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||Sept. 6, 2002
Price: $3.99 (eBook)
My clever surgeon sent Death packing so effectively he hasn't returned in these ten years. And new medications helped relieve the gastric distrress. Things worked out far better than promised.
Besides documenting the experience, its good and its bad, the book is a story of a woman reflecting on her life and loves as she comes to terms with her own mortality. Concealed and unpromoted for ten years, it reflects the author's doubts about how the world would receive news of old-age survival. I didn't know I would live for ten years. I thought perhaps I would gain two or three extra years. But now I want to shout it to the world: You can live longer! Don't be afraid to try! It may be a gamble but you can beat the odds by taking care of yourself in younger years. I've had ten extra years and counting.
Sometimes it seems awfully boring to take care of yourself, to watch what you eat, exercise every day, to stop at just one Margarita and refuse all offers to refresh your drink. But there are compensations. It's rather fun to live long and prosper--and when you do face a major operation, to feel relatively confident that you can come through it safely. It's comforting to hear your doctor say, "You surprised me. You have the organs of a much younger woman."
I've enjoyed these extra ten years and I want to pass along the good news.
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Death came for me in 2001 in the form of pancreatic cancer. Doctors advised against surgery due to my age--but I felt that even an extra year or two is worth fighting and suffering for. Now it's been ten years and counting. Oops includes a description of the operation and recovery along with my thoughts, memories, and experiences at the time. My hope is that it may also prove inspirational to those who fear they are too old for the operating table, and choose to bypass the operation.
I faced a hard decision about a major cancer operation. Doctors warned that I could die on the operating table. The odds were against me--no one at that time had survived pancreatic cancer, and at age 81, I was a poor risk. I was warned that I could expect future pain, since I would lose many of my digestive organs and would suffer much gastric distress.
I just didn't feel ready to die. I decided that whatever chance there might be, I wanted it. My life at that time was an unfinished book with many things pending. I was just beginning to return to writing, and had an unfinished novel. I wanted to learn what the Hubble Telescope could tell us about the universe. I wanted to live to see my great-grandchildren. I took the chance.
I didn't think it could happen, but it did. I lost my sense of humor.
The event occurred the day the doctor told me I had cancer of the stomach and pancreas, and would die within six months unless I underwent a major operation. To add to my stupefaction, she didn't recommend the surgery. She claimed my age was against me. I could die on the operating table. She urged a bypass which would offer no permanent cure, just a temporary relief of pain.
She spoke casually. I doubted she realized how badly she upset me. In her view, at age eighty-one I'd had my life. I must know I'd die of something, soon. She explained she was offering me the enviable option of going peacefully from this world, sparing me from suffering through a major medical procedure. She assumed that at my age I wouldn't want to face anything so painful and risky.
She was wrong. I wasn't ready to depart this planet yet. So I'm past eighty, so what? My friend Eleanor, at eighty-eight, never misses an opera or a lecture she's interested in. My great-aunt Flora got her PhD degree at age ninety-six and lived seven years to enjoy the honor. I hope to get mine ten years sooner. Not to mention that there are many other things I need to do yet, like write a great novel, listen to operas I haven't heard, and read the classics.I saved those things for my old age, now in the planning stage.
Midwest Book Review
Reviewed by Melanie Thompson
After twice surviving breast cancer, author Lois Santalo became one of the first to survive pancreatic cancer. In this engaging memoir she records her battle with what was then thought to be a killer, and in the reprint addition she celebrates ten years of survival and counting.
The doctor, she says, hesitated to operate because of her age, 81 at the time. Doc urged instead a by-pass operation which would stop the pain and allow her a gradual and peaceful decline and death. But she wasn’t ready yet to give up on life. She had a long list of things saved up to do in her old age, and she wanted to live to do them. Among other things, she’d dreamed since childhood of becoming a writer.
The operation proved painful and the recovery lengthy, but the author never wavered in her determination to see it through. She records how favorite books and beloved operas helped her through the ordeal, and let her survive to launch the writing career she’d always longed for. In the intervening ten years, she has written and published six novels.
The memoir is by no means a mere account of illness. The author fills us in about earlier events in her life, such as a terrifying trip from Michigan to California in 1937, when there were no Interstates, only two-lane roads with endless switchbacks through the mountains. “My turn to drive, both parents sleeping. My first experience of mountains by night … I was too frightened to be sleepy. Moon and stars slithered in and out of view in this land of naked geology. Great boulders overhung the road ready to fall on us. As the headlights picked them out, I tried to speed past, only to slow again for a sharp curve ahead … Once a pair of fiery eyes flared in the headlight gleam. A cougar.”
The book records, among other things, a Chicago childhood during the Capone years, when teachers had to placate the gangster with boxes of cigars in order to land and keep their jobs. This was also the John Dewey years, when the city school system was so progressive that students learned everything about the Lake Michigan Intake and the Chicago fire department but nothing about verbs and adjectives. This caused serious problems when the family moved to Michigan with its more conventional schools.
The author also describes the many difficulties of her first marriage to a concert pianist still mostly in the wannabe stage, and her second marriage to a Hispanic who failed to win the approval of her family. Through all the difficulties, the tone remains upbeat, and overall the book is a powerful affirmation of life in all its complexities. It should offer hope to all cancer victims.
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Lois Wells Santalo