An Accidental Author
One of my favorite quotes is “life happens to us when we’re busy making plans” by Allen Saunders. Life has a way of surprising you, as things don’t always turn out the way you expect them.
Although I always liked to write, I did not aspire to be a writer. I did keep a journal during my early life. However, with my rural middle-class childhood, it was downright boring. I remember winning a writing contest in the 11th grade by sharing a sad tale of my dog. In college, there were so many research papers that by the time I finished, I was burnt out with writing. Then I joined the Army. Since creative writing wasn’t exactly encouraged, for many years I generally only wrote when I had to.
How I became a writer
So why did I become, as I like to call myself, "an accidental author?”
A few years ago, I was loving life. I had retired from the Army and had a great government civilian job. My role as a mom; chauffeur, cheerleader, and primary cook, defined me. I had been a competitive long-distance runner most of my life and planned to continue with my goal of running in the Senior Games when I was in my 80s. I was just where I wanted to be.
However, in 2016, my intended direction hit a significant roadblock that completely altered my future. First came the diagnosis of polycythemia vera (PV), a rare, progressive, and incurable blood cancer. I adjusted to this shattering blow. However, I was dealt another setback with the diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma, or breast cancer, only a couple months later.
The remainder of that year and a good portion of the following was a continuous blur of chemotherapy, surgeries, extensive lab-work, and procedures. My focus was on survival and survive I did. Once I finished treatments and began feeling better, I started wondering where do I go from here? This cancer detour changed me and provided a completely different perspective on life. I realized that my time on this earth might be more limited than I had originally intended. Therefore, I wanted to do something with my “new normal” to help others impacted with cancer and make a difference. I just wasn’t sure what that “something” was yet.
Moving on through writing
In 2018, I attended the inaugural Voices of Recovery Workshop. This was a joint venture between Gemini Ink and Curtain Up Cancer Foundation in San Antonio. A professional writer worked with me and gave me some great pointers on telling my story. Up until that time, I had kept everything private in a journal and hadn’t discussed my arduous struggles with anyone. Despite my initial apprehension, I discovered that sharing my cancer story was very therapeutic and kind of a rush too.
I continued writing personal essays and short stories about my experiences.
On a whim, I uploaded a story called I Wore Red to Blood-Cancer.com. I heard back from one of the editors shortly after my submission asking if I would like to be a regular contributor. I immediately said yes. When I saw that first story published on the site. I was thrilled. Now, a year later I have had more than a dozen short cancer stories, most with a touch of humor, published on the website. I am hopeful that my stories are assisting others dealing with cancer and encouraging them to push ahead despite their own cancer struggles.
All over the place
My writing is all over the place now. I continue to compose stories for Blood-Cancer.com. I also conduct research and write technical articles related to polycythemia vera for an organization called PV Reporter. As a patient advocate for Rare Across America, I’ve had the opportunity to tell my cancer story and discuss issues affecting the rare disease community with Congressmen and Senators.
I even co-wrote a few songs. One in particular, called You Can Go, is a peppy song about moving forward with cancer.
Despite everything life has thrown at me these past few years, I am back to loving it. I may have not planned to be a writer but I am so blessed that the vicissitudes of life lead me down this path.
How long did it take to be properly diagnosed?