Truth is way stranger than fiction in my opinion, which is why my writing is mainly memoir based. Five weeks ago I went from a state of excited anticipation at having a story included in the soon to be released anthology shown above — to shock and horror at suffering a mild stroke on January 7th.
Lucky for me I was on the phone with a friend, who said my voice sounded slurry and asked if everything was okay — and that my husband who sat nearby said, “Look at me,” and saw the corner of my mouth droop for a second, before rushing me to the emergency room at Mills Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, for two days and nights of medical testing reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition.
To say I wasn’t scared as the reality of my situation unfolded before me would have been a grave understatement. One health care professional after the other quizzed me as to the date and year and city we were in, attempting to determine how muddled my mind might be, and assessing the impact of the stroke on my cognitive abilities.
Thankfully the damage appeared to be minimal, although my left arm was affected, rendering my dominant left hand weakened. My mind and ability to speak was left intact — although it would be a while before I could utilize the muscle memory to properly lift an eating utensil to my mouth.
My husband stayed in the room with me on the second night of my stay — having returned home to care for our dogs the prior evening. By then all I wanted was to go home to them myself, but the doctors talked us into staying to do still more tests on the following day. We were running out of patience toward the end of the second day — but were convinced to stay a second night to wait for the results of an MRI, that would reveal an image of the inside of my brain.
That’s when the nightmare began in earnest. My brain scan showed evidence of prior strokes so small I ‘d been unaware of them — which led a well-spoken neurologist to present the possibility that I might have MoyaMoya Disorder. Now while this sounds like something to be ordered in a Japanese restaurant, it actually means puff of smoke, indicative of an almost unheard of brain condition affecting a tiny percentage of the population. These people begin experiencing strokes when young and rarely live to be my age. Because of the possibility of my having late onset MoyaMoya, she urged me to transfer by ambulance to the Stroke Unit of the California Pacific Medial Center, Davies Campus (CPMC), for further testing and observation. My husband and I gazed at each other horror-struck, as based on this information we left Mills Peninsula to be whisked away for three fun-filled days of further testing.
CPMC is located in an drafty old building in San Francisco’s Castro District. Much of the stroke floor had been modernized, but we were shown to a spacious two-room suite with a hospital bed in one room and a couch made up for my husband in the other. On the first night of our stay, he heard me crying and sat up in a chair beside my bed, holding my hand for the entire night.
The next morning we realized that it was January 10th and our 29th wedding anniversary. Upon hearing that, a kindly nurse brought a fold-out bed to our room and placed it beside mine. That night we celebrated our 29th anniversary on the stroke floor of a hospital, toasting each other with glasses of water and gazing out over the Land of Oz — while I congratulated myself that win, lose, or draw, I’d had the balls to pack up my kids and drive to San Francisco after divorcing their father in the mid-1970s– to begin a new life in a magical city where where I could be me and where my Sir and I would meet and embark on our BDSM lifestyle in late 1983.
We were considerably less peppy than on earlier anniversary celebrations — my husband leaning on his cane and I with my disabled hand and arm — but honestly, I doubt we’ve ever loved each other more than we did that night .
To make a long story shorter, brain surgery was suggested, probably in February. I was released from the hospital on blood thinners to return home to our dogs, and my wonderful younger son flew out from his home in Brooklyn to care for our household, and to arrange the details of obtaining second and third opinions from other neurologists. It was twelve days before the scheduled reading of Best Women’s Erotica, at Good Vibrations Polk Street store and stroke or no stroke, I wanted to attend that reading.
After endless debating about if I felt up to it or not, I attended the reading wearing my hottest red and black outfit. A friend helped me with my makeup, making me look as good as possible under the circumstances. She even drew on a pair of elegant eyebrows, which for me to do myself would have required an unimpaired left hand.
Still, I felt too shaky to read my own story. Editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel kindly read it for me, while I sat in the audience beside my Sir. But before beginning, she asked me to state briefly what had inspired it — and I replied proudly that the inspiration for my story, Two Doms For Dinner was a small slice of my wonderful kinky life with my love.
I loved every minute of being a part of that reading.
As a single mom I taught my sons the importance of demonstrating courage under fire. I felt that by attending the reading I was doing just that. I loved being part of the warm, supportive erotica community at Good Vibrations that evening. Since I couldn’t sign my name, I marked each book I was asked to sign with an X on the first page of my story beside my name. I would not have missed it for the world.
I’ve recovered the use of my arm considerably in the three weeks since that evening. I haven’t eaten meat for twenty-five years, and have now eliminated all dairy products from my diet in an attempt to not ingest cholesterol. My wonderful techno-savvy son sent the disc of my brain images to other neurologists. A second opinion, was obtained from Stanford, which disagreed with the first — no MoyaMoya or surgery, with medical maintenance of the constricted artery at the base of my skull — and finally a third and last opinion by the head of neurology from UCSF, concurring that I didn’t have MoyaMoya at all, didn’t need surgery or more than one blood thinner, and agreed that lasting changes in diet and moderate exercise deserved a fair shot.
And now, five weeks later, my son has returned home to his family in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day with his love — and my husband and I are alone in our home once again, gazing into each other’s eyes and looking toward a future that sill involves sex.
At this point I am able to hold an eating utensil properly and am now able to once again write my name This health incident I’ve experienced is a wake-up call for both me and my husband, but in no way does it indicate the end of our sexual life.
I feel in my bones that my left hand and arm will enjoy a full recovery. In the meantime I thank the powers that be that I masturbate with my right hand.