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Sorry for the delay yesterday. Here you go for real this time! ūüôā http://youtu.be/EFKA5ECs0I0

Please let me know if you run into any problems.

All the best for a great week ahead!

Cheri

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Hi! Before I turn in on this Saturday evening, I want to get the word out that I’ve created and posted a new video for YouTube (and beyond). This one is very personal, in which I give my own demonstration of how women can fix their eye makeup to look very natural even though chemo has taken (temporarily) their eyebrows and eyelashes away.¬†And yes, I actually start the demo with my bare face, for those of you who are curious. ūüôā

This is the first step in my plan to start giving back, in the wake of my rather extensive cancer journey over the past two years. (You’ll find lots of posts on the subject in this blog, if you missed them, to give you more information on that journey). And before too much longer there will be another book, this new one falling into the nonfiction category¬†(a very different experience for me than my novels)¬†and designed to be of immediate help to women who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer. I will continue to keep you current on that book’s development and publishing¬†progress, both of¬†which should start zipping right along now that my chemo treatments are complete.

But the main thing I’d like to see happen with this new video is for everyone who views the film, and wants to be¬†of help, to forward¬†the video’s link to women they know are going through chemo or are about to do so. Forwarding the link to loved ones and friends of those women would also be useful. Missing eyebrows and eyelashes will not be a big deal for every woman undergoing treatment, but I’m hopeful that those who would¬†like a little help will find at least one thing (even if that’s just support and commiseration) in “Chemo Eyes” at http://youtu.be/0C_rC5lamSw.

Thanks so much, in advance,¬†for your assistance with this! Hope you’re all having a great weekend!

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This past Monday, November 28, turned out to be an extraordinarily long day.

And yet much progress was made on the new book!

Although the arrival time for my chemo appointment on Monday was a couple of hours earlier than normal–which would have led one to believe that the day might end an equivalent¬†number of¬†hours earlier–alas, that was not to be. Because last week was Thanksgiving, lots of people like me opted not to have treatment on that Monday or on Thanksgiving Thursday (the only two days of the week that chemo is administered). Instead, a whole gaggle of us shifted our¬†appointments to this week. That, as you might imagine, led to a backup of gargantuan proportions. I arrived shortly before 10:00 a.m. and left¬†the chemo suite that night at 7:30.

Adding to the unusual nature of the day was the fact that this¬†was the first time I’ve gone¬†through the process alone. Normally, my daughter is with me. But she had an unmanageable conflict at work, so I went solo. Admittedly, that is not my favorite way to experience the experience, and yet I was able to make good use of the quiet time by writing a substantial portion of the chapter on¬†the “hair thing” associated with chemo. Of course, the part I wrote during the 90 minutes following the¬†IV bag of Benadryl¬†wasn’t completely intelligible … or even exactly legible …¬†since I had been making notes earlier in a spiral binder and decided, for some unknown reason to keep writing instead of plugging in my mini. But those pen strokes (and, believe me,¬†I use the words lightly) marking up and down (and across and sideways) on the page did make me laugh. And then I got serious when the Benadryl began to wear off and the chemo¬†drugs started infusing. In fact, I wrote for the entire four and a half hours of the infusion process.

Given my previous¬†blog comments on the subject, there¬†won’t be¬†any surprise to learn that this “hair thing” is a huge component of chemo–at least for me.¬†And the more women I meet at Sloan-Kettering, the “huge-er” the subject becomes. Each person handles the trauma differently. And some, amazingly enough,¬†don’t even use the word trauma.¬†Yet all are deeply affected by this particular side effect, which hits every part of the body, not just the head. Eyebrows, eyelashes, everything–nothing is sacred. Consequently, the manner in which women come to grips with the situation has become increasingly fascinating. And this¬†chapter is extraordinarily¬†important to me, because I’m hoping to¬†offer a small measure¬†of help to women who might be feeling alone or isolated in the midst of the decisions they have to make and those things over which they have no control.

My goal of having this book available on Kindle, etc., by the end of December seems attainable at the moment. And I’m especially motivated now that I’ve enrolled in the January Writer’s Digest Conference (https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/happy-thanksgiving-wishes-for-peace-updates/) where I’m hoping to practice pitching this¬†new work to agents, just for the heck of it.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of¬†photos of me and my new hair taken with my Webcam¬†in my office tonight. Thank goodness for the blessing of this thing on my head, because without it¬†I look like a bald man! Seriously!¬† ūüôā¬† (Behind me is the glass wall separating my office from my living/dining room, in case you’re wondering about the reflection.) Hope you’re all having a great week!

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Priorities

All too often, with the legions of tasks and issues filling up the minutes of our lives every day,¬†the truly important stuff can be momentarily overlooked or even forgotten altogether for embarrassingly extended periods of time.¬†In the crush of 2011, I know this has been true for me. So, on this Thanksgiving–and not just yesterday on the actual holiday, but at frequent intervals throughout the entire four-day weekend–I’m making a point of reminding myself¬†of how extraordinarily grateful I am for the following:

  • Despite a somewhat challenging list of health issues with some of us,¬†key members of my beloved¬†family are all still here.
  • And¬†I am still here.
  • So are my cherished friends–some going back 20, 30, 40 years or more, and others who’ve come into my life in the last decade.
  • Memories of family members and friends who’ve gone ahead remain strong and empowering.
  • In these times of heavy financial stress, all of those I love have a roof over their heads and food on their tables.
  • So do I. And given the millions of people across our country who are missing one or more of those life essentials, I am unbelievably grateful but also feel the need to do something to help those who are suffering. Each of our communities offers a range of options for any of us looking for a way to “give back.” I’m grateful for those individuals who devote their own lives to keeping such options available.
  • Personal medical challenges are being met with the awesome skills of my physician team coupled with amazing advances in science. (And I pray that the time will come soon when every single person will have equal access to the same skills and advances. No one should suffer needlessly, die prematurely, or go broke because they get sick!)
  • My writing continues to unfold, and I still have great hope for happy surprises in 2012! To all writers out there: No one is going to live our dreams for us, so we can never stop or give up. Whatever we can see in our imaginations, we can make happen. But if we stop because we’re discouraged and/or tired of the drill, the dream stops too. So, the first thing we need to say to ourselves each day is, “Write today! Write something today!
  • There’s a¬†little voice inside my head–which can be incredibly annoying–that is never silent and keeps saying, “Get up! Keep going!” And, in those moments when I feel like saying, “Why don’t you¬†get up, if you think it’s so easy,” I somehow discover that my feet are on the floor and I’m moving forward. Such strength comes from a different source or place for each of us, depending upon our individual beliefs. Acknowledging that strength and power will not only keep us going as writers but as participants in life as well.¬†I’m very grateful for that realization and immeasurably humbled as well!

Happy Thanksgiving once again to each of you and to those close to you as we now move officially into the holiday season!

NEWS FLASH! 2012 Writer’s Digest Conference¬†Scheduled in New York City January 20-22!

Those of you who’ve been following this blog for awhile know that the first Writer’s Digest Conference¬†held independently from¬†Book Expo America¬†took place¬†in New York City in September 2009 and¬†was the source of my original epiphany. The entire direction for publishing my second novel changed as a result of that conference, and this blog was launched¬†on November 4, 2009 as a direct consequence of what I learned there.

If you’d like more detail on that epiphany, please check out the Blog Launch Posting at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/hello-world/.

During last year’s conference (WD‘s second), I blogged while I was there.¬†If you’re interested in my bird’s eye view and perspective, you can find those details beginning¬†at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/writers-digest-conference-day-1/¬†and then in the eight consecutive posts thereafter.

Is your interest peaked? I honestly believe that this is one of the best, if not the best, conferences for all writers, but especially for writers in search of both the truth about the publishing business as well as guidance. Here are some links for you to explore about the highlights of the 2012 conference coming up this January:

Despite the fact that¬†I will still have one chemo round left to go and might not be feeling at the top of my game, I wouldn’t miss this event! And I’m already registered! So, if you decide to attend, please let me know. I’d love to meet you while we’re there!

Progress on My Write-a-Thon to Complete My Next Book’s Draft in 26 Days

Well … I cannot tell a lie. (This is for my nonfiction project centering around my breast cancer.) I was supposed¬†to begin the actual¬†writing part of the process on November 1 (see initial details on my 26-day project in my post at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/publishing-cancer-journeys-merge-in-earnest/). However, I actually began the writing-the-book portion¬†on November 13. And I haven’t been following the “script”¬†line for line each day.

Before I began this project/method/experiment, I had¬†already written four chapters of this new book, and I had outlined¬†my vision of how the chapters would flow. But the excercises in the first half of Write-a-Thon¬†by Rochelle Melander¬†helped me look at the work I’d already done from a different perspective. Consequently, when I began focusing on the book, I realized that a lot of organizational changes needed to be made. Some of the chapters I’d envisioned were no longer relevant (or, more importantly, interesting), while other topics emerged¬†as significant.

For example, I had not planned to spend any¬†time at all on treatment options, because every woman’s situation will be different and, more importantly, I’m not a doctor. (The primary target audience for this book will be woman who’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer.) However, I am now going to spend a chapter on chemo–not on the chemo itself but on the impact that the process of going through chemo can have on the woman’s life and on the lives of those around her.

Making this even more complicated is the fact that I did not have chemo for my breast cancer. Instead, I’m on a drug called Arimidex for five years (three and a half more since I’ve already been on it for almost 18 months). But I am going through chemo now for this newest cancer (see info on my weird situation in my post at https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/publishing-cancer-journeys-merge-in-earnest/ )–and I’ve discovered that what women go through as a result of chemo is fairly universal, regardless of the type of cancer she’s fighting.

On that note, one entire chapter of this new book will be¬†about hair! ūüôā Without giving anything away, just let me say OMG! This entire¬†“hair thing” has, without question, been the worst part of the whole¬†experience for me to-date. My own hair is now completely gone, and although you’ll never see a picture of me bald, I am including at the end of this post a few photo angles¬†of me with my “new¬†hair.” You can compare this “updated me” with the last photo¬†I posted of me with my real hair at ¬†https://cherilaser.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/new-take-on-where-do-you-see-yourself-in-five-years/¬†(scroll to end of that post). And, in summary, the minute I was able to look at myself in the mirror and see “me,” my emotional equilibrium returned, and I felt immeasurably better. The many steps along that journey will be in the book. Just let me say at this point, though, that I had no idea how unprepared I was for that aspect of chemo–and I’m hopeful that what I’m writing will help at least one other woman navigate those steps with substantially less trauma than I put myself through over almost two months.

Another Interesting WSJ Article on Self-Publishing

On October 31, one of those cherished family members I mentioned at the beginning of this post sent me a link to “Secret of Self-Publishing: Success” by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in the Wall Street Journal. Any writer considering/exploring self-publishing as an option will find this of interest, whether you’re a new writer trying to decide which way to go for your first book or whether you’re an established writer who’s curious (and brave).

This is just the one more perspective now that self-publishing has become a legitimate path for authors of all¬†genres to get their work into the hands of readers. I’ll be interested to hear what you think: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203554104577002230413747366.html.

Okay–Here Are¬†My “New Hair” Pictures

Keep in mind that none of this is growing out of my head!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” and putting up my tree! ūüôā

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Write-A-Thon Presents Fresh Approach to the Familiar

As mentioned in earlier posts,¬†I’m proceeding with Write-A-Thon–Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander. I’m¬†trying out this method to jump-start my nonfiction project on the subjects of mastectomy and reconstruction. The first part of the book involves “training” and includes lots of reading (underlining and highlighting),¬†writing exercises (consolidated in the recommended dedicated journal), and preliminary organization (I’m not there yet). The second half of the book launches the 26-day write-a-thon¬†and guides the writer through the entire process. My goal is to be at that launch point by November 1.

So far, the training portion has been more compelling than I expected.¬†For example, one of the¬†early writing exercises sounds familiar, on the surface, to all of us: “Write down where you envision yourself being in five years?” How many times have we heard this technique throughout high school, college, technical training classes, job interviews, etc., almost to the point of being a cliche? So, at first, I wasn’t too impressed, nor was I¬†eager to answer the question yet again¬†(especially given the fact that I’m currently going¬†through chemo and am focused, at the moment, at much earlier target dates, such as losing my hair this week¬†and my final chemo treatment next February). As I read further, however, my attitude began to change,¬†largely¬†due to¬†the¬†imaginative twist Melander¬†applied to¬†the question, making the exercise specifically¬†relative to writers:

“Imagine yourself five years from now. Everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of¬†your writing goals. Write about your accomplishments–what degrees you have earned, what articles and books you have written, what talk shows you have appeared on, the awards you have won. Write about your daily writing practice. What does it look like? Where and when do you write? How much are you able to accomplish¬†each day? Envision your writing community–who do you connect with, who buys¬†your books, who reviews them, who is interested in the ideas you are sharing and the stories you are telling? Write about anything else that is relevant: where you live, what other work you do, or how your day unfolds in addition to the writing. Use as much sensory detail as possible.”

WellI really liked the part about everything going “as well as it possibly could” over the five-year period. ūüôā Sort of started me off in an exceptionally¬†happy mood.¬†But the big surprise showed up when I started answering all of the individual sub-questions.¬†Apparently, my subconscious must have been working on some of this stuff during the years I’ve spent writing and publishing two novels¬†because I had no problem identifying immediately where I would be¬†in five years, complete with all¬†of the surrounding details. According to me, by then I will have written three additional¬†novels plus three nonfiction books. Some of them will have been self-published and some will have been¬†picked up by mainstream houses. My talk show appearances, which I was totally making up in my imagination,¬†were¬†of particular interest to me. Surprisingly, I did not have myself on Oprah but instead¬†logged appearances on all of the national morning shows, in addition to local affiliates. And, with five novels and four nonfiction books under my belt at that point, I wrote that my very first novel–The Truth about Cinnamon–was “the one garnering the most attention” five years out. Interesting

Keep in mind that my writing¬†in the prescribed journal just poured out of me, without the slightest hesitation or pause to think things over. And, as I wrote, I didn’t feel as if I were projecting into the future. Instead, the words felt more like reality being captured, making the exercise fascinating on one hand and hysterically funny on the other.

The instructions recommend repeating the journal entries a total of four times over a week’s period of time,¬†with each round focusing on¬†a slightly different visual of the situation in five years. Three examples of the variances include:

  • Write book jacket copy about yourself.
  • Write an acceptance speech for a major literary award.
  • Write an introduction for yourself and tell what sort of an event it is for.

I haven’t completed all four entries yet. But one thing I have learned is that my speaking engagements will have become a really big deal and a major source of revenue for me by then. That will certainly be something to look forward to! ūüôā

Even if you’re not interested in trying to write a book in 26 days, I highly recommend going through this exercise for every aspiring author (or even authors who’ve already experienced some level of publishing success). All of the details–and I mean down to the tiniest morsel–of what I want to do, where I want to be, and what I want my life to look like in five years are now being captured in this unique journal. And since I believe in the maxim that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity,” I’ll be all set in the preparation category, if I accomplish even half¬†of what I’ve written down! So, when the opportunity shows up, the journal will be transformed into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yay!

Meanwhile … back to reality … the launch of my 26-day write-a-thon (for the third of nine books I’m supposed to have written in five years) is now only seven days away. Guess I’d been get my head out of that journal and the future, and back to work instead! Will definitely keep you posted on my progress.

Chemo/Hair Update

Last Saturday, I managed to attend a wedding¬†with all of my own hair. There wasn’t even a large of amount of thinning evident at that point, and I was beginning to imagine that I would be the lone exception out of millions who would get through this process without becoming bald. However¬†… I was told that the hair loss would happen during the first cycle–and now that I’m on day 13 (of 21) in that cycle, the thinning is increasing on a dramatic scale each day. My suspicion is that I will be calling my hair salon for the buzz cut appointment before this week is over.

Although I realize that I’m at the front end of this chemotherapy process–with plenty of side effect surprises undoubtedly ahead of me between now and February 2012–I’m doing remarkably well to-date. There was a sunburn-like flush on my chest, neck, and face from days 2-4, and I experienced a lot of dizziness (no blonde jokes, please) and fatigue for about a week. But other than that, I’ve been surprised by the absence of issues. The one exception to that has been the unrelenting trauma associated with the prospect of losing my hair. And I’m honestly beginning to believe that, once the hair is gone (and I’m able to open my eyes when looking in a mirror), I will be over the biggest hump of this whole eighteen-week¬†thing. Anticipating the “event” is consuming an unbelievable amount of energy and focus, an irritating distraction¬†that may very well accelerate my decision about when to finally face the music.

As I told you in an earlier post, I had originally scheduled myself to have my hair buzzed off on Saturday, October 15. But I chickened out and opted instead to just have my two new wigs cut and styled. Now I’m really glad that I was such a wimp, and I’m hoping this confession will be helpful to any women who might be a little earlier in the process than I am when they stumble upon this blog. Lots of people will suggest that you take a proactive approach and have your hair taken off before the follicles starting withering away and the strands start coming out in your hands as you brush or in the shower. Others will suggest that you wait, letting the process unfold gradually. One way or another–if you’re on a drug protocol that results in hair loss–your hair will be gone within three weeks of your first treatment anyway. So, how you decide to handle the difficult situation will depend on lots of personal variables.

For me, waiting has proven to be the right decision. So was the decision to get those wigs in advance and have them cut and styled to match me. As I brushed my hair this morning (I have a lot of long and¬†thick but fine hair), watching my scalp become increasingly visible, I was¬†comforted as I looked at those wigs on my vanity. I¬†realize now¬†that I’m going to look a lot better once I start wearing them than I’m going to by tomorrow (probably), as my disappearing hair makes me look older and less vibrant each day. With a wig on–one that’s been chosen to make me look like myself–I will, in fact, look just like myself. What a concept! So … to other women¬†in the same situation … decide on whichever approach feels most comfortable to you (recognizing that no approach will really feel comfortable as you anticipate your first view of yourself with a bald head)–but do have other hair options ready to go right at the beginning of your chemo. I have the two wigs, and I have also ordered two items called “halos,” which are hair pieces on sort of headbands that stick out when you wear hats, softening your face and the unmistakable look of no hair, regardless of what kind of hat you’re wearing. Knowing that¬†those hair options are there for me is going to make the trip to my salon this week a lot easier–although I’m guessing that won’t be the best day of my life, no matter what I do to prepare.

Attached is a photo I took of myself yesterday. You¬†won’t notice the thinning, but that was the day the loss first became really obvious to me. So, I decided to capture the moment. You probably won’t ever see my bald head (although maybe I’ll become more courageous as time goes on). But I will definitely post a picture of me in my new hair on whichever upcoming day¬†turns out to be Buzz-Day for me.

In the interim, as I said earlier in this post, I need to get back to work! Hope you’re all having a great week!

Cheri's Lingering Hair on October 24, 2011

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