Sunday, January 6, 2013

Changes and Challenges

Posted by Maggie

This blog is usually dedicated to art-related subjects. It’s going to get pretty personal for a while. I hope to reconnect to art as we go along, but life doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and art is often pushed around by events, and the blog is going to be the easiest way for me to communicate for a while. So please bear with me, skip ahead or come back later when I hope there will be less pain and more paintings. 

Like a lot of people I joked about the end of the world, or at least a big change, due for December 21, 2112 according to the old Mayan calendar.

I did not expect my own world to crash about my shoulders. In the middle of  a routine trip to the art supply store, I had a seizure. I didn’t know what it was until the doctor told me later; I thought I was just having a weird spell. But it was scary enough to get me to the ER, and begin the sequence of events that led to a fairly quick diagnosis of a tumor on my brain.

You can never prepare for hearing something like that. Denial comes fast. You must have mistaken me for someone who has time for that. Your tests are wrong. Surely it is benign, if it does in fact exist. I have too much to do to have cancer—could we reschedule that for another year? I’m supposed to be on an airplane in 6 days. You must have the wrong person.

Unfortunately, all the denial in the world changed nothing. The thing was/is still in my head.

On the 26th the doctors performed a needle biopsy. Just a little needle, didn’t sound too bad. Well, except for that whole drilling through the skull part. There had been a fair amount of discussion about the bad position of the tumor, which was located on the motor control area for mobility of the left side of my body. I’d lost use of my left arm and leg in the initial seizure, but it came back. When I woke up from surgery, though, it was gone again. The arm came back but I haven’t been able to regain feeling or control of my leg, so cannot walk.

You look for the good stuff. It didn’t affect my ability to think, reason, or speak. I immediately had asked how far away it was from the creativity center, and they said quite a ways. I’m right-handed. I will paint again. 

Three days in neurological ICU was not something I ever want to do again. The hospital staff was great, but everything else was awful. Getting out to await biopsy results became a huge goal.

It took almost no time to become aware what wonderful friends and family I have.  I knew I had the best husband in the world but he proves it again hundreds of times a day.  Support and company from family and friends kept me from feeling abandoned.

Going Home

Going home was terrifying. It is hard to comprehend what immobility does to you. Every day, every hour, of those first few days brought such huge challenges, it was exhausting beyond belief. Still recovering from the surgery, learning how to live in my house in this condition has been overwhelming.

We live in a one-story house with no stairs. I thought navigating using a walker and the fling-and-drag foot method of locomotion that currently passes for walking would be doable, if not easy. The first real obstacle came with the realization that the door openings to both bathrooms were three inches narrower than the walker. What were those people thinking? How could anyone not make such a simple measurement in advance? How could I have lived here ten years and not known?

Looking at several upcoming months of chemo and radiation, and not being able to anticipate how much my motor controls might fluctuate from bad to worse to better, it also became obvious there was no way I could get into a shower.  So, in the space of a few days, the house became a remodeling zone. We have a wonderful friend who stepped forward to become the general contractor, and in just a few more days will have a new handicap accessible bathroom.

Meanwhile the biopsy results came back. Not as good as we’d hoped. Okay, way worse.

You look at something like this and every step is a choice. Fight or give up? I choose fight. The word “treatable” has such a nicer ring than “terminal.” Fight it. Chemo it, radiate it, starve it. Eradicate it and move on. I have too much to do and to live for,  to give in or give up. I’m fighting.

Meet the Steroid Witch

I’ve been able to reduce the number of drugs I’m taking moment, but the two biggies remaining for months to come are steroids to reduce the swelling around the tumor, and anti-seizure medicine.

The steroids are really important and really wicked. The big side effects seem to be nausea, thirst, sleeplessness and rage. I call the rage the Steroid Witch.

In spite of everything going on, most of the time I maintain a fairly even keel, a determination to get through this, and am always working on a positive attitude. But I’ve learned to hear the steroid witch coming.

The witch is in a fury, flying easily off the handle at the unfairness of it all.  She brings with her vicious hot flashes that fan the flames of rage, and she can appear without a second’s notice. The steroid witch uses bad language, has come close to throwing things, and is generally an unpleasant person with whom I have almost nothing in common. But she keeps showing up and using my mouth!  I’m hoping she will learn to behave better soon.

Art Calls

I’m itching to paint, but I think I will start with drawing. Now that I can focus a little, I think a sketchbook, pencils, charcoal, would be just right.

For several years, one of my New Year’s goals has been to draw more. Looks like that may really happen in 2013. I’m interested to see how the act of observation and drawing helps exercise my brain. Gotta keep those connections open. If the foot won’t talk to me, I’ll focus on the hands for a while.

My favorite painting subject is usually the landscape. Can’t see much of that from the part of the house where I’m spending my time. But I’ve got vases of flowers, and I think I will draw those, along with some still life objects. I'll post pics when I can.  

The Best Laid Plans

This last summer, we had a long string of back to back workshops. At the end, when we were en route home, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted for 2013. I decided I wanted to take a year to travel and teach a little less, to work on my own painting, and to develop new skills and ideas.

It’s also a convention year for IAPS  (International Association of Pastel Societies). That takes a lot of my time as we get close to the convention. I worked out a good year-long plan for incorporating painting into everything else, and then began revising my five-year plan.

Looks like I’ll get that year at home, but with chemo and radiation infringing on the painting time I had planned.  I guess I won’t know until I get into it how much I can bring to focus for art in order to push forward. But I am going to paint, one way or another.

Here were my broad 2013 goals as of December 20:

1.     Spend more painting time at home, both studio and plein air; draw more
2.     Take frequent 2-3 day painting trips with Bill so we get good time together painting and having fun.
3.     Work on series of daily paintings to focus and sharpen skills; every day for 30 days, several times
4.     Continue to work on making the 2013 IAPS convention the best ever
5.     Give more time to the New Mexico Art League board projects
7.     Organize workshops for following year(s)
8.     Find ways to spend more time with family

Here is my list now:

Beat cancer. 
See above list.

Updates to follow as I can. I can't take phone calls and my ability to respond may be sporadic, but I hope to keep in touch as well as possible.



  1. Maggie, what a time you have had. Thank you for posting this link on FB. We will keep postive thoughts and prayers out for you and family. You sound like you are doing all that you can to stay positive and I truely believe our outlook goes a long way to getting us where we wish to be in these types of trying times. I look forward to the comments and sharing with the rest of us while you and Bill navigate your way through this. Love and payers coming at you!

  2. Dear Maggie,I am amazed and inspired by you once again. You don't dwell on the negative but rather focus on your amazing artistry and how to contribute for the future. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Your sharing of what you are going through is filled with so much grace and dignity. - Helen Hammerman

  3. So sorry to hear this Maggie - sounds like you are ready to tackle it and you have the energy and where-with-all by virtue of your support system to do just that. I have struggled this year with a very severe ankle break..I am still healing after two surgeries, but yours trumps the heck out of mine. I will be thinking of you and imagining that you are coming to grips each day with your dilemma...yes, I say dilemma because I know of people who have beaten the odds. YOU will too! Stay strong.

  4. Hi Maggie
    I have followed you and your career for so long now and just read your blog. You have changed may lives with your constant giving through workshops, books, dvd's and your beautiful, inspirational artwork. I will send prayers and blessings to you for a speedy recovery. I wish you miracles!!
    Sharon Morley

  5. Maggie,

    Prayers for you; beat cancer, fight cancer, make art, beat cancer. Hugs for you.

  6. OMG Maggie, just a shocking turn of events!
    We all know you are tough and tenacious and can beat this thing. Gonna be a "slugfest" for sure, but you have a team of admiring artists cheering you on. And, don't be shy about asking for help with taxing details of IAPS...surely some PSNM members can relieve you here and there. Whatever you can delegate while you're fighting this, folks will do.
    Sending positive thoughts.
    Diana Stauffer

  7. Oh Maggie, My thoughts and prayers go out to you. I pray that you'll have the strength to continue to create as you take the treatments. May God Bless and keep you in his loving arms and may you beat this cancer. With loving thoughts and hugs, take care.

  8. Maggie....I was so distressed reading this.....but I know how strong you are. Just know I am there for you. Do not hesitate to ask me to step up to the plate on anything you need. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Bill.
    Karen Budan

  9. Hello Maggie, I am sad for you and so inspired by you! I don't think you realize how amazing you sound - brave and determined AND with a sense of humor. I will be thinking of you often and praying for you. Thank you for sharing this with us.
    My best regards,
    Barbara Benedetti Newton

  10. "May God keep you in His loving care
    and bless you with strength"
    I am so sorry to hear this. Because of what you have written here you will be the inspiration and hope for others fighting a serious illness or problem.
    God be with you, Bill, and your family. Marilyn Witt

  11. Dear Maggie,
    You are not alone. Something like "" might be helpful in getting the word out without having to post all the time to every single person. Our adult son has an oligodendroglioma that we thought would take his life last year, but we got to share another year with him and he, like you, fights every day! God bless you and we will be praying here in the mountains of Eastern Washington State. Warm Regards, Lacie Abell

  12. Maggie,
    This is such shocking news! I open my heart over you as you (and Bill) go through all the trials that you now bare. Sounds like patience will be the most important character of your life. I will be waiting with baited breath to hear of a full
    Brenda Boylan

  13. This is the type of news that we all dread. But you have so much going for you, that I will not get maudlin with this. You will do as well as you can with your determination, expert medical help, your supportive family and all our prayers. Know that you have touched so many lives and continue to do so. Hang in there. You are now officially on my prayer list for keeps.
    Louise Sackett

  14. Maggie,

    Wishing you all the best. I know it will be a long haul, but you can do it. My wife was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer in May and she is fighting like the dickens, and kicking that cancer to the curb! I know you will do the same. Thought and prayers are with you!

    Artistically yours,
    Jeff Fioravanti

  15. You will be in my thoughts and prayers, Maggie. Try the best you can to stay positive and creative...cancer has a tough time dealing with both!


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  17. Maggie - Know that a lot of people are praying for a full recovery for you and that you will beat this! Your art and writing will be so valuable to you in this fight. Know that this most recent post has already left a deep impression on so many people who have taken your workshops, read your books and watched your videos. It's hard to know what to say to someone with such life-changing news except that we are all with you, thinking of you, praying for you both. Fight on!

  18. Dearest Maggie, You are an amazing and inspiring person, always giving your time and knowledge to the art community. Your message above presents a most difficult situation along with your hope, sense of humor, and determination to overcome. Your response is inspiring - I am inspired to pray for you and Bill and I am inspired to work even harder at producing my best work as I hear your plea to once again be able to paint. May you be able to return to "life as you knew it"... only better, for having gone through this. It is in the fire that gold is purified. With Love and prayers to you and Bill,

  19. Maggie,
    What a strong and positive person you are...You are such an inspiration -and as I read this blog I became more aware of what a talented and influential writer you are with such wonderful abilities not to mention your artistic and painting talent.
    Knowing you through working with you on your book has been an honor and you have touched my life in such a positive way. You are so kind and caring to me, so I can't help but feel strongly connected to you.
    My background is nursing and I know that you are going to have good days and bad. But I know this illness and process of healing is something that you will approach from a position of strength.
    You are in my thoughts and prayers. Hugs and love to you. Dot

  20. Dear Maggie,
    Holy cow! What an ordeal. (understatement!) Well, one thing for sure, your writing skills are as good as ever. You have always been as good a writer as you are a painter, I think. I hope you will write any time you want to us--we'll be here.
    I'm so sorry you are having to go through all this, but we're grateful that you have good doctors/nurses and this fantastic attitude. Positive thoughts.....bright white light healing thoughts are winging up for you, Maggie Price.

  21. Dear Maggie,
    My heart and prayers go out to you! Life certainly has some surprises. We went through a similar battle with our middle daughter three years ago. I began to write long e-mail updates & missives to family & friends as we progressed through our daughter's illness and treatment. Before long we had return notes, cards, prayer chain support and contacts across the country to let us know we were not alone. It took a lot of courage for you to open your life and heart to everyone, but we now know how each of us in our own way can offer love and support. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

    When you have a tough day, think about spending time reading the book of Psalms in the bible. It and the book of Job were a huge help for me. Reach out to let others know what you need. If you don't, sometimes they are reluctant to ask out of concern that they will bother you. If you figure out a list of things for others to do, even if it seems trivial to you, it will make it easier for folks to stay involved without feeling like pests. They will be happier knowing they could do something, and it allows you to set the boundaries so you get help in the ways you need it without losing your rest or privacy.

    I'm so glad you are willing and able to blog about this yourself. It will be cathartic, and will help relieve the isolation of treatment and side-effects. Be sure you line up well- trained advocates, and keep them well informed of your needs and feelings as you go through this. They will be invaluable. You will need more than one. Just to be sure someone is always available to take daily notes for you if needed.

    Stay positive, but realistic. You need to keep your hope and energy to fight the battle, but you want to be heard if you have feelings to let out. I never had time to contact any online support organizations because I was primary caregiver for our daughter. You hopefully will have time and motivation to write on your blog, at least.

    Please forgive me for writing such a long note. It was on my heart to share these thoughts, and this was the only chance to do it. May the good Lord be with you, your family, and your health care providers throughout this journey. I will ask for peace, grace, mercy, wisdom, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and love for all. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

    In love and prayer for you & Bill,
    Cyndy allen

  22. Extremely sadden while reading this Maggie. The support of family and friends eases somewhat the tribulation, yet no one is ever prepared. Flying prayers and good wishes from San Diego.

  23. I'm sending you lots of love and prayers for your healing. You have inspired so many people and we are thinking of you now.
    Love, Peggy Davidson Post

  24. Maggie, dear, I am SO sorry to hear this; I know what a struggle it can be to stay positive in the face of this kind of news. But I know you well enough to know you can do it! My heart, my love and my prayers are with you. And if you need anything, remember I am only across town. K and I will help you however we can, and if you need convention help, PLEASE don't hesitate to let me know. Love you, sister <3, Dot Hoffman

  25. Maggie,
    On behalf of the Piedmont Pastel Society, I send our heartfelt support and best wishes for you and Bill during this difficult time. We are so sorry to hear this news but are inspired by your positive attitude.We have fond memories of the time you spent with us during your wonderful workshop in Charlotte.

    Nancy Marshburn

  26. I've never met you, Maggie, but I feel very emotional about what you are going through. I am going to make a note to put by my bed right now to keep you in my daily prayers. Love and Blessings to you and Bill - Jo (and thank you for writing and sharing with us....we are here for you in spirit......)

  27. Dear Maggie,

    Your picture is now next to my easel and I am thinking of you every day as I paint. I envision you surrounded by a whirling rainbow of healing light.

    Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

    Lorraine McFarland

  28. Dear Maggie & Bill
    Malcolm and I send all our love to you, and wish you every success and improvement to fight back and continue to inspire everyone. And a Scottish holiday will await you when you are back on the road, and need some TLC and inspiration xx

  29. Dear Ms. Price, I have no words to convey my concern. Your paintings have uplifted my spirit and your teaching, via your books, have broadened my beginning skill at pastels. I am very sorry you have been so afflicted and temporarily restricted; I will add my prayers to all the others who wish you good health. Thank you for everything you have given to create such beauty and inspiration; as painful as these weeks have been, reading your post makes me aware that even in this aspect of your life, you have found beauty and grace. God be with you. Most sincerely, Sharon Aiken

  30. Maggie, I was so sorry to read of this difficulty suddenly interrupting your art life. We're all rooting for you. You're very good at realizing your goals--you'll realize your new first goal too, I know! Please continue to keep us all informed when you can.
    Healing energy, love, and prayers to you.
    Ray Hassard

  31. Dear Maggie,
    ...keep those positive thoughts and know that so many people love you and care for you as you go thru this tough are in my prayers!!
    love and lots of hugs,
    Nina Baldwin

  32. Maggie, all my support and love. I will be praying for you. You are an awesome super talented artist and a great person. You will win!

  33. Maggie, I so enjoyed meeting you at the pastel show in Brea, CA last summer. I am so sorry and so shocked to hear of your ordeal. Your positive attitude is downright inspirational! Keep forging ahead and don't give up. We are all praying for your recovery and well-being. Don't let go of your art...I know it has the power to help heal.

    Best Wishes to you,
    Jason Walcott

  34. Maggi, I don't know you personally, but as a pastelist I know your work. I want to add my heartfelt best wishes for your fight. I love your spirit and strength and commitment to both health and art. Keep up the good fight!

  35. Maggie, we finally met last year in Brea but I feel like I have known you much longer through your amazing work, I have always been your fan. I am so saddened to hear that you are going through this! Life can be so unfair and hard at times. I admire your spirit as you face this demon. I will be praying for your complete recovery and a quick return to your artful life.