Wednesday, November 14

Writing Through Cancer

 15 November 2013: Another year on- and I'm still here!          
 Time’s a funny thing. As I said in a previous post, on 13 November 2012, I got to live a dream. My novel, The Fifth Knight, was published by Thomas & Mercer. There it was, on But exactly seven years ago, in November 2005, I wasn't living the dream at all. I was starting to live a big ol’ nightmare. An emergency admission to hospital had me lined up for some major surgery. Surgery that would reveal I did, in fact, have ovarian cancer at the age of 40. I got the diagnosis two weeks before Christmas.  I’m not going to dwell on the ins and outs of this horrible disease and its treatment. The fact that I’m typing this seven (Now eight!!) years later gives you a pretty good idea of how it all turned out. (Homage to the amazing National Health Service).
            A cancer diagnosis takes your life and everything you know, throws it up in the air and stomps all over it. Everything’s affected: your physical health, your mental well-being, your loved ones, your friends, your career, your income, and a whole lot more. No surprises there.
But for me, there was something that was uniquely mine that was also being destroyed. I was three years into writing novels, trying to achieve that ridiculous dream of publication. After diagnosis, I wouldn't say my Muse deserted me. I would say I found my Muse in a motel with another muse, with a stack of used muse condoms, laughing in my face while it waved muse divorce papers at me and demanded I sign here.
Every time I went to write a single word, my Muse would be nowhere to be found. The only company I had was the Cancer Genie. Cancer Genie isn't very loud, but is astonishingly persuasive. Look, here’s the Internet- why not read some survival stats! Hey, I just found some re-occurrence symptoms! Time I should have been writing, doing the thing I love, was spent in fear. My dream was shattered, as was I.
But somebody stepped in and held that dream for me, kept it alive and nourished it until it was time to hand it back. And it’s somebody I've never met, or even spoken to. Step forward, Pat Sider, a critique partner who is half a world away from me in Canada. Once she heard of my illness, she did the all the right things. She stopped e-mailing about writing. Instead, she e-mailed often about other things. She sent silly links and pretty e-cards to cheer me up and to show to my daughter (who was seven at the time). During those early, impossible weeks, Pat never mentioned writing. She just sent a whole pile of kindness.
Things looked much, much better by the end of January. But by then, Cancer Genie had his feet firmly under the table and I didn't have a word. Cancer Genie hadn't reckoned on Pat, however. First, she asked gentle questions, gave tactful prompts. How was the writing? Had I gone back to it? Then, when was I sending her some? When I did (and it was awful, though she never said so), when was I sending more? Where was the next bit? She is one persistent lady.
After a few months, guess who was back? My Muse. Looking very sheepish, smelling of another muse’s perfume, and with a suitcase full of dirty washing under its arm. Cancer Genie got in a filthy sulk and decided to go quiet, saving the onslaughts for check-up time. My Muse couldn't care less. It was back to business as usual, sat picking its nose and ignoring me some days, yawning its head off on others. Every now and then, it pays attention and I remember why I tolerate it being around in the first place.
As for Pat Sider, she’s my online angel and keeper of my dreams. Without her, I would never have got The Fifth Knight to publication. She has my everlasting gratitude. It’s only right the world gets to know what she did.
The Fifth Knight is a #1 Amazon Bestseller in Action & Adventure and Historical. You can find it here on or here on


  1. This post really moves me. I'm so glad you had such a friend, and that things have gone well for you. And you write about it with such an engaging combination of wit and descriptive power that I'm on my way over to take a look at your book, right now. My own muse was pretty uninvolved until after I got my cancer "all clear," but then he made up for lost time, and it sounds like yours is doing the same. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Thanks to you too for your kind words. So pleased to hear you're doing good too- as well as your muse! :)

  3. I can add -ditto- to the above. Writing in any form is a therapy for moving on - and the life-threat is a kick up the bum.

  4. Glad to hear you've survived it and you're well. Pat sounds amazing. Here's to many more years of good health and happy writing.

  5. I was so moved by your blog E.M, your strength in the face of such a terrifying nightmare and how your strength, determination and the support you received pulled you through. This writing thing is so weird. It pulls us to ourselves and without it we're lost. To have to face such a devastating ordeal and to go on to become a best-selling Thomas & Mercer author is inspiration enough. You're such a star! I wish you a long, happy and healthy writing life and to years and years of best-selling author success! Jo xxx


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