About three years ago when I first started having unexplained health issues I began seriously looking for answers. When a visit to my Internist did not seem to be going in the right direction I made the rounds of several specialists in different fields. Those visits started me on the medical merry-go-round that I am still riding to this day. It seemed that each doctor added some new ailment to my list of complaints along with at least one new pill to shallow.
One day my husband and I were sitting in the exam room of a young Indian pulmonologist waiting for the results of tests done the week before. Truthfully, we were not prepared for what followed. This young doctor had certainly not had time to hone his bedside manner because, he stepped inside the room, shut the door and turned to look in my direction and bluntly said the words that will be forever etched in my memory, and I quote verbatim "Your test proved exactly what I expected. You have Pulmonary Fibrosis. You will be on oxygen within a year and dead in five."
The very next week after having surgery to remove a lump from my neck another doctor used that same cold detached delivery to inform me that the biopsy revealed my tumor was malignant and I was being referred to an Oncologist.
I am not writing this to enlist sympathy. I am simply stating what happened, because, these events were the catalyst to my deciding to write. I felt I could not wait to find out if that lung doctor's prediction of my life expectancy was correct. I just knew I had to have my final say.
Could I actually write a book and finish it in less than five years? I still do not have the answer to that question. I have tried to spend a few minutes of each day working on this book of mine. During fourteen months of chemo and radiation treatments I couldn't even get my mind around writing a simple sentence or short post for my blog much less anything more. Once my treatments ended I tried to return to blogging thinking then surely the book would start to take shape. That didn't happen. Then I was told the cancer had returned and another year went by with no blogging and little progress on the book.
I recently decided I had to start blogging so that I could get my brain back in gear and the book on track. That is when I started this new blog. I wanted to do something anonymous so that I would not have to answer to friends and family or worry about disappointing anyone. Yesterday, I realized I could possibly use this venue as a way of getting feedback that would help to further my efforts.
The book I'm trying to write is not a work of fiction. It is my life story told as I remember living it. I felt that I had to set my life story to paper for no other reason than to have my voice heard by the members of my family, assuming they bother to read it. I have always felt like an outsider in my family. I have even written on my blog about my feelings of being invisible unless someone needs my help with something.
It may be a bad move but I intend to leave a copy of my book to each family member in my will. The chips will have to fall as they will but I will have the satisfaction of saying my peace. There are some among my family members who will swear on the Bible that some of the events I write about never happened. A few will tell you I can’t help but exaggerate or embellish and everything I say should be taken with a dozen grains of salt. However, there are some of my siblings closer to me in age, who would I'm sure, willingly add their stories to mine and even I would be shocked by how much of our shared lives I was completely unaware of, or perhaps still simply refuse to remember.
I thought I had done a decent job of burying most of my past life, and my unpleasant dreams until I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Then, all my demons returned. Undoubtedly caused by the emotional strain the cancer treatments put on both my body and my marriage. I hope by writing this book I will, once and for all, merge the events of my dreams into the Swiss cheese holes in my conscious memory; thereby banishing the fitful and sometimes nightmarish dreams that still haunt my sleep.
I plan to share bits and pieces from this book here but, I am a coward where conflict is concerned so I will give my real life characters fictitious names occasionally. It is the only way I can be assured the feelings of the person I have written about will be protected and that I will not find myself in a courtroom or banished from all future family functions. Any resemblance the names I have chosen for my characters have to any living person is purely by chance. I assure you I have no memory of ever having met anyone that shares these names.
Now for my first installment.
At the time of my birth my father was among the many returning WWII veterans who were lost in a sea of men looking for work. My father’s chauvinism kept my mother from looking for work. She has not worked outside our family since marrying my father. Lack of work forced us to live with my father’s sister Cecelia and her family in an old dilapidated farmhouse in rural St. Clair County, in Illinois.
During WWII my father served as a Navy cook on troop ships and had one of the most popular pin-up posters of the time hanging in his galley. He said that poster is what got him through the war in one piece, so he named me after, the actress in that poster. A Google check of the top one hundred most popular names of 1946 has my name listed as number fifty-nine. I find that hard to believe. I never met anyone else with my name until I had been in the workforce of a large retail chain for several years and a customer came through my checkout lane. Since, then I have only met about eighteen others and all but two were much older than me, one was a small child who was named for her mother’s favorite aunt. Truthfully, I have never liked my name. It somehow does not fit how I see myself. I have always wished that my father had chosen something less glamorous and since a very young age have thought of myself as “Betty.”
Knight, was our surname. We will get into my ancestry and family history a little later. I have been married twice. My first marriage was to the brother of my father’s sister’s husband. To simplify, that, I married the brother of one of my Uncles by marriage. He was an insecure, introverted, illiterate factory worker and the first man to show any interest in me.
I gladly accepted his proposal of marriage, seeing it as my only available option for escaping the home of my birth. Despite all the flack I received from my parents over this decision I would not be dissuaded. It took almost a year before I realized I had actually gone from the frying pan into the fire. But, even that was better than admitting my mistake and returning to my parent’s house to become the Cinderella drudge they had been grooming me to be. That first marriage lasted until my husband’s death after thirty-seven years of marriage.
Three years later I met a retired naval officer on Yahoo Personals. Our courtship was mostly online or by phone and the proposal happened quickly after our first face to face meeting. Within four months of our first contact I quit my job and flew to California from my home in Missouri. We married in Nevada as we made the trip across the country with his lifetime of belongings packed from floor to roof in the back of a Toyota Yaris. We settled into a small townhouse in a small rural town located in the heart of the Missouri wine country. These last few years with my sailor have been the best and most rewarding of my life. It is thanks to him that I found the strength to put this story on paper.