Then cancer hit. Fear, anger, and doubt were cast front and center. Hearing and speaking the words shook me to the core, even though my prognosis that I’d survive Stage I breast cancer was excellent. But I needed to be brave, and courage was not in my skill set. I knew I had to stay connected and be supported by the people I loved without frightening them or myself.
I turned to journaling. I chose an ugly spiral notebook to rant, rage, complain and question. I had a private on-call therapist at the end of my pen. The quiet purging allowed me to practice the vocabulary and use the words to compose emails to my vast tribe of friends and family—My Everyone. My thoughts were cohesively ordered. My Everyone filled my heart with an outpouring of love and inclusion. I was not alone. Courage stealthily appeared and just like that, I began asking pertinent questions, speaking up for myself, and completing a course of treatment.
I had planned to go through the journal and emails a year after treatment. I thought it would be a good story complete with drama, whimsy, and a happy ending. But each time I revisited the pages, I got caught up in the horror. I hated feeling that fear again. Finally, I buried the evidence, secretly hoping to lose it all in the deep abyss of stuff.
Then, within five years, Stage IV cancer hit. Now the cancer is forever. The familiar fear, anger, and doubt crept back. I resurrected that ugly journal and compiled the emails into an accessible file. While reading through the entries, I was astounded at how brave I had become that year. It gave me hope and a compass to navigate this new diagnosis.
Today, cancer does not get a journal of its very own. There is too much life in my days and too many stories to tell to dedicate to one issue. Right now, treatment is not too debilitating nor intrusive to give cancer center stage. I am so very fortunate—so grateful. I continue to try to write daily in my journal. I complain, rant, and rage at will. It is not always about cancer. The on-call therapist is always open. My ramblings are, as always, filled with story starters, poetry experiments, and quiet observations. Gratitude is prevalent.
Antoinette Truglio Martin is a speech therapist and special education teacher by training, but is a writer at heart. She is the author of the children’s picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup (Albert Whitman & Company) and was a visiting author in schools for several years.
She was formerly a regular columnist for Parent Connection (In A Family Way) and Fire Island Tide (Beach Bumming). Personal experience essays and excerpts of her memoir were published in Bridges, Visible Ink, and The Southampton Review.
Martin proudly received her MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook Southampton University in 2016. As a Stage IV breast cancer patient, she does not allow cancer to dictate her life. She lives in her hometown of Sayville, NY with her husband, Matt.
Photo Credit: Titus Kana for Antoinette Truglio Martin's Author Bio photo.