On Friday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend in 2008, my gynecologist called me with those nasty words, “I’m sorry to have to tell you. . . .” I was home alone . . . my husband was mountain climbing in CA. We had discussed if he should go–this was my second biopsy and after a negative one a few years before, I wasn’t worried at all. One son was at Carleton College, the other, home was completing his senior year at Wauwatosa West.
I now jokingly refer to my cancer experience as “cancer light.” A routine mammogram caught mine so early that I only needed radiation and subsequent tamoxifen. I didn’t have to step on the chemo train. Despite these facts, the disease did a number on me emotionally. No one knows how they will react. I would have loved to have been one of those warrior women who flex their arms and train for triathlons, but that wasn’t how I reacted. In the first year post cancer treatment, I had my first bout of clinical depression. I gained weight. I cried. I felt guilty . . . after all, I was one of the lucky ones. My cancer was gone.
I don’t think cancer significantly affected my attitudes toward the importance of personal relationships. My dear Dad died suddenly when he was forty-one and I was eighteen. That experience wired me to always value life and the people in my life. But, cancer did kick my butt in an area that benefited from a cancer kick. I had been dabbling in writing. I was in and out of roundtable groups at RedBird-RedOak Writing, working on a novel, sort of. Then, cancer. I reflected on my writing goals, my efforts and what I really wanted and thought I was put on the planet to do. Since cancer, I have become an advocate and encourager for emerging authors through my blog, pamwrites.net. I lead roundtable groups at RedBird RedOak in Bay View. I have published numerous short stories, poems and essays in literary journals. To my pleasant surprise, I’ve won awards, including one I hadn’t known I was nominated for through WUWM. It was for an essay I wrote and read on Lake Effect, “The End of Pinktober,” about my discouragement at the overwhelming branding of pink in October. That essay won First Place in Large Market Radio for the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 2012. Precancer Pam wouldn’t have considered submitting that essay! Post-cancer-kicked Pam had no problem.