Having kept a journal since I was young, I added a gratitude journal around age 30, and a journal to my son even before I got pregnant at age 35. By then, my poems numbered well over 1,000. Slowly, life’s fertilizer was nurturing me and my growth as a writer.
Vital to my confidence and growing desire to share more than a few lines with others, was some fateful timing that came with my breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. My co-worker Jenny, also a writer, received her own breast cancer diagnosis less than a month after me.
She was a colleague I had hoped to get to know better. Our brief conversations had found common ground in exercise (yoga for her, running for me), writing, and the breast cancer that had impacted our families (her mom, my sisters). Neither of us would have chosen cancer diagnoses as a catalyst to a new friendship, but that is our story.
We each walked our own individual paths in the coming months, but also a shared path. We talked often and shared deeply. Jenny helped me process a very challenging time better than I would have on my own. A tenuous acquaintance became a tenacious friend.
After we endured very emotional and difficult decisions and various surgeries and forms of treatment, we took months to heal, recover, and gain some perspective. Then, we sat down and collaborated on a series of essays about our diverse, yet similar, experiences. It was true collaboration and tapped something within me. Jenny’s encouragement brought out in me a deeper, more extensive writing voice and style. Our words remain in manuscript form, quiet pages of a time in our lives that was anything but peaceful. Still, I took off as a writer. I even started calling myself a writer.
Jenny is an English teacher by profession, and a fine one. She helped me bring out the writer within, and to trust my own instincts. There was no going back. This poet was now an essayist as well.
Previously, I had submitted my writing to many places for possible publication-mostly poems and greeting card sentiments. Rejection followed rejection. Energized both by the gratitude for a return to health and the work Jenny and I had done, both independently and jointly, longer pieces started to flow. There continues to be rejections, but in late 2010, when I was 45 years old, I finally became an officially paid and published writer. Late bloomer.
Several guest blog posts also came along around this time, stemming from deep emotions and new perspectives as a breast cancer patient.
In March of 2012, I began my blog “Habitual Gratitude.” Later that year, our local paper picked up a monthly column I write, titled “Gratitude Flow.” All I do today, as a writer and a human being trying to contribute to the positive stream of life, is framed by gratitude. It sure beats those toxic thoughts and feelings of my childhood and early adulthood.
I wouldn’t wish a cancer diagnosis on anyone. Yet, for Jenny and I, our diagnoses set in motion a friendship and new writing endeavors that helped me blossom. Thank you Jenny!