By the time I was in high school, I was labeled a slow learner. Without support at home, that meant only one thing: I took a lot of art classes and avoided English classes at all cost. In my first semester of junior college, I tested at a fourth grade level in spelling, grammar, and math. I felt humiliated and ashamed of myself; the college tests confirmed that I was a slow learner. I needed to stick to something that came easily, like art, so that's what I studied. My dream of writing mysteries was gone. One day, a good friend told me her uncle had a hard time learning. He had been diagnosed with something called dyslexia. That's when I found a center for dyslexia, and after extensive testing, the professional evaluation ranked me as highly intelligent, highly functioning, and severely dyslexic. I worked diligently on the therapies designed to help me improve my learning skills, and things were starting to improve. Eventually, I couldn't afford to keep going to the center, and I had to deal with my learning difficulties on my own, which left me with little confidence. I avoided writing even a Post-it note if I thought someone would see it. I continued to struggle with the embarrassment of feeling stupid for the next twenty years.
In 1993, at the age of thirty-one, my health took a horrible turn. In just one year, I went from having an athletic, muscular body of 120 pounds to an obese, 220 pounds and barely able to function. Doctor after doctor told me, “It's all in your head; there's nothing medically wrong with you.” I persisted searching for answers, knowing the doctors were wrong. For seven years, I was relentless in my fight to figure out what was causing so many of my health problems. Finally, thanks to the internet, I diagnosed myself with Cushing's disease, a secondary hormonal disorder caused by a pituitary brain tumor.
I soon found my hero, neuro-endocrinologist Pejman Cohan, who confirmed the diagnosis that all the other doctors missed. After having my life turned upside down from the symptoms of Cushing's, and the medical professionals blaming me for my continuing poor health issues, my passion for helping others grew stronger than my fear of writing. On April 14, 2000, my other hero, neurosurgeon Daniel Kelly, removed the life-threatening tumor, and I got another chance at life. (For more about pituitary tumors and related hormonal disease: www.hormones411.org)
Shortly after my brain surgery, I began my efforts to help other people who were suffering from Cushing's disease. I knew I had to improve my writing skills so I could tell my story to the world. I couldn't let my fears hold me back any longer, and just like when I read mysteries, writing about a disease that nearly took my life became easy for me. My first major published article about Cushing's disease was 2500 words for Woman's Day magazine, and it went out to over ten million readers! Countless people contacted me for help after reading that one article. Oh, the power of the written word! From there, I continued writing, and I appeared on television, spoke at national and international conferences, was featured in medical books and journals, and I published a lot of valuable content to help innumerable patients and educate many medical professionals. For over two decades, I have continued working with Dr. Cohan and Dr. Kelly, and I'm proud to be a large part of the work we've done and continue to do. (For more about Pacific Neuroscience Institute, leaders in the most comprehensive care of patients with a wide spectrum of neurological and cranial disorders: www.pacificneuroscienceinstitute.org)
Now, Dying to Date, my first novel is one of my greatest achievements—I have put in endless hours learning to write well, but it's all been more fun and rewarding than I could’ve imagined. I'm still lousy at grammar and spelling, but that's why I don't publish anything before sending it to my editor and dear friend, Lillian Nader. I've never had so much fun doing anything as I do when I'm writing stories. I'm grateful for everyone who believed in me and encouraged me to never give up.
With sincere gratitude to all of my readers, I hope you enjoy The Dying Series.