The inimitable gals over at Duolit
decided to hold a blog day in honour of their friend Julie Forward DeMay, asking people to write about something caner/inspirational/obstacle-overcome related and to tell you a bit about Julie's book and how it came about.
"But, Justin, aren't indie authors supposed to work like dogs to promote their own work with no help from anyone else?"
Excellent question. Answer being, well, no. But even if that were the case, Julie can't. Julie's book is a collection of blog posts she wrote while fighting a losing war with ovarian cancer. Her work is done. She's not around to promote her work. She's can't be with her nine-year-old daughter. That's where we come in.
Here's the official summary for Julie's book:
January 31st is IndiesForward day – a special blogging event dedicated to spreading the legacy of Julie Forward DeMay and her touching memoir, The Cell War Notebooks.
What would you do when faced with a battle for your life? Author, photographer and creative spirit Julie Forward DeMay took on her fight with cervical cancer like she was playing for the new high score in her favorite video game, Asteroids. Inspiring, witty, beautiful and brutally honest, The Cell War Notebooks is a compilation of the blog Julie kept during the last seven months of her life. It’s a powerful read for anyone, whether your life has been touched by cancer or not. Check out the paperback on Amazon and keep up with the latest news on Facebook.
All proceeds from book sales go to Julie’s nine year-old daughter.
Buy the book here | Check out the original blog here | Visit the Facebook page here
Now, you likely know that I hate talking about myself. I use humour to provide a screen of sorts, and often use my work as a stand in for myself if someone poses a question about me. A lot of people have pushed me to talk about my Lyme journey in terms other than lab test numbers and the scientific names of tick-borne organisms, and now seems as good a time as any. This'll be short because I'm doing on the internet, and the average 'net reader will move on to the next video of a puppy eating his own poop in about 100 words from now.
The first word I ever remember spelling was "apple" when I was four or five.
When I was eight I saw Star Wars for the first time, and suddenly understood the energy and power of fiction. That's when I decided to be a writer. (Why I didn't jump to film maker I don't know.)
When I was ten or eleven I got the flu, but I never recovered, and to this day I don't remember that entire year of my life.
In the meantime I was writing thousands of words, mimicking the expanse of writers and movie makers I encountered. Dozens of galaxies bloomed in my brain, stretched their nebulous tendrils into my six senses, and beckoned me to birth them. And I did, bit by bit. I wrote my first novel, coming it at about 100 000 words, before age 20. (I don't remember exact dates or years very well thanks to my Lyme disease.) It was a dry run. I got rid of it, knowing I would return to it some day, and eventually building a seven book series in my head. It's still on my list.
I still wasn't healthy. In fact I was getting worse. In the summer of 2005 my body became a shattered husk after what I refer to as the Febreze Incident: I was sitting at home when someone sprayed Febreze a few rooms away. When the fumes wafted over to me I felt nauseous, so I tried to leave the area. The problem was that I couldn't move from the neck down. When I finally could move I only managed a few stumbling steps before I fell flat on my face. At that point I figured something must be wrong.
It took six years, dozens of doctors, scores of tests, and a whole lot learning about the true nature of mankind before we finally found out that I have Lyme disease.
I lost my physical ability, I lost many so-called friends, ultimately my wife told me it wasn't worth her sticking around, so she left. But worst of all for me was that those galaxies started to fade out. I wrote and scribbled and sketched as quickly as I could, but nothing came out properly. None of it made sense to anyone, least of all me. I felt each world blink out one by one. I swear I felt them straining to reach me, begging to know why they had to die, demanding to know why I wouldn't save them. One day the last one was gone, and I was alone.
I couldn't write more than a dozen words at one sitting, which -- along with extreme fatigue and pain -- made post-secondary education pretty much impossible. I attempted and withdrew from university twice, totalling one full year at The King's University College. There was a professor there, Dr. Arlette Zinck, who was instrumental in forming me as a writer. I was not a good writer in any standard sense of the word. I had little technical skill, and no idea how to structure anything. Dr. Zinck changed that. She spent her precious time taking raw, willing clay and gave it the direction to form itself into something rudimentary. I'll never forget her telling me, "I can't see you here," referring to university. I wasn't sure what to make of the statement, but she went on to explain that she wasn't sure how university would benefit me past a certain point. She would, of course, support me if I remained, but she was confident that I had enough ability and determination that I could reach my goals without spending thousands of dollars and hours in pursuit of a paper to hang on my wall.
I hope she was right.
In 2009 I almost died three times. I've never felt terror before that first time. I remember struggling for breath, as I often did, not really thinking anything about it. Then something changed. The pain stopped. That is terrifying. As long as I felt the burning in my lungs I knew I was alive, but I couldn't. I figured that was it. The end. Done. Finito. There's nothing like that kind of experience to bring some focus to life, and one of the things I thought was, "But I haven't written anything yet."
The next two times it happened -- one when nobody could find a pulse -- the thought I remember having was, "Screw this! I have things to write!"
To make a long story even shorter, we found out in 2011 that I have Lyme disease, and I entered treatment. Within about three months I was able to write a few hundred words per day. I was rusty, but I was still able.
Now, on good days at least, I can write or edit several thousands words without stopping. It's still exhausting, but I won't knock any accomplishment. I had chances to live and write that I'm not sure I should have had.
Well, Julie doesn't have any more chances, and I say she used her time and energies wisely.
Take a look at her book, read her journey, let it move you.