In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I'm pleased to bring you an essay written by Antoinette Truglio Martin, the author of an inspiring memoir, Hug Everyone You Know, A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer.
In 2007, when Antoinette was nearing 50, she received a stage I breast cancer diagnosis. A speech therapist and special education teacher by training as well as a successful children's book author, Antoinette started her fight against cancer with words, journaling and sending emails to family and friends who wanted to offer their support. The emails were addressed to 'Her Everyone,' and she signed each email with the reminder to 'hug everyone you know.'
Those emails and journal entries are at the heart of her memoir. The book is moving, brave, informative and occasionally funny. As the press release says, "It speaks to us all."
I hope Antoinette's essay will touch you with the tenderness that it touched me. I give you Antoinette's essay:
One Life, A Treasure Chest of Stories
by Antoinette Truglio Martin
"Stories fill our lives. We wake up, meander through our routines, and return to the day's end. Along the way, stories collect. They are born from our observations, interactions, and adventures. The upsides of life are celebrated. The hardships are pondered and wrestled with as we attempt to steer from a dark abyss. Stories that stand out are shared. Memorable ones are retold, rewritten, remembered through the generations. We are truly the keeper of story treasure chests.
In 2007, I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer. It was curable yet scary for this wimpy patient to hear the word cancer and endure treatments. After a year of cancer care-taking, I believed that I would never have to face the beast again. The cancer did reoccur in 2012 as Stage IV metastatic cancer. It is not curable and is scarier. Cancer is an attention getter. It can't be ignored and wants to be the center of attention, the topic of conversations, and the identity badge. It can take over a life story, leaving epitaphs of battle scars.
My coping mechanism had always been writing. Through 2007, cancer cluttered my path. So I journaled. The words articulated better on paper. Emailing my family and friends was easier than having a conversation.
My memoir, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer, arose from my experiences that first year of treatment. But I began compiling it after the second diagnosis. The cancer story chronicled only my first year because that was when I had to navigate the detours and hone courage. During that time, cancer did play a prominent role in my narrative. However, through the writing, I discovered that cancer was not the main story. It was a problem, but it was not the only problem. I could collect and tell other stories while dealing with cancer. I had graduations to celebrate, daughters to usher into adulthood, and beach days to enjoy. The memoir includes those stories.
Truth be told, writing has a way of getting to the core of the truth. I discovered a lot of my weaknesses. I remain frightened over worse case scenarios. I still have trouble addressing what I have to do without being on the verge of tears. I am not a warrior. I don't stand in a Superwoman pose and delegate strategies with confidence. I am not fluent to rally the masses and demand cures and my healthy life back. It isn't my role, and there are so many others who are so good at it.
I am only an expert on what I do and on most days, I am winging it. Sure, healthy attitudes, smiles, and positive mindsets are always helpful, but that's all I have in terms of tips. Writing works for me. I am able to root out the needed courage and remind myself that every day is a gift. My collected stories come to life on paper and computer monitor. I found that living for life is so much more rewarding than living for death. There are always wonders to discover that inspire the healthy attitude, smiles, and positive mindset.
I am blessed. My treatment options haven't been too invasive nor debilitating. Whatever the future holds for the cancer is just one story—not my whole story. I don't want my epitaph to include cancer battles. I aim to go out as the Storyteller.”
An Epilogue About Antoinette
Today nearing 60 and a stage IV breast cancer patient, Antoinette does not allow cancer to dictate her life. She lives in Sayville, NY, with her husband, Matt, and is never far from My Everyone and the beaches she loves. You can visit her at antoinettetrugliomartin.com or Facebook.
I also want to give a plug for Antoinette's publisher, She Writes Press. She Writes Press is an independent publishing company founded to serve members of She Writes, the largest global community of women writers online and women writers everywhere. It is a curated press that's both mission-driven and community-oriented, aiming to serve writers who wish to maintain greater ownership and control of their projects while still getting the highest quality editorial help possible for their work. If you've ever thought about writing a memoir or novel, check it out.
Let's send healing thoughts to Antoinette. May she continue her battle against breast cancer with courage.
I also want to mention another organization that sent me a note this month. It's called Girls Love Mail, a nonprofit that gives hand-written letters of encouragement to women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. Since its inception in August 2011, it has given out over 120,000 hand-written letters across the country—that's 120,000 women encouraged! If you would like to help them out with letter writing go to Girls Love Mail.
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.