Monday, August 8, 2011

Medical Mondays: Finding the Inevitable


Instead of working on my WIP, I spent time this weekend indexing my Medical Mondays posts in a handy tab, up there. See?

(I should get a medal in procrastinating, or at least a degree. PD, Doctor of Procrastination. Can you imagine? It would take 30 years just to finish the thesis!)


Anywho...today's question comes from Elizabeth Arroyo. She asks:

"My character suffers from something that is slowly degenerative and ultimately kills her. She's been sick for about five-seven years. She has on and off moments, so she gets better than sick again until finally her body can't take it anymore. Too much meds and her insides are failing. We see her through the eyes of her daughter and I don't need anything specific to give the reader, but a name would be nice. She's currently about 42 years old."

Okay, so I picked out a few diseases for Elizabeth to choose from. The main thing they had to have in common was that it has to be potentially fatal; degenerative; hit women (and/or men) in middle age. Here are the awful contenders:

  • Lupus. Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE) is a disease whereby the body attacks itself and can causes all kinds of problems involving the skin, heart, joints, blood vessels, nervous system and inner organs (basically--almost everything). Most of the time it's manageable with medications that suppress the immune system, but can have life-threatening flares and can "wear down" the body causing kidney failure and other issues that can eventually kill.
  • Multiple Sclerosis. MS is caused by a loss of the special fatty sheath around nerves of the brain and spinal cord. It can cause a host of neurological symptoms, and is often managed as chronic illness. Many patients have long and productive lives. However, there are a subset of patients that progress faster and might not tolerate the medications used to control the disease. Elizabeth's character might be one of them.
  • Huntington's Disease. This is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes jerky body movements, psychiatric symptoms and eventually dementia. It is inherited by 50% of the children of those patients with this disease. Heart attacks, pneumonias, and sadly, suicide, are all causes of death. Generally, though, people live until about 20 years after the start of their symptoms, which usually start in early middle age but can occur even earlier in some.
  • ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, is also a neurodegenerative disease. Unlike Huntington's Disease, most cases of ALS are not inherited. The symptoms include muscle weakness, twitching, difficulty talking, swallowing, and eventually breathing. Most people with ALS die within 2-3 years of diagnosis, and usually of pneumonia or respiratory failure. This disease may move too quickly for Elizabeth's fictional needs.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This is a bit of a baggage term for anything that causes the heart muscle to be "ill." There are several causes, but the one that might fit Elizabeth's situation is dilated cardiomyopathy, whereby the heart muscle degenerates and balloons out, causing heart failure symptoms. Causes include viruses, alcohol, toxins, and unknown causes. These days, dilated cardiomyopathy can be controlled as a chronic condition with medications, defibrillators/pacemakers, and even heart transplant, but even so, it can be a very difficult disease that can kill. Other organs can take a hit from the effects of a poorly pumping heart, like the kidneys, for example.
This is by no means a comprehensive list for Elizabeth's fictional situation, but it's a start.

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

49 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Thanks Lydia! Great info. So sad when you think about all these diseases though.

DEZMOND said...

we love your medical Mondays, Lyds!

Giles Hash said...

Well if there's ANYTHING to be learned by the show House, it's always lupus...but it's also never lupus.

Slamdunk said...

Nice work Lydia. ALS has always been a close to the heart disease for us.

Thanks for donating time this weekend for your index. Great resource.

mooderino said...

I like the index, all in one handy place.

(I think in order to get a PD you would have to never finish your thesis)

mood
Moody Writing
@mooderino

E. Arroyo said...

Thanks Lydia! This helped big-time.

Sarah said...

Awesome, Lydia. You pack so much info into such a small space!

Talli Roland said...

Yikes!

As always, loads of great info, Lydia. Thank you!

Carol Kilgore said...

LOL about the PD in only 30 years :)

Great information. You're a wonderful resource.

Lenny Lee* said...

hi miss lydia! wow cool that you got all that stuff indexed. i like your medical mondays cause you write stuff so i could understand it and you always give big help for writers.
...hugs from lenny

Magan said...

I love that you grouped all of the Medical Mondays together! You know some of this stuff you could just make up and I wouldn't know the difference. Just saying.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL on the PD. I did a lot of procrastination while writing my MSc thesis. I deserve a PD too.

Awesome medical monday post. You always make our lifes easier with this info. :D

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for the info. Thanks too, for your index. That may come in handy!

Kelley said...

How cool is it that you do this? Very.

Old Kitty said...

I'm middle aged!?!?!? :-(

Eeek! :-) Take care
x

Lydia K said...

Old Kitty--I am too. So at least you've got company!

Carole Anne Carr said...

How clever of you, I just have mine blown up or drowned.

julie fedderson said...

These are all on my list of things I don't want. Love the index--I spent all morning popping through old posts. Talk about procrastination--I should be unpacking!! And btw, we need to speak in more detail about your cucumber phobia.

Clarissa Draper said...

Thank you for putting the tab at the top! You're one of my favorite Monday posts!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You know your stuff! And I Knight thee the Queen of Medical Organization and Procrastination.

Carol Riggs said...

Nice to have all your medical stuff on a tab! (Lovely to be organized, yes?) And it's very helpful to us, too! Have a GREAT week, Lydia!!

Roland D. Yeomans said...

When writing our characters with medical ailments, we should consider those in the reader population with those exact conditions so as to not pour salt into an already throbbing wound. Just a thought, Roland

Kris Yankee said...

Very cool - well, not that her character has a slow killing disease - but the fact that you're giving her a "diagnosis". I could've used this when I was writing a women's fiction story about a man with a brain tumor.

vbtremper said...

Cool post! Luckily, I don't have any characters dying of degenerative diseases. However, my sister-in-law and my cousin's cousin (is there a special name for that?) both have lupus. They are now in their 40's and have had lupus since their teens. Maybe my SIL should inspire a character. Hmmm.

Thanks!
Vicki

Lydia K said...

Roland, excellent thought. Any situation we write about can easily strike a personal, emotional chord with readers--particularly medical ailments.

It's wise for writers to do due diligence and read up well about what illness they're going to portray so as to be genuine, and try not to use something so profound as a life-altering illness as just a plot device.

Heather said...

Great info. For me, the character, their lifestyle, family history, it all comes into play when deciding these things. That tends to make it resonate even deeper with the reader.

Munk said...

oooh, ooh, could you pick out some neat diseases for me too?
You are so giving!

Linda Gray said...

Excellent info, as always! Thank you. As an aside, your picture at the top struck me powerfully. It is the PERFECT picture for one of the upcoming Tarot's Fool posts on CSC when the Fool encounters The Moon (has to choose btwn howling at it or jumping into a boat with no paddles and letting the river take him where it will). I'll be using the official pic, but just thought you might like to know how pertinent your creative side is to ancient wisdom!

Matthew MacNish said...

Ugh. This is tough. I've known one or two people that had one of these conditions. Sad.

But a great writing resource, as usual, thanks, Lydia!

Olga said...

Every Monday I am looking forward for your medical Monday :)

David Powers King said...

Excellent post. Your blog has changed a lot since I visited last. Sorry for being a stranger. I'll be back for my next appointment, Doc.

Bossy Betty said...

Why do I just love Medical Mondays? What does this say about me? Do I need therapy or what?

Janet Johnson said...

Some pretty yucky diseases there . . . if I make a list of what I DON'T want to die from can I avoid these? :)

LTM said...

omg! LOL!!! First, the 30 years to finish your procrastinating book, and then I went all hypocondriac on you!

I can't decide if I have Lupus, MS, or cardiomyopathy.... :D BAH!!!

hmm... OR! perchance it could be that I just finished a major move and the girls still aren't sleeping all night in their new rooms. ;p

you're a rockstar w/the index. Very cool. <3

Krispy said...

Love the index! Will definitely be trolling it as I cobble together my disease. ;)

Also, if you ever find some place that will give you a degree for procrastination, please let me know! I think I totally qualify for that PhD.

Jemi Fraser said...

Very interesting - as always.

I know it shouldn't, but this line cracked me up: "Okay, so I picked out a few diseases for Elizabeth to choose from." :)

Meredith said...

I love these posts! They're always fascinating. I might have to write about a character with a degenerative disease now...

cherie said...

Excellent list, Lydia! You're always so helpful and informative. ;)

*filing away for future reference

M Pax said...

A very fine list it is.

I procrastinated by rearranging my website. So rolling my eyes at myself.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Those are all better than just a generic cancer.
I need to let Elizabeth S. Craig know about your Medical Mondays database.

Jennifer Hillier said...

The index is a great idea!

And that's a good list of diseases (well, you know what I mean by "good").

Another fabulous Medical Monday!

Janna Qualman said...

LOL! I don't want to write that thesis, either.

I've written a character with MS before. My dad had it, and so it was cathartic to write through.

Hope all is well, Lydia!

Alleged Author said...

It's cool how you indexed everything (If I were an agent I would find that very helpful to understand more about you.)! There were a few people on my mom's unit with HD. She didn't go into much detail, but I knew it caused much sadness.

Kelly said...

Wow! You are so kind to get this info to us! And indexed no less.
You must also have a PhD in awesomeness. :)

Samantha VĂ©rant said...

So many diseases to choose from, so little time!

notesfromnadir said...

Quite a comprehensive looking list that should help the writer out.

Shelley Munro said...

An interesting set of diseases for the character. I like your index. That will be very helpful :)

Leslie Rose said...

Now that's a PhD I can wrap my head around. Thanks for the interesting menu of diseases. Food for thought. I'll think about it tomorrow.

Jonene Ficklin said...

You know what? I needed that! My previous manuscript has a character with a disease like that that needs a name. Now I have 5 great ones to choose from! Thanks, you made my day!

 
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