Story blogs

Facing a disappointing response to my cancer story

While being treated for a rare bone cancer in hospital, I often lost myself in fiction and storytelling – anything to escape the grim reality that I was personally experiencing.

I have always enjoyed writing, in fact one of the first steps I took after receiving my diagnosis was to create a blog and share the journey with my community.

Then somewhere along the way, in addition to following the blog, I developed an urge to write a book about my experience – about how my life was hijacked by cancer at the age of 30 and how I was miraculously able to defy false odds after giving a survival rate of less than 10%.

Part of me secretly hoped that writing might offer me a new career path as I faced a post-cancer identity crisis. I spent over a year devouring every writing course on Masterclass, joining writing groups, and studying the craft.

As my health improved, I sat down and got to work, working hours every day with the encouragement of my close friends and family. About a year later, I finished a draft of my story. The process was not only extremely cathartic, helping me purge all the terrifying events I had just endured, I also found it creatively rewarding.

In retrospect, I realize now that I experienced a dissociation that protected me throughout the writing process, as if heartbreaking events were happening to someone else. However, when I asked a few close friends and family to read the book, they couldn’t contain the hard-hitting emotions so easily.

Many expressed that they loved me but just couldn’t relive it all. I even caught someone near me pretending to read it, but once I engaged with them it became clear they were letting me run. Others came back with comments that the content was a bit too dark, if I tried to make it read more widely. And on top of that, a fellow writer relayed comments she had received from publishing agents about not wasting their time trying to get books about drug addicts or cancer patients published due to a significant glut in the market.

Eventually I stopped working on the book and closed on the topic to block out the feeling of rejection.

There was the aspect of wanting to pass on valuable information to other cancer fighters, and my disappointment that others didn’t appreciate the creative elements that I worked hard to refine in the draft – how I presented scenes, introduced tension and humor, misdirection. Yes, cancer is depressing, but my experience was crazy enough to leave me room to have fun with the narrative side (all leading to a happy and inspiring ending).

In a way, it empowered me; I suffered miserably, but now I can tap into my inner Alfred Hitchcock as I guide readers through the chain of events.

I always care to pass on the tips and tricks I learned; that’s why I’m still writing these articles and I’ve also been working on a simpler guide – less storytelling, more facts about how I tackled each situation and managed to improve my health after doctors n have more answers. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it hurts to feel that my hard work is not being considered by others.

It sucks but at the same time I have to remind myself that these people literally went through hell with me for years and just because I was able to disassociate myself in the storytelling doesn’t mean they can protect while reliving the destructive events towards someone they love.

I guess like anything cancer-related, it’s complicated.

And who knows, maybe one day I’ll try to edit it.

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