I guess you could say I come from a family of writers. My dad started his career as a finance journalist and one of my sisters is a sports writer for The Australian. Both my older sister and I married journalists and our younger sister is the author of several academic works.
Writing is writ large in our family, so to speak. I’ve have made a career out of it as a public relations practitioner for almost 30 years, but never in my wildest dreams did I think writing would actually save my life.
On Tuesday December 17th 2013 I was diagnosed with an infiltrating lobular carcinoma in my left breast. Up until that moment I’d thought I was pretty in tune with my body, but this was a bolt from the blue. There’s no breast cancer in my family. I have three sisters, two older and one younger, none of whom have been diagnosed with anything more than an easily dispatched colorectal polyp. This prompted my son, 13 at the time, to ask the aunt who looked after him while I was in surgery, “Why did it have to be my mum?” Why indeed.
In a bid to make sense of the what was happening to me I started writing a series of blogposts entitled My Big Breast Adventure while undergoing (if you’ll pardon the expression) the ‘pointy-end’ of treatment throughout 2014 and 2015.
There were 32 posts during this time and while I didn’t set out to deliberately shock, some of the headlines were a bit provocative, including Cut, Poison, Burn and Laugh, Dying and Other Inconveniences and What the FEC? the latter in honour of the acronym given to the chemo cocktail many breast cancer sufferers are forced to endure. It stands for Fluorouracil (also known in oncology circles as 5FU – yes, you heard right), Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide – FEC for short. Who knew oncologists had a sense of humour?
I confess, my reasons for blogging while going through treatment were purely selfish. I was trying to rationalise the tremendous shock of becoming a cancer patient, while finding a way to keep my tribe informed about my progress. I literally didn’t have the energy to return all the wonderful phone calls, texts and emails I received at the time.
At first my posts attracted the kinds of comments one might expect – messages of love and support in the main. But as I progressed people started relating my musings on this ‘adventure’ to things they were going through in their own lives – an acrimonious divorce, the death of a parent, a crisis at work.
While the blogs were a fantastic form of personal therapy, the comments and reactions from readers provided the greatest healing of all.
And now the whole shebang is available as a book entitled My Big Breast Adventure or How I Found the Dalai Lama in My Letterbox. I, for one, hope that many more people might be helped by hearing my story.
And if you would like to secure your very own copy, For Pit Sake Publishing will be offering a 10% discount to anyone who uses the coupon code 'WRITING' at the checkout in the For Pity Sake online shop.