What author hasn’t heard this question before? Usually, the answer is there’s a little bit of me in every character I write. That’s been fairly true of me, until now. In my new release, Up the Ante, there’s a lot of me in Jordan Stryker. A lot.
First of all, there’s poker. I love poker. I’m not really good at it, but I love playing. I’ve played in a couple of tournaments at local casinos, but never finished higher than 36th. It was however, my love of poker that led me to write this story. It soon became much more than a story about a poker player though.
When I first started thinking about Jordan and Ashley, the only thing I knew for sure was that they had both been in law enforcement, and they’d had an affair several years earlier. As I began writing, it soon became clear to me that Jordan had Multiple Sclerosis. She was diagnosed with the disease at the age of forty, just as I had been. Forty is fairly old to get this diagnosis, as it’s usually found when someone is in their twenties or thirties.
I don’t take Jordan through the process of being diagnosed, mainly because it’s a long process. When she finds out she has MS, Jordan resigns from her job as an FBI agent to pursue a career as a professional poker player. Sadly, I was never an FBI agent, nor do I have the confidence or skill level to play poker professionally.
It’s not an easy diagnosis. I went through months of testing—MRIs, Cat scans, nerve tests, and even a spinal tap. That one was fun, let me tell you. Because I was diagnosed at 40, I also had to have diagnostic testing to determine if I’d had a heart attack, or even a mini stroke. Basically, they rule out everything else it might be before coming to the conclusion it’s MS.
It’s a scary diagnosis. The only reference I had of the disease was the wife of a man I worked for a few years before. I don’t know how long she’d been living with MS when I first met her, but she was confined to a wheelchair. She had a nurse to care for her while her husband was working, because she couldn’t do anything for herself. And that was the first thing I thought of when the neurologist finally gave me my diagnosis. There’s no cure, and really, there’s very little research done on the disease because not enough people have it to justify the resources it would take. That makes it what they call an “orphan” disease. They don’t even know what causes MS.
A lot of Jordan’s fears are my fears as well. If I’d been single, I have no doubt I would have kept people from getting too close to me. And I also wonder sometimes if I’ve been given the wrong diagnosis. But inevitably I’ll have a relapse, and then those doubts go out the window.
As it was, I’d been nine years into a relationship when I got my diagnosis. Cheryl assured me she wasn’t going anywhere, and this year we’ll celebrate nineteen years together, as well as our first wedding anniversary. She really is my rock.
I never intended to write a character with MS. It just wasn’t something I ever thought about doing. Now that it’s done, I’m glad I didn’t walk away from it when I realized Jordan had the disease. It was difficult at times to write the character because so much of her was personal to me. But in the end, because Jordan hit so close to home, she’s become one of my favorite characters. I’m hoping you’ll like her too.