My new book Making it Through Chemotherapy was published today! I chose February 23 because it is the day I lost my mum. Today marks three years since she died.
Although my mum's ovarian cancer was deemed "incurable," she underwent four years of chemotherapy to extend the quality and quantity of her life. Despite the various chemo cocktails and grueling side effects, she still chose to help others. As my brother puts it, "Mom was an amazing testament that despite horrible circumstances, you are able to choose how you react to them. She continued to bless and serve those around her each and every day."
I wanted to make this book to share hope and encouragement with others who find their lives hijacked by chemotherapy. I don't want others to live a life of desperation or depression. I'd like them to know that even joy can be found in the hardest experiences.
I must admit, this was a difficult book for me to make. I had to push past a lot of fear.
First, I was concerned that the book would discourage cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy because my mum died from cancer. I had to move past this fear and focus on the true message of the book: that you can choose how you respond to the difficult circumstances in your life. My mother knew she was going to die, and she still underwent chemotherapy just so she could have more time.
Second, I worried that my book would seem less credible because I have not gone through chemotherapy. My first book, Grief is a Mess, was about grief - a subject I know all too well because I lost my mum. I was never worried if people would agree/disagree with the book because I knew it represented my personal experience. However, with Making it Through Chemotherapy, I don't have that experience. I have the experience of witness. I eventually just had to move past the fear of the "other" and tell my mum's experience anyways.
Third, I worried that my book would offend individuals going through chemotherapy. Originally, I intended for my book to be full of humorous illustrations - similar to my first book about grief. When I approached my boyfriend's aunt (who was undergoing chemotherapy) about my book idea, she told me she didn't find anything about chemotherapy very funny. That definitely put my book on hold.
But a month or so later, she called and said she had some experiences that were so crazy - they were funny. We sat down together and had a beautiful discussion that shaped the foundation of my book. Now, Making it Through Chemotherapy is peppered with humor, but focuses primarily on learning to be grounded.
Fourth, I struggled with the memories I have of my mum doing chemotherapy. There were times she wasn't treated fairly by others. There were times doctors made mistakes or nurses acted deplorably. There were times I wasn't there to support my mum. There were times that the chemotherapy side effects were unbearable and my mum was rushed to the hospital.
For my book, I struggled with how to stay true to my mum's experience, but also capture her incredible attitude. My therapist really helped me with this one and suggested that I stop trying to represent my mum's exact chemotherapy experience and instead create a book that honors my mum. This gave me enough freedom to pick some of the most important parts of chemotherapy and then focus on what my mum would want others to know.
Overal, it was an emotional experience to make my book. I started in July 2016 and finally finished today - 7 months later. There were times I cried as I remembered my mum's chemotherapy experiences. There were days I was pleasantly surprised by how well I captured an aspect of chemotherapy in an illustration. There were times that others told me my book was too negative. All of these experiences helped me to dig in deeper to myself and change the book for the better.
I grew closer to my mum through making this book and worked through a lot of my grief. Although I still harbor some concern about how the book will be received, I can truly say I created a book that honors my mum and would make her proud. I'll end with my "About the Author" page from my book that shows a pic of my mum and I: