Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Bad News..and the Good news

HANK: Here's where I usually write the introduction to the day's blogger. But right now, I have tears in my eyes and the letters are blurring.

Let's just let our dear friend Toni Kelner talk.

When is Lung Cancer Good News? 

My big sister Brenda has lung cancer.

And that’s good news.

Before you conclude that I am the worst baby sister in the history of sisterhood, let me give you the background. Some months back, after a particularly nasty case of pneumonia, Brenda was diagnosed with lung cancer.

I was terrified for her, and so very angry, but I refused to consider the possibility that she wouldn’t get better. She’s really ornery. She’s been known to break a stick over the head of a man hitting her husband, and to break the back windshield of a car swerving to purposely hit a cat. I couldn’t imagine that she couldn’t beat a puny ole’ tumor.

She went through a round of chemo, and responded very well to it. The tumor shrank quite a lot a lot, and the doctors were pretty sure they could avoid surgery.

Then, about a month ago, cancer was detected in her kidney, indicating that her cancer had spread. I hit the web for information, and what I found was devastating. Without going into the horrifying details, when lung cancer starts to spread, the prognosis is very bad. They start talking about months of life, not years. Also, once lung cancer spreads, it often heads for the brain. Brenda needed to have that checked, too. She was immediately put onto another course of chemo and scheduled for a brain scan.

I don’t think I need to tell you what my feelings were, especially not when it fell to me to tell my parents and my other sisters.

That’s where it stood as of August 24. Today I found out the latest test results, and I laughed and cried at the same time. Brenda’s cancer has not spread to her kidney. Nor does she have a second cancer developing. The cells found in her kidney are almost certainly leftovers as the cancer is being flushed from her system. As for the brain, she gave me the best straight line in the world when she said, “The brain scan? They didn’t find anything.” We laughed for five minutes straight.

Of course she still has lung cancer, which isn’t exactly a walk on the beach. She has some other health problems, too. But compared to what she could have had--what we thought she did have--they all seem minor. Like the tumor in her lung, they are shrinking in importance. 

It’s all a matter of perspective.

As a writer, I think that one of the best things we can do for our readers is give them a kind of perspective. As in, “Yes, my job was annoying today, but at least there wasn’t a serial killer lurking in my office building,” or “Maybe I wish my husband would trim his toenails before bed, but at least he’s not a werewolf.” 

In An Apple for the Creature, the latest anthology from editing team Charlaine Harris and me, we give readers all kinds of perspectives on the horrors of school days.

 Was your high school bad? At least your principal wasn’t a devil. Is that training seminar you have to attend for work a pain in the tail end? At least you don’t have to learn how to deal with vampires. Do you have to work with a total idiot for your college project? At least your idiot didn’t accidentally raise a demon. Have you lost touch with old friends? At least you’re not a new werewolf who doesn’t know any other werewolves.

Perspective is everything.

So my big sister has lung cancer. Just lung cancer. And that’s good news.

HANK: Toni, we love you. And much love to your dear sister. She's very lucky to have such a wonderful--and TALL!--baby sister. Right, gang?   


  1. Wishing the very best for you, your sister, and your entire family.

  2. Your sister is lucky to have you, Toni . . . saying prayers for her speedy and complete recovery.

  3. What a roller coaster, sheesh. Wishing your sister (and you) a safe and happy landing. And it does feel weird to add: and congratulations on the new book.

  4. Love your perspective, Toni. And count me as one more hoping your sister keeps getting better.

  5. Toni, your sister sounds like such a kickass--oops, admirable--woman! Sounds like with her spirit and all your love, she will defeat this lung cancer and move on with her life. Wishing her (and you) the absolute best.

    And congratulations on the book!

  6. That's a wonderful tribute to your sister Toni! I'd venture most of us have someone near and dear who has dealt with this nasty disease--and we'll hold you guys close to our hearts! xo Lucy

  7. All the best, Toni, for getting through this difficult time. I love your sister's answer about the brain scan! Sending good thoughts for you and your family.

    And good luck with the book. Thanks for sharing your words with us.

  8. Great news about your sister, Toni! And I'm so looking forward to the book!

  9. Hope your sister gets better, and you get to enjoy each other for a long, long time.

  10. Lucky sister...Lucky you! A dear friend has lung cancer, spread to back, and brain. He underwent radiation for brain, and is on experimental chemo (he goes 2 days in a row for 8 hours each day, e/o week). Of course we all googled lung cancer when we first heard, and found the same thing you did, and just started praying. 3 treatments later he is responding weell, too. Like you said, no more in brain, and is shrinking in his lung...Hallelujah! Makes my brush with breast cancer very pale in comparison! Perspective is a great thing!

  11. Cancer: Be VERY afraid of Brenda!!

    Toni, hoping and praying for a very positive outcome for your sister Brenda.

    And I'm looking forward to the book!

  12. Love your attitude and with that you guys will overcome everything that is put in your path.

    {{{hugs}}} to you and your sister.

  13. Fingers crossed that your sister beats this. And congrats on the new book. It looks great.

  14. This is just one of the reasons to love Jungle Red, right? To meet wonderful people like this...xxo

    I'm on the road in North Carolina..but I see you are all doing fine here..

    Toni, love to you both...

  15. Thanks for the good wishes, folks. I'll pass them on to Brenda. Despite her overall niftiness, she's not much on computers.

    As for the survival numbers for cancer... When I first heard about Brenda's cancer, I talked to my mother-in-law, who is a survivor of colon cancer. The first thing she said was, "Never look at the percentages. None of us survivors do. They don't mean anything." (You can tell Mom has a degree in English--she dubbed her colon cancer survivor group the Semicolons.)

  16. Our dear across-the-street neighbor went through a cancer trauma, but won. The last time I saw her (about four this afternoon), she was walking down the sidewalk with another neighbor, chatting away. I love being able to see her out in her front yard being OCD with the acorns (she vacuums them up with a shop vac).

    Best wishes to Brenda, Toni, and that you'll be watching her be ornery 'til you're both in your rocking chairs on the front porch.

    Congrats on the book, of course, but even more congratulations on those kidney cells being only leftovers from the treatment.

  17. Toni - sending you and Brenda best wishes. You are both amazing!!!!

  18. I'm sure the protagonists in your new anthology overcame the wicked creatures the authors created. Perhaps that's why we like fictional monsters. In conquering them we can conquer our fear of the real demons.
    Sounds like humor is helping too. Best to you and your sister.

  19. Skipper, you bring tears to my eyes, too.

    What a day on Jungle Red..

  20. I hate to have to post this, but I thought y'all would want to know that despite my optimism back in September and a brief remission, Brenda's cancer did return and spread faster than she could be treated. She died peacefully, in her husband's arms, on December 9. Thank you very much for the very kind wishes you all sent on Brenda's behalf--I told her about it all, and she very much appreciated it.

    If you'd like to take a look, her obituary and a bunch of pictures are posted here--

  21. Toni, I'm so sorry for your loss. At least, she knew how much her little sister loved and admired her. Sending prayers to you and your family.

  22. I will share your story and your sister's story in our group: hypnosis to quit smoking perth. We aim to spread awareness regarding lung cancer and how it is not always attributed to smoking.

  23. Does she smoke cigarette? If she couldn't stop smoking, which can aggravate her medical condition. You can substitute ce5 if you can't really stop her from smoking and its not hazardous to her health.

  24. That's the right mindset. I'm sure it helped her from an emotional standpoint. Being optimistic and positive did rub off to her and it showed desirable results.

  25. I wish I could have a brother or a sister just like you. Well, I have a friend who smokes tobacco cigarette for more than a year now who told me that he switches the way he smokes from tobacco to electronic cigarette because he found out the advantages and benefits he may have from smoking e-cigarettes.