Adventures in book writing

I am writing from my favourite library in the city, staring out the large window at the grey and rainy day outside. I have been leaving the comfort of my home every day, exploring different spaces to write, and it seems the most obvious of them all, the library, really does beat any other option. No pressure to buy a beverage or overpriced pastry, several empty electrical outlets, and a general understanding that silence is golden. Not to mention, being surrounded by books, which makes for a pleasant atmosphere when attempting to write a book. Three cheers for libraries.

Although I have been writing every day, I have written very little, considering how quickly words tend to flow out of me. I’m finding it difficult to really tell “my story” as a proper story. To know where to start, what to include, what’s interesting and what’s a complete bore.

I also get a bit discouraged when I realize how many cancer memoirs are out there. It seems it’s extremely common for people with cancer, specifically women with breast cancer, to write a book about their experience. But what keeps me motivated are a few things:

A lot of these books aren’t written well. There, I said it. Sorry, but just because you had cancer does not mean you are now a writer.

A lot of these books are written like survival or “how-to” guides. How to get through chemo, how to tell your kids, etc. etc. And while that’s all great, I don’t see myself writing any such guide, or telling anyone how to deal with his/her cancer. All I want to do is simply tell a story. My story.

A lot of these books are written by older men and women. Even some of the ones I found by younger authors were still written by people older than I am.

A lot of these books seriously lack humour, and conversely, some are so lighthearted that to me, they don’t really show the full picture of what it is to live with cancer. There are lots of female-centered cancer memoirs that try to emulate a Sex and the City vibe. Cancer can be sexy! I kept my feisty, feminine spirit the whole time! Cancer has nothing on me! If you’ve been reading along, you will know that I am not that person… at all. Cancer is shit, especially when you’re a young adult, and I have no intention of shielding anyone from its realities. I think there’s a way to be dark, and truthful, and humourous. And I don’t believe there are too many people who have managed to do this.

And lastly, what I keep telling myself is this: My story is uniquely mine and no one else’s. It doesn’t matter if a million people have chronicled their disease. No one is me, inside my head. As much as there are many commonalities, we all experience life and its struggles very differently. What if JK Rowling had said to herself, “There have been too many books about wizards and magic, it’s all been done before.” You guys, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter. And a world without Harry Potter is just not a world I want to live in.

So, that’s my pep talk for the day. Maybe it will inspire you to do something you’re not sure you’ll be any good at. Or maybe it will just inspire you to buy my book, some day, a long time from now, when it is complete. And I’d be okay with that; if there’s anything you can infer from the fact that I am in a library, it’s that I’d welcome a little financial boost in my life. And then maybe instead of the one bagel I purchased, I would go wild and purchase two bagels. TWO BAGELS.

Dream big, friends.

Scattered thoughts

Some thoughts from my very tired mind:

  • Today I saw multiple incidents where strangers were yelling at each other and saying nasty things in the street. A streetcar rider mad at an automobile driver. A biker mad at a pedestrian. Everyone just mad at the world, at everyone, and everything. And you know what? These days, mad people are what make me… well, mad. Sometimes I wish I could just touch someone and they’d get a quick glimpse into the hell that has been much of the past year for me and my husband. And then maybe they would think, oh geez, this really isn’t worth getting that angry over. If you have your health, and you have at least one person in your life who wants to be around you at least some of the time, then as far as I’m concerned, you have it pretty good. Can we all just stop hating each other and hating the world for one second? Seriously. Stop. Life is good.

  • Yesterday I participated in a video that will be shown during the first night of the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers walk. After we were finished, I was asked if I would be the speaker at the closing ceremonies of the Walk at the Rogers Centre, and represent all the survivors. I was really honoured and said yes, and asked if instead of reading from a script, I could write it myself. I don’t really think reading someone else’s words will sound anything like me, or necessarily be what I would want to say. So now I’ll have to think of what I want to say. I am not worried about writing it. I love writing speeches. The thing I was most excited for about having a wedding was getting to write a speech (besides the whole getting married thing, I liked that too). So I should be okay in that area. I am mostly worried about being a huge sweaty mess and having my eyebrows melt off my face. Or going completely blank and just saying, “Breast cancer sucks!!!” and having everyone throw tomatoes at my head.
  • I’m thinking of writing a book. Just thinking about it. I have a lot of people really pushing me to do it. So I guess I’m in the early planning stages. In other words, I have written nothing. Well, besides this entire blog, which I guess is something. But there is so much more to say, and such a longer story to tell. I just don’t think I have the emotional stamina to deal with it right now, since I’m trying hard to NOT think about cancer as much as I can. So I might leave it alone for a bit, and tackle it when I’m ready. I’ve already imagined it being turned into a screenplay, and I’ve thought about what I would say in my Oscar acceptance speech. I realize this is jumping ahead a bit and I should probably attempt to write a sentence or two before buying a fancy gown. But go big or go home, right? Right.
  • I went back to work this week on a part-time schedule. It was a bit overwhelming as I had to try to absorb a lot of new information in a short amount of time. But I think I’ll get the hang of it again after a bit more time. I refuse to allow myself to get stressed, or to let anyone else’s stress rub off on me. I can’t really afford to be stressed. And I kind of have this new life perspective now, where it isn’t too difficult for me to separate what is truly worth getting in a panic over vs. what is not. Pretty much almost everything falls into the latter category.
  • I’ve been buying some clothes lately, because it felt necessary after wearing pretty much nothing but pajamas and sweatpants for a year. I remember after I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t bring myself to shop and didn’t want to buy any clothing. It felt pointless, like maybe I wouldn’t live long enough to wear the clothes or maybe I’d never have a need for regular clothes again, or never like the way I looked in anything. I didn’t want to be dead, with a bunch of new clothes, and have to leave my family to deal with getting rid of all them. Clearly, my mind was in a pretty dark state. But it ain’t there anymore. I love clothes. I want more. MORE MORE MORE.
  • Today I went to a check-up at the hospital, where three different people looked at and squished my boobs. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I saw so many scared women, clearly only at the beginning of their “journey”. You can usually tell by who has long hair. I remember being that scared girl those first few months, sitting in the waiting room, wanting to cry in the corner and be pretty much anywhere else. And I’d look at other ladies with short hair, who clearly had just finished their treatment, and I was in awe of them, wondering if I’d ever make it to that point. And as I sat there today, with my almost-pixie hair, feeling confident and healthy, I realized I was at that point. I am now the girl that others are staring at, wondering if they’ll make it over to the other side. Wondering how I survived. Truthfully, I don’t know how I did. But somehow I made it. I am part of the short-hair club. I am someone others look to for hope and inspiration. If they only knew that I laugh when people fall down, or when someone farts, then maybe they wouldn’t feel so inspired. But that can be our secret.