Published in the January 22, 2016 edition.


It’s been a long while since I wrote my last Lowe Zone. For those of you who don’t know, I underwent emergency surgery last Aug. 8 and spent the next 48 days at Mass. General recovering. This was followed by another three weeks at a rehabilitation center.

When she learned about my illness, a Wakefield Daily Item reader told me I was “one in a million.” She got that right. I am one in a million. But not in the way you think. I am one in a million because post-surgery I was diagnosed with a condition that only one in a million people get every year. Without radical surgery, the illness is always fatal.

The ordeal, as I’m come to think of it, got its start last winter when a co-worker and I were comparing notes about weight gain and grumbling about the frigid, snowy weather that kept us indoors. Visits to the gym were few and far between and I was not liking that I wasn’t moving around enough. All my co-worker and I wanted to do after work was go home, change into comfy clothes and eat soup.

All I can say now is, “Be careful what you wish for.” At the time, I was thinking about how nice it would be to have a tummy tuck. I even went so far as to Google how much one would cost. I ended up getting what I wished for — and much more.

As the winter progressed, so did our weight. One day, my co-worker suggested that we track our calories. She brought a scale to work and on Monday mornings we weighed in. No sooner did our weight loss campaign get under way than she started to shed those extra pounds. I, on the other hand, continued to gain and gain and gain – all in the area of my mid-section. By May, I looked six months pregnant.

I made an appointment with my doctor and met with a nurse practitioner about the problem. She agreed that I looked like I would be giving birth soon but passed it off as a problem many women of a certain age share.

A month later I was back at my doctor’s office because I had gained another inch around my waist, and I knew something was up. This time, I met with a different nurse practitioner. She suspected a lactose intolerance and swore me off all things dairy. Bye-bye strawberry yogurt. So long cream in my coffee.

In late July, a cool spell visited the region, cool enough to wear jeans. But when I tried to zip them up, I got an unpleasant surprise. The zipper would not go up past two notches. I took off my jeans and stood in front of my mirror. What I saw was alarming. I now looked like I was ready to give birth.

My doctor – rather than a nurse practitioner – saw me right away when I called to report this. Tests were ordered and fear replaced the smile on my doctor’s face when she told me the results. Four days later, I was at Mass. General being wheeled into a surgical suite and for the next 12 hours, two top Boston surgeons used every skill and instrument in their possession to keep me alive. No easy feat, given that I lost 21 pints of blood during surgery. Two weeks later, I was back in the OR for a second round of slicing and dicing.

When the pathology report came back, my surgeon taught me two words I had never heard before, and I would bet that 99 percent of the public has never heard them, either. I was diagnosed with Pseudomyxoma Peritonei – an extremely rare form of cancer that starts in the appendix and spreads to the peritoneum. Left untreated, it’s a death sentence. There are three tiers of PMP, as it’s commonly called. Aggressive, non-aggressive and a hybrid of the two. Mine, I am happy to report, is non-aggressive and my prognosis is excellent.

My surgeon said, “Girlfriend, you and I are going to grow old together.”

“I’ll second that,” I replied.

My recovery took longer than anyone expected, and I thought it only fair that I give notice that I would not be returning to work anytime soon. Maybe it would be better for the company to just replace me. But just when I thought my writing career had come to an end due to this unwelcome illness, it appears that another chapter lies ahead.

Just last week, Wakefield Daily Item owner and publisher Glenn Dolbeare called a meeting with me. Social news needed to be reported, he said. He wanted me to reach out to clubs and organizations in Wakefield and write their stories. He wanted me back. I could have cried tears of joy. What a way to start the new year!

So here I am, ready to write about everything social that goes on in Wakefield — from Rotary Club news to what’s happening with The Scholarship Foundation and everything in between.

People in Wakefield may have wondered why my byline suddenly disappeared from this newspaper. Now you know. I struggled over whether to divulge my health information with readers but, after careful consideration, it’s important to share.

Here is the lesson I learned: Pay attention to your body. It talks to you. Insist that tests be taken when something feels really off. Demand to see only a doctor if you suspect something serious. Your life might depend on it. If I had not persisted in calling my doctor, I would not be writing this column.

Now, let’s get back to business. You tell me about what’s going on in your social clubs and organizations and I’ll be more than happy to write about it.

Contact me at or call me at home at 781-246-9863.