end-of-the-year field trip to Beachwood playground that will inevitably include many delicious snacks.  Uuuuuuugggggghhhhhhhhh. I will bring him anyway that day, convince the class to hold off as long as possible on putting out the food, offer more popsicles and leave early.

I guess we weren’t quite specific enough with our wishes. Next time, we have to include the date.

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What’s that they say about the best laid plans? I sure wish they wouldn’t say it.

As you astute readers may have already guessed, I learned this morning that tomorrow’s long-awaited scans need to be rescheduled. And I’m not using that word “long-awaited’ lightly. We’ve been waiting for these since July 30, 2007.

The radiologist who does all of Austin’s ultrasounds is unexpectedly out of the hospital until Monday. Usually, some other doctor could take over that function but Austin’s kidney is so misshapen and, well, abnormal that we really need the one guy who’s familiar with it to do this all-important scan. Otherwise, we’d end up with a messy reading and wishy-washy results and then they’d probably want to do it again in a few weeks.

I’ve known for a few hours now and have stopped muttering swear words under my breath and am instead trying to view this in the grand scheme of things. Yet another slight detour on the endlessly curving road to wellness. Of course, it does not ultimately matter whether Austin has his two-year scans tomorrow or on Monday (which is when they’re now happening). But goddammit! I was ready. I was excited. We had the evening cleared (a rarity) so we could relax and enjoy a nice celebratory dinner as a family without one or the other of us needing to rush off to a meeting or practice or whatever we’ll have to rush off to on Monday.  The day was set: Braedan was invited to a friend’s house, I’d given away Austin’s slot at lunch bunch so we could head straight to the hospital after his morning at school.  And now? Maybe we’ll just all play hooky and go to the zoo or something.

And set our sights on May 7.

Tuesday was the six month mark since I sent out my samples to the agents I met at the Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam. Of those five, I got three rejections, one remarkably personal and complimentary and two standard form letters. There was one woman who simply refused to respond, despite two separate follow-up inquiries. And then there’s the last, my holdout, and favorite of the bunch.

She’s the one who, according to online lore, takes an awful long time to get back to queries. The agency website says to resubmit after six months, so that is what I did late Tuesday night, six months to the day since I sent my original, with a friendly, “I know you’re really busy, but …” letter.

No word yet, but now I’m more nervous than ever. As tedious as all these months of waiting are, at least they hold hope. That whisper of hope is always there, simmering below the surface: this is gonna be The One, she’s gonna ask to read the entire manuscript and then love it and then sign up to represent me and then sell the book to a major publishing house — oooh, maybe there’ll be a bidding war and a six-figure advance, and then it’s interviews and New York Times bestseller lists and book signings and then, oh yeah, someone is obviously gonna want to make it into a big Hollywood production, and then ….

Or at least the beginning part: She’ll like it enough to ask to read the rest! That’s all I really want at this point — for something to read the whole damn thing.

If this doesn’t pan out, then I’ll have to take a long hard look at my work and possibly revamp the beginning, which is of course the hardest part to change.  If someone asked me to rework ten or twenty pages in the middle, I could do it in a flash. But the opening sentences are just so so hard. But I’m afraid it’s falling a little flat and that it takes too long for me to really get my groove. Oh, I don’t know, hopefully this won’t be an issue at all. Hopefully, I’ll get that positive response and then, and then, and then …. You know the rest.

So what is happening with that book of mine, you ask. Well . . . nothing much.

There are still two agents from the Pitch Slam who I haven’t heard back from, one of whom I’ve pretty much given up on. From what I’ve read of her online, she usually responds fairly quickly and in one interview, she welcomed follow-up emails if she hadn’t responded to a query within five or six weeks. So I sent her one a few weeks ago and still, nothing. She’s the one I mentioned who I would have been shocked if she’d asked to read my full manuscript, so I guess it’s to be excepted. Still, it seems extraordinarily rude to ask to read someone’s work and then to even give them the courtesy of a rejection. I mean, it’s only a measly form letter — it would take thirty seconds to paste it into the body of an email and hit send. Oh well.

The other agent who still hasn’t responded happens to be my favorite of the five. Her agency’s website says right up front that it takes them up to three months to review initial submissions and only to follow-up if we haven’t heard back in six months. Six months! And I thought I’d already done my share of waiting.

That agency did have a very thorough submission form that asked for all sorts of information, from the last book I read to the author who’s most inspired my writing to a single line, one sentence, culled from my submitted pages (not easy!). They also required a synopsis, which is harder than writing a full-length manuscript! Really, in the past, I’ve steered clear of agents who request a synopsis just because I didn’t want to have to write one. This is a two-page summary of the entire book, devoid of any exposition — just straight up, “This happens, then that happens, blah blah blah.” Ugh. Double ugh.

But I do trust that, by requesting all that information, and by warning ahead of time how long it takes her to review it all, that she really will indeed review it all, and that she really will indeed respond. I’ve also read some interviews with writers who’ve signed with her and they all say that she’s much much quicker to respond once she officially represents you and that she spends most of her work day acting on behalf of her current clients and their books, which is a good sign.

So, more waiting and more hoping. If there are only a few things I’ve learned since Austin was diagnosed with cancer, it’s how to wait and how to hope.

I went for a run today, which wasn’t terribly productive. The sidewalks were nonexistant and the roads had several inches of hard-packed snow making me feel like I was running in place. Which is how cancer treatment in general feels sometimes. Like we put forth enormous effort and get all tired out, but don’t get much of anywhere.

That’s not true, of course. We should be “getting somewhere;” it’s just not a place we can see. And the marbles are indeed moving, one jar almost equal to the other (although I think it’s time for me to sneak some extras into the “Days Left” jar). But I do feel like we’re just bidding our time, waiting for it all to be over.

We all start to feel like that at this point in the year (especially this year, when the whole country is buried under snow) — wondering when spring will come, counting the days until the warm weather hits. It’s especially so when you’ve got a kid with cancer: Let’s just get through this, let the dark days end, let the sun shine again.

Funny thing, though, is that Austin isn’t bidding his time. He isn’t just waiting for it all to be over. He’s still living each day to the fullest. Today we tried to build a snowman (but it wasn’t good packing snow), he went sledding with Braedan and Daddy, and in between he jumped on the bed and the couch and down the stairs. No waiting for this kid, no running in place.

There is still joy, even with gray skies.

No final results from the ultrasound yet. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our oncologist wants to review “post-operative changes” with the surgeon. Of course, this kind of vague waiting makes me nervous, but if I step back and think of it from an objective perspective, I know that what remains of Austin’s kidney does not look normal and never has. It surely looks even less normal after December’s surgery, so I think the doctors are just being cautious and are consulting with each other before making any final proclamation.

So, we’ll just let that be for now (what else can we do, after all?) . . .

In other news, his platelets have risen significantly, almost to the minimum level required to start chemo. We assume that they’ll continue their ascent and are planning to check in to the hospital Thursday morning to stay through Tuesday for the next round. When next week’s over, he’ll have completed three of his six rounds of chemo (assuming–and hoping!–that we stop after 18 weeks and not the full 30), so that feels good.

And in the meantime, Austin will go to school tomorrow and Wednesday, and have two spectacular days in a row. Lucky boy.

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