May 2017. The sterile room, the grim faces, the stretching aching silence. The colonoscopy (“unnecessary but just in case”) that didn’t go to plan. An hour later I was walking out of that hospital a very different woman to the one I was previously.
It’s the hangover that never goes away. It’s the nausea at the end of the evening. It’s the headache in the morning that blitzes your consciousness. It’s a knocked over tin of paint that stains every memory and thought with that same sinister shade of red.
Somewhere between 9am and 3pm that day I lost my identity, I lost my confidence. The foundations splintered. I didn’t feel sick, I certainly didn’t look it, yet somewhere along the way the arrogance of youth had transformed into something I never ever comprehended.
First came the anger, a tsunami of What Ifs and chastisement. I wasn’t a couch potato but I wasn’t a gym bunny either. Next came the grief – great wracking sobs of it – and then the resentment. I’d recently lost my father to cancer. My girls were only four and six. I began side-eying the overweight and ruinous – the ones guzzling their full fat cokes on street corners. I hated the moaners, the bitches, the life complainers…
A week later I ditched the pity party. I couldn’t change my fate (bar refusing surgery, chemo and anything else my oncology team wanted to throw at me), but I could choose how to live with cancer. I could choose how my children saw their mother deal with such a monumental curve ball. I could choose a life of no regrets.
That night I started writing my first book. I’d written before but never seriously – more a string of disconnected scenes with no punch line. This time was different. What started out as a collection of memories from my time working in TV and movie production turned into a 90000-word romance novel. Cancer had turned my worst nightmare into reality so it was time to flip that bastard on its head.
I wrote wherever I could – during chemo, oncology receptions, hospital car parks. I even wrote in A & E at 2am after I’d been rushed in with a spiking temperature. The only time I faltered was when the chemo attacked the nerves in my fingers.
There’s something cathartic about expressing emotions through words. Many of my fellow cancer patients write brilliant blogs and books about living with cancer and their experiences of treatment. Their truth and humour have provided so much comfort during the tough times, of which there have been many. As for me, I chose to write about sex and romance instead – two things that cancer was trying its damndest to obliterate from my life.
I released my debut novel, Eyes To the Wind, in November 2017. The national press caught on. I topped the Amazon kindle charts in the erotic romance, erotic thriller and erotic suspense categories, so I wrote another. Meanwhile my treatment was coming to an end. I was still in the process of putting my life back together again when I released my second book, Hearts Of Darkness. Two books in a year, all written in the shadow of cancer, but a shadow that I was likening more and more to an irritating rain cloud. There were short, sharp bursts of cancer-related crap but there was dazzling sunshine too.
These days I like to call my books my little stack of #fuckyoucancer sucker punches. I’m living with cancer but at the same time I’m writing hot, dirty, sexy and intense love stories that my mother refuses to read. I made my oncologist blush with my latest. That woman is one solid wall of blank emotion so I must be doing something right.
Invariably with highs a new low is just around the corner. Cancer isn’t done with me yet. My latest scan showed a couple of new nodules in my lungs. Too small to biopsy so I’m back in the waiting game until January. In the meantime I have the perfect distraction, I have the sequel to Hearts Of Darkness to finish. Somewhere in my brain there’s a Colombian cartel boss and a feisty American reporter who need their happily ever after. I also have a new editor and a publishing house to appease.
Sometimes I marvel that it’s taken me thirty-eight years and a cancer diagnosis to realise what I want to do with my life. Writing has helped pull everything into sharp focus just as much as my cancer has. I take chances now. I don’t take crap from anyone. I have an editor who believes in me and who doesn’t think my scribbles are complete rubbish.
Best of all I have my confidence back.
Eyes To The Wind and Hearts Of Darkness are available right now! Click HERE for more details.