All Things New again
January 3, 2023
I’m not one to celebrate a new year. It’s just a new date to me, and since the computer and the phone and the echo devices update their date features automatically, it isn’t much of a thing for a new date anymore. But the combination of 2021-2022 has been so up and down, I’m glad to see a new year for once. Who knows? I’ve always thought of the number three as a good number, so maybe 2023 will be a good one.
As I’ve been quite the slacker in updating my blogs—this one and my author one—Here are some highlights of the last two years. I’ll probably skim some of it, but some might be long. Grab your favorite beverage and snack, pull up a comfy chair, turn on the fireplace if you’re in cold weather, and sit back and enjoy the ride.
In February of that year, I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, kidney cancer. I often tell my guide dog, Shani, that she saved my life. I had to do a physical and that’s when we discovered something wrong. Turned out I had a large tumor in my left kidney. It was stage 3.1, which is close to serious. I was born with a chronic and painful disease, and so I have learned to ignore pain and tend not to worry about aches and pains in my body. I’d ignored the pains I’d been having in the kidney area or the weird issues with going to the bathroom.
I had surgery in April to remove my left kidney. The surgery went well and they believe the surgeon got all the cancer. Of course, I have to have CT scans every few months to check, because kidney cancer can spread to unusual places. I’m almost two years from surgery now, and mostly, I feel confident about my prospects. I do have moments of fear that the cancer will come back. Kidney cancer can’t be treated with chemo, and because of my auto immune disease, I can’t join any drug trials.
And yet, with all the fear of the cancer, something amazing and wonderful came out of it all. The day I was diagnosed, after telling my close friends, Doug and Joylene, I longed to hear my sister’s voice. We had once been best friends, but after our dad died—of cancer also, though a different variety—I had been in such deep grief, and I ran away from family. I guess I felt that being around them, without Dad, would be so painful, I couldn’t handle it. It was a cheap, nasty move on my part, but I wasn’t really thinking coherently about it. There’s more to it, a very bad relationship that made me want to hide from everyone who loved me, but I’d let my closeness to my sister especially and my brothers and my mom in all but biology, slip away. I’m the oldest, and I sure didn’t act like a loving giving older sister. I feel guilty to this day. Still, I called my sister that diagnosis day, and we clicked again instantly. Her first reaction was to come and be there for my surgery. One of my brothers did the same. They both came, and I was so thankful to have their love and support. The cancer brought us back together, and I’ll never let us slip apart again.
In July of that year I retired from my job, permanently. I am happily retired and don’t miss the grind at all. I’ve never regretted making that decision.
Also in July, the big thing, the great thing, the dream that I finally brought to life, I published my first novel, Haven. Haven is a romance, set in a fictional town in Colorado. The main female character is blind, and she has just suffered a terrible loss. In a custody battle with her ex-husband, the judge awarded full custody to the ex, because he didn’t believe a blind woman could raise a child. Sadly, this has been a serious problem for many disabled parents, and when I hear about it, my heart is broken every time. My male lead is a widower, a pastor of a small church, though I can’t say the book is religious fiction. It’s just how he appeared to me when I thought of him. I took my characters on a journey to healing, finding love and maybe resolving other painful issues outside the relationship. It’s available in paperback and kindle from amazon and from audible as well. I’d dreamed of doing this since I was around nine or ten, and at last, it had happened!
Our year just past was a terrible and wonderful year for me. let’s talk the wonderful stuff first.
The reunion with my sister, and good friends moving back to California, started me down the road of thinking about moving back home. Getting cancer left me with a soul desire to be a part of my family again, to laugh and cry, to enjoy just talking and being together. I wanted to come home. In February, I flew to Monterey to stay with good friends.
During my visit, my sister found houses for sale in the city where she lives. I looked at some, and eventually, I bought a home in that town in the central valley area of California. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve lived in my adult life. It’s got three bedrooms, two baths, a dream of a kitchen, a laundry room I call a butler’s pantry, because not only does it have the requisite equipment, but it has a sink, and lots of cupboards! I have a beautiful back and front yard, with flowers and trees, and even a small putting green. I’m in a quiet area with wonderful neighbors. Imagine that! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to know neighbors before, but here, they are friendly and helpful, and it’s great to get to know them. The whole town seems welcoming. Why, I even had a personal meet and greet with a mayoral candidate, who came to my house and discussed his ideas for the town and my thought on needs for disabled people here. We’ll be meeting again sometime this month. I’ve had a yen to be more involved on the city level, for a long time actually, and here in this quiet little town, it may be happening. I live less than a mile from my sister and see her often. We next nearly every day, whether or not we get together. I love her husband very much, have been getting to know my nephew/godson and his wife and baby, and life is joy after joy. I’m so glad I made this move!
And now, Friday evening, March 25, 2022
Friday night, that late March evening, was just a normal evening. I was still with my friends in Carmel. I was in my room, doing something on the computer, and my friend was upstairs in her room reading. It was a normal night. My cell phone rang. It was from the 206 area code, and I had a funny feeling I should answer it, but I didn’t get to it fast enough. I listened to the voice mail, and I felt like I was going to throw up. You’ve read that line about your heart sinking and your stomach going in to knots and various other uncomfortable things? Well, I can’t find a better way to describe it. The call was from a trauma center in Seattle. I called them back and here’s how it went.
“Hello? This is sherry Gomes. You left me voice mail?”
My hands were shaking. My heart was beating out of control, Tears were already gathering in my eyes. My best friend in the world, Doug, had gone out to dinner that night, walking to and from the restaurant with his guide dog. Could something have happened to him? It was the only thing I could think of, since he is the only person I know about whom a hospital might call me.
“Yes,” the hospital person answered. “We need the contact information for the legal next of kin for Douglas Payne.”
I did start crying then. Was she saying what I thought she was saying? Those words, legal next of kin, were ominous. Bringing up the worst my imagination could conjure. Oh no! Was Doug gone? Why did they need legal next of kin. I was not the legal next of kin at that time.
This all raced through my mind in an instant, as I fought off the nausea and tried to keep my voice under control.
‘Yes,” she said again. “We need to be able to contact his father.”
“You can’t contact him. He is ninety years old and is in the hospital. I don’t have the contact info for his brothers but I can get it. Please tell me, what happened to Doug.”
“All I can tell you is that he was brought here by paramedics. We have his guide dog too; the police brought him. We need someone to take care of the dog too.”
Intubated? Do they just need permission for that legal next of kin, to pull the plug? What the bloody hell is going on?
They told me again, most forcibly, that they needed the contact info, and I promised to get it.
After I hung up, I flew out of my room, calling for my friend, Joylene. I had let go and I was crying and shaking, still feeling I might throw up over everything. Finding contact info for Doug’s brothers and dealing with taking care of his dog, would give me a way to focus my mind and push the fear away a little bit. We spent the next two hours trying to find cell phone numbers for the brothers. With everyone having cells now, you can’t just look them up easily. I found several disconnected numbers. I left voice mail on a few other numbers, hoping somehow, that one of those messages would get to a person who could get it to one of the brothers.
While waiting to hear back, I called Guide dogs for the blind, the school where Doug got his dog. I told their emergency night person that Doug and his dog had been in some kind of accident, but that the dog seemed okay. Could they get a local puppy raiser to pick the dog up from the hospital? The hospital isn’t equipped, nor should they have to take care of the dog.
Soon after that call, I heard from one of Doug’s brothers. One of my voice mails had gone to his ex-wife’s number, and she’d gotten the message to him. The police had also found him and let him know. He gave me his number and gave me their other brother’s number. He also told me what had happened to Doug. He had been walking home with his dog. He was on the sidewalk. Can I mention that again, in all caps? HE WAS ON THE SIDEWALK. A woman, pulling out of a driveway, was trying to turn on to the busy street. She saw a break in the traffic and without looking both ways, she pulled out, hitting Doug and his dog, throwing Doug several feet in to the street! Remember those words, on the sidewalk? Doug had skull fractures and had been taken to the trauma center. His dog was not hurt.
The brothers told the hospital to give me access to any information about Doug’s condition, and I was able to get updates from the hospital freely after that.
I was so afraid. Doug and I have been friends for nearly 24 years. He is my soul mate, my brother, my pal, my bosom buddy. He took three months out of his life to stay with me and help me recover my my kidney surgery. He’s been there for me time after time again. I can tell him any secret, any fear, any dream, and I always know he will be there by my side, as I will and have been for him. I was so afraid I was going to lose him. How do people recover and be normal again after several skull fractures? I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. Every day, that first call in the morning, I held my breath, clenched my hands together and hoped and prayed.
It took time, by day by day, he did get a little better. When I told my sister what happened, her response was, when do you want to go up there to see him. Isn’t she amazing?
This post is already so long, so I’ll skip the description of the trip, except to say we did go, and spent a few days up in Seattle. It was a good trip, a scary trip, in some ways a crazy trip, and a fun tale to tell. So, hopefully, in a few days.
Doug is still recovering. He does have permanent hearing loss and other issues, but he’s still Doug, and that’s all that matters to me. He spends a lot of time here, and hope this is a restful place for him to be.
By the way, the woman who hit and seriously injured my best friend, the woman who changed his life irrevocably, had no insurance, no property so no way to sue her for pain and suffering. She got a slap on the wrist for no insurance, and my friend has serious physical changes that will affect him for the rest of his life. It’s not fucking fair, and I’m infuriated all over again, every time I think about her. Thankfully, Doug just wants to move on with his life. He doesn’t want to hold on to the anger. I do that for him.
2023, All Things New
And here we are at this new shiny year. Doug is doing well. As far as I know, my cancer has not come back. I’m rebuilding family bonds and so happy in that. I cherish every moment I can be with those I love, because I so nearly lose of those, and because the new ties with my family are precious to me. What do I want for 2023? I hope to finish the sequel to Haven. I hope to get a little healthier. I hope the cancer doesn’t come back. I hope I find ways to keep busy, to give to my community, to make new friends in this new area, to keep growing, learning and changing. But I don’t resolve to do any of these things. I hope to do them, and that is the best I can give. Hope is a most important things in my life.
Here’s to 2023! May it bring us peace.