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Ten Goals for My Memoir

In this post, I want to share the goals I have for my memoir, Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person: A memoir about cancer as I know it. I don’t have a ton of goals, but I have some. One goal I do not have is to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List. Whew, that takes a lot of pressure off. Just kidding. But seriously, I do have some goals that are important to me and I hope they are important to some of you, my dear readers, as well.

Here they are, in no particular order or anything, because, well, you know me by now, right?

1.  My story needed telling.

It’s like releasing a part of me into the universe or something.

2.  I want to start conversations about cancer, yes, but also about dying, death, grief and loss.

I don’t think it’s healthy how our society shies away from these topics. It’s important and healthier in the long run to talk about death and grief. I share pretty candidly about my mother’s death and how it impacted me. If I start even a few conversations about this topic, I will be pleased.

3.  I want to stress how everyone reacts differently to the death of a loved one and how everyone grieves differently.

This is true even within the same family. Having said this, I hope I don’t piss off any of my relatives, especially my siblings. That certainly was never my intent.

4.  I want to talk about the ugly side of breast cancer because it’s not pink, pretty or gift-like. It’s horrible. And too many keep dying from it.

I don’t know about you, but I am weary of the rah-rah, I’m-a-better-person-since-my-diagnosis type of cancer story. I share the truth, well, my truths and they aren’t always pretty. I definitely do NOT come across as strong, brave or heroic in any way, shape or form because I wasn’t. I’m not. I never will be. Did I share too much? Maybe. Maybe not.

5.  I want readers to understand that grief is never over. Cancer isn’t either, at least this is the case for me. And this is okay.

After a cancer diagnosis and after loss, I say ditch the societal pressure to find a new normal and move on (or however it is framed).  Move forward, yes, but this feels much different than moving on. Cancer and grief are not experiences a person can tuck neatly behind her, at least I cannot. I don’t even want to. (More on this at some point).

6.  I want to make a statement that stories from ordinary people matter too.

It’s not just the celebrity stories that need to be heard. Everyone’s story matters, mine and yours too.

7.  I want to focus on metastatic breast cancer.

I hope my memoir further exposes metastatic breast cancer for what it really is – horrible and deadly. And massively under-funded research wise. Again, I plan to donate 10% of my book profits to metastatic research efforts.

8.  I want a newly diagnosed person to pick up my book and get a feel for what some of this cancer shit is like.

I don’t believe in telling fluffy, “pinktified” versions of breast cancer reality. Some might say, don’t scare people. I say, it’s scarier to not be told truths. This doesn’t mean my truths are your truths, but truthful sharing is always more helpful IMO. Besides, I certainly didn’t share everything. Not even close!

9.  I want to further expose the unfair expectations cancer patients are too often burdened with and encourage them to do cancer and grief their own ways.

10.  I want to talk about and raise awareness about hereditary cancer, including but not limited to BRCA.

In a nutshell, my main message is this:

Having cancer is bad enough. Surviorship is no picnic either. No one should have to smile her way through any of it, unless of course, she/he wants to.

So those are my goals. I’ll tweak them as we go along.

As always, thank you for “listening.”

In my next post, I’ll be asking for your help with spreading the word about my book and will be sharing specific things you can do, if you’re so inclined, of course.

Did/do you ever feel like you’re supposed to smile your way through cancer chaos (any of it)?

Which goal speaks to you the most (if any).

I would greatly appreciate any and all shares of this post. Thank you in advance.


Cancer Was Not a Gift

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Beth L. Gainer

Tuesday 19th of January 2016

Hi Nancy,

I love your goals, all of them, but like Marie said, the word "story" really resonated with me. We all have our stories, and each one of them is important in the realm of cancer (or any other serious illness). Thank you for this post. I will be starting to read your book soon; dealing with lots of stuff with my dad's health, but I can't wait to read your memoir.


Wednesday 20th of January 2016

Beth, Please don't worry about reading my book now. I know you will read it when you get time. Right now you need to focus on other things. Thank you for saying you like my goals and for all your support, as always. Hope your dad is doing okay. And your mom. xx

Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC)

Sunday 17th of January 2016

You had me at "story" Nancy. I believe so passionately that our stories need to be told. That cancer is not one color ( anyone?) but there are so many shades of gray in between. Thank you for telling your story so honestly for the world to understand this better.


Sunday 17th of January 2016

Marie, I do know how much you care about the power of shared stories. Your weekly roundup is just one example of how you demonstrate this. Your ongoing support of others and willingness to share their stories is one reason we love you so much. Thank you for reading and sharing.


Friday 15th of January 2016

Nancy, I am still reading your book and I feel even more connected with you than before. I am learning about your family too -- love your details. Mostly, I appreciate your honestly and willingness to be open with all of us, because how else are we going to archive progress if we keep hiding the truth/facts? We must speak up.

Societal expectations is a big one for me. As you know, I struggle with survivorship which is why I started blogging (never thought to blog during treatments!). And yes, I am often expected to pretend that all is over and OK. That I should move on (which is different from 'moving forward'). I also like your goal to start having more open conversations about death and grief.

All your goals are very important. I am willing to help in any way that I can, because I believe that every contribution counts. At the end, it will benefit all of us.


Sunday 17th of January 2016

Rebecca, Thank you for saying you feel more connected. That's really what memoir writing is all about, connecting with others by sharing personal stories. I'm glad you appreciate my goals and thank you for your generous offer to help. That means so much.


Friday 15th of January 2016

Your book came last night so still in process. Thank you for writing. I appreciate your goal of educating people about metastatic cancer/I'm only stage 3 at this point, but it makes it easier to have that conversation. I also appreciate your saying out loud this isn't a gift and there's no right way/wrong way to deal with it. I'm grateful for each day, but I was grateful before. You give us permission to find our way with dignity-thank you


Friday 15th of January 2016

Teresa, Thank you for reading about my goals for my memoir and thank you for reading it. You seem to understand what I'm trying to say even before you read my book! Everyone deserves permission to find her/his own way with dignity - I like how you put that. Thank you for sharing.


Thursday 14th of January 2016

Thank you for sharing these goals. One thing that I found is that people expect me to know what to do. I have metastatic cancer. Do I work? Spend all my time with my kids? My husband? My mom? Go into debt to fulfil my dreams? Or just fade away?


Friday 15th of January 2016

Natalie, I'm sorry to hear you have metastatic cancer. I can't imagine dealing with people's expectations on top of it. Like you don't have enough to deal with, right? I would say ignore them. Easier said than done sometimes I know. Thank you for sharing some thoughts on this. My best to you.

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