Last year I briefly joined a writing critique group. I had already been writing a book about my cancer experience a year before that and decided joining this type of group would help me become a better writer. Most of their advice was helpful but there was one subject we went round and round on and that was… me not sharing my emotional pain. I was told that I needed to write about the agony and fear I felt when I first learned about the diagnosis and how awful the treatments were. I do admit the treatments sucked and were physically painful, but I never was fearful. I explained to the group that getting angry was my default button, not fear. Then the group leader scolded me for “not dealing with my illness properly”; that’s when I left and never came back.
Its one thing to critique someone’s work but it’s another to critique the way they handle a crises… any crises! What I heard from him was, the emotions I felt were not valid.
Its been several months since I wrote another chapter and the reason is I thought maybe readers are looking for emotional agony and they wouldn’t believe I chose to get pissed off instead. When I was a kid, my dad got mad if I started crying about something. He told me to “toughen up” (his way of raising me had a lot to do with him being a staff sergeant in the Air Force until I was age seven) and if I had to get upset, it was better to get mad. When I grew up, I handled my problems the same way, and if I did shed tears they were angry ones.
We are all different human beings, with different backgrounds (some call it baggage) and we all have different ways of expressing our emotions. There is no right or wrong way and for me, getting angry worked. I felt empowered. I felt invincible! Was I shocked hearing the original diagnosis? Hell yeah! But that shock quickly turned into determination. If I was going out, I was going to put up one hell of a fight!
The first thing I told my team of doctors was to do whatever they needed to kill the cancer and the second was to never say that “word” in my presence. I would not allow that disease to define me. Next, I told my husband and son I needed a positive living environment… no matter what. Tom Petty’s song, “I won’t back down” became my battle cry. I probably played it a 100,000 times over the six months of treatment.
Did I ever feel scared? Yes, but only for a minute. Deep inside I always knew I would beat the c-word. Don’t ask me how, I just knew.
So, now I decided to get back to writing my story and tell my truth, my journey because that’s all I can tell. I have to be truthful, otherwise I’m just bullshitting you and this book should be in the fiction section, not self-help. If you’re looking for emotional pain and suffering, you’ll hate this book but if you want to find out how I survived not only cancer, but the medical professions’ red tape and insurance games, then you might learn information that will help you or a loved one get through it. I wrote about what worked for me. You have to figure out what makes sense to you; in other words find your truth and stick with it.
Be well and never let anyone tell you how your supposed to feel.