Posts Tagged ‘health’

Healthy sex

April 29, 2012

Having completed a chapter for each decade of a woman’s life, I’m now turning my attention to the chapter dealing with the health issues that can affect sexual desire. Everything from a medication for high blood pressure to the invasive treatments for cancer can impact (read, diminish) a woman’s libido.

I gathered up almost 20 surveys that mentioned health issues and summarized their concerns for Dr. Whelihan. She sent me 1,500 words about those conditions, in relatively general terms. Now I’m phoning the survey takers for more specifics on their problems, and during a future work session, Mo and I will tailor her responses to each woman’s health concern.

I’ve returned to peruse some of the book’s opening chapters (written a year ago), and I’ll eventually edit each one so my voice stays consistent throughout the book. Something I didn’t anticipate on a long project like this is how much your voice and style evolve during the process. To keep each chapter sounding consistent, you have to continually edit.

Instead of creating a separate health chapter, I decided to segue into the subject from one of those early chapters, titled “A Day in the Life of the Doctor.” It introduces Dr. Whelihan through a “visit” to her office, and sets the scene for how she interacts with patients about sex.

One reason for this adjustment is the realization that many books deal with treatments for sexual dysfunction; very few deal with the subtleties of female sexual desire — and so that’s where we want to keep the focus. We don’t need to venture too heavily into sexual healing territory.

Our agent is still busy pitching the book to publishing houses. So far we’ve been rejected four times. I’m not feeling particularly devastated by this. I think the book is tremendously marketable and so does Maureen, so we remain confident. Plus, I was told that “The Help” was rejected 60 times before it found a publisher, which consoles me to no end.

Our rejection letters, which the agent forwards to us, are generally encouraging. However, one letter said our focus was too broad, and that we needed to hone the material down to a more specific age group. I understand the impulse that drives this suggestion, but I respectfully disagree. I think when you’re talking about sexual desire, whatever age group you leave out will have every right to raise their hands and proclaim “What about ME?”

What could I tell them if I excluded them from the study? “Sorry. Didn’t think you mattered.”

One way to address this concern would be to self-publish the book and market each chapter separately as an e-book. If a 20-something woman for instance cared only about her decade, she could pay $2.99 or whatever for that chapter, and not have to purchase the whole book. But then, isn’t she going to want to read the 30s chapter … you know, to check out how sex is going to be in the near future?

And say that reader is in her 60s. After she reads her decade’s chapter, won’t she be curious to read the 20s chapter to see what women her daughter’s age say about sex?

These are the aspects of marketing I ponder. And though I remain convinced people will want to read the entire book, I am very open to the idea of selling chapters individually online. It does make a lovely kind of sense, because it’s an inexpensive option to owning the book. Maybe someone buys their decade, is intrigued, and comes back for the whole book. Who could argue with that?

Meanwhile, Dr. Mo and I are giving the agent additional time to market our book on a more conventional track. I have no idea how many rejections it will take for us to abandon traditional publishing and embrace self publishing. I guess it depends on what future rejection letters say and how we come to feel about the whole process.

Do my readers have thoughts on this? What’s the magic number? How many no’s do you think we should collect before we merrily go our own way?

I’d be interested to hear … as you know, I’m learning as I go!

30somethings on hold

September 4, 2011

I have discovered through personal experience that there is nothing like a fractured rib and a punctured lung to put sex — or writing about sex — on the back burner.

Something about having the 911 operator ask for permission to break down one’s door makes certain mundane routines seem much more desirable. “No, it is NOT all right to break down my door; this is a rented condo.” But dang, I’m so dizzy and my head is bleeding (I hope I don’t need stitches), so maybe I can lie on my back and push myself across the living room …

I know. You think I’m joking. I wish.

Last weekend I spent my first night ever in a hospital, getting lots of CAT scans and chest x-rays to diagnose my injuries and the condition which caused them: neurocardiogenic syncope, which basically means I might faint when I stand up in the mornings. Apparently my heart is sometimes a second too slow in pumping blood to my head once I go from horizontal to vertical. And while the fainting isn’t dangerous at all (cue laugh track), it’s the fall that’ll kill you.

I felt lightheaded as I got up that morning, so I put both hands on the door jam and wall of my bedroom, but it wasn’t enough. The next thing I know I’m on the tile floor of my hall, blinking at the ceiling and trying to figure out what I’m doing down there. I have no idea what all I hit on the way down, but I’ve been finding mysterious bruises and sore spots all over my body. I don’t think I’d want to watch a replay, but my doctors could have used a hidden cam of the fall.

Head wounds bleed a lot, so that was disconcerting, but the whack on my head didn’t need stitches after all, for which I’m very grateful. But I hit the floor with enough force that my rib cage hit my lung and made a hole. Thankfully, the rib didn’t actually break, which I guess is what usually punctures lungs.

Anyway, that punctured lung, on the left side, is what brought on all the drama. Once the air leaked out, I began to have trouble breathing, and the symptoms mimicked a heart attack. It honestly felt like a hand was squeezing my heart, and with enough force to cause terrifying pain. By the time the paramedics arrived, I was gasping and having trouble talking. Pain level on a 1-10 scale? 10!

They did heart readings immediately (just inside the door of my condo, where I lay after finally unlocking my door) and determined my heart was OK, which was a relief — but NOT! I couldn’t figure out what could hurt so much in my heart area, that wasn’t my heart.

The one light moment of the whole event came when the guys were asking me to tell what day it was, whether I had any history of heart attack in my family, how old I was. I could not get breath to answer anything quickly, so on the age question, one guy tried to helpfully supply the first part of my answer: ” Thirty …. ?” he said.

Laughing was out of the question. Even smiling was beyond me. I finally just slowly gasped, “Fifty …. seven.”

“She doesn’t look it,” muttered an unseen but appreciated paramedic.

It was all downhill after that; actually it was downhill from the moment I fell. The elevators in my condo building are too small for a gurney, so I had to be strapped into a wheelchair for transport to the ambulance. I spent a couple of hours in the emergency room where they found the fracture in my rib and hole in the lung. Fortunately, only 10 percent of my left lung had collapsed; but such holes can expand and I was admitted in case I lost 25 percent of my lung capacity. At that, they would have put a tube in to reinflate it, I believe. It’s hard to pay attention to everything when the doctors and nurses come and go in dizzying fashion.

The good news is my wonderful friends showed up immediately at my bedside and didn’t leave me alone for any of the scary, confusing, humbling hospital stay. They formed a network to provide rides, errands, Rx refills, Blue Bell ice cream and more. I spent 4 nights recuperating with one saintly couple before they cleared me for independent living again.

I returned to my little condo with relief, but also some trepidation. Nothing bad had ever occurred there, and now I have unsettling memories to add to all the peaceful, happy ones. It’ll take a while for everything to integrate. I’m torn between wanting to pretend it never happened (start exercising right away and ignore the warning that ribs take 6 weeks to heal) and remembering what it felt like to regain consciousness on my tile floor, confused and alone and bleeding.

I told a friend this, and she offered her belief that it’s best to honor all your memories, good or bad.

I know she’s right. It’s just going to take a little time to assimilate this whole experience.

Since there isn’t a cure for neurocardiogenic syncope, I might faint again. (This is actually the second time it’s happened; the first time also occurred just after I got out of bed, but I had 19 stitches in my head that day, and no diagnosis, just the assumption that it was an accident.)

Now I am more nervous about the slightest dizziness, and I am resigned to grabbing at walls even when there’s no need. One nurse told me the treatment for this condition is to sit down when you feel dizzy. Real high-tech right? And I read online that it’s more common in tall people, supposedly because the blood has a tiny bit farther to go from the heart to the head.

So … I’m educating myself and that’s a good thing. One friend told me of a young man in his 20s with neurocardiogenic syncope who faints a lot, like in the middle of the day even. My heart goes out to him, and his case gives me perspective. With only two incidents to date, I feel fortunate instead of cursed.

So that’s the path I’m on: taking stock and looking for the good in every event, even the ones that truly suck. Having a diagnosis is good. My goal is to take precautions so any future faints will be nothing but mild little swoons, an ever-so-common occurrence in this Southern summertime heat.