I have held off talking about my mom’s cancer because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say and why I might want to say anything at all on a blog where the content has been 99% about writing.
But then I realized that (a) her cancer is affecting my writing in different ways and (b) I know I’m not the only one who has had a life event impact their creativity. So here I am.
My mom has COPD (crappy lung disease for which there is no cure), emphysema and Stage III (possibly IV) lung cancer – triple lung threat. Damn those cigarettes. She also suffers from moderate dementia. She declined after Thanksgiving and is now under hospice care at home, with various people staying up all night with her because she has trouble sleeping and can’t be alone. Tonight will be my second night with her.
If we pay attention, we can see the gifts that every situation holds. Closer relationships, more compassion, a deeper understanding of what really matters and a chance to grow as a person.
I wrote a poem about my first night with her – “Breathing.” If you’re interested, you can read it here. This kind of writing helps me frame my experience, find the good and transcendent in it, and have a good cry. This won’t be the last poem I write about her, me, or this journey because it’s cathartic and allows me to express my heart and soul in a different way than my fiction.
And what of that fiction? FADE AWAY, my YA, is a rather heavy story. My picture books are light and funny. Guess what I’m working on more? My mother’s illness has created a gravitational pull toward happy content, which keeps me balanced. But my thoughts and feelings around her illness have also cracked open my heart, exposing raw pain and vulnerability. This pain and vulnerability has found its way into FADE AWAY. I’m no longer afraid to let the book be what it has been asking to be for a few weeks now. It doesn’t make sense to be afraid when my mother is facing death with courage and stoicism.
I’m writing because I can’t not write. What’s the alternative? Sit around and cry and wait for her body to give way for her spirit’s transition? She would hate that and so would I. Life is meant to be lived, even when it hurts and maybe especially when it hurts. It’s all about the journey—in writing and in life—and I want the journey, with all its pain and joy and love and promise.