Thank you, to Willow Books, for hosting my event, for being willing to take a risk that it would be ok, and for allowing me to do it my way, even though the image in my head was not familiar or even visible to you. I appreciate the leap that you took in endorsing this celebration. And thank you for the warning not to swear, as this has clearly shaped the nature of my remarks.
This is the theme of my last few years, both through my treatment for breast cancer, and through the book publication process, (not the swearing thing) being heard, and having both the presence and the courage to say what was important for me at any given time.
If you look around you, you will see why I am here. Each person here, in some way or form, has lent an ear, a car ride, a thought, cooked food, or is just curious about what is happening right now. In each instance, it has made me feel heard and supported. In the hours when it has been most scary to sit alone with the reality of unwanted intruders in my cells, or with the reality that my body boasts more scars now than it did 4 years ago, I have been able to talk about it. This has transformed my experience from one of isolation to one of connection. And this connection has allowed me to have a real and present focus on something other than the possibilities of death, which have lain dormant throughout the process.
Starting with my diagnosis in June of 2007, in which the life as I knew it took a step to the left, I have tried to keep up, to not allow it to get ahead of me. This has been more of a challenge at some times than others. That early stunning date at Dr. Resciniti’s office, when Duke and I sat as she calmly described the possibilities of simple lump removal, or dissection of nodes with drains to be inserted, marked the beginning of treatment in a way I could not have predicted. It was with the expanding funnel of information that it became clear that as much as I needed to keep people informed of what was happening, I was incapable of repeating it numerous times. Thus the Breasty Business Update was born, allowing me the opportunity to rant, to whine, to seek to understand, and to keep the place of this entire experience in one corner of my frame, rather than having it fill my screen.
Being able to free my heart and soul allowed me the space to be able to ask for a moment when I needed it in Plastic Guy’s office when he was filling the tissue expander. Literally short of breath when the procedure turned from routine to painful, all I needed was a moment to refocus and prepare. Being free gave me the option to decide that I would rather have my first course of chemotherapy treatments every 3 weeks instead of every 2. These can seem like small decisions, but it is exactly those little things that add up to a feeling of control. (for those of us that have teeny weeny tiny issues of control.) It meant, again, that I felt heard, that although there was a great deal about which I may have felt like I didn’t have options, I was exercising the ones that I could. And this gave me a voice. I could be recognized as an individual, with all the quirkiness, irritations, and wonderfulness that makes a person unique. Because I was able to express it, it meant that the current of who I am, the essence of my being was never lost. Like the sky that hold its blue, no matter how many clouds pass through, be they puffy cumulous, playful cirrus, or expansive thunderclouds, the blue remains steady and present. My person remained buoyed by contact with you, by my belief that the thunderclouds would release their torrents and pass through, no matter how much lightening accompanied them.
Along with moving forward to the book process, came another wave of unknown proportions. With all the encouragement to get my work into book form (thank you!! and also, insert expletive here) came untold challenges of a completely different variety.
Once again, I needed to educate myself about this process. There are rules about requirements for submission of manuscripts, and like applying for a job, they’re all different, and require their own cover letters and different pieces of the manuscript. That is, once you’ve got your work into submittable form. In my case, once you’ve beaten it into submission.
As many of you know, somewhere along the way (around the beginning of last summer), I decided to hop off the wagon of submission and onto the self publishing train. Once again, this meant that I opened the process to different kinds of options. Again really positive for someone like me, who has distinct ideas about what something should look like. This meant that I had at times overwhelming say in the process. I was fortunate to be able to once again surround myself with people who are more knowledgeable and experienced in many areas: editing, graphic arts, website construction, publicity.
For instance, I chose the cover picture, but Nancy Cleary put together the cover, with all the graphics, information, and quotes. I had used the photo on my binder to draw me through the publication process. As my learning curve once again funneled out, I continued to collaborate with these professionals, though it was sometimes difficult to know exactly what I wanted or needed. These people helped to bring out my voice once again, as the process from choosing font, quotes, photographs, word choice continue to remain mine. I would have lost many of these options if I had gone the route of traditional publishing, so although they were all seasoned people who I hired, it meant that I retained final say. Any one of them could say, “I advise against this quote/word.” But if I wanted it in, in it stayed. Once again, I was balancing the experience and wisdom of others with knowledge of myself and the vision that was evolving for this next wave.
I remain grateful for the generosity of everyone during this phase, and particularly my family who suffered through many renditions of silly songs, antsiosity, and colorful language as I worked through each detail.
And now here it is MY BOOK!! My voice in PRINT available here and now, and to the world via the web. I would be lying if I said that my voice doesn’t matter. Clearly I have quite a large investment in hoping that through my words, that others will be inspired to hear their own. For truly, that is the biggest gift, for themselves, and for me. For each person to be able to hear her or himself, to know what is important, that is what makes it possible to convey hopes, desires, and fears in a way that connects. It is through this expression that love flows freely from one to another, bringing with it the greatest salve of all.
So thank you for hearing me, today, in the beginning of this trip, and at any point along the way. In your gift of listening and presence you encourage the passage of mine, and you create a channel of love from me to anyone who picks up this book.