Words are all I have
Tempting me to tell
Stories born of hell
And all I have are words.
Writers craft those words
Baring bold their soul
Making others whole
And words are all they have.
Thanks to Audrey Birt for passing me the blogging baton. Am I up for the challenge? Writing provides healing to me, a metastatic breast cancer patient. Baring the soul, sharing the joys and pains, it’s a journaling tonic essential to recovery. Below I share my answers to the personalized questions about writing posed in this tour. To see what earlier bloggers have expressed on this tour, visit the must-read posts by Marie, Philippa, Catherine and Audrey. Each speaks from her heart. The baton has now landed in the Sacramento Valley of northern California, an agricultural heartland.
What am I working on?
I have lots of irons in the fire. Some involve preparing inspirational talks at cancer centers and other venues where I hope to make a difference in patients’ and caregivers’ lives. Some involve writing guest blog posts as well as my own posts. I also craft stories shared in books and magazines such as Fear Not, a devotional compiled by Anne Baxter, and Cure magazine. Other efforts include an e-book I’m writing about living with metastatic breast cancer as a single woman and what others can learn from my life lessons. In addition, I serve as editor on the Board of the Lymphedema Advocacy Group, which lobbies Congress to pass a bill requiring Medicare to pay for needed compression garments for lymphedema patients.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I write from the perspective of a metastatic breast cancer patient with lymphedema, a lonely road less traveled by breast cancer survivors. Rather than focus on clinical aspects of treatment or the travesties of pink merchandizing (which really do need to be addressed), I tend to personalize my story, to make it real to the general reading audience. My writing occasionally steers in the direction of advocacy, particularly regarding lymphedema. But mostly my muse inspires me to share unexpected joys and hopes found in the day-to-day grind of living. I’m tempted to complain about the frustrations that continue to plague my existence as further side effects of treatment take their toll. But I choose more often to reveal gems in the rough, aspects of life that could easily be overlooked when aches and fatigue seek to speak the loudest.
Why do I write what I do?
My personality tends toward a realist, coated with a clear veneer of optimism. I don’t believe that a positive attitude will determine the outcome for a breast cancer survivor, but I feel better when I infuse myself each morning with a healthy dose of optimism. Rose-colored glasses may seem simplistic, but I believe my readers would benefit from knowing that a Stage IV diagnosis of breast cancer does not necessarily equal impending death. They may never read about or know anyone else who lives with this diagnosis. My goal is to educate caregivers, family and friends so they are more equipped to engage and instill hope in their patients and loved ones. As a woman of faith, I also believe that expressing gratitude for the small things in life can go a long way toward forgiving oneself and others for any perceived cause of this disease. Whether blame is real or imagined, we can beat ourselves up, and others, too, for causing stressful environments that upset patients and survivors. Placing focus on gratefulness for life and its little pleasures can dissipate some of that negative energy.
How does my writing process work?
There is no rhyme or reason to how and when I write. Some days I exude enormous amounts of energy, and other days? Well, not so much. When the spirit moves me and I come upon a suitable topic (from current news, other blogs, articles, my daily victories), I sit down at my desktop and pound away on the keyboard. In polishing and re-polishing my rough draft, I sometimes surprise myself by working straight through, proofing as I go, and then posting at the end of a marathon session. Sometimes I’ll forget to eat! Other times I let the rough draft stew overnight in my Crockpot brain and serve it up within the next few days. When I prepare a talk, I especially benefit from taking extra time to mull it over as it evolves from outline to outright speech. But if a writing deadline looms, the end-result must follow quickly. Deadlines can be beneficial, however, even for someone in my condition, because they put a fire under me, allowing the creative juices to flow freely.
Together with his partner Sarah Horton, Ronnie has run their creative enterprise, a sense of place, since 1995. Ronnie writes about observations of life in Liverpool, England, walking, and other topics he’s interested in. His posts are filled with incredible photographs that come alive with his engaging captions and wit.
This blog is Renn’s way of dealing with the emotional and physical ups and downs of breast cancer and reconstruction in all its gory glory, while finding the humor whenever she can. She provides cancer resources under “Want to Know More?”. Her writing will educate, inspire and lift up all who seek to enrich their lives through reading.