One of my favorite days of the year is October first. Not only is it my husband’s birthday, but it is the day I mark to bring the Halloween decorations up from the basement. Halloween is at the top of my list for fun holidays. I dress for the Trick-or-Treaters and we pipe spooky music out of the upstairs window. My outdoor decorations are on the fun side rather than the creepy. I love the tiny tykes who are out for the first time in their princess crowns, ninjas, or ghost costumes.
October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It doesn’t score high on my “fun holiday” list but, being a survivor it has risen to an important level for me. I went through treatment in 2015 and three years later I am thrilled that I am still cancer free.
A couple of questions were posed to me (Insecure Writers Support Group) about major life events and writing. The exact questions were: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?
Breast Cancer was definitely a major life event, and here is how it effected my writing – Cancer crushed it.
Early in 2014 I had changed my focus to writing. I attended Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference starting my uphill learning curve to write and publish a book. My brain was overloaded with the amount of information I had to absorb, but I was in for the long haul and I was happy.
Then late in November 2014 I found the lump. My entire life crumbled around me as I collapsed on the floor weeping. Cancer? Me? How? Why? Treatment began in earnest on Christmas Eve.
Did this event affect my writing? I’d say a very loud YES. Did writing help me through it? Again, I yell, YES. But, it helped me through it in a way most people aren’t expecting. When I am emotionally raw I do not write about it. I don’t keep a journal. More often than not I collapse inward curled in a ball. Once the pain subsides I will reawaken moving on in my life.
Cancer was a big blow not only to my emotional well-being, but my physical as well. One of the big side effects that many non-cancer people are unaware of is “chemo-brain”. When a patient receives chemotherapy not only is the entire body decimated, the brain is too. Sometimes the damage lasts for years afterward.
Chemo-brain effects memory, cognition, problem solving, logic, and an array of other things that happen in the old noggin. Trying to write while impaired was an immense challenge for me. The harder I tried to think of a word the further out of reach that word went. My brain was thick slog. Nouns, verbs, adverbs, sentence structure, and spelling were not just elusive at times, but completely gone. I remember many days not being able to remember enough about sentence structure to make much more than babble.
This highly frustrating process of writing babble is what helped my brain begin healing. I forced myself to write a little bit here and there no matter how awful the story progressed. I wrote short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and all sorts of other garbage just to find the words again – making mental connections.
Three years later the struggle to write has lessened. When I need a word I can more easily find it. There are still residual mis-connections up there, but my doctor assures me that this will eventually pass. Keep writing and keep healing.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I ask you to take the time and make a contribution to the organization of your choice. My personal favorite is the American Cancer Society. If you would like to read my cancer story you can link to part one, Dread in the Dark, here.
I also hope that you have a very Spook-tacular Halloween!!
Until next time….
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