To refer to the diary of a young woman – recently wed, carrying and nurturing her first born while undergoing chemotherapy – as raw seems like a cheap way out. Of course it is going to be raw: how could the emotional journey she has travelled not be? This book and her diary entries of the period during and after this harrowing journey, is simply, honest. Honest to herself, to her husband, to her daughter and to us.
This honesty is uniquely captured in her decision to not edit the entries. To leave them as they were written for us to better hear her. Some editorial work has gone into this book – for purposes of context or to capture the ‘history’ – but for the most part, the entries themselves are the book. Sue’s honesty is further revealed when she admits that the book was as much a part of her own healing process as it was of sharing with others diagnosed with cancer, and battling the disease, to embrace it as their own. It – the cancer – belongs to no one else. She encourages people to embrace their cancer as their own, and to embrace their process as their own, to be selfish (if you will) in how they get through it. It – the disease – while present in the lives of many, is of that one person who has it at that one time. What she, Sue, did is not what others might. Why should they. Sue’s cancer was hers, and her way of dealing with it, hers also. The tips she provides after taking us through the emotional, silent, journey of her diary are simply those: tips for ensuring whoever gets the diagnosis and is going through treatment remains the centre of the process, not the cancer.
To Sue’s honesty I raise a glass – as we did when we finished the Champagne Shimmy at her Nipple Party. To know more of that dear reader, I invite you to read some honesty about it being possible to have a cleavage with just one breast. A story which will take you from the brink of motherhood to the precipice of cancer – and beyond.”
Deborah Valentine, Executive Director, ACCESS, The Hague
What to do, feel, manage? 36-years-old, 3 months pregnant, on a break from her PhD research in Israel, Sue Lawrence found a lump in her breast on her honeymoon. The lump turned out to be breast cancer. She lost the breast and kept the baby. Advised to start chemotherapy as her pregnancy progressed, Sue delivered Elona prematurely, her body’s reaction to the impact of treatment. Sue’s response to her experiences as a newly wed, new mom, and breast cancer patient was recorded in her journal over an 8-year period. “Raw” and “unedited,” it is the meat of her book.
Helen Stein, PhD
Q: Tell us about your book. Although the title gives us a huge clue, what is the basis for your book? Could you describe it in just a few sentences?
A: My book is an intimate journal from my breast cancer experience. I was just married, pregnant and then we discovered a lump in my breast. Much of my treatment and recovery was about suppressing my grief and anger, yet I felt them and wrote them down. This book gave me permission to feel whatever I wanted to feel with my experience and I’d like it be an example for others to do the same. Feel what you want to feel with your cancer – it’s your cancer.
Q: What made you did you decide to write it?
A: I was scared to come out as a writer. I shoved myself into publishing it. The diary entries had to be raw and unedited, but with the written text if I waited until my writing was perfect, I would never write.
Q: Why do you think your book needed to be written?
A: To honor my voice as a writer and to create a safe ground for others to feel and do what they wish with their cancer experience.
Q: Who do you think will read your book? Who would you like to read it? Did you have a target audience in mind before you wrote it?
A: I wrote this book for other women with breast cancer who may also be suppressing their emotions. Just after diagnosis I received the message that I had to be positive – I took this to mean suppress all bad feelings and plaster a smile on my face. Yet I was grieving so many things and there was no safe space to grieve. This book may also be useful for partners and family members who don’t realise what their loved ones are going through.
Q: What steps have you taken or are planning to take to promote your book? Which methods do you think will work best to meet your target audience?
A: I have a website, My Nipple Party and a Facebook page of the same name. I’m going to do Google Hangouts and give online talks and I’m trying to contact breast cancer organizations. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with marketing so I’m taking baby steps.
Q: How did you choose your publisher and method of publishing? Did you do much research did you do before you made your choice? And what made you chose this route?
A: My friend wrote a book with the publisher, Jo Parfitt at Summertime Publishing/ Springtime Books, so I contacted her and she said “yes”. This immediate “yes” was such a boost. It was like the gods in the form of Jo pushing me forward. There was no struggle or angst.
Q: What was your biggest challenge once you decided to write your book and how did you overcome it?
A: Near the end I was filled with doubt and fear. Who wants to read this drivel? I’m crazy, a narcissist, self-absorbed, I’m bearing all my inner thoughts to the world – what a weirdo. And then my next thought was – I want my drivel to help people – how can I make my book do that? And that’s what I focus on now. How can I make a difference and my book is my first step.
Q: Now you have written your book how has writing it impacted you, your family, your self-esteem or your business?
A: I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. My first published book is a salute to my soul. Go! Sue Go!
Q: What were the highlights of the writing and publishing process from starting to write your book to it being sent to print?
A: When Jo said, “yes, I’ll publish it”, my heart sang. Can you imagine someone else thinking this work is publishable? And then when Leigh made the cover, wow – it’s tangible – I will have something to sell! And when you were solidly working with me to create a good product I felt all you were taking me seriously as a writer. At that moment, I shifted into Sue, the writer. So Summertime Publishing and Springtime Books are publishers of books and dreams.
Q: If you were to give advice to someone thinking about writing their memoir, what would be your number one tip?
A: Write your heart out.
Just married and newly pregnant Sue finds a lump in her breast. This is her intimate diary.
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