Category Archives: Uncategorized

The (Continuing) Melanoma Chronicles

I’ve had two melanomas, my husband was recently diagnosed with his second. We joke about living in Melanoma Manor, and indeed our dermatologist calls us the Melanoma Couple. An affectionate designation I could do without.

His latest melanoma is in his ear. Breslow’s depth .5 mm.

melanoma

.5mm melanoma

So we get it biopsied, then we get a head and neck CT scan to make sure there’s no tumor elsewhere. Then we have a consultation, where I ask the ENT surgeon if they can get a 1 cm margin. “No need for a whole centimeter,” he said. “The biopsy took all the deep stuff. All that’s left is insitu.”

Hmmm. In my world, there is a reason that a 1cm margin is the standard protocol.

Regardless. They did the surgery, and did a fine job of it, in my opinion. While they were excising the melanoma, they included two other suspicious spots. This is what it looked like when we left the hospital.

skingraft

Skin graft .5mm melanoma

donorsite

Skin graft donor site

It is healing well.

But did they get margins? No. Of course they didn’t. The pathology report says they left melanoma  around the outside of the graft from the top all the way to the 5:00 position. We have to go back to have more tissue taken, more skin graft, but they can’t do it until this has healed, or they will jeopardize this graft.

So the melanoma grows for yet another six weeks.

Will they take a full 1 cm margin this time? How loud do I have to yell?

…To be continued…

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Fueling the Body

Sickness is all around me.

People have colds, flu, they’re sneezing, blowing, coughing. It’s everywhere. It’s on the streets, it’s in the store, it’s on the nightly news. Kids are missing school, people are missing work, everybody is miserable.

I used to have 3-4 colds a year. I recently reviewed thirty years of correspondence with an old friend, and I was amazed at how many colds I used to get. I kept checking the dates on the letters I sent her, and thinking What? I was sick again? Three to four times a year. My whole life.

I’m not pretty when I have a cold. I am a mucous factory, easily burning through two or three boxes of tissues. Raw nose, deep chest jelly cough that makes my ribs hurt. Ugh. Misery. Three to four times per year. Just when I realized that I might be over the cough, here comes the sore throat again.

You all know what I’m talking about.

What I am here to say is that since I went vegan almost six years ago, I haven’t had a single cold. This, my friends, is a miracle.

eattherainbow

 

I can only credit the fact that I eat a Whole Foods Plant Based diet, and that is high-test fuel for my machine. My weight is normal for the first time in my life, all my lab numbers are right, and I feel better than I ever have in my life.

I eat the rainbow. I am Plant Powered, and I don’t get sick. (At least I haven’t.)

My husband, currently coughing up chunks of phlegm, tells me it’s all about the germs. Well, we live in pretty close quarters and I didn’t get sick from his germs.  But he helped a friend install a glass enclosure for his bathroom for a couple of days, and picked up his friend’s cold. Why? My guess is that the friend’s wife fed him meat and cheese for lunch every day. While his body was busy clearing out the sludge from his arteries and tissues, it wasn’t paying as much attention to his immune system, and the cold virus found a way in.

My immune system seems to be rock solid.

Sick of being sick? Interested in a new way of eating that will heal your body while healing the planet? Here is a good place to start.

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A Prediction, A Promise, and A Plea

Here we are again, at the doorstep of a new year. This past year has been hard for many of us for many reasons, and we have voiced our concerns loudly at rallies, on social media, and with families and friends. Unfortunately, many of us have lost friends and alienated family members in the process, and this is a tragedy.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” is not just an old adage, it is the truth. The fabric of planetary consciousness is made up of everyone’s thoughts, ideas, hope, disillusionment, pain, and resolve. We alone have the power to change that.

earthatnight

Yes, I know. What can we do about the government? We can do what we’re doing. We can talk, we can march, we can send postcards. But we don’t have to be mean about it. We don’t have to be snide and attempt to wound with sharp words. We don’t have to call names. We are all better than that.

So here is my prediction for 2018: I see the beginnings of a spiritual revolution. I sense a quickening already, in the “Me Too” movement, in the lack of tolerance for the Old White Boys Club running things, about the backlash against environmental pollution and the rape of the land to feed tortured animals for the sake of a double cheeseburger. “Woke” is the silly new word that was briefly employed to describe this sprout of this spiritual revolution, and woke we are.

But this isn’t going to happen somewhere out there. It happens inside us. Each of us. We ARE the spiritual revolution that will change the tenor of the planet.

Stop thinking “They need to…” and start thinking “We need to…” Start thinking “I need to…” And then do it. Every minute of every hour of every day.

I believe the planet is ready. Part of it is backlash, part of it is boomerang, part is the spiritual pressure I feel from all corners. We can do this.

Here is my promise: I will no longer start squabbles on social media, with family members, or with friends who have differing ideas from me. If a tussle starts, I will not contribute to it. I have done so, and felt a rock in the pit of my stomach for days afterward. No more. I will honor my friends’ different opinions, because after all, they mostly honor mine. I will not add to discord in our world, not in deed, not in thought. I am in charge of my thoughts and in charge of my actions, and I will use them to promote peace in my tiny little world of influence.

And here is my plea: Join me. Stop annoying people. Allow others their own journey (my definition of forgiveness).  Don’t quarrel. Try to see their side. It takes two to fight; it also takes two to dance.

I believe if everyone who reads this post begins 2018 with a resolve to hold love in the heart, to seek the higher ground, to always do the right thing, then that attitude will lighten the fabric of planetary consciousness. And as you infect others with the benign virus of love, they, too, will spread it around.

We’re not perfect, and I don’t expect that I will end the year unscathed by my own actions. But at least I will be consciously trying.

Next December, we can review the work we’ve done and be happy about our accomplishments, because I truly believe that we stand on the cusp of a spiritual revolution. Both within and without. Change the within and the without has no choice but to change.

Let’s do it. Let’s change this world.

Be nice. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Be loving. Be giving. Be active.

Be the change.

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Benediction Denied

Take a dark trip into the Labyrinth of Souls.

My new novel, based on Matthew Lowes’ brilliant solitaire Tarot card game, just launched.

BD Front Cover

While hydrologist Adam Swan is engaged in humanitarian efforts to bring water to a small, isolated village in the Congo, he is kidnapped by rebel thugs and thrown into a makeshift prison. He is left to die—or worse—if his ransom is not paid. In a surprising series of events, Adam escapes his brutal captors into an underground labyrinth where reality and sanity no longer rule. Armed with a limited amount of magic which he does not understand, he survives by employing it boldly, recklessly, desperate to return to the village above, homesick for Minnesota and normal life with his wife and daughters. Tested to the extreme limits of his endurance, Adam navigates the labyrinth with only the company of his past behavior, the baffling magic, and the seductive temptation to succumb to the mysterious and merciless gods of the underworld. The consequences of his actions, past present, and future, take him to the brink of death—and beyond. A fun, fast, thrilling ride by veteran author Elizabeth Engstrom, inspired by Matthew Lowes’ Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls card game.

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My World Turned Upside Down

Last fall, my husband went to see a physical therapist for his back problems. He is a retired tile contractor, and years of laying tile floors and running up and down ladders with hundred-pound sacks of sand on his shoulders have taken their toll.

The physical therapist put him through a few exercises, and said, “Al, you have a neurological problem. I think you have Parkinson’s.”

Subsequently, two doctors suggested her suspicions were valid, so we saw a specialist at OHSU in Portland, Oregon. No question. Parkinson’s. Stage 2 (of 5).

Parkinson's

In retrospect, of course, we had just never connected the dots. Parkinson’s Disease is such an individual thing. Each patient reacts to it differently. Al had many symptoms, but we thought they were just the effects of aging. The increasing tremor in his hand, we discounted as a “familial tremor,” common to men of his age. His sinus issues at night he contributed to dog dander or dust. Increasing pain in his lower back… well, all that tile work.

Parkinson’s is a progressive degenerative disease that will eventually rob my sweet husband of his robust good health and eventually his memory. All our retirement plans vanished in an instant with that diagnosis, and suddenly what money we had saved for years became redirected for his personal care as his disease progresses.

Resesarcher that I am, I started to learn everything I could about the disease. There is a very active Parkinson’s Disease Support Group in our town, and we go to the meetings to learn what to do, what to expect. There is also a very active Parkinson’s Caregivers Support Group here, and there I absorb the experience, hope, and strength from long-time caregivers who have so much to teach me.

The Michael J. Fox Foundation is a wealth of information, including very well-moderated monthly webinars. This is only one of a half dozen excellent organizations, and there are regional and local resources as well. I am involved and drawing from them all.

I need to learn about this disease, this new roommate, this interloper in our lives, but as Parkinson’s affects everyone differently, I don’t want to look too far in the future.  First, because it scares the crap out of me, and secondly, because that is not necessarily how it’s going to be for Al, for us.

Today I’m grateful that he is in good health, and we work toward maintaining that with exercise and good humor. He still fishes, golfs, rides his bike. The only medication he takes so far is to help him get a good night’s sleep. More medication is in his future, and we are not looking forward to dealing with the side effects.

We are re-evaluating the things we want to do: trips he wants to take while he is still able to travel alone, trips I want to take while he is able to stay home by himself, trips we want to take while we are still able to travel together.

The irony is not lost on me that I, with zero patience, end up with a husband with Parkinson’s. But I have discovered that I can have patience. Right now I am concentrating on creating sweet moments for the two of us. That helps me stay on track. I can’t be impatient, bitchy, and resentful while simultaneously creating a sweet moment.

This blog has always been about my life–my life as a writer–and now much of my life is about Parkinson’s Disease. I won’t dedicate this blog to that, but I will post my own experience, strength, and hope as I move through this unexpected chapter.

 

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Candyland

For a long time, my short novel, Candyland, was only available in the collection The Alchemy of Love. Now, it is available as an ebook, an audio book, and now, finally, as a stand-alone paperback.

candylandpapercover

After fifteen years of hard work, Candiland, the movie based on my book, was finally filmed and released. This was an incredible labor of love by everyone, and quite a sacrifice-for-the-art by the star James Clayton. Every one involved in the production did a stellar job, including James, and his co-stars Chelah Horsdal and Gary Busey. Rusty Nixon wrote a wonderful screenplay and filmed it with a deft hand.

Candiland

Working with Motorcycle Boy Productions was a true pleasure in every respect. I was able to be on set for a couple of days, to review the script before filming, and was consulted on several issues.

There was no requirement for them to involve me in the process, but they did, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Having a book turned into a movie is the dream of every author, and I sincerely wish author can have the same experience.

 

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Family Values

I hear a lot about “family values,” although never more than during an election cycle.

My question is: What are family values? People tout that phrase all the time, yet when pressed, I can’t imagine that a one of them could mention a single value that would fill the bill.

values

(As an aside: People who talk about “family values” are usually the same people who say they’re fighting for “social justice,” but I suggest that most of them cannot define “justice.”)

So for people interested in values, these are the seven that I hold dear. I believe they are universal as well as personal. I believe they are inherent in our DNA. I believe that any law written anywhere should be held up to this short list of values to see if it passes muster. If so, let it be. If not, then tweak it until it does.

Life

Equality

Quality of Life

Opportunity for Personal Growth

Empathy

Compassion

Love for Humanity

Please note that Life, Equality, and Opportunity for Personal Growth are strangely similar to: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, a phrase etched into the Declaration of Independence. Those men knew what they were talking about.

These are good values for your family. If we all taught our children to admire these values and adhere to them as adults, our society would be a better place. Our world would be a better place.

It’s never too late to adopt them as your own.

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