Describe yourself in three words.
Spontaneous, Loyal, Driven
What drove you to publish your first book? How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first book, Hands of Fate in 2003. Since then I have written two television scripts as well. My desire to write my current book The Other Side of Cancer was brought about because of something very near and dear to my heart. In 2015, my sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I took care of her for a year and in that time, I journaled our time together, hoping to pay tribute to her when she passed away. The Other Side of Cancer: Living Life with My Dying Sister was created.
Introduce us to the people in the book! Give us some insight into your main speakers.
My sister was the most important person in this book. I knew her voice needed to be heard when she was gone. She showed all those around her that she was still living her life while dying. Being told she had terminal cancer was the most difficult news. But, picking herself up and trying to finish her journey to the end was much more powerful. Theresa did it with such grace; I felt like someone let her in on the big question we all wonder, “ Where do we go when we leave here?”
What’s so unique about their storyline or voice in the story? What makes each one so special?
The storyline is unique because it is a deeply personal story of my sister and her tremendous courage and strength. She embraced her terminal diagnosis and lived her life until the end.
Share one specific point in your book that resonated with your present situation or journey.
I guess the strength she exhibited gave me the strength to write the book. I wrote a journal and when I went back through it after a few months, I was truly amazed at the journey we had taken. There were things I wrote that I would have surely forgotten about, once she was gone and the tremendous pain of letting go of a loved one sets in. I was glad I had my own guidance to help me tell her story.
Are you involved in any charities or causes surrounding cancer?
I have since founded Find1cure, which is dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. Our primary mission is to donate to multiple cancer institutions dedicated to aiding in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment through fundraising and public engagement to help save lives. Cancer is not limited to those diagnosed. It affects family, friends and even co-workers. We strive to bring awareness and reassurance to those suffering from this callous disease and their loved ones who help fight the fight.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?
My most recent book was based on my sister who passed away. She was an amazing, hard-working, driven woman who needed to have her story told. When she was diagnosed with cancer, I knew I needed to tell her story when she was gone. Not just her journey through this callous disease, but also the life she lived leading up to it. She had such drive in her to succeed. A message for all women who struggle to the top; to know it is possible to make it.
How did your family feel about such a passionate and personal part of their lives now being open to the public?
In most families, everyone handles grief differently. Some choose to ignore it while others try to face it head-on. I worried how my elderly parents would handle the book. Many things were revealed that they probably didn’t even know about their daughter’s life. But, they embraced it with such appreciation that I wrote the story. Not a day goes by that they don’t talk about it.
Any advice for others dealing with the grief process or taking on the role as caregiver?
There was never a doubt in my mind that I would take on the role of caregiver. Theresa fondly referred to me as “bossy” and I embraced that title proudly. I guess the best information I can give is to help that person live whatever time they have left. Try and put your feelings aside to help them with those last days, weeks or months. You will have time to grieve when they are gone. But, those times you can spend with your loved one will never come around again. Embrace it, own it; your memories will last you forever.
Moving on to publishing, have you ever received a rejection from an agent or a publisher?
I have, which led me to spread my wings and tell my sister’s story in a way I know will make her proud.
Do you ever have days when writing is a struggle?
Not really. When I am ready to write, I go for it. When I started The Other Side of Cancer, I stopped a few pages into my first try. I just wasn’t ready to let go. Let myself be so vulnerable. But, once I was ready, it flowed out of me like a fast moving river.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Like most authors, my first book was never published. I really did it originally for myself to prove I could do it. No regrets, I loved the process.
What projects are you working on at the present?
I am currently focusing on Find1Cure. I know I can do good for those suffering from cancer. Whether it is donating proceeds of the book to cancer research or my ultimate goal of creating a home for those who don’t have someone to care for them. Theresa’s passion gave me a mission. A mission to make a difference. I have the potential and I feel it is now my job to make a difference.
What legacy do you hope to leave future generations of readers with your writing?
I guess to tell the story. No matter how painful or difficult. If there is a story that needs to be told, you owe it to others to learn from your experiences.