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Jo Clayton

News Update (10/20/97)

by Mark and Elizabeth Bourne

Sorry it's been so long since our last posted report, but frankly there's been little real news to report. And in this case, no news can be considered good news.

Jo has been hospitalized for 14 months now. As reported before, she is as fine as one can be in her circumstances and is feeling well most of the time. Actually, she'd be the first to tell you that she's a damn sight better than anyone--even Jo--thought she would be at this point. The fact that she's not only alive but working and enjoying activities and friends is a great deal more than anyone had hoped for or expected a year ago. She's had her bad days, and a few bad weeks, over the past few months--but little that was unexpected or unusual given the intense artificially induced warfare that's going on within her body.

The only scary times have been during a bout of staph infection that put her in isolation for a while. Where the staph came from was something of a mystery, and seems to have come from a "reserve" within her body. Via hindsight, we can see that she was more ill during that time than anyone--even Jo--realized. She felt okay throughout most of the iso--just bored because of the necessary lack of visitors.

Then after a few weeks after iso, the staph reappeared again--that's when her doctors decided that the staph's source must be within Jo herself. She went back into iso for a while, but is out now and the staph is probably under control.

Jo is not currently undergoing standard chemotherapy; rather, she's on a powerful cycle of steroids. So far, the "little green pills," as she calls them, are effective in restricting the growth of her myeloma, with the added benefit of buoying up her mood (fortunately, they're not addictive).

The myeloma is in check. But. She is not in remission and earlier reports--which appeared online in a few places--of new bone growth were erroneous. Some bone growth has occurred, but only a little and in response to a cracked sternum. Her bones are still very fragile. There are days when she is just plain tired and down--part of the "crash" that comes at more-or-less predictable intervals with her treatment.

The good news is that she plays a mean game of Scrabble, still tootles about in her electric wheelchair (complete with pinwheel "propellor"), goes on outings to nearby restaurants, and has developed a fondness for Kentucky Fried Chicken (dark meat only). She's also still writing, focusing primarily on short stories commissioned for anthologies. Her third Drums book is in early but ongoing progress. Jo recently gave a reading of her work to a roomful of fellow hospital residents, and attends groups recreations of painting and other activies.

Drum Calls, the second of the Drum novel series, is now out and receiving good reviews. Jo loves the cover art.

She received a pleasant surprise not long ago when, out of the blue, Harlan and Susan Ellison sent her some interesting information related to her condition. Other friends, acquaintances, and strangers send or deliver books, tapes, or simply "hello" cards. It's that kind of touching gesture that has meant a great deal to her over the past 14 months, more than I can express here.

She's getting "wired" for the Internet, primarily for book research purposes, secondarily to communicate more easily with people. She occasionally pops in to her topic on Genie's Science Fiction Round Table, though regrets that she hasn't done so much lately. It has been suggested that a Web site devoted to her be created, and I would be happy to contribute information (including her bibliography) to such an enterprise. Jo has offered to decorate the site with her own artwork. Any takers?

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