Thanks to Renn of The Big C and Me for choosing me to pass the baton on the blog tour “to reveal the essence of how and when we write.” I’m honored that she chose me to participate!
I have to confess that I haven’t been involved in the blogging community much. Aside from reading Renn’s posts and the occasional cancer blog post to give me a little bit more insight into what to expect, I feel a little out of the loop. I’m more of a blogging voyeur, peering in to others’ blogs through my screen.
The exception was in November, when I had the chance to attend a Fall Writing Festival put on by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s Visible Ink program. I had the opportunity to hear panels of writers, take part in an auditorium-wide story collaboration and meet other cancer patients and survivors who used a wide range of writing. It was inspiring to see how many people had used so many different mediums, from poetry to fiction, as a therapeutic writing mechanism.
Without further ado, here are the answers to the blog tour questions:
1. What am I working on?
Right now, I’m mostly working on getting better and finally kicking this refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma to the curb. After six months of ABVD chemotherapy, three months of Brentuximab vedotin, two rounds of high-dose ICE chemo, two weeks of radiation and four to five days of high-dose chemo, tomorrow is the last step in this round of the process. I get six million of my collected stem cells reinfused tomorrow and hopefully start recovery. I still have several weeks left in the hospital. I won’t know if I’m in remission until August or so.
In the meantime, I’m updating this blog and documenting this journey. When I created this blog, I had no idea that the treatment would be quite this long. Everyone says Hodgkin’s lymphoma is “the best cancer,” and so it’s been a bit discouraging to constantly get scans back and hear that it’s refractory and particularly stubborn about going away. (Or not going away, as the case has been.)
At the outset, I had an idea that I might put together a book. As a professional writer, though, I’m not sure that I have a book in me. We’ll see. I think it depends on how I feel when this is done. This blog has been so therapeutic for me in getting my thoughts down and processing what I need to think about.
I’ve been so focused on just putting my head down and getting through this that I think I’ll need to take some time to process what I’ve learned along the way. Sometimes, I wonder if I’ve learned anything at all. Will I have more that I need to say? I’m just going to see where this takes me.
When I began the blog, I’d also just lost my full-time magazine gig and was completely panicked and adrift. With the treatments, my uncertain schedule and my limitations (from immunity to hair loss), I’ve been unsure about going back to work. Right now, I’m freelancing and enjoying the opportunity to contribute to different publications and media outlets.
But the main order of business for the next three months is to get my strength back up!
2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?
Well, it’s mine, I guess. Blogs are very personal-yet-public things. I think a lot of people start cancer blogs as a way to keep friends and family up-to-date on goings on. But I didn’t start out that way. I started the blog, and then revealed that I had one over a period of time to friends and family. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was putting my thoughts out there for people I know to read.
That sounds strange, but since I write for a living, I’m more comfortable having strangers read what I write—and rarely is it as personal as what I’ve put in my blog. So putting the blog out there for me among people I know was kind of a big deal.
When I set out to write my blog, I not only wanted to share my personal experiences, but I also wanted the posts to be somewhat informative as well, so others going through similar treatments or situations would have an idea of what’s in store. I looked at a few blogs that I found helpful, including Running from Dr. Hodgkin’s Disease. I’m not sure that that’s so different, as many of the blogs I’ve come across also want to let those who have been diagnosed with cancer that they’re not alone.
3. Why do I write what I do?
Blogging seemed like the natural thing to do. Almost every hobby I have turns into writing in the end. When I belonged to a local CSA, I enjoyed writing about cooking for the CSA website way more than cooking. I’m the blogger for my community garden. So writing about cancer also seemed to make sense.
Sometimes, writing is the only way I can make sense of things. Years ago, I suffered from panic disorder, and I maintain to this day that writing an article about it really helped me get through it.
Mostly, I write to find an outlet for my hopes and fears about this cancer—as well as to share my thoughts and observations that are probably mostly amusing only to me. If I didn’t write this down, it would just stay in my head with all the other weird stuff that’s floating around in there. In the interest of my well-being, I decided I better find a way to pour some of it out.
4. How does my writing process work?
For the blogging, I don’t really have a writing process. I just write, look it over and make some edits, then post. Sometimes, I have an idea, and I’ll start writing a post and go back to it later, but I often just sit down and write a post from start to finish. Or if I’ve been neglectful of giving an update, I’ll have to break it down into pieces so people can see some bullet points.
I have much more of a process for writing stories and articles, but my hours of fretting over certain words or the way a story is flowing isn’t a very interesting topic. This stuff haunts my dreams, though—I’ll wake up from a deep sleep thinking that I finally came up with a perfect headline or found the right angle for a story.
I’ve always thought of a writing process as more of a creative endeavor. In a few job interviews, I’ve been asked questions about how I edit, and it’s hard for me to describe. I just mess with it until it reads the way I want. That’s never the answer they’re looking for. I hope I’ve done a better job with my four blog tour answers!
I feel as if I am going to drop this baton. Any other bloggers out there want to take it from me and up for the four questions?