DCIS Breast Cancer, 8-year survivor
Author and Blogger, www.lynnehartke.com
“You are not famous enough to write a book about cancer.”
Although not phrased with those exact words, the inference was there. Loud and clear. From other bloggers. From publishing agents. From authors. From experts in the industry. They didn’t mean to be cruel, they wanted me to be realistic.
With 1.7 million people diagnosed with cancer each year, why would a traditional publisher be interested in my story? With countless actors, sports figures, and big name entrepreneurs with a large platform attached to their names — who also had cancer — why would a publisher choose me over them?
In reality, there was no reason to expect they would.
It was like the playground game of Red Rover, Red Rover, where I stood with hands clasped in a long line of participants, hoping that someone would call my name.
Red Rover, Red Rover, send Billy right over.
It was safer to remain in line shuffling my shoe in the playground dirt. But wasn’t the point of the game to be called?
To make matters worse, I hadn’t had chemo.
“What! You didn’t have chemo?” I heard the censure in the question.
Even cancer halls have their rules.
Yes, I had two surgeries. Yes, I had radiation. Yes, I had five years of an estrogen-blocking medication. Yes, I had exhaustion and fear and facing my mortality and four children who thought their mother would die, and a hysterectomy due to complications, but…
Not only was I not famous enough, I didn’t have a horrific enough story.
But I picked up my pen. After my treatment was finished. After my dad and mom were both diagnosed with cancer and went to chemo together. After my dad died from melanoma. After we moved Mom to Arizona to live with us. After she died—nine months after Dad—from ovarian cancer. After all that, I picked up my pen and wrote.
I wrote about my treatment. Of Dad’s. Of Mom’s. I took classes at a local community college with students younger than my own children as I developed the craft of being a better writer.
“The purpose of writing is to tell the story that nobody else can tell,” my professor said. “Or are afraid to tell.”
I put words to my fear as I wrote about caring for aging parents and watching the final chapter of their lives. I wrote of the terrible day when the cancer moved to Dad’s brain. Of the appointment when the doctor told Mom she was out of options. Of falling in love with my husband all over again as I watched him care for my mother. I wrote to get it all out of my head and put it all on paper, to tell the story that drove our family for months and years.
One day our oldest daughter stopped by the house after a college class. She was working on a paper about the after-effects of cancer on her life as a daughter and granddaughter. “My instructor wants to know why anyone would be interested in my story,” she said.
I smiled. “I believe we need more cancer stories, not less.” I encouraged her, “Tell the story nobody else can tell.”
On May 2, 2017, my story: Under a Desert Sky: Redefining Hope, Beauty, and Faith in the Hardest Places was released with Revell/Baker Publishing. I currently teach a two-hour workshop: Why the World Needs Your Cancer Story.
Red Rover, Red Rover, send Lynne right over.