So what makes a fortysomething veterinarian decide to start writing books? Was it an overabundance of confidence, which only the soul-crushing novel query process can quell? Perhaps it was a deep need for self-expression, the kind that eighteen years of spaying dogs, neutering cats, removing tumors, pinning fractures, and rebuilding knees just can’t fulfill? Some kind of mental illness?
It was cancer.
One sunny afternoon in October, 2011, in the middle of training for my fifth marathon, I got the news. The right breast had mutinied, and would have to go. And it was taking my left breast and every hair on my body (including nose hairs…whose necessity you just don’t appreciate until they’re gone, and your nose runs constantly for six months) with it.
I worked full-time through chemo, because I am a BAMF. I ran the first eleven miles of that marathon in the middle of that, because I’m half Jewish and I’d already paid for the race. And who’s going to give shit to a bald girl who bails at mile eleven? I took two weeks off for my double mastectomy, and was in the park jogging along with the drains still poking out of my now running-braless flat, scarred, horror-movie chest. I had radiation, and learned way more than I ever wanted to know about blisters. I’ve had eight reconstructive surgeries, and the new girls are pretty amazing, which is a post for another day. I’m cancer-free, and plan to stay that way.
So why write?
One was my cancer blog. I started a private, invite-only blog when all this shit hit the fan. It was mostly laziness on my part…instead of telling all my friends and family and well-wishers every new development individually, I just invited them to the CarePage and wrote a post every times something interesting happened. And over time, I realized something.
My blog was hilarious.
That’s not something you usually think of when you think of a cancer blog, but I learned that my friends were eagerly awaiting each post, particularly the ones I wrote immediately post-op, high on percocet. Some of them would read the posts aloud to each other, and laugh hysterically at my vivid descriptions of body fluid drainage, allergic reactions, and constipation. Not much funnier than constipation.
So I knew I could write.
And, like everyone who’s ever read a novel and thought, “I could do that,” I read novels and thought, “I could do that.” But now the ticking of the clock sounded loud in my ears. Suddenly I changed from being a BAMF doctor, marathoner, SCUBA diver, etc. into someone just a tiny bit less invulnerable. Trust me, once you’ve sat in a chemo recliner with the Red Death dripping into your surgically-implanted venous port, next to ten wheezing, snoozing, old husks who are thirty years older than you, but have the same damned disease you have, you’re just not quite as certain that all those things you’ve always said you were going to do are actually going to get done.
Cancer does that.
So I wrote a short story. And I joined a writing club. And I wrote a novel. And I wrote two more novels. And two more short stories. The stories are all getting published in various anthologies in the next few months. The novels are in various stages of readiness to unleash upon an unsuspecting public.
None of them are about cancer.
But in a weird way, they all are.