LBBC would like to introduce multi-award-winning author Helen Brown as our newest blog contributor! Helen has written two novels since her breast cancer diagnosis and her latest, ‘Cats & Daughters’, will be reviewed by a regular LBBC blog contributor in the coming weeks so stop by soon for what we’re sure will be an excellent review!
The best part of my life began with breast cancer.
I wouldn’t have believed that nearly five years ago when I had the mastectomy. But looking back I can honestly say the years since that traumatic event have brought more happiness and success than any other period of my adult life.
I was part way through writing my memoir Cleo when a routine mammogram revealed a large growth.
When the doctor diagnosed ductal cancer I told her I was too busy to be sick. I was writing a book about our black cat Cleo and how she’d helped our family recover from the loss of our nine year-old son in 1983.
Cleo had died a couple of years earlier at the age of 23 and a half. I wanted to honor her and give hope to other parents who’d lost children. Even though I couldn’t find a publisher and agents scattered on approach, this book needed writing.
While I was recovering after surgery, I crept back to the computer and completed the manuscript. Then to my delight, an Australian publisher sent a contract.
When an editor sent 15 pages of suggested changes, my heart sank. Still, cancer wasn’t far from my mind. If this was to be my last book it had to be my best.
I was astonished when Cleo was published in the US and became a New York Times best seller. It’s now published in more than 16 languages and a movie’s in development. I still sometimes have to pinch myself.
With Cleo’s success I received countless emails asking for a sequel. As it turned out there was plenty more to write about for my new book, Cats and Daughters.
Not long after the mastectomy, a rambunctious Siamese burst in on our lives. Galloping through the house, smashing vases, shredding the stair carpet, he drove me nuts. Jonah also made me laugh till my stitches hurt.
Our new cat’s rebellious spirit was mirrored in our elder daughter, Lydia. At the age of 23, after a brilliant academic career, she rejected Western society – and, I thought, her mother. To my horror, she shaved her head and flew to war-torn Sri Lanka to become a Buddhist nun.
It took a while to realize Lydia hadn’t abandoned me. She was simply redefining our relationship, insisting I pull back and allow her freedom. These days we’re very close.
Likewise, it wasn’t till I learned to relax about some of Jonah’s outrageous behavior that life with him became easier.
At an age I thought I’d be tending roses I’m traveling the world meeting publishers, readers and media. Emails roll in from Russia, Italy, Brazil.
If it hadn’t been for breast cancer and the determination it brought to make the most of life I doubt any of this would’ve happened.
Breast cancer made me take risks. I stopped putting things off and stretched my abilities to the limit.
With a good prognosis now, I savor beauty in every moment, open my heart to strangers and never leave a loving thought unsaid.
For these reasons I’m deeply grateful.
Helen Brown was born and brought up in New Zealand, where she first worked as a journalist, TV presenter, and scriptwriter. A multi-award-winning columnist, Helen now lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her family and feline. Cleo, her first novel, rose to the top of the bestseller lists in its first weeks in the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, and Australia, and has been translated into more than sixteen languages. It is currently being made into a major motion picture by South Pacific Pictures (the makers of Whale Rider). Her new memoir, CATS & DAUGHTERS, came out on March 26, 2013.
Visit Helen Brown online at www.helenbrown.com.