Mary Anne Mohanraj


April 19 -- 6:58 AM

Something last night drove me to re-read a particular book -- but I couldn't decide if the one I wanted was Nina Kiriki Hoffman​'s The Thread That Binds the Bones or John Crowley​'s Little, Big. So I read the Hoffman last night, and am reading the Crowley now. They start in remarkably similar ways -- a stranger meets a woman from a mysterious family, and they marry, and strange things happen.

But the two books go in completely different directions, and are, of course, told in completely different styles. And my current novel opens with a woman marrying into a mysterious family (except she's marrying three strangers, not just one). Also, no magical beings, but yes, genetic engineering.

Was I influenced by these two books, on some level? Or is this a common / universal human theme? Just pondering tropes. :-)

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April 17 -- 2:49 PM

Cancer log 70: I couldn't sleep last night -- in part because I stayed up a little too late watching the first Game of Thrones episode of the new season, in part because I was thinking about revisions to the novel. (Mostly a steamy sex scene, which I swear is integral to the plot.) It's been a while since a book kept me awake. It's a good thing.

The last few months have been in large part a process of paring away as many commitments as I could -- I've said 'no' far more often than I normally would. I've been trying to wrap up everything I had hanging so I could focus on dealing with the cancer -- and it has largely worked. I'm just finishing the last look at the book I agreed to edit; it's about to go out the door to the printers. There are just two more weeks left to the semester; just a bit of paper-guiding and grading to go. I might attend WisCon and/or the Nebulas, but I haven't signed up for any programming in advance. I'm planning to spend one week in D.C. visiting my sister, but otherwise, the next four months are shockingly free -- more so than...well, than ever.

It's a quieter stretch than at any other time in my adult life. A chemo infusion every three weeks, then every two weeks. And otherwise -- rest, read, garden as I feel like it, and think about the novel. My agent wrote me a really nice letter when I told him I had cancer -- among other heartening things, he said that this might actually be good for my writing. I admit, I kind of thought he was being silly.

But y'know, he might be right. If nothing else, I've gotten some practice now in saying 'no' a bunch (the sky didn't fall down!), and clearing away a stretch of time as a result. This could be a useful life skill for a working writer!

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April 17 -- 2:47 PM

Sorry -- my blog was somewhat broken for a few days -- Jed has fixed it now. Catching up from 4/14:

Cancer log 69: Thereís a great secondhand clothing store in my neighborhood, Trends Ė itís where I go when Iím feeling the need for some relatively cheap retail therapy. I can usually score a cute top or dress for about ten bucks, and itís surprising how well that works to lift my mood. Itís less effective, it turns out, when I find myself considering with every piece whether itíll hide the port scar or not.

I donít mind my port, generally Ė Iím actually kind of fond of it now, since it means less ouchiness with the actual chemo treatments and blood draws. Weíve also mostly trained Anand to stop hurling himself into me Ė ouch! But still, I donít necessarily want to advertise, ďhey, I have cancerĒ when Iím walking down the street. I could, of course, tell everyone that itís actually an old dueling scar, but given that I havenít picked up a sword since high school (and even then, theyíd only let the girls use foils, dammit), that claim might be less than convincing.

Itís been a rough five days since Thursdayís chemo, but interestingly, Iím not sure I can blame it on cancer. I felt a little nauseated, but basically okay on Friday and Saturday. Then, Sunday, I went to Whole Foods to pick up some things, and I thought I was fine, but I picked up one of their free samples of grilled mahi-mahi with mango salsa, and as I raised it to my mouth, I almost threw up right there.

I paused a sec, then ate it anyway, figuring I was just over-sensitive to smells. Theyíd warned us that might happen with chemo, and I remember that from pregnancy too Ė there were a few months when I couldnít take Ellie to the dog park because it smelled so horrible to me. The nausea passed, and I finished my shopping and went home. Only to find myself, around midnight, waking up and emptying the contents of my stomach. That wasnít fun, especially when you add in that Anand was sick with a fever, and woke up every few hours crying for water Ė Kevin went when he could, but sometimes I woke up first. It was a rough night.

Monday morning, I was initially inclined to blame it all on chemo, but as the day went on and I was only vaguely queasy, I started to wonder. I think, in retrospect, that I actually got a spot of food poisoning from Whole Foods. I am utterly indignant about that, not that my indignation does me much good now. And on top of that, I think I may have caught Anandís cold-thing; I havenít had much of a fever, but sneezing and coughing a bit, and yesterday, I made it in to teach, but halfway through my second class started feeling really shaky. I got through it and drove home okay, but I then collapsed on the couch, and then the bed, and basically slept from 2 Ė 8 p.m. Woke up long enough to watch a tv show with Kevin, and then slept my regular eight hours. Woke up today feeling mostly-human again, though I did nap much of the morning. Felt well enough to go for a proper walk this afternoon, though.

All of which makes it really hard to tell if any of this is chemo-related or not. I need a longer baseline! Guess weíll just keep tracking things and see. Iíll try to spare you too many details of my gastrointestinal concerns, though. :-)

Since some people have been asking, hereís the schedule for treatment Ė for three months, itís an infusion ever three weeks. So start with April 9 and count from there. Then in July, I switch to the AC combo, which is more heavy-duty and more likely to make me sick. I am somewhat cranky about the timing of that, because my birthday is in July, and chemo is pretty much the worst birthday present ever. I plan to complain bitterly, just so youíre warned. Thereíll be two months of that, infusions every two weeks through July and August. Then surgery, in September, and daily radiation for six weeks, in Oct/Nov, I think. Should be all done with treatment by Christmas, if all goes well, lord williní and the creek donít rise.

And now, my darlings, off to do my taxes. With luck and nasty treatments, Iíll be able to stave off death for a long, long time, but taxes are inevitable.

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April 12 -- 9:30 AM

Garden puttering. Cleaned out potting bench and indoor shelf. Transplanted some creeping charlie into hellstrip -- only did about a quarter of the strip, may mix it up with something else in the middle (sweet woodruff, perhaps), and then more charlie on the other side -- pondering. Pulled first dandelions of the season -- I like them fine in a far away field, not in my garden.

Dug out some crab grass, and poisoned the burdock. I know, I know, but I used a very tiny, focused amount of poison just on the burdock leaves directly, and it's right next to the road, so very far away from the back yard where we grow our veggies. Last year's digging efforts completely failed at containing the burdocks -- I have cried mercy, and surrendered.

I am trying to learn to love the maintenance tasks -- they are not as immediately glamorous as putting in flowers, but they do give long-term satisfaction. It's awfully nice looking out at a patch of dandelion-free ground, even if you know that pleasure will not last. But I'm going to put some mulch down shortly, which should help!

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April 12 -- 5:51 AM

We are having splendid weather here -- getting close to 70 during the day. But the only problem is that it's still chilly in the mornings, which means I wake up and then impatiently wait hours until it's warm enough to get out into the garden. Yesterday I planted a flat (48?) of pansies in the hellstrip and a mix of creeping thyme and lemon variegated thyme along the new path Arlo put in for us last year. I only made it halfway up the path -- need to stop back at the store and buy more, along with some herbs and veggies.

We always plant tomatoes and hot peppers, but some years, those are unsatisfying because Chicago doesn't get quite hot enough for quite long enough. Trying to figure out what else is worth planting, given that it's a smallish plot -- the general advice is to plant what you actually eat; the kids eat a lot of broccoli, and we go through a lot of onions, but I suspect the amount of space we'd need to give over to actually keep up with our household demands on those two would be hard to manage. Maybe peas -- they like frozen peas, but they might eat fresh ones off the vine. And it's fun growing peas / corn / squash together -- I used to do that in California. Hm.

Today, dig more crab grass and the first dandelions out of the hellstrip, and see what I can do with the invasive burdock. Then mulch the whole thing, I think (must buy mulch) -- I wasn't sure if I should hold off, since a lot of the perennials are just coming up and I don't want to smother any by mistake, but I *think* at this point I should be able to see them all. It's tricky, because there are some I recognize easily, like hostas, and some I know by placement, like the bleeding heart, but then there are others that I put in new last year and I don't think I ever added them to the garden plan and honestly I have no idea what they are. Will try not to smoosh them in mulch.

Still trying to figure out what would be a good ground cover for the hellstrip. I have a big patch of creeping charlie in back, that I'm tempted to transplant over there, because it'll be contained by the sidewalk and road. But will it crowd out the pansies, etc.? I think my ajuga would. How aggressive is it?

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