15 October 2014

life after cancer: 12 lessons learned

 
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but for a survivor like me, it is every day of the year. If you or someone you love has been touched by a major illness, you understand its hold is far-reaching, influencing anything and everything most take for granted. Of course, in the past two years of remission I have had highs and lows. Some days are simply better than others and sadly, there is no warning as to which days those might be. But throughout it all, my experience has kept me grounded in reality. Humbled in the miracles of survival. Grateful for second chances.
 
When I entered the fight against this disease, I had a strong idea of how I must think (positive!), act (proactive!), and feel (optimistic!). However, I had no idea just how much I would learn. And change. In many ways, the lessons learned make me feel an odd sense of debt to my cancer. It taught me to live again. Become an informed participant rather than a spectator. It served as a heady reminder to love harder. It helped me believe in miracles. Never underestimate the strength of the human spirit. I placed my faith in the hands of others, and they did not let me down. Cancer did not simply change who I was ... it created a better version of me.
 
Lesson 1:
The fear of its return never truly leaves.
 
Lesson 2:
It is not only important but necessary to laugh at ridiculous things.
 
Lesson 3:
Nothing (no matter how painful or joyful) lasts forever.
 
Lesson 4:
Second chances are granted for a reason. Find the reason.
 
Lesson 5:
I continue to take myself too seriously and that is okay.
 
Lesson 6:
Doing what I love (writing) has become harder than ever.
 
Lesson 7:
Nothing is more important than my family and close friends. Nothing.
 
Lesson 8:
I have not miraculously transformed into Pollyanna. Translation: things still royally piss me off.
 
Lesson 9:
No one is immune to pain, heartache, or loss so be patient and kind.
 
Lesson 10:
Things are never perfect, but I am always blessed.
 
Lesson 11:
Even when life seems to stop, it goes on everywhere around us. Pull strength from the normalcy, its continuity.
 
Lesson 12:
Anything is possible.
 
I am not special because I survived cancer, but my story is unique and imperative to how I live my life. The experience demands my respect. And while some may wish to erase the devastation cancer can bring, I view it as worthy of remembrance. I never want to forget.
 
Every woman is at risk
One in eight will get it in their lifetime
Every thirteen minutes a woman dies from breast cancer
It is the leading cancer death ages 15 to 54
96 percent survive with early detection
It is 100 times more common in women than men
 
Be involved: Stand Up To Cancer
Be the cure: Susan G. Komen

23 September 2014

free eBook: SPIRIT


I adore the books I have written and view each as one of my literary children. From a love of writing, they were born. I tried my best to breathe life into the characters in my head. Make their stories known. Craft something from nothing. They are products of my imagination and experience and as such, each book possesses a unique personality. Has its own needs. During their creation, they asked different things from me, and I did my best to oblige.
 
But now, when I think about it, I realize one of my books has been woefully neglected.  Much like a guilty mother, I believe SPIRIT fell through the cracks, particularly in terms of marketing. You see, Spirit had the terrible luck to be published mere days before my diagnosis with breast cancer. Needless to say, I became preoccupied during that time and the year after. And with the subsequent publishing of two more books, one of my children went without.
 
So my current dilemma is how to show Spirit that I really and truly care about its happiness. To prove it is equally as important as the others. [To be honest, it is one of my favorites but do not tell my other books I said that. I will totally deny it.] I need to find a way to share its message with more readers, and the only way I can think to do that is to price it as FREE in digital format. And so here it is ... simply click on a link to download your free eBook and begin reading Spirit in minutes.
 
{Don't have a NOOK? Download free reading apps for tablet, pc, phone HERE!}
 
--Kobo
 
{Available for download in Kindle, EPUB, online, and PDF format!}
 
--Wish you could download from AMAZON?
For now, it stands at its regular price. The free version may or may not appear on their site since it depends on if/when they price-match to other online sites. As of now, this has not happened.
 
Once you are finished with Spirit,
check out its follow-up Revelations (caution: link contains SPOILERS)!

~~HAPPY READING~~

25 August 2014

writer at work


My son has returned for another school year, which means back to writing for me. I typically begin from complete scratch, crafting a fresh story that brewed in my mind during the spontaneous, sun-baked days of summer. This time is different, however. I face (and embrace!) an entirely new challenge. You see, my latest work-in-progress (WIP) is not really new at all. In fact, it is a finished draft of a story I wrote years ago!
 
It is interesting to "re-see" a piece I have previously written. Over time, the plot shifts to new levels. Characters grow, merge, and sadly fall apart. Ideas and images abound in a refreshing way. It is as if I am reading it for the first time yet reuniting with a cherished friend. The tricky part of re-visiting an old project is this: the timing must be exactly right. This story patiently waited in my files for four years. Four years. Whenever I cleaned out files, I ignored it. I kept it, however, because my writerly-mind did not believe it worthy of destruction. It was not great, but it was very good. And although it did not shine (no first draft ever does), it held promise.
 
And so it came to be that I was once again spring cleaning my files when I came across this story. Unlike every other time, I could not ignore it. The pages called to me, and I answered by transferring them to my active folder. Over these summer months, we re-connected. I have jotted pages of notes-what to add, delete, revise. Anxious would not be a strong enough word to describe how I feel. Excited? Yes. Curious? Definitely. A new approach is just what this writer needs. Change is good. Having a rough draft already written is even better. The people and places I stored away years ago now have a path to follow, a purpose. As do I...
 
Want to know more about my latest project? Sneak peek is coming soon!
so updates come right to your email inbox!

17 July 2014

paradise found

You know it was an epic getaway when coming home (even to a house you adore) is depressing. It has been more than a week since our little family experienced a brief escape from the trappings of daily life, and a day has not passed where I long for those moments of...
 
RELAXATION
 
INSPIRATION
 
TRANQUILITY
 
CONTENTMENT
 
BEAUTY
 
HARMONY
 
And who could forget the energy, joy, exploration and of course, love.
 
As I recall the glorious memories we created (many by accident, which are the absolute best), my heart becomes full all over again. It swells, then overflows with immense gratitude. The simple opportunity to disconnect from reality and reconnect with the people I hold dear is the truest form of paradise. And though I miss the warm sand between my toes and the calming music of salty waves, I pause and gaze around my busy home with a smile. Paradise was never really lost, I realize...it can be found every day of the year.
 
Hope you have found yours...

26 June 2014

the hardest time for me as a writer


The heat of summer is the hardest time for me as a writer.

I have three single-spaced pages of notes to work into a complete (yes, complete!) draft of a new book. The story stands ready to be edited and polished. I stand ready to immerse myself within it. And yet, a war rages inside my head. Thoughts of sunshine and fun do battle with the book upon my laptop. However, I know better than to begin a major writing project in the midst of summer. My son is home. All the time. And like the good mother that I am, I enrolled him for sports camps, swimming lessons, nature classes, and more. Week upon week, we will be occupied (except for a long beach vacation which cannot come soon enough). We are still relatively new to this city, and I got a little scared when I realized he would be home. All the time. Without the comfort of our old neighborhood, friends, and routine distractions. I did not want him to be bored. I did not want to be lonely. But now, he is nowhere close to bored nor am I lonely. Our summer has already been full and spontaneous and glorious. And now here I sit, jotting ideas about characters, dialogue, and plot. I really, really want to work on this project. Really.

But I can't.

I know there are parent/writers who rise before dawn and stay up until the wee hours of night just to make time to work and write. I used to be one of those parent/writers. In fact, I wrote whenever I fancied. And I am not afraid to admit that I sometimes did it selfishly. But I do not do that anymore. I cannot do that anymore. If I learned one thing from my bout with cancer (aside from the obvious reminder that life is precious), it was that my time here and now matters. More than ever before, my moments count. And it is because of this unbelievable gift that I no longer work on a major writing project when my son is home for the summer. He is young. School-aged but young enough to still cuddle while watching a movie, young enough to crave the attention of his parents, young enough to enjoy my company. I cannot fritter those moments away. They can never be recovered. Besides, there will come a time (soon, too soon) when he becomes even more independent and drifts to other people and things. I want him to do that - I want to see him thrive and grow into the amazing young man I witness beneath the surface of his goofy grin. But I also want to be here, in this moment, to enjoy the gift of him. If I write during the summer months when he is here with me (all the time), I fear I might miss something. Or possibly nothing.  Regardless, I will not miss it. No regrets, I promised once I rose above the cloud of chemotherapy, surgery, and recovery. No regrets.

So as much as I may want to work, I need my moment in the summer sun - with my son - even more...

 

22 May 2014

there are times when I think I might stop writing



TRUE CONFESSION: There are times when I think I might stop writing. 

This will be my last book, I tell myself. I imagine a life without the creation, editing, publishing, marketing, and headaches which pop up along the way. I disengage from my laptop, dreaming of all the things I could finally do again. Cook elaborate meals which require more time than it does to hit "start". Bake delicious homemade treats rather than run to the bakery. Enjoy long walks. Remodel my home. Tackle the projects I have happily ignored. Perhaps get a real job. Yes, no longer writing books would equal unlimited free time to pursue other activities.
 
Whenever I complete a book and share it with the world, a strange feeling overcomes me. The first few months are nice. Peaceful, even. I utilize my new found free time to accomplish the big tasks put off in favor of work. Doctor appointments are made and more importantly, kept. Long overdue housework is done. I read books for pure pleasure (oh joy!). I get our little family organized again. I submerge myself in the process of being a wife and mother again. I pamper myself again. I breathe again. 

And then...I become lost. Much like an addict, I fidget and become restless. I need to write a blog post, poem, thank you note, grocery list...something! Anything! Of course, I fight the urge as this is usually during the height of summer when my son is home from school. This is our time, and I allow myself spontaneity to not only enjoy his company but the beauty of the season. 

But when the temperatures cool and another school year begins, I cannot help but wonder. Perhaps this will be the year that everything stops? Maybe there is not another story in me, I worry. Or even worse, maybe I will no longer feel the comforting pull to write. This might be it, I think, and in that moment a small amount of relief washes over me. I could be free of it! Yet just as I begin to rejoice, my heart fills with dread because I cannot imagine what my life would be if I was to stop writing. 

TRUE CONFESSION: I don't ever want to find out.