For a while and not that long ago, I really didn’t think I was going to live much longer. It was during the pandemic lockdown. An unexpected family crisis hit hard (and remains unresolved to this day) and then I was diagnosed with an extremely rare and aggressive cancer, Stage 3.
During that time, I felt like I was juggling different kinds of pain and I was exhausted by it. There were days I was so depressed that I was catatonic. My body was paralyzed for hours at a time. When I could move again, my limbs were stiff, sore and heavy. Every step was painful and awkward and felt like something I shouldn’t be doing.
I contemplated my death, but not the slow and painful death that one would generally associate with cancer. I thought about simply ending everything. It was, frankly, the worst time of my life. I was sick of me.
Then something happened. I was soaking in a hot bath, trying to ease the pains from chemo and family, and I found myself making a decision. It wasn’t one I expected to make, but I did it. I decided I was going to live. I decided I was going to kick the cancer, kick my sad ass depression, and make myself get well so that I could do all the things I always wanted to do.
Once I made that decision, I was certain I would survive the cancer. I was certain I would not die of sorrow. I was certain that I was going to finish my novel (the highest item on my list) and get it to a point where I would, at last, love it. Not just finish it – I had done that much twice before. But the result was – meh. I wanted to really love the story, not just tell it.
Then the steps
I finished my chemo treatments. I had a mastectomy and various physical therapies. I went to a chemo rehab clinic.
After the chemo brain-fog lifted, I rewrote the novel for a third time, starting once again from page one. At last, I felt I finally found my voice. I’d managed to create a work of literary fiction, of magical realism. That was a surprise for me.
After family read through the story and gave their feedback, the next draft was ready for the next step. I hired a professional editor and then made my edits again.
A few days ago, my test reader gave me her input on the manuscript. I feel so lucky to have found her and her perspectives on the story were a constant surprise to me. There’s a certain thrill and shine in hearing that a certain scene, something I actually wrote, made a fangirl squeal into her pillow.
I’m making small edits this week and polishing the ever-dreaded chapter outline. Then I’ll be submitting my packet to a literary agent. Just one, my top choice. I hope she squeals into her pillow, and then gives me a call.