It’s an obscene time of the day, five in the morning – and maybe for some of you that’s normal wake up time, but for me it’s more like “wake up now and be punished later with exhaustion” sorta timing. But nevertheless here I am at my computer sitting in the front room of my new apartment (in the dark with the street light outside giving me an orange glow) and writing to you. Because I’ve woken myself up with all kinds of stupidity, and if I don’t get this out then I’m never going to sleep.
Okay. Here is the thing. It’s so incredibly stupid. I’ve woken myself up all because of this blog. Or maybe not exactly the blog. I love blogging, I love writing, I love having a place that’s mine to share and tell stories. What I don’t love is cancer.
Bumpyboobs started over two years ago and she has been a sanity-saver. (Like Tupperware, the fresh saver – it kept my sanity from going stale.) It began with my wondering what the bump in my boob was all about. It started because I was worried and frightened and couldn’t talk with anyone about those feelings . . . and oh my god, I was in serious need of talking.
So that’s how she began. And then the bump became F*ing cancer, and then this blog took on proper meaning. It’s weird to say this, but because I was diagnosed with cancer – this blog had a purpose. It felt like my story suddenly became special.
Cancer, in its way, made me special. It set me apart. It made me a writer. It gave me an audience. And oh my god, I love the people I’ve met through Bumpyboobs and the stories we have shared, and I will most certainly continue to love those stories and read those blogs and follow people’s lives as the keep moving forward. But what the fuck – cancer made me special?
So now it’s 2.5 years later and I’m clear of any signs of this disease. My hair is so long it’s past my chin. When I meet people for the first time, cancer never comes up – it’s not even because I’m hiding that part of my story, it’s simply because it doesn’t come up. Thank GOD I moved past the urge to tell every single person about how I had cancer. There was a time when I needed to do that, because it was so fucking painful and so fucking scary. (Actually, it’s still entirely fucking scary. And I think about people who have said, ‘I’m done with defining myself by cancer’ and still had recurrence in the end . . . but is constantly wearing the ‘cancer patient’ badge any better? Does it protect me any more from the chances of recurrence? I’m kinda afraid that if I turn my back on cancer then it will come back, but I’m also kinda afraid that if I don’t turn my back on cancer . . . that I’ll never move forward.)
So that’s where my head is, and I woke up in bed and thought to myself – I need to rename my blog, I need to rebrand this sucker so that I don’t have to be about cancer all the time. The posts themselves are often not about the C-word. They have been about friends in England, navigating hard and good times with my husband, honouring my grandmother, immigrating to Canada, living with my parents and trying to find work, travelling and feeling so happy, drinking tea by the gallon, and enjoying the little things in life – also, the best things in life and just sharing those experiences with you.
You want to know who my current personal heroes are?
Margaret Atwood for all her generosity with her audience and her immense talent in her storytelling.
Felicia Day for making Geek Culture so damn cool, producing her own series, NOT being defined by what the world was willing to give her (which were mostly mousy secretary roles rather than awesome-heroine-ass-kicking roles like she’s created for herself).
Lena Dunham for making her amazing series GIRLS, acting and writing a role that rings true across so many experiences, and for being so damn talented and capable.
Jane Austen for always giving her characters happiness and love, and for being damn witty and far more talented than many huge writers of her era.
Lucy Maud Montgomery for the stories she created that were always so hopeful, and the lessons on writing she shared – particularly in her Emily series.
And none of this has to do with cancer. Of course I admire the women who are battling the disease and pushing forward (and the men, and the children too) . . . but my heroes take on a different sorta theme.
Oh man. This post is getting long. It’s 5.30 AM!
Here is my problem which I need to figure out: What is my story? What makes me special if it isn’t cancer? Why would anyone read this blog if it’s aimless and without a goal?
There are mommy bloggers, fashion bloggers, city bloggers, food bloggers . . . okay, I love moms, and food, and beautiful clothing – but I am not any of these categories, and as for lifestyle blogging –that’s a vague term, isn’t it? Should I be writing more about my IKEA decorating, putting flowers in vases and making my rooms look beautiful? (Actually I can’t do that anyhow, because truth be told is that the flowers die and I forget to throw them out, and after sewing all these sofa slipcovers, I’ll be happy to never see another sewing machine in my life.)
What’s my story now? Please goodness, don’t let it be all about cancer. But if it’s not about that – then what? And maybe if I can’t answer that in a nice packaged statement, then I need to really get my head on straight.
One thing I never say, but is true, is that while I am a writer, what I really want to be is a novelist. I want to write stories and share them in different mediums. I also want to work in a library and walk to work and help people enjoy their days. I want to indulge in simple pleasures. I want to figure out what my thirties are any good for. I want to talk about the lines on my face and how my expression seems more tired when I look in the mirror. I want to take one of my good ideas and actually turn it into something real. I want to have a message . . . and yet, I haven’t got a clue what that might be.
Anyhow, we’ll see what comes from all of this. If you’ve read this far then I applaud you for making it past 1000 words – cause this is one long unresolved ‘too-early-in-the-morning-and-I-am-going-back-to-bed’ post.
Thank you for sharing your time with me.
10 thoughts on “FIVE AM insight”
I’m with you on not wanting to be defined by cancer, and I too fear turning my back will invite recurrence (which is why I always shudder at calling myself a survivor). Fact is, it doesn’t matter which way we turn or which phrase we use, if it wants to come back it will. Let’s hope not, and in the meantime, write your novel, luxuriate in being surrounded by books in the library, walk to work and enjoy it all. As for your blog, write what’s in your heart, how you spent your day, an interesting thing you see on your walk to work…whatever. You write it, and we will read it.
May I suggest http://www.nanowrimo.org/ It starts Nov 1–just writing, no editing, no corrections, no “I think I forgot a comma” crap; no. Just writing. And you get a really cool certificate if you finish/Win. 🙂 It’s a great thing and they do a lot of charitable outreach for reading and writing for children, too. This will be my fifth year. I’ve only WON once. Yet I keep trying.
It may kickstart some ideas for a novel for you. Then let me know when you want to publish (I work for a small press in NV). Really.
You should do it.
Whenever I read your blogs, the thought that comes to my mind is, “Catherine, the writer, full of wisdom.”
Just the other day, I was reading Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories” and it made me think of your “Zsolti Stories” which would be great for children and which I would love to read.
Your personal ramblings are full of wisdom which I can assimilate, and which have a soothing and re-invigorating effect on my spirit.
You have a style of writing which picks up the flavours of other writers, but which is your own unique blend. I also love your artwork.
Keep on writing, and let me know where I can find your stories and illustrations.
Oops, a minor correction:
You have the style of writing which picks up the flavours of other GREAT writers, but which is your own unique blend.
Dear Catherine (not the letter-header kind of dear but the term-of-endearment kind of dear), you have answered your own questions. Your story now is as a woman traversing the other side of cancer treatment. It’s the story of how you climb the hill on *that* side of town. My advice? Simple: Keep writing. Ideas will naturally morph out of what you put on the page (er, screen). We are usually not even aware of them until we read them later. (Often way later.) Live your life, notice things, write about them. Voila! 😉 PS As for writing a novel, see my advice in the last sentence. xoxo
You’ll find your groove, Catherine. I remember when I told everybody who would listen about my cancer, and then, voila! I remember when I no longer needed to tell anyone. If it came up in another context, fine. But I didn’t have to define myself by it. I’m sure you will tailor your writing to suit what really makes you want to get up at 5 am to write. You’ll have a mission and a drive that will make the words fly off the keyboard. Just keep writing! xox
I think you should re-name it and re-focus your purpose. Like you said, your life isn’t about being a cancer survivor anymore. It is just simply…your life. You have a way with words that draws us all in to whatever you are writing about…so write away and we’ll continue to read and support you! Good luck figuring this out. I sure hope you got a little nap in later!!
I think you really hit the nail on the head here. I have stepped away from my cancer blog because I feel like I need to talk about cancer, but I don’t always want to talk about cancer. It doesn’t define me, it is a part of who I am, but I also shudder at the survivor word.
I think you should be a novelist. I think you should be Catherine, and I am perfectly ok if you decide to not be “pink.” I am here with you no matter what.
Hear, hear to what everyone has said! I can identify with soooo much of this post….the fearing to turn you back but feeling this is (at least partly) necessary, and the wondering about how to write one’s post-cancer story (both literally and figuratively!). I will be keen to read whatever you feel like blogging about – and will be very excited to crack the spine (or, possibly, open the Kindle file) of your first novel!! (Three cheers for your lovely husband, by the way – have just caught up in some posts – hope those pesky cramps are long gone).
Thanks Liz 🙂 It’s so exciting to imagine having a book – and that ‘cracking the spine’ just made me smile real big.