What Gets Us Through

- by Dianne Drake

I’d blogged here before. Blogging’s not one of my favorite things to do because I really don’t have much to say, but I support NINC and try to help out in small ways. So, I blog. Or shall I say blogged, in the past tense.

Then one day my life changed. I was diagnosed with cancer. Wasn’t sick, wasn’t feeling bad. Life was pretty much normal, except there was this one morning it wasn’t so normal, and a couple of hours later I had a diagnosis. Doc wasn’t sure how pervasive it was – could be uterine, could be ovarian, we’ll know more later, is what he told me. But, it’s definitely cancer.

Cancer. That’s not what anybody wants to hear. For me, my first thought was the live or die thing, naturally. Then being the writer I am, my second thought was literally an upcoming deadline, and how cancer was going to wreak havoc with it.

So a few days and a few tests later, I got the news that while they still didn’t know much, surgery was in my near future, which was fine because the parts they were going to take just happened to be parts I no longer needed. So that worked out pretty well, all things considered.

The next sequence of events turn into a long, boring story about how my first surgeon didn’t get back to me for 50 days after breaking the news – you know, like in: You’ve got cancer, don’t call us, we’ll call you. How I waited for that call for three weeks and finally went off in search of another surgeon who was more responsive, and treated my condition with some urgency.

How I had a radical hysterectomy and went through the recovery. How, three weeks after my surgery by my second surgeon (yay!), my first surgeon (boo!) finally called me back and wanted to schedule my surgery in the next month or so. How I filed a complaint about that surgeon with the hospital where he operates and went to other lengths to further irritate him and make me feel better.

Then there were the little things like firing the anesthesiologist while I was on the operating table waiting for him to put me under (he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, let alone my vein, with an IV needle and I sure as heck didn’t want him in charge of knocking me out). And my body suddenly discovering it was without its usual hormones, and all the crazies that went along with that.

(Ask me about how all the books on the shelves in my office suddenly made me claustrophobic, and I’ll tell you about some other strangeness that deserves to be a short story in and of itself.) All of it medical drama that I took charge of and came out on top of because I used to be a nurse and I know my way around the medical system.

Still, it was the fear of not being able to write that bothered me almost more than the cancer. Or maybe my writing was the diversion I needed to keep the cancer off my mind. My second surgeon, a wonderful woman, was impressed that I had to keep writing through the whole ordeal. In fact, she not only scheduled my surgery for the day after my deadline, she also came to my room the morning after my surgery fully expecting to see me sitting up in bed and writing. Which, I was doing, to be honest.

Why? Because I had to. Can’t explain it, and it’s something only another writer would understand. But my writing turned into my lifeline. As long as I was doing it, I was OK.

So I wrote up until the day I went into the hospital, and wrote as soon as my head cleared after my surgery. I wrote when I got home, met my next deadline, went through revisions, plotted another story series, and even negotiated books with two new publishers who approached me after my diagnosis and prior to surgery. (Amazing how that all worked out.)

Now, a few months later, I wonder what I would have done if I hadn’t been able to write through it, and even plan my next segment of writing future. My prognosis came out good – the chemo and radiation I was originally scheduled for were cancelled because the surgery turned out so well.

On the days following up when I felt bad, I wrote. I wrote even more on the days following up when I felt good. I plotted new stories, negotiated even more into my future. And through it all, I never stopped. Not even for a day.

Because, what if I had? What would I have had to face if my writing hadn’t been there to support me? That’s what it did, though. It supported me through a trauma no one should ever have to face. And not only did it support me, it got me through. So did the people around me who love me, and I would never downplay their importance in my recovery.

But they weren’t the ones in the wee hours, when the ugly thoughts crept back in, who were only a laptop and the push of the on/off button away. The people who loved me placated me and patted me, but my writing completely removed me in those awful moments and hours when I desperately needed to be removed.

Writing – it’s what I do. More than that, it’s who I am. It’s what got me through one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to face, and I’m grateful I had it there to back me up. We’re lucky, all of us who write.

We have something we can turn to that will make the bad moments better, that will totally transport us to a different time and place where our problems don’t exist. Our writing fills the empty spaces, and I wonder what it would be like not to have that. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to find out.

And I’m glad to be back blogging for NINC again, even though, in the future, I won’t have too much to say.


  1. Dianne, what a wonderful success story, and how writing got you through this horrible scare of your life. Of course you took matters into your own hands. And to fire the anesthesiologist who’s about to put you under. I recently had surgery — they couldn’t find my veins and sent me home WITHOUT a nerve block. I could have really used you in my corner.

    Thank goodness you continued writing. I can totally relate. Next they’ll be calling you for Survivior. You certainly are one!

  2. Your journey is an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your experience and the value of writing in your life.

    Can’t wait to read more of your books!

  3. Dianne,

    Your talent for ‘not having MUCH to SAY ‘ is truly inspirational!

    Your recent blog needs another home …….like in ‘Writer’s Digest or ‘Writers’.

    Bravo MY FRIEND! Hugs to you!

  4. P.S. I love the photo of you posted above. What a pretty smile!

  5. Dianne,

    I’m so glad you are doing well. I’m glad to know you kept wirting because we would miss your books if you didn’t. I think in the middle of crisis doing something that is normal, calms us, gives us some control. Writing is that for writers.

  6. Terrific and inspiring article, Dianne. It sent me off to your website to check out your books. But did you know the link in the NINC sidebar is wrong? I had to find you via google.

  7. Good for you, and for us too..we write because we can’t not write..that’s who we are…and through writing we understand ourselves, and our environment..and you sure had a great deal to say….so I raise my expresso cup to you and all of us you have overcome with pen, or keyboard…and are still here to fight/write another day…..

  8. Your article, your perseverance and your strength are AMAZING. I am in awe of you, Dianne, and if your situation ever happens in my life, I’m going to keep your words close to my heart!

    I’ve been dawdling this morning, and you’ve also made me realize that I have no excuse to be dawdling. I’m going to get to work–right now!