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Writing After Cancer
Guest Post by Marianne Curley
I was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer just weeks after finishing the final revisions for The Key. The doctor put me in hospital immediately for a stem-cell bone marrow transplant. I had only weeks to live.
Thankfully, the transplant was a success, but during my third week in hospital I experienced a fall onto my back, and because the chemotherapy treatment made my bones brittle, the fall was devastating. I lost three vertebrae and quite a few inches in height. I couldn’t concentrate because of the chronic pain, and the medication they gave me to ease the pain made me sleepy.
The first year after the fall and transplant I could do little but recover slowly and build my strength up again. I had to be careful of germs and watch how I moved for fear of the pain that would sear through my back and down my legs with every movement.
Eventually the crushed bones of my vertebrae settled into place and the number of tests I needed for my transplant reduced to once every three weeks, allowing me to make the seven-hour trip home to Coffs Harbour. During this first year at home, combined with the return trips to the hospital every three weeks, I couldn’t hold my concentration long enough to write squat.
But I was grateful to have made it through the transplant, thrilled to be alive and I couldn’t wait to get back into writing. I struggled through my sleepiness to write two manuscripts over four years. Unfortunately, they haven’t made publication, but they showed that I could write. It was a matter of hitting on the right topic, creating the best characters and producing a strong, vibrant story.
So how has my battle with cancer affected my writing? I would have to say it has made me more determined to succeed, and it has given me an insight into life that not everyone gets to experience (thankfully!) Cancer also helped me feel a whole gambit of emotions, from utter despair and hopelessness to a sense of utopia and nirvana. I now have an insight into some of life’s hardest experiences, fears and deepest emotions, which has created a rich and profound well of memories to draw from.