October Featured Title: Voices of Cancer

“While I never wanted this diagnosis, I would never change what I have gained from my experience. What I offer to you is a glimpse into the minds and hearts of people with the disease so that you may understand their needs and feelings better. I also offer some ideas for what to say to them, what not to say to them, and how they want to be treated.”

Our October featured title is Voices of Cancer by Lynda Wolters . Lynda answered our questions about her writing process, her own experiences and findings as a cancer patient, and her tips for people who are trying to console a loved one who is battling with cancer. 

Partial proceeds from Voices of Cancer will be donated to Epic Experience.

1. What was your primary goal for writing Voices of Cancer?

It surprised me to learn that being a cancer patient put me into a marginalized community, in that people had no idea how to talk to me or treat me and therefore, many in my personal circle of friends and even my family members, simply avoided me. I learned through numerous conversations with dozens of other cancer patients, I was not alone with this – that nearly everyone following their diagnosis felt marginalized and abandoned to some extent by friends and family. I therefore realized the cancer community needed a voice in order to help educate those outside the community learn how to interact, communicate and help cancer patients, and Voices of Cancer is a useful tool to show how to do this.

 2. As a cancer patient yourself, did you find the writing process to be cathartic or was it difficult to put your story into words?

Initially, I began an online journal shortly after my diagnosis and was quite faithful in posting. Prior to writing Voices of Cancer I wrote a memoir wherein I told the backstory of each of those journal entries. That writing project was completely open, raw and in places, perhaps more than anyone would ever want to know. The memoir was totally cleansing and healing for me. However, as it was so extremely personal, I was not ready to have others read it and I put it on the floor of my office and it is still today. The process of the memoir allowed me to write Voices of Cancer with a more all-encompassing lens without focusing wholly on my story; it too was very cathartic.

3. You mention how expressions like “You got this,” “Stay in the fight,” and “I’ll be praying for you” are not always the best thing to say to someone going through cancer treatment. What are some more practical things you could do or say to a loved one battling cancer that they might appreciate more?

The cutesy little sayings are not at all helpful, and unless you know a person’s religious affiliation, saying you will pray for them may actually be an insult or at least, miss the mark. Therefore, it is much better to say something along the lines of, “I will keep you in my thoughts,” or “I cannot understand what you are going through but I will listen if you would like to vent.” If you are close enough to actually help out, picking up the patient’s kids for an afternoon, or taking their caregiver out for coffee is wonderful. Remember, the patient will likely never ask for anything and will tell you, “everything is fine,” but they would love to have a meal delivered. Don’t ask them, tell them, “I will be bringing over dinner for you and your family on Tuesday, will six o’clock work for you?” If a meal is not something you can or want to do, stopping in at the clinic or hospital for a five minute visit can absolutely make the cancer patient’s day; it simple, it’s free, and it shows how much you care much more than any little off-the-cuff statement  that is better saved for a tee-shirt.

4. In your book you discuss how cancer patients can be considered a marginalized group. Are there other marginalized groups that you’d like to bring into focus with the Voices book series?

Having cancer opened my eyes to what it is like to be a marginalized person, therefore, following Voices of Cancer will be Voices of LGBTQ, which is a book designed to help educate, dispel fear and promote positive conversation regarding those in the LGBTQ community. This book will show the sameness of all people rather than the separation by difference. I will be working on Voices books for other marginalized communities in the future.

5. You’re donating a portion of the proceeds from your book sales to a non-profit called Epic Experience. Can you tell us a little bit about the work they do and your connection to this organization?

Epic Experience is an adventure camp for adult cancer survivors, located in the mountains of Colorado. It’s design is to encourage cancer survivors and thrivers to push beyond their often-times self-imposed walls, and find their physical abilities following their cancer treatments. Epic Experience has helped over four hundred warriors learn to live beyond cancer. I was fortunate enough to be a camper in 2018 when I was completely drained physically and mentally following my intense treatment and needed a push to get back into my non-cancer life. I had so many personal ah-ha moments and breakthroughs and have since become completely immersed in the Epic Experience culture and organization. I am currently a member of the alumni team, helping behind the scenes with thank you notes, letters, grant writings and volunteering. I would highly recommend any adult who has ever gone through cancer to apply for an adventure with Epic Experience – it truly is a game changer.  

To learn more about Lynda and her book, visit http://voicesbookseries.com/

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