• 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 64 (Writing: How Cancer Helped)

    Cancer is a lot like this guy:  You don't say 'no' to him.

    Cancer is a lot like this guy.  You don’t say ‘no’ to him.

    Saturday, September 13, 2014

    Day 64 of 100 Days of Good Karma.

    I’ve found that the relationship between cancer and writing is like the mathematical symbol for infinity:  One inevitably leads to the other which leads back to the first.

    Writing helped me deal with cancer, and cancer helped me write.

    I wrote a post about how writing helped me deal with cancer.

    This post shows how cancer helped me write.

    I learned to just write.

    Every day I gave myself a directive: Just write.

    I didn’t allow myself to edit.  Editing came later.  I just kept the pen moving. Got it all down on paper.

    Before cancer I’d start writing and a mean little pixie voice would speak up inside my head.  She’d say things like “you suck” or “no one will want to read this” or worst of all, she’d gasp dramatically and whisper, “what would your Grandmother think?”

    That snide little pixie won more battles than I care to admit until a bigger bully moved into the neighborhood.

    Cancer was like a mafia don protecting his turf.  He wouldn’t hesitate to kill me, but I was his to kill, so he wouldn’t let the pixie push me around either.

    When I sat down to write, cancer grabbed that mouthy little bitch by the throat and put her to the wall, telling her in no uncertain terms that I had a job to do before he was done with me.

    The pixie shut up.

    And I got to work.

    Setting Goals

    So I had a goal:  Leave something behind.

    It was a terrible goal because it was both lofty and vague.  I had to narrow it down.  What would that something be?

    I couldn’t concentrate on fiction. I had no room in my head for made up conflicts when I was living dramatic tension in every moment of my day.

    The only thing I seemed capable of writing about was the story I was living.

    Fine, I thought, casting a wary eye to the scary mob boss hulking in the corner. Then I’ll write that.


    If I have a goal I’m working toward, I work better with a deadline.  And cancer gave me one bitch of a deadline.

    The way I saw it, all I had was each individual day and I was determined to use it.

    Besides, what have did I have to lose?

    Absolutely nothing.

    What to Write

    When writing a first draft, I just let go.  I wrote what I was afraid to write.  I just put things down on the page.  I kept the pen moving.

    When editing I made myself keep the parts that hurt.  Before cancer I probably would have cut those parts.

    Now I know those are the parts that make any story worth reading.

    Minimizing Regrets

    I probably have just as many regrets as the next person. More than some, less than others.  As far as I knew, I was looking at the end of my life and I wanted to minimize regrets to the extent I could.

    I felt like I only had time to tackle one major regret before the clock stopped ticking, and the thing I hated the most was that I hadn’t finished writing something.

    Never before had it been so apparent that I didn’t have time to wait until tomorrow.  I didn’t have time to avoid doing something because I was afraid of failing.  I didn’t have time to sugar coat or gloss over the hard parts because they cut too deeply.

    Here’s the thing:  Neither does anyone else.

    I just happen to see the rules of the game a little more clearly.  I guess I can thank cancer for that little gem, too.

    So I wrote what was hard to write. I wrote what I was afraid to write.  Anything else was a waste of my time.

    Silver Lining: I’m not interested in wasting any more time.

    I have now.  I have today.

    What I make of it is up to me.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!


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11 Responsesso far.

  1. Tina Smith says:

    I didn’t realize you had an episode of Sopranos going on in your body, but I’m glad they put a lid on that bitchy little fairy!

  2. Cindy Smith says:

    Well said!! This year’s battle has not been cancer, but has also not been easy. Extremely high pain levels, extreme exhaustion, limited motion leading to limited activity leading to limited motion (ain’t it a bitch!), and so on and so on. But I kept reminding myself of one of the very few pieces of genuine wisdom my mother shared with me, “I can let this disease take control of me or I could get up every day and live my life”. I chose the latter. Even though it meant some days were very difficult, I always knew I couldn’t throw in the towel.

    I absolutely love how you haven’t thrown in the towel! It would be so easy to do and we all know that you have had those moments, how could you not? Just sit there and feel sorry for yourself and let it take over your life. But you have been given a gift that most never receive. The ability to see that every day is special and can become something even if that something is relatively small. It is still something. It is the appreciation for being given another day to use and to appreciate.

    Many years from now you will look back on these writings and truly see how strong you are and your children will someday read these with adult eyes and know that they have an incredible mother with a very special gift of being able to share such intimate moments in life. As always, very well written!!

  3. Linda says:

    Your attitude is inspirational 🙂

  4. Pam says:

    I love this, Meghan:

    “When editing I made myself keep the parts that hurt. Before cancer I probably would have cut those parts.

    Now I know those are the parts that make any story worth reading.”

    Yup….and thanks for letting other novice writers like me get some great examples of that too.

    You really ARE an inspiration!
    Pam xox

    • Meghan says:

      I’m certainly no expert, and I’ve read some of your stuff. I think you’re less of a novice than you give yourself credit for. But I’m glad you liked the post. 🙂

  5. Betsy says:

    Meghan, you are such an inspiration. I, too, was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. My diagnosis came on August 25, 2014. I am retired, and I have dabbled with having a blog for the past several months – mostly about charity knitting, health and simplicity. I haven’t really worked at it or taken it seriously. My latest excuse for not writing was that I now have cancer.

    For some reason, I came across your blog. I doubt that it was a coincidence. I have decided that my reasons for not writing are really pretty lame, because it is something I really do want to do.

    I am now working on my blog thanks to you and your beautiful writing and outlook. You are in my prayers.


    • Meghan says:

      Betsy, I am so glad you commented. You are exactly the reader I was hoping to reach with this blog. (Well I didn’t target you specifically because that would be stalker-ish and creepy, but I was hoping to reach other people who are going through cancer.) I’m so sorry you have to go through this, too. This isn’t a club anyone wants to be a member of, but since you’re here, please know you’re not alone.

      Also, I’m always glad to hear another writer accepted their own nature as a writer. We get in our own way a lot. I’m so happy to hear you’re working on your blog and if I could inspire that in any way, well… that just makes my day.

      My thoughts are with you and everyone else out there going through treatment.


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