Thursday, November 29, 2012

Real-Life Gom Jabbar

I've been really quiet the last month, and I apologize, but I do have an excuse. You know I've been battling back pain all year, and toward the end of October I started to feel very short of breath, no energy, etc. Finally, at about the point of collapse, I went to urgent care, ended up in the hospital, and discovered that the breast cancer I thought I had conquered 10 years ago has reappeared in the bones of my back and probably my lung. So...I've been a bit busy adjusting to a severe leftward turn in my life.

However, being a writer, everything is fodder for the imagination, and I admit it is much-needed therapy to be able to concentrate on other things during certain highly unpleasant episodes of late. It is somewhat ironic that the day after I left the hospital and was staying with my sister, we spent all day watching Dune and Children of Dune, the first of which, of course, includes the iconic scene of the Reverend Mother testing Paul Atreides with the Gom Jabbar to see if he is really human or an instinct-driven animal.

I had occasion to meet my own Gom Jabbar last week and again today. It is really quite amazing how attached your back is to everything else in your body, :), and how lying flat on your back for an extended period can produce intense agony. I underwent a combined CT/PET scan last week, and an MRI today. Both were real tests of "how long can you stand this?" A CT scan usually takes 5-7 minutes, not too bad on the scale when you are in a position pressing on the worst sore spot in your back. The PET scan took about 20, and I confess to severe whimpering by the end. But the thing is, you have to hold still, or it screws up the scan. No squirming, no shifting to a slightly more comfortable position. Just lie and endure. Since my pain med had to be taken with food and I couldn't have food was not nice.

But... BUT! Throughout that horrid 20 minutes, and throughout the equally nasty 45 minutes of the MRI today, I just kept thinking about Gom Jabbars and the fact that if I gave in and moved it would a) screw up the scan and I'd have to start over and b) I really am stronger than the damned pain. I refused to jerk my hand out of the box, so to speak. And I got through, and they don't have to do it again, and tomorrow I will know more than I did today about my condition and what lies ahead. But I do hope I don't have to do it again for quite a long time....

On a lighter note, if you've never had an MRI, it was somewhat entertaining in its own right. The thing is noisy--I mean, really noisy when those magnets start to spin, to the point they give you earplugs to ward it off. It actually helped me get my mind off the pain, because they made such different and weird sounds. I swear the image that came to mind at first was a long line of little round-headed robots all chanting "Yup!" in rhythm. Then it changed to a single, demented, two-note heavy metal chorus of "Baby!" over and over. Then it proliferated into an endless chorus line of little robots chanting in time, reminding me of the dancing silverware in the "Be Our Guest" scene of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. So long as I could focus on that it really did help get my mind out of my back. Let's hear it for noisy magnets and an overactive imagination!

So okay, writers really are weird people, and we don't see things like everyone else. Aren't you glad?

If you're so minded to try some fantasy that is off the beaten track, you can help me offset some of the medical bills by purchasing my books. Firedancer and Windrider are available in print and ebook and I also have stories in several anthologies. You can access them all directly from my website at Thanks so much!