A Guest Post by Katy Huth Jones
In 2004 I was insanely busy, getting a “buzz” from all the activity: I made a small but regular income from book sales and magazine articles, taught private flute and sectionals at the local high school and middle schools, and taught classes to other homeschoolers, along with my fourteen-year-old son: band, science, creative writing, and Shakespeare. I also helped my husband with our son’s Boy Scout troop. Being around teenagers all the time stimulated my creativity in exciting ways, and I didn’t think life could get any better.
Then I developed a bad sinus infection that required antibiotics, but once the infection was gone, the lymph nodes in my neck remained enlarged, and I had extreme tiredness and night sweats. I did some research and realized I had every symptom of lymphoma (except the one I wouldn’t have minded having—weight loss). I went to four different doctors, but none of them took me seriously. They said I had another infection, or menopausal symptoms, or allergies. It wasn’t until the lymph nodes grew so huge I was having trouble swallowing and singing that I went to a fifth doctor. In January 2005 he removed the lymph node for biopsy: It was cancer.
My exciting life abruptly ended. Because the lymphoma was fast-growing and aggressive, nuclear-bomb strength chemo was required to knock it down. It was miserable, causing permanent side effects, but at least I was “in remission.” Some forms of lymphoma are “curable” but mine was not. So not only did I have debilitating physical effects, I had to take an anti-depressant for a while to cope with anxiety attacks and a feeling of doom.
This total upheaval affected my writing, too. I could not get back in the “groove” of writing magazine articles. During and after chemo, poetry literally poured out of me, some of which I’ve gone on to publish in magazines. Now novels are pouring out of me. I figured out the other day that every single one of them has a similar theme of finding hope, joy, and light even during the darkest times. No surprise; that is my life now.
I miss hanging out with teenagers. I did manage to finish teaching my son through high school, and continued classes with the other homeschoolers for four more years. One good thing has happened; I stopped saying “no” to the local symphony conductor and now play piccolo and flute with them. It is a joy to play music instead of just teaching it.
I’d planned to self-publish my latest fantasy series when the lymphoma reared its ugly head again the first of June 2015. Ten years ago it didn’t hurt; this recurrence was in my abdomen, and all those enlarged lymph nodes were pressing on nerves. It felt like labor pains that wouldn’t let up, getting worse and worse. The fog from pain meds and later chemo really messed up my carefully crafted writing and publishing schedule, so I did a lot of reading and reviewing for fellow indie authors during those awful months. Now that the end of this particular battle is in sight, I signed up for NaNoWriMo for the first time to finish my WIP, since I was SO close when all you-know-what broke loose.
Having incurable cancer is not all bad. In fact, if it wasn’t for getting lymphoma in my forties, I might have continued with my “busyness” and never stopped long enough to actually savor the joys of living. Each day is a gift from God. I try not to look too far ahead, but focus on today and how I might encourage someone else who might be struggling on this journey.
I’m thankful to be given another stay of execution. I have so many stories in my head, waiting to be told, that I’ll never run out of material. Writing is also a gift, for which I am grateful . . . beyond words.
Katy Huth Jones
This picture from 2007, two years after chemo killed every hair I had (eyebrows and eyelashes too), and my hair came back in long ringlets, just like Shirley Temple.
My blog is titled “Life is a Four-Letter Word: Encouragement for the Journey.