A Word of Warning

I know for a fact people take more away from reading my books than just the stories themselves. For instance, lots of people told me how much they liked Grandpa Jeb’s meatloaf the recipe of which was printed in the back of Field of Bones.

A woman wrote to say that when she went to a dealership to purchase a new car, she was faced with a keyless ignition for the first time. Remembering Latisha’s dilemma, also in Field of Bones, she put her foot on the brake before pressing the button. She said the salesman was impressed.

So I’m writing the following as a public service, in hopes that readers of the blog will take my words to heart and apply them should a similar situation arise in their own lives.

Okay, so I said I wouldn’t go into detail about Bill’s health situation. Guess what? I lied. Gory details to follow, but first a word about writing.

My next Ali book, The A List, was written over the course of the summer and fall, with most of the editing coming about while Bill’s situation was deteriorating before our very eyes. I’ve gone through this process before. I write the manuscript. Bill, my first reader, and my agent, read the story and make suggestions, and I install same. Then the manuscript goes to New York. My editor(s) make their suggestions and send the manuscript back, so I can install their edits and suggestions. This is known as the “editorial letter,” and only after I make those changes do I get the D and A check—delivery and acceptance. Next up is the copy-editing process. Just remember your most challenging English teacher—the one who covered every page of your paper with layers of red ink to say nothing of a bad grade at the top of the first page. That’s what copy-editors are like. They’re required to find every comma splice, every missing quotation mark, every repetitious word. (By the way, I repeat words a lot!) The copy-edited manuscript comes back and I go through it word by word again, either approving or disapproving of the copy-editor’s changes. Next come the galleys. By then the manuscript has been typeset so it looks like it will look in the book. Again I go through the manuscript making additions and or corrections. This is referred to in the publishing world as the “first pass.” This time, and for the first time ever, they sent the galleys for The A List back for a “second pass.” Because the editing process had been done under such trying circumstances, I sat down and went through the book again, word by word.

Spoiler alert. Kidney disease comes into play as an important part of the plot in The A List. I spent a lot of time researching that to get all the details just right. So here I am, last Saturday, reading along with my own red pen in hand (actually my iPad’s stylus) when I got to the part where one of the characters is describing her daughter’s unexpected death as a result of acute kidney failure, and I read off the symptoms: loss of appetite, nausea, sudden weight loss, lethargy, frequent urination. All of a sudden the hair was standing up on the back of my neck. I had put all those symptoms into the book, but I had failed to recognize them when they were sitting right beside me. By the time we got Bill to the doctor, a blockage in his bladder had him down to 20% kidney function. Not only were those Bill’s symptoms, a good friend of ours—someone who’s always been super physically fit—had the same symptoms some four months ago. By the time he got to the ER, his kidney function was 14%. Both Bill and our friend are in recovery mode, but believe me, what these two guys know about catheters you don’t want to know!!

I’ve always suspected that when the question about sudden weight loss is asked in the course of a routine physical, the powers that be are just trying to get the goods on you to see if you’ve succeeded or failed at the most recent fad diet. The truth is, sudden weight loss, even a supposedly welcome one, may be an indication of a life or death situation.

So I’m sending these words of warning out there in blog form, and during the second pass, I detailed a few more symptoms in The A List as well.

Who knows? By virtue of reading about them, the life you save may be your own.

27 thoughts on “A Word of Warning

  1. WOW and WOW!
    Happy Bill got treatment in time. Prayers for continued improvement and healing. For you also, as caregiver and lover. ?

  2. WOW and WOW!
    Happy Bill got treatment in time. Prayers for continued improvement and healing. For you also, as caregiver and lover. ?

  3. Thankful the lightbulb went off as you were proofreading. I would call that a “God wink.” Happy to hear Bill and your friend are on the mend.
    It is so easy to dismiss symptoms as things typical with us aging. Even doctors dismiss them when we tell them. However, as you know, not everything can be written off as age.
    I have asthma as well as rheumatoid arthritis and after a trip overseas, I developed bronchitis and severe shortness of breath upon exertion that would not go away. I would be prescribed antibiotics and steroids get some better only to have it come back. I thought I had picked up some bacteria on the 9 hour plane flight and that is why it would not clear up. Finally went to a pulmonologist and was diagnosed with connected tissue disease related interstitial lung disease (pulmonary fibrosis caused from rheumatoid arthritis.) Now being treated and praying it gets better or at least does not get worse.
    Your books really teach your readers so much as well as being so enjoyable to read. I cannot wait for The A List!
    Praying for Bill’s health and yours as well.

  4. Wow….I am just stunned but so happy for you, Bill and your friend.
    It’s just amazing. Thanks so much for sharing the story.

  5. I’m glad you realized that Bill was in trouble and got him to the doctor. I used to read articles about some disease and find that I had all of the symptoms. I seldom read any thing like that any more.

    I found your description of the editing process so interesting. It must be hard to go over the manuscripts so many times.

    Hope the rest of the year is happy and healthy for you and your family.

  6. Wow!! This happened to me. I lost my appetite, couldn’t eat, and lost 30+ lbs (now 45 lbs). Doctor wasn’t concerned as all blood tests were normal. Then they discovered I had pancreatic cancer!! And the signs were right there. More problems have followed. Hope all is well with Bill.

  7. Great information entwined into very good novels. You’re the best. And I’m an evid ready of most everything you’ve written. Thank you.

  8. Not sure this post will take, site didn’t like me last week. I am so sorry both of you have gone through this. It is almost as hard on a spouse as the other half when there is a health crisis. Not physically hard, but mentally.
    And your writing is definitely a mental process. I am surprised you could function at all with the holidays thrown in there. Will Bill’s health be able to come back to near normal now with the right treatment? Wishing you both improving health. Kick some butt, Bill!

  9. Best wishes to you both. Yes, always a lesson in your books. And praise for your tenacity in such trying times. Truly an admirable lady.

  10. Thanks for sharing: you probably have saved a life or more or will in the future>. Best wishes to Bill and to you and also your friend as they recover and you worry…..And I will tell you I also know about catheters, both mine and my husband’s this past summer: not fun, but at times necessary. Thank heavens for good medical treatment options.

    Looking foward to the new book of course: maybe I will see you in Green Valley before I go home. (By the way, my husband did pass away this sumer: I miss him terribly, after almost 58 years of marriage….and I treasure all my wonderful memories. I know you treasure your life with Bill and I hope you have many more wonderful adventures with him)

  11. Good catch! Your focus changed from writing the story to reading the story so your brain picked up the clues. Good healing wishes to both. Scary how fast health issues can pop up.

  12. You are so right! When my sister lost 70 pounds in less than year without trying, we doctor congratulated her. Less than a year later we lost her to a heart attack.

    • A sudden weight loss is a bad sign. I remember reading about a woman who lost a lot of weight and everyone thought it was great. She was suffering from a life-threatening disease that her doctor had not caught. I wonder why more doctors don’t see the weight loss as a sign that something is seriously wrong?

  13. Now I am understanding why my mother suddenly said she didn’t want to eat or drink anymore and had twenty plus pounds of weight loss…. she does have CKD, but the heart issue and the dehydration caused us to focus more on the heart issues while in the hospital than anything else. Thank goodness for good medical care. And for the fact that I am bossy enough to keep saying, “Drink more, drink more” its made a big difference in her life. And yes, her appetite is back now, thankfully. So glad you two are ok. Not a fun thing to go through.

  14. Our 43 year-old son, Matt, has stage 4 kidney failure. Not on dialysis yet. We keep praying. Praying for you both.
    My husband, Ted (Bill’s doppelganger) has chronic pancreatitis and many times I’ve sat by his side watching him breathe and hoping that each breath was not his last. He is stable for now – on enzyme replacement therapy. Each day is a challenge for them both.
    If you have a moment, say a prayer for Matt and Ted
    Thank you…

  15. So happy to hear Bill and your friend are both doing well. We don’trealize How lucky we are until there is a serious health scare.

    Thank you for all your wonderful books.

  16. That’s so scary, but true. We often don’t see what is right in front of us. But synchronicity prevailed, and you were researching the very disease you needed to know about. Follow your instincts!!!

    Also, the meatloaf recipe gave new life to my tired old meat loaf. Thank you for that. I’ve read a lot of Katherine Hall Page’s books, but never actually tried the recipes. But this one looked so good I did and I’m glad.

  17. I’m so glad your hubby is on the mend! Thank-you for the hours of enjoyment!! I’ve loved your books, especially the Joann Brady and Beau series. I’ve read them all at least twice. Your characters are so “real”. I’ve been enjoying your blog also. Someday you could just gather it all together and publish it in a book–it’s that enjoyable. I’m looking forward to your new books!

  18. Just made your meat loaf recipe last night. It was a big hit.
    I also love the J P Beaumont books. My son lives in West Seattle and I enjoy reading about the local sites.

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