Dec 15, 2011

Don't You Wish You Had A Momma Like This?!?

It's another Video Must See! 
I'm assuming most of my readers lean toward the creative side. 
Such leaning leads to insecurities. 
Think back to when you were fifteen.
If you were like me, voted Shyest in her 8th grade class, then you'd be MORTIFIED if your mother was so pushy and went to a J.K. Rowling type person's book reading and said, "My daughter writes and she's really good." 
How much more terrified would you be if that J.K. Rowling type person said, "Yeah?  Kid, come read a passage from your work in progress."
Butterfly throw up right?
Watch this video...

Here's to all the ballsy mom's out there! We LOVE YOU!!!!

Dec 8, 2011

WOW! What a year! Inspiring Moments.

Yahoo is doing this amazing countdown of 2011 moments.
I thought I'd share with you and ask:
What was the most inspiring thing that happened in 2011 for you?

Nov 29, 2011

A short story on how I, Mindy Ruiz, can screw it all up!

DO NOT!  I repeat: DO NOT! Interrupt me.
If you want me to forget the very sentence I'm typing then you should start chatting with me or call me or send a breeze that tickles my neck, because it is a well proven, highly documented fact that when I'm in the middle of something uber important the chemo brain will kick in.

*side note*  I'm not kidding 'bout the chemo brain.  I've had extremely LARGE  amounts of the nastiness. 

Where was I?
Oh, yeah.
See... chemo brain.

Here's how it all began.
The screw-it-all-up part of this story, not the chemo part.
The RWA Goldenheart deadline is Thursday, December 2nd. That means I must have my darling little entry in the Fed Ex envelope by 6pm on December 1st. 
That's two days away. 
I open up the newest, shiniest version of my entry and bam... the phone rings.
The husband needs me to look for some fantastic paperwork that may, or may not, be at home.  I could sooooo digress here, but I will stay focused.
An hour later, yes sixty whole minutes and a tornado of paperwork later, I sit down at the computer, pull up my docs and click on the next to newest, not quite as shiny as the Goldenheart ready version of my entry and add a few more layers to chp 35. Delete some telly words, about 1500 all together. Put a pinch of sarcasm on the epilogue and bada-bing realize that the past two hours of fabulous uninterrupted work I'd been doing is on the not new, not ready to be entered version. 

I'd been looking for the husband's paperwork dated 11-16-11, returned to my computer and pulled up document WIP 11-16-11 and com-pleeeee-tly ignored the already open document 11-26- Goldenheart get ready to visit Disneyland version.
I know...
It's gonna be take out and a long, long, 1/4 inch thick revision night. 
or you could send a margarita.
Either one.

Nov 28, 2011

My Favorite Things ... Yep It's a Monday!

The turkey is massacred. The stuffing ... stuffed and the only thing that remains of the mouth-watering, button-busting, amazeball Pecan Pie is the little tiny flakes of pie crust that even a mouse won't bother with!
Thanksgiving is over and that leads me to the MOST. FAVORITE. Time of the year!!!

I love Christmas and I love the holiday spirit. I love that New York is like a giant snow globe just waiting for a good shake. The people are friendly and the Rockefeller Tree is getting ready to be lit!

Have I mentioned, I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!
There's nothing that can pull me back to my childhood like Christmas Special Songs!

5. Holly Jolly Christmas

4. The Snow Miser Song!

3. The Island of Misfit Toys!

2. The Year Without Santa.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Nov 22, 2011

And the Winner Is...

The winner of the Kindle Keepers Giveaway is....

Diana at The Lovely Getaways!!!

I want to thank everyone who visited my blog and participated in my very first giveaway!
Diana, email me with your address (mindy (at) MindyRuiz (dot) com) and I'll get your fabulous Kindle and it's Snuggie loving books to you ASAP!

Be sure to check back for more Writing Cave Camp out reviews, interviews and giveaways!!!!
sparkle -

Glitter Text Graphics -

Nov 21, 2011

My Favorite Things ... yep it's a Monday & a free Kindle giveaway!

Given today is the last day to enter the Keeper Kindle Giveaway!!!! 

I'm going to have to say my favorite thing for this week is ....
I LOVE this thing!
Where else can you flip from this:

To This

To THIS!!!!

Seriously think about the handbag/suitcase you would have to tote around to carry not just three books of amazing but your entire collection of AMAZEBALLS library!  I know. You'd look like some Hollywood starlet who was trying to hard to make it on the next episode of TMZ.

With the Kindle... you can be the uber cool writer reviewing a critique partner's manuscript. Or the ultra awesome reviewer reading the next holy-cow-this-review-is-gonna-rock ARC.  Or the avid die hard reader who just knows a rockin' good story when they read one.

You pick the slot that best fits you and in the meantime ... click here  to enter to win a free Kindle! Entering is super simple!
Read my author interview with Elizabeth Isaacs and her THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS novel that's out now! And leave me a comment.

Nov 17, 2011

CRaaaaaaZiNessss and a Kindle Giveaway!

The insanity of the past week has left me looking like this:

Mickey Mouse hands, wet-n-wild poncho doing a Kung Fu Panda pose in the middle of a street that's wet probably because of the fanatical weeping this weeks chaos has brought.
Most of my insanity is GREAT!

1. I did my first ever author interview AND I'm giving away a Kindle filled with three-- yes, three!-- awesome books.
2. I entered the RWA Golden Heart contest and, unlike other years when I chickened out and DIDN'T send in my ms, I'm t-minus fifteen days to sending in my submission.
3. I'm NaNo'ing like cahrazy on a brand new shiny project that is not the sequel to the RWA contest MS.
4.I'm blogging
birthday shopping (because everyone should have all of their children around the holidays).
you should just watch this trailer because I need a moment to weep in a cold cup of coffee.

I'm back...
Now, go enter my contest to win a Kindle. Contest closes 11-21-11 at 11:59pst.  Trust me, I'm up!

Nov 15, 2011

Happy Book Birthday!!! ~Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Five Reasons to wish Tahereh Mafi a Happy Book Birthday by rushing out and buying  

5. The uber awesome book trailer that will leave you itchin' to touch something!!! Anything!!! Swoon worthy!

4. The caaa-razy book description that shatters your mind in about a million different pieces!
"You can't touch me," I whisper.
I'm lying, is what I don't tell him.
He can touch me, is what I'll never tell him.
But things happen when people touch me.
Strange things.
Bad things.
No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.
But Juliette has plans of her own.
After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.

3. The AMAZING Reviews SHATTER ME is receiving.
2. The make me wanna weep with awe cover.

Aaaaand the number 1 reason you should rush out and buy Tahereh Mafi's debut novel:
Shatter Me .......

She's a So Cal girl just like me! Flip-flops in the fall and a wild sea breeze imagination, trust me!, this book is going to be EPIC!

Congrats Tahereh!
and be sure to go follow Tahereh on Twitter here and fan her Facebook page here!

Nov 14, 2011

My Favorite Things ... yep, it's Monday

Two of my most favorite things are to sing insanly off key and dance and laugh.  Okay, that was three! I love throwing my iPod on and just making a first class fool of myself.  I'm sure the mini-mes will have many a mom busting a move therapy sessions.
What I love even more than ME doing these things is watching professionals that have talent oozing out of their all to perfect vocal chords and tippie toes make what I butcher look amazingly easy.

This Monday's favorite thing is Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake *swoon* and their history of rap video!

Nov 12, 2011

The Secret of the Keepers! ~Interview with Elizabeth Isaacs

For my very first interview EVER...--don't panic, I've done that enough for all of us-- I am pleased to welcome the very amazing and talented Elizabeth Isaacs to the Writing Cave Camp Out!

Here, Elizabeth. You put on your pink snuggie and I'll bring everyone up to speed on the  awesomeness that is THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS!

Elizabeth's new book, THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS is currently climbing the Indie must read list and while the s'mores are roasting let me give you the skinny on this amazing book!

The Kailmeyra Chronicles: Book Two--

Life for Nora couldn't be better; she has married the man of her dreams and loves living in the pristine land of Kailmeyra.

That is, until the darkness threatens her perfect world.

Now war is upon the land. She and Gavin must strengthen their clan and prepare to fight. But the enemy has an ally—one that not only wields power, but holds knowledge of the ancients' secrets. Secrets that could destroy creation itself.

As the darkness grows, doubt seeps in ... protectiveness hinders progress ... and the unthinkable comes to pass.

Bewildered and alone, Nora shoulders the responsibility of leading an entire race to war. As she struggles with decisions that seem impossible to make, she is haunted by one choice.

"No one has ever doubted that you would die for those you love.
The question then becomes ... would you live?"

Goosebumps, yes?
So, Elizabeth I'm going to jump right on in and say, HOLY COW! 
I thought THE LIGHT OF ASTERIA was amazing but, THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS just made me sit back in awe!  Every writer has a a certain where-to-start-a-book routine.  For LOA you said you wrote from the middle and filled in the front and back chapters. What chapter or scene was the genesis for THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS?

This was different in the fact that I had no choice but to write the first three chapters first!
:-) But the storyline actually started with a premise and a character. The principal that we all are here for a reason is what drove the plot. The way we got there was through one of my most favorite character that’s ever traipsed through my head, Rune.
Ruuuuune. My secret other world crush. *swoon* Don't judge. I like that rough and rugged type that could possibly shed in the summer.
Er, um, moving on.
What scene of THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS was the hardest to write and why?

Elizabeth: The scene with Elias and Nora in the badlands. I’ll be honest. I was a little depressed after writing that scene.
I don't blame you. Reading about the badlands was so vivid and filled with despair. I can only imagine the places you had to go mentally as a writer to get there and then to be able to put those feelings on the pages the way you did. *bows in a not-worthy pose*

At the end of the book we are left with this huge revelation about Rune and a missing piece of his heart. With a cliff hanger like that I have to ask: Is there a book three and what hint about the storyline can you give us?

Elizabeth: Book three will, good Lord willing, be out this time next year. Our main characters head back to earth, along with some of our new friends!

SQUEEEEEE!  I loved reading about Kailmeyra, but must say I can. NOT. WAIT to see the new and improved Nora take on Earth.  We should TOTALLY have her over to the Camp Out!

Ooooh, Who else would you invite to the camp out? NO seriously my husband and the boys camp out downstairs on Friday nights which leaves the writing room for us and ANY ONE can come stay the night.

Real people: All my writer friends
Characters: Gavin, Nora, Rena, Tark, Elias, Elaine and I call dibbs on Weylin!
Obviously with four boys in my house my cupboards are pretty bare. Whatchya want us to stock for Isaacs' rockin' camp out?

Real people: a whole bunch of booze
Characters: some of the Elvin fruit. I’ve always wanted to taste it.
And no camp out is successful with out junk food, what must we have?

Stuff to make smores ... both real and imagined. I LOVE smores! (you should try hiding rolo’s in the marshmallows sometime! yum!)

Girl after my own heart! This batch of s'mores is just about ready --no hidden rolo's, sorry-- so are you ready for the speed round? 

Elizabeth: *nods suspiciously* 

Don't worry we're in snuggies, it can't be that scandalous. LOL

black or white?

dog or cat?

cake or cookies?

coffee or soda?
naughty or nice?

cup ½ full or ½ empty?
 ½ full!
summer or winter?
favorite g-rated swear word?

*ding, ding, ding*
See, not so bad!

One last question before I let you shed your snuggie. Besides Keepers, what book would you recommend to your Kailmeyra readers?
Elizabeth: That’s a toughy. There are so many great books out there now. I’d have to say Hope Collier’s The Willows: Haven. It’s a great read with some interesting twists and turns along the way. If you liked the Kailmeyra Series, I’d bet you’d like this one too!
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for stopping bye the Writing Cave Camp Out!!!
In honor of Elizabeth and my first ever interview I'm embracing the go big or go home motto and giving away a Kindle!!! And that's not all! I'll also be loading that precious e-reader with not only THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS but ASTERIA as well as Elizabeth's recommendation of THE WILLOWS:HAVEN by Hope Collier!!

How to enter is so super simple! 
Did you leave me a comment? 
Do you follow my blog?
Are you a Mindy Ruiz fan on Facebook?
Did you tweet this interview link?
Each yes answer is an entry to the go-big or go-home giveaway!
Winner will be chosen at random at the end of THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS blog tour November 21st at 11:59 pst.

And don't forget to go follow my dear friend Elizabeth Isaacs on the following:
And finally, don't forget to check out THE SECRET OF THE KEEPERS and the rest of the blog tour.
November 13th-- The Readiacs
November 14th--Patricia's Peculiarity guest post
November 15th--Larissa's Bookish Life
November 17th-- The Reading Angel
November 18th-- Tracy Riva Interview with Nora
November 19th-- Late Bloomers
November-20th--Amaterasu Reads
November 21st--Book-crazy

Nov 7, 2011

My Favorite Things ... yep it's Monday!

One of my favorite things is something I can not live with out … and that is my almost 8 year-old son, Jacob.

If you follow me on twitter, which I think you TOTALLY should (shameless plug), I’m about to unmask one of the infamous Ruiz mini-mes that grace my feed.

Ten years ago, I fought a battle that I wish on no one. I fought cancer. And I won (knock on wood, Thank God.) Part of my fight was with the help of radical, experimental chemotherapy mixed together into a potent and potentially deadly chemo cocktail. There were no fancy umbrellas with this cocktail and the side effects were potentially devastating. My dream to be a mommy may have been just that … a dream.

Almost a year after we finished Chemo, my oncologist, the ever brilliant and uber amazing Dr. Chawla, said we could start trying to have children. A couple of months later, we got pregnant! The high of being able to get pregnant met with a soul crushing miscarriage on Christmas day. I thought for sure it was because of the chemo. I thought certainly this was going to be how Mark and I spent the next few years. My brother, Patric, disagreed. He said, “Mindy, he’s just not perfect yet and he’s stubborn. He’ll get it the second time around.”

I’m not sure how Patric knew the baby was a he.

I’m not sure how Patric knew we would try again, because, at the time, I was certain I couldn’t go through the loss again.

But three months and two pink lines later we were, unintentionally, pregnant.

I held my breath for ten weeks!

And then took only short quick breaths for the remaining thirty weeks.

On November 8th, 2003. Jacob Anthony Ruiz was born.

And just as his Uncle Patric had promised, he was PERFECT!!!

He still is.

He has the tender soul of his Grandpa Doc.

The righteousness of his Daddy.

The adventurous spirit of his Uncle Patric.

The best hugs ever like his Granny Bea.

The persistence of his Granny Carol.

The wiliness of his Uncle Daniel and Uncle Maty

The LOVE for the USC Trojans like his Uncle Josh and Aunt Kat

And he has my smile and imagination.

Happy Birthday, Jacob. You are and will continue to always be my favorite person.

Love, your momma


Nov 1, 2011

Three Nano's and Me.

So many way to Nano…

Nano #1

Yep, you know I can’t start a Nano post off with out my writer’s block de-blocker. My Nano and I have an amazing relationship. I clean and provide a USB port and the Nano provides a plethora of what-if ideas that usually kick start a stalled imagination.

Nano #2.

It’s a fact. Being named Mindy almost ALWAYS gets a response of, “Where’s Mork?”

To which I say, “I married him!" …
okay, I married Mark, but if our minister can get away with that joke during our wedding, then I think that gives me an open-ended pass.


Na-nu Na-nu. I know its pronounced nah-noo nah-noo.

You would be surprised how many people say Na-No Na-No.
They also get the hand gesture wrong.
You don’t want to know… trust me!

Nano #3

If you’re a writer you know November is the start of a mad dash-holy cow- kids fend for yourself- month.

For those of you who aren’t writers.
NaNo is National Novel Writing Month.
For thirty days we write till we look like this:

lolcats funny cat pictures

or ssometimes like THIS: *caution you may want to scroll fast past this one*

lolcats funny cat pictures

At the end of November we have, twenty-five days to Christmas, our pants sporting massive muffin tops and a very, very rough first draft of a novel.

Rookies make the mistake of thinking they’re done and send their NaNo project out on query.


Others sit and let their NaNo project marinate a few months and then decide if it’s worth the edit process.

And finally, there are the NaNo projects that’ll make you go. WOW!!!

My darling friend Trisha Wolfe participated in NaNo last year.



Found an Agent


And SOLD her book!

Moral of this post...
you now have three ways to get your Nano on this November.
Pick one and let me know how you're getting your NaNo on!

Oct 31, 2011

My Favorite Things... yes it's a Monday!

My favorite things!
Happy Halloween!!!! - Glitter Graphics

Yep, Halloween… one of my favorite things!
1. Candy!
2. Dress up.
3. Boys willingly dress up too!!
4. Candy!!
5. Michael Jacksons THRILLER video!!!

6. Lots of reasons to jump into swoon worthy boys arms! *sigh*
7. Candy!!
8. Scary spooky glow in the dark teeth with optional flashing effect!

But another reason why THIS Halloween is one of my favorites is because today. Halloween. Is the release of ...


This is the second book in the Kailmeyra Chronicles!
And, having read an ARC, this one is Fan-flipping-tabulous!
I loved THE LIGHT OF ASTERIA so much I even allowed Elizabeth Isaacs to kick me out of my comfort zone!
I will be a stop on her blog tour, November 12th!!!!
So, Yikes and YAYS.
To follow THE KEEPERS blog tour just click on this banner here:

And be sure to come back on the November 12th. for my first ever interview with Elizabeth Isaacs!

Oct 30, 2011

Halloween... *caution it's not pretty*

It's been Thir-Teen. YEARS! since the husband and I went out on a Halloween-kid-free-date. 
We were gonna put the roar back into the 20's as a zoot suit gangster and his flapper friend Fee..
(we made up nick names, don't judge.)
So I started the night like this:

Halloween Pose

Fierce, Right!
We drank, we danced, we even won the cutest couple costume contest!!
Dude, We. Were. WORKIN' IT!!!
Came home at 2 a.m. ...

Crashed like kids off a sugar high.
This morning...
lolcats funny cat pictures

yep, that looks like pretty accurate depiction...

Oct 1, 2011

Dreaming 'bout Princes and Agents.

So, whatchya doin’ on a Saturday afternoon you ask?
Oh nothing much.
Just putting the finishing touches on my WIP.
It’s, like, 98% all done, done, done.  Which means one more done away from querying!
If you’ve ever revised a novel, you get the done, done, done part.
Done #1 = First draft
Done #2 = Critique Partners have seen it and not laughed at you or pointed fingers snickering “she thought this was good?”
Done#3 = The Betas are reading it and from tweets and texts *crossing fingers* they are loving it!!!
Done#4 = It’s off to the list of dream agents!
Okay, there’s the dream agent who you could equate to landing the Prince of Wales, but seeing how Kate’s already done that and he’s probably a better helicopter pilot than agent … oh heck, you get the idea. If Royal dream agent loves it then glass slippers and kissable toads for EVERYONE!!!!!

Then there are the dream agents who are the Prince Harry’s of the group!  You love them and you’d have a hell of an awesome ride with them, based on research of course, that could leave you dizzy and deliriously happy for years to come. Yep, got them on my list too!  Again, Kissable toads and roller coasters for EVERYONE!!!!

Truly, I love my heir and spare list of agents.
I love that this project is nearing completion.
Of course… that means a whole bunch of new butterflies are about to be released.
Will the heir or the spare love it?
Will they ask me to a ball?
Will a beautiful publishing queen like it and want to ... publish it?
Will this common girl ever…  alright!
 No more royal stuff…
Just a simple answer.
I dunna know.
But for now… this common-Cinderella-dreaming-girl is really enjoying getting all dressed up!   

Sep 27, 2011

Shredding Cheese & Writing a Book ... Trust me.

I’m in the third round of personal edits (my definition of edits before I send out the query letters) and that means I need lots and Lots and LOTS of cheese! Usually this cheese is melted over chips and makes NACHOS with bean dip and yummy salsa.  Some writers need chocolate, some need cinnamon bears, some need lemon bars … me I need CHEESE. So you can imagine the stream of bleeped out words that came from deep inside the refrigerator when I went to make Nachos and found NO CHEESE!
Okay, there was cheese but it wasn’t all nice and shredded and stored in an easy close bag. 

I needed my nacho fix because I am sooooo close to being done and moving on to the find an agent phase of this journey.  Also, tomorrow I play accountant so that means no edits, no creativity … not unless I want the taxman to come a knockin’. 
So, the cheese…

I could go to the store, but the only thing that makes me not a recluse is the fact that I have children who force me to leave the house. When they're at school, I'm inside ... with a block of cheese.

How hard could it be to shred a nacho plate worth of cheese?
Off I went searching and in the very, very back of the cabinets I found this…

Yep, an old-fashioned cheese grater!
I cut a wedge of cheese, figured out how to not shred my knuckles and away we went

Rub, rub, rub!
Shred, shred, shred!

My triceps started to burn…

Images of well-toned triceps made me shred harder until the wedge was gone.
Not so bad…

Until I lifted the grater and found only a few flakes of cheese.

So another wedge, more burn and … ugh.
Not nearly enough cheese.

Wedge, burn, lift. Ugh.

Wedge, burn, lift.
It continued on and on until… BAM a nacho plate full of cheese.
As the microwave melted my heavenly edit snack I was thinking:
1.       No wonder our grandmas had toned arms.
2.       No wonder our moms weren’t really over weight.
3.   Shredding cheese is a whole lot like writing a book.

Just when you think you’ve put the finishing touches on the thing, you open up the critique partners or beta readers’ comments and realize… not enough yet and go back to shredding.
But one day, one day it’ll be ready and hopefully an agent will open their microwave and say, “YUMMY!!!! I need this book!!!!”

Jul 26, 2011


It should be a four letter word.
It's that U that makes it so perfect.
I do...
Sometimes, I doubt this book will ever be ready.
Sometimes, I doubt that when this book is ready... no one will want to read it.
Sometimes, I doubt what's looking back at me in the mirror.

I doubt.
I doubt.
I doubt.

It's amazing what can happen when the clock ticks at four in the morning.
When the hubby's sound asleep
The refrigerator's humming
And yoUr defenses against doUbt are at their lowest.
I guess that's why there's that U in doUbt...

Why not u?
Why not yoUr book?
Why not grab what God has given U and enjoy the ride?

It's Up to U to figUre oUt how to kick doubt in the teeth and know U are doing what U are sUpposed to be doing...


So, hUgs to U and Urself...
Now get back to that MS.

PS. this has been brought to U by the letter U and the number 1 ... because U are... 
just in case you needed to be reminded.

Jun 24, 2011

10 Days for 10 Years ... Day 10!

Day 10
Well, my friends, you did it! You made it through 10 days and I can’t thank you enough.
There are so many sayings that could apply to my journey:
That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. 
God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.
Shit happens.
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good…
I have been changed.
Every day, no matter how bad things look, I have a gauge that they could be so much worse and I survived.
It’s an amazing thing being able to look back over the last 10 years.
The people who came into my life and touched it forever. 
The friends I’ve made.
The friends I’ve lost.
The people who were friends in the beginning, Dina and Rochelle, who became my sisters through blood transfusions and sass.
Most people don’t get to see the impact their existence has on the world until their gone…
I ‘ve been blessed I saw how many people fought to keep me here and the impact that has had on me is worth every drop of chemo, every tear shed, every moment of anxiety I ever felt.
If I could hope for just a few things that people can take away from the past 10 days is that:
1.       you are so much stronger than you ever give yourself credit.
2.       faith will see you through anything .
3.       Love never fails.
Mark and I are happily married.
I don’t deserve him.  Even 10 years looking back at the journals I realized how unhappy I was and Mark was the easiest person to blame.  I’ve also learned that the prince charming; the hot stud in the romance novels; the knight in shining armor I’d dreamed of for so long … I married him 13 years ago.  And, just like those novels, I almost lost him. 
Cancer free was one blessing.
I received three more when my system “came on line” (I love Dr. Chawla’s terminology.)
I carried to full term three little boys. 
Jacob is seven and starting second grade.
Dylann is five and a kindergartner
Logann will be three in August.
I look at them and pray they never have to experience cancer. I pray that only happiness and health follows them … just like any mother.  I tend to squeeze them a little tighter and always, always thank God for the blessing of having them.
My family is still a loud Italian family that meets for weekly family dinners.  I think we all just appreciate each other a little bit more.
I still see Dr. Chawla on a yearly basis.
I walk by the chemo room and see all the terror in the eyes of the first timers. I hope they see me and say one day that will be me.  I hope they know they are in amazing hands of a doctor whose compassion is matched only by his knowledge of sarcomas. 
When I leave after my check-ups he always pulls me in for a big bear hug and says, “I’m so proud of you.” Even 10 years later, I still need to hear those words.
After losing Kim, I had another Shawshank Redemption moment; not a moment from the movie but my own personal mantra: 
For every ounce of sadness I experience I will replace it with a pound of happiness.
I’d like to share some of those moments with you…
Thank you again for taking the time to follow our journey.
I know how precious time is and the fact that you were willing to spend 10 days with me humbles me.

Jun 23, 2011

10 Days for 10 Years ... Day 9

Day 9

I spent yesterday cleaning and clearing all aspects of my life.
Everything that went to the hospital or chemo room I tossed.
Blankets, sweatshirts, pajama bottoms, even the smell of the cucumber and melon lotion …
they all make me nauseous.
I guess I’m trying to put all of this behind me.
I don’t think I ever will…
It’s a part of me.
As much as I have curly hair, I had cancer.
I found this passage today:
Mark 5:34
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.
Go in peace, and be healed of your disease"
But what do I do now?
At least with chemo there was a plan.
There was step 1, step 2, and step 3. I knew where I was and where I needed to be. Now, in remission, there’s just uncertainty and fear.
I spent the next few months dreading my two month checkups and slipping further and further into a deep depression.
The only glimmer of hope, when I wasn’t fearing a recurrence, was that my body “came back on line”.  Now all we had to pray for was that my eggs weren’t damaged.
We met with Dr. Chawla today. 
Good news all around. Everything is looking good.
 I don’t have to go back for another 2 months! 
And, provided everything goes to plan, we can try to have children next year…

Kim and I spent the next few months chatting through emails.
Every now and again a phone call. 
I could hear the same terror in her voice that was in my soul. 
January 16th, 2002 I watched Kim run the Olympic torch down a stretch of the Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. 
Yes, she ran … free and unassisted. 
She had broken loose of whatever fear had gripped her heart; the same fear I was still fighting.

That night at my mom’s house my brothers were watching Shawshank Redemption when we came back from the Olympic torch relay. 
I was still frightened.
Still scared to dream past today.
And four and half years to cancer free seemed like an eternity. 
God works in mysterious ways …
I wasn’t living. I was hiding and waiting. Praying that nothing went wrong.
It was time for me to “get busy living”, because I had fought too hard to “get busy dying”.
I stood up and breathed free air for the first time… I was free.
In February 2002, Mark and I got pregnant.
In March 2002, Kim got pregnant.
In November of 2002 I gave birth to a beautiful little boy named Jacob. 
Kim gave birth to a little girl named Emma … and her cancer came back.
Devastation and grief knocked a walking confident girl in remission down to her knees. 
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be…
I couldn't-

We lost Kim to cancer two years later.

I was pregnant with my second little boy, Dylann.
And I had just lost my chemo buddy…
There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t look at Jacob and think about Kim and Emma.  Moments of grief and guilt plague me when I think of all of the wonderful moments and amazingness of Kim that Emma is missing out on or will never know. 
Survivor’s guilt is almost as bad as living through chemo… almost.
But I know Kim wouldn’t want me to live in a world of grief; a world of regret.
So I live and I pray that one day we find a cure.
I pray that no one ever has to experience what Mark and I went through.
Then I crawl into my bed at home with my husband and three little boys and thank God for the gifts He’s given me.
I hope…

this video will take you away from the site to YouTube, but I loved
the complete clip...

Jun 22, 2011

10 Days for 10 Years ... Day 8

Day 8

After nine days in the hospital and three days to recoup we started round three.  I was beat down, but I was still humming SURVIVOR in my head even if my chemo buddy wasn’t there.
After round three, my counts plummeted like the Time's Square Ball on New Year’s Eve.  Painful blistering sores started popping up on the corners of my mouth, the insides of my mouth, and down my throat.  Within two days of being off the chemo pump, I couldn’t swallow water. I wasn’t even eating Jell-O because it felt like I was swallowing shards of glass.
When I walked into Dr. Chawla’s office, I was chanting: “Counts will be high! Counts will be High! COUNTS WILL BE HIGH!” willing my body’s immune system to at least kick in this round.
Thanksgiving was four days away. I was determined to watch the kick off to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at my momma’s house eating breakfast sausage and biscuits while the turkey was cooking in the oven.
I was ninety-five pounds of determined affirmations.
But as usual, Vickie came out with my lab results, “You got to go to the hospital.”
That was it.
I couldn’t take it anymore.
I pulled my legs up to my chest, and a tear ran down my face.
“I’m not going,”  I said to her just as Dr. Chawla walked by the chemo room.  “I’m not going,” I said to him in an almost teenage-slam-the-door-what-are-ya-gonna-do-about-it tone.
All of the chemo patients sucked in air waiting for Dr. Chawla’s response.
They may have secretly been screaming, “Hell no we won’t go!"
But outwardly, they, like me, knew I wasn’t going anywhere but the hospital.
Dr. Chawla came over to my Lazyboy. I pulled my legs up tighter to my chest like I was assuming some sit-in stance.  Mark was by my side getting ready to toss me over his shoulder and fireman carry me to USC’s transplant ward if need be.  Vickie was shaking her head like she’d seen this tantrum so many times before.
“Why don’t you want to go?” Dr. Chawla said.  He bent down in front of me, so his eyes were level with mine.  There wasn’t condemnation or accusation in his eyes; he genuinely wanted to hear what absurd rational answer I could give him as to why I wasn’t going.  
“Because if you stick me in the hospital today, I won’t be out for Thanksgiving … and… and the parade!” The lone tear turned into tears and then sobs.
Dr. Chawla patted my knees and looked at Vickie, “What are her counts?”
Vickie rambled off my near zero counts as Dr. Chawla took the lab report and studied it.
“If I promise you, you will be home on Thanksgiving for your Turkey-- even if it’s for that one day-- will you promise me  you’ll go back to the hospital tomorrow.”
I shook my head emphatically yes.
Then he looked at Mark, “You’ll bring her back to the hospital; first thing in the morning?”
Mark hesitated.

I knew he didn’t want me leaving unless I was perfect, but I was far from it. I was ninety-five pounds of faltering hope, and if a turkey dinner was what I needed then by God that’s what I was going to get.  He shook his head and then lowered it in defeat.
“After this round, no more chemo cocktail,” Dr. Chawla said as he patted my legs and stood up.
“Wait, wait,” I pulled at his lab coat. It felt like punishment. He was taking away my chemo cocktail. “You said four rounds of cocktail. You said…”
“It’s okay, Mindy.” He walked back over to me and got back down on my level.  “Three rounds is good enough.”
“But I can do four.”
“It’s not necessary.” He smiled his warm, hopeful smile.  “After this you’re off chemo until your surgery.  Vickie, schedule the surgery.”
I didn’t make it home for the kickoff of the parade, but I did make it home for Turkey. Next morning I checked back into the hospital for seven more days of transfusions in my isolation room.

Christmas was spent with me off chemo and getting ready for my January 4th surgery.
I woke up from the surgery to my mom whispering excitedly in my ear, “Mindy, wake up.  They got it all! Your margins are clear.  Mindy, wake up.  100% clear margins.  Mindy, wake up.  You did it. It’s all dead.”
 When I went back to the chemo chair at the end of January, I was on the cleanup rounds.  Five rounds of methotrexate and my chemo buddy, Kim, was back!
 Round after round, month after month we sat in our black lazy boys and dreamed about the future.  Kim wanted to walk down the aisle.  Not walk on a crutch, not walk with a cane, she wanted to walk down the aisle. She wanted to be a mom. We talked about babies and kids. We even secretly plotted that she would have a girl, and I would have a boy and they would be fated lovers whose mother's met in the chemo room.
Of course, that meant we both had to “come back on line”.
In May, Kim finished her last round and gave me a big hug on her second birthday.  That’s what they call it when you’re unplugged for the last time.  The chemo nurses and the patients sing happy birthday to you, because, from that day forward, you’ve been given a second chance at life.
“I’m going to check in on,” Kim said as she squeezed me goodbye.  “You have my email and my cell. Call me if you need me.”
“I will.” I choked back the tears.  I still had two rounds to go.
“I’m going to call you,” Kim said as she walked out the door.
It felt like I was being left in prison, and my friend was escaping.  The room seemed to dull as Kim left. The hum of the chemo machines drowned out the melody of happy birthday.  And we were back to saving lives.
The end, being so close, bring all kinds of different feeling to the surface. 
I just emailed Kim to see how she dealt with the last round. 
I’m almost numb. 
Like I don’t want to get too excited for fear that it won’t be the last one. 
But Dr. Chawla said my MRI and CAT scan came back clean, and everything looks good. 
I see all the new people starting or on their 2nd round and can remember when that was me. 
I’m tired of people thinking of me and saying, “Awe, poor little cancer girl.” 
I want them to see me and say, “What a survivor” so I can answer,
“Look what God has done.”  
I hope He is looking down on me, pleased…
I hope.

June 25th, 2001 Dr. Chawla unplugged me for the last time.  He smiled that ever-famous smile and said, “I’m so proud of you.”
I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear that from him.
Vickie smiled and shook her head, “ Happy Birthday, Mindy.  No more hospitals.”
My fellow chemo patients sang Happy Birthday.
I left happy … empty and scared.
I needed to call Kim. This couldn’t be normal.

Jun 21, 2011

10 Days for 10 Years ... Day 7

Day 7
The body is an amazing thing.
 It wants to be healthy.
 It wants to live and it wants to thrive.
October  19th, 2000
My body is doing some really interesting things…
my period has stopped and ALL of my hair has fallen out.
Not just my head hair, but my nose hairs, my eyebrows and yes, even my vay-down-there hair.
 I’m like a cue-tip.
  I guess this is the part where I’m supposed to hope everything comes back.
You know what’s surreal?
 I know in my heart I’m going have children.
 That this situation is temporary. 
I’m finding a complete trust in my Lord and …
probably the happiest I’ve ever been.
By the second round of chemo cocktail I had Destiny Child’s SURVIVOR running through my head on endless loops.
Kim and I would hum it when we could see the other starting to cave.  Chemo is a mental game. You have to focus on your chemicals killing the cancer and not killing you.  It’s  a twenty-four hour game and it’s pretty exhausting.
As I was ending my second round, Kim was getting ready for her surgery.  She had a sarcoma in her femur and the good doctors at USC were going to basically fillet her thigh muscle, cut out her femur and put a new titanium one in.
No problem, right?
 Kim getting ready for her surgery meant that she was off chemo for four weeks and that meant I was on my own.  My counts didn’t last past my first blood check.
Vickie came back shaking her head and said, “You got to go to the hospital.”
That meant more transfusions and at least a week in the hospital.
It also meant I could be spending Halloween in the hospital.
Back to the transplant ward I went.
The first week past and my counts were still low.
I was also building an anti-body that was fighting the blood and platelet transfusions. Finding blood that my body would accept was now going from not just my blood type but to a four point matching system. I need four points and the blood banks couldn’t find it.
Mark wouldn’t leave my side, except to go to school and work, and when he had to, my dad would be there with me. 
They were like a tag team.
My dad would leave around seven or eight.
Mark had snuck a board the width of the chair into my room and hidden it in my closet.  At night he would stick the board between two chairs and sleep holding my hand.
One night we were watching the Saturday Night Live Presidential Special.  The lights were off and only the TV lit my room.  He looked over at me and said, “this is exactly what we’d be doing if we were at home.”
“Yeah, but you’d be in bed with me.”
“Scooch over,” he said and climbed into my hospital bed with me. 
The nurse tried to shoo him out, when she came in to check my vitals, but he wouldn’t leave me…
He wouldn’t leave me.  

Jun 20, 2011

10 Days for 10 Years ... Day 6

*just a side note:  I didn't post yesterday because it was Father's day.  My gift to Mark: no living in the past; we just enjoyed the day.  Hope you all don't mind.*

Day 6 defines the following word:
1. having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality; unsophisticated; ingenuous.
2. having or showing a lack of experience, judgment, or information; credulous:
3. having or marked by a simple, unaffectedly direct style reflecting little or no formal training or technique: valuable naive 19th-century American portrait paintings.
4. not having previously been the subject of a scientific experiment, as an animal.
My personal favorite … number 4.
I’d never been the subject of a scientific experiment and quite frankly me and chemo were a pass/fail course.
The next day I came back my “counts” –counts are basically the makeup of your blood, white blood cell counts, platelet counts and red blood cell counts— were horrible. The head chemo nurse, Vickie, shook her head and in her oh so thick accent said, “You come back tomorrow, we’ll see if you have to go to the hospital.” 
“Hospital?”  The thought of me ever having to stay in a hospital never occurred to me.  It was as foreign as the port-a-catheter in my chest.
“Yes, hospital. We can’t have you bumping into a table and bleeding to death.” Then she laughed like this was the punch line we’d all been waiting for.
“Wh- what’s that?”
“You’re counts are low if they go lower it’s too dangerous for you.” Vickie looked at my husband, “If she has fever over 100 you go to the nearest emergency room and they’ll call us.  We’ll transfer her here.”
That night Mark and I played temperature roulette.
Every 30 minutes Mark would have me take my temp. I negotiated me taking the temperature because I knew I was well over 100 but I was NO WAY going to the hospital.  The clever girl that I am, I figured out how to hold the ear thermometer just outside my ear so it would register 99 maybe 100, but NEVER the true temp of 103 sometimes 104.    When it started creeping up to 104.5 I started getting a little worried.
How would it look if I had a febrile seizure?
Maybe I did need to go to the hospital? 
When I gave Mark the actual temp it was almost nine o’clock that night.  We’d been playing temperature roulette for almost 6 hours.
Long story short I ended up at USC’s University Hospital on the Transplant Ward.
Remember, my HMO contracted with USC, but NOT Norris.  I couldn’t stay in the cancer wing so the administrators thought transplant, cancer, transplant, cancer.
When midnight rolled around my final blood counts stood as follows:
WBC (white blood cell count, they’re your fighting cells) = near 0. 
Normal would be 4300 to 10800.
Platelets (those make you scab & bruise instead of bleed like a faucet) = 0.
Normal would be 150,000 to 450,000
RBC (Red Blood Cell count) = low. 
That’s all it said, low.  I figured it wasn’t zero or I’d be dead. 
My new nurse tucked me into an isolation room. 
No one without mask, robes or booties could come in. 
No outside food for fear of mishandling or parasites.
And no flowers or balloons. 
I spent a week in isolation trying to get my counts back to a safe level.
I needed blood.
I needed platelets
I needed out of isolation…
I also needed to shave my head.
On day two, I told Mark to get the clippers.  My hair was falling out in clumps and it hurt.  When my nurse walked in Mark had my hair up in one hand and the clippers in the other.  He looked like he was about to scalp me.
“What are you doing?!”
“Shaving my head.” I lifted just my eyes; Mark’s ponytail grip was pretty tight.  I think he thought I was a runner.
“Are. Are you sure. Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Either I take it or the chemo takes it.” I thought a moment. That would be my new mantra. I was taking back the small part of my life even if it meant going without.  “Shear me baby.”
The nurse stood there awestruck.  My shots on her tray along with a bag of blood or platelets for my first of many, many, many transfusions and watched my husband shave my head.

I walked into the hospital something like this…

And left like this…
it's okay, you can gasp.
I still do...
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