In Freefall

Kage Baker did not reveal what turned out to be her mortal illness until just a few months before she died. In the meantime, she wrote like a madwoman  (which was her usual technique, actually) and continued on as if there were nothing wrong with her and Death would never come knocking on her door.

The main advantage to her course of action was, obviously, that she didn’t have to give any explanations or endure any sticky sympathy. She detested both those obligations, and felt that having a fatal diagnosis should at least free her from annoying social norms. She also greatly enjoyed shocking people when she did make her first and last public appearance as a sick person: at the World Fantasy Awards in 2009. Kage attended in a wheelchair and had enormous fun startling people who asked too familiarly what was wrong with her.

You know the type, Dear Readers: they give the ailing person a look of roguish disapproval, demanding: Well, what have you done to yourself THIS time? It gave Kage deep satisfaction and amusement to respond brightly: I have advanced cancer! No one ever had an immediate response to that …  All weekend, Kage left encounters like this with a triumphant  Home, Rasputin!*  to her faithful entourage, and departed scattering Halloween chocolates behind her.

We had a great time, overall. Within the week, Kage was in the hospital for the first surgery, on the months’-long journey to her end. We looked back on that last weekend with great joy, so glad to have had it before she was too weak.

I’ve been unable to find a celebratory event with which to mark my coming heart surgery. Though I must admit, I haven’t looked all that much – too tired, even though Kimberly and Michael have been perfectly amiable about wheeling me about. What they don’t like doing is letting me out of the house at all – I have all the stamina of a wet Kleenex, tend to pant and gasp in an unnerving way, and, of course, am really not in a good condition to go out and confront influenza viri. Kimberly is understandably determined to prevent my contracting any infection before it’s time to open my chest.

I haven’t had a great time writing, either. I would if I could, but … mainly, all I can do is  sleep. When I am awake, I read. I’ve begun to worry a bit about being sicker than I thought I was, because lately I haven’t even had the energy to read. I can’t seem to focus my intellect on the subjects (and they are not all space operas or zombie stories, really!) and  find myself re-reading the same paragraph on the dissemination of squamous fish over and over … discouraging, that.

In an attempt to find something that really stirs my emotions, I’ve even been working my way through the “kiss and tell” books being regularly published by losers in the wars with Donald Trump. Some are just tabloid trash, even when they are writing truthfully about the tabloid trash currently lairing in the White House. One way to verify the more egregious anecdotes is to see who else reports them, other than the original tattler. Some of the most hilarious stories cannot be supported by anyone or thing other than the original report – others, like Trump’s amazingly ignorant order to evacuate Seoul due to its unfortunate proximity to North Korea, do seem to be true. But they are so depressing …

Still, I have been slogging on, counting down the days until my surgery can be scheduled.

My initial appointment with my cardiac surgeon,  Dr. Mastaneh Ahmadi-Kashani, was supposed to be yestreday. Sadly, a couple of hours before the appointed time, the doctor’s office called to cancel: the surgeon was called in to the hospital for an emergency. She only keeps office hours once a week, so I have been kicked back to next Tuesday. I admire her devotion to the patient with the emergency, but … Sigh. At this point, I am willing to go into surgery the very next Wednesday – I don’t care about what method they choose, or how long it will take to recover, or how much it is supposed hurt: I just want it done, so I can begin healing. I am degenerating into a coral polyp, and want to resume life as a vertebrate.

I’ve been told to expect post-surgical discomfort similar to an elephant standing on my chest. Well, I am already feeling that, every time I walk to the bathroom. I’d at least like to feel it and know that it means something different – like, maybe actually filling my lungs. I am longing to be able to walk again; to accompany my sister to the grocery store; to drive without worrying about passing out, to climb stairs without the world growing black, to sing. I really miss singing.

These days, I cannot hold my breath for longer than one or two words; it gives my singing an unfortunate mechanical staccato. Which would be amusing, if I was doing it on purpose, I guess.  Harry doesn’t like it, though. He regards funny noises as his particular domain.

So, Dear Readers, please bear with me for a while longer. It’s taken me all day to write this blog entry, in between lengthy naps; and I am still falling asleep as I write. I’ll have to edit it extremely carefully, to avoid amusing and demented typos. For instance, in the first line of this entry, Kage did not die of a”moral disease”. She was a person of absolute probity. The idea would have made her snicker, though; so I guess it’s worth it to have committed it.

In the meantime, Dear Readers, please keep me in your thoughts. Or, if not me, then my over-worked surgeon, Dr, Kashani, so she can manage to meet me long enough to tell me how she intends to get at my heart. A matte knife and a crow bar would be acceptable to me right now.

In the meantime, my old school chum Cynthia has sent me an exquisite blue and gold macaw feather – thank you, Cyth! It is just the accessory for having your heart removed. I don’t think they’ll let me bring it into the operating room, but I think I’ll wear it in my hair next Tuesday. It’s retro fashion, after all.




*Bewitched. The incomparable Agnes Moorehead, in her role as Samantha’s mother, Endora, used to issue this command to her chauffeur: who would then proceed to drive backwards out through the walls of Samantha’s suburban living room … Kage found it hilarious.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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15 Responses to In Freefall

  1. Luisa Puig says:

    You are in my thoughts right now, Dear Kate, and shall be onwards ’til the Healthful, Post-op Elephant is on your chest, helping fill your lungs with air. Excelsior!


  2. debraji says:

    Kathleen, know that your friends (local and internet) are rooting for you. I hope soon your surgery will be in the past and you’ll be on the healing path (long and slow and bumpy, but oh, so worth it).


    • Kate says:

      I have the best cheering section around. I love my friends – they are all of the special variety that looks at a hopeless situation, and says: All right, where do we start fixing it? Heroes, all.


  3. buggybite says:

    Just keep telling yourself: This will get better. Because it will.

    As you say, pain and discomfort is bearable when you know it means things are beginning to heal. Less bearable when you know it means something needs fixing. All the best for seeing your surgeon at the next appointment, and getting this show on the road.


  4. Jane says:

    Oh my even in I’ll health you make me laugh! I wish I had a pleasant singing voice-I’d come over and sing Faire ditties to entertain you. Thanks for letting us know what you are facing. I’ll keep praying for you and your wonderful family. Cardiac surgeons are notorious for postponing. Just means someone else was worse off than you today… it that doesn’t help put breath back in your lungs. Here’s a toast to a brilliant surgical team who don’t need a crowbar!❤️


  5. Steven Gillan says:

    Ride on dear friend. I’m thinking about y’all. Dreamed about the “bare ruined choirs” night before last. A mental triumph to remember the subject of or if I have dreamed at all. I don’t think that I remembered what that project was called until the next day. Love Steven.


    • Kate says:

      How interesting, my friend – I too dreamed about “the bare ruined choirs” night before last. That was a wonderful mental castle. Even if I suspect that we are all now become the bare ruined choir … we’re all still grand.


  6. Medrith says:

    I am praying for you. I have several friends who have had successful heart surgeries, and I know you are next. You have many GOOD years ahead of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate says:

      I agree – and I am counting on twenty more years, at least. The women in my family tend to superannuated ages, surviving all manner of drastic crises and sailing on like ships of the line. Fire ships, usually … but I plan on living until people remark on my attendance at events with a mixture of wonder and apprehension.


  7. athene says:

    When you are feeling stronger – PM me, or have Kim PM me – with your hospital info and surgery sked. I haven’t missed one yet, and I don’t intend to start now. Patience, love and strength to you. Especially the patience part – I KNOW your type. Semper Fi.


  8. Kate says:

    Ah, Athene – goddess of wisdom, war, and working women! And the patroness of Athens, which is a fairly ruinous antique. Like me. I will keep you informed, I promise. You’ve been cheering me on forever!


  9. johnbrownson says:

    Kathleen, I’m sitting in my happy place, drinking a martini, and thinking of you. A few days ago, I was playing the dulcimer that DJ bought from Capritaurus, at Blackpoint, forty-odd years ago, and I realized that the body probably holds Faire Dust! So, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put my nose to the sound hole and inhale, and as I exhale, I will breathe your name and beseech the Good Goddess, by this sacred dust, to heal your body. Been awhile since I did this kind of witchery, but it oughta work. Worth a try, anyway. Love.


  10. Kate says:

    Oh, oh, oh! What a kind, generous, wonderful idea! That’s the nicest gift since Christmas. I even remember the oak trees closest to their booth, and the laurels on the hill … and the way the air smelled. I can feel my heart strengthen with the very idea. Thank you, thank you!


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