Today we get to meet non-fiction author, Veronica Arnold, who has self published an inspiring story. Read on.
Welcome to An Indie Adventure, Veronica. Tell us, what inspired you to write your book “It’s Okay To Be Me?”
In the summer of 2011 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before that I had always been healthy, so this came as a shock. I tell people, though, that if you have to have cancer, you should do it the way I did. My tumor was small, surgery took care of it, and I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation. I took expensive supplements from an Oregon clinic for a year before the money ran out to pay for them, but that was it.
The inspiration to write my book came from all the people who poured out their love to me during that scary, vulnerable time. My entire life, I was always sending out radar, trying to figure out what people wanted from me so I could give them that so they would like me. This cancer journey brought me to a place where all I could do was survive. I could give nothing to those around me—for a few weeks after surgery I couldn’t even stay awake when people came to visit me. But still they came and helped and loved my blogs. It began to dawn on me that it really was okay to simply be me. I didn’t have to try to be someone others would like—it was enough just to be me. This idea was so revelational that I had to write a book about it.
I had a good childhood—no abuse or neglect or poverty. As writers we think there has to be some terrible conflict, or where is the story? I thought perhaps there might be others like me who had not suffered terribly, yet still endured a lifelong crisis of identity. Maybe they could benefit from the lessons I learned.
What people helped you the most in getting this book published?
In the spring semester of 2012 I took a Creative Nonfiction Writing course at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, where I live. It was there that I submitted the first very rough draft of what would become my book. My teacher, Kerri Mitchell, and my classmates gave me invaluable critiques. That summer I submitted my manuscript to an Inspiring Voices writing contest, but didn’t win anything. Still, I felt strongly that the book needed to be published. I submitted my revised manuscript to the follow-up Creative Nonfiction Writing course at FRCC. Then I self-published through Inspiring voices in November of that year.
My classmates gave me the technical critiques I needed to polish my work; other friends gave their own critiques; and my husband encouraged me all along the way.
Are you planning on writing other stories, books? If so what kind?
I briefly tried my hand at fiction, and maybe at some point I will be able to do that, but not now. When I was a child I longed to write stories, but I could never get past the point at which I had to come up with names for my characters. The only names I could think of sounded stupid to me. As an adult I realized that to write good fiction you have to do a lot of research. I can think of interesting plot lines, but I have no idea how to fill in the background with credible descriptions of the way things work. And at this point the research part escapes me.
I love to write about my life because that’s what I know, and I think it’s interesting. In my Creative Nonfiction Writing course, our first writing prompt was to write a couple paragraphs about how our parents’ first date might have looked. I realized I had no idea where my parents met or anything about their courtship. I didn’t want that to be the case for my children, so I wanted to write about their dad and I. So presently I am working on a book about our courtship, which took place when the man who would become my husband and I worked at a mental institution, and our ensuing marriage. My husband, Jerry, came up with the title, “Love In the Looney Bin.” I realized that what all of life is about, fundamentally, is a search for love; and as crazy as life is, we all live in a looney bin called planet Earth. So maybe a lot of people would be able to relate.
Recently Jerry and I wrote a short story about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. When I told a friend at church about that, he looked confused and said, “Uh, don’t we already have that story?” Well, yeah, but what did it really feel like to wake up as a fully formed adult in that perfect world? Did Adam come pre-programmed with language, or was there a learning curve? When Eve offered him the fruit from the forbidden tree, did Adam just stand there dumbly and eat of it with her? Or did he try to dissuade her, or try to correct the damage once she bit into the fruit? I wanted to understand the scene better, so I had to write it. Then Jerry basically rewrote it, preserving the basic idea but adding words that brought it to life. We hope to publish it soon on Amazon’s Kindle.
Two semesters ago I took an Old Testament survey course in which we had discussion board questions every week. I would like to expand those essays and make them more personal than what we were allowed to do in class. The Bible fascinates me, and I would love to address some of the knotty questions that come up with research and personal examples. (I do love that kind of research!)
Where would you have someone start looking for help with the crisis you've faced?
My first resource was a book I had read a year or so earlier, about a young woman who was diagnosed with stage four aggressive breast cancer. She had surgery right away, but had to wait for chemo and radiation, which her doctor insisted she must have, until she gave birth (she was 38 weeks along when she was diagnosed). While she waited, she and her husband did extensive research on cancer treatments. As a result, she rejected the recommended treatments and instead went with supplements from the same clinic I subsequently used for my supplements. She has been cancer free now for many years. The book was, “You Did What??” by Holly and Patrick Quinn.
I also highly recommend the web site of an author friend, Sandi Rog, http://www.sandirog.com, where she tells her cancer story. When a particularly awful cancer reappeared after going into remission, she discovered B17 shots and went with that rather than the treatment she had received the first time around. That cured her cancer without killing her.
As you will learn from my book, though, my very first line of defense was Jesus Christ. The Lord had prepared me spiritually for my crisis, and when it came, my response was, “Bring it on!” I was eager to see the miracles God would perform to bring me through this. No matter how effective the traditional or nontraditional treatments for the disease, a crisis like this can rock your world, because in truth, you are facing the very real possibility of death. I would have been defeated from the outset if I had not been able to confidently place my trust in the God who holds all of creation and every moment of my life in His hands.
Would you share some Words of inspiration that you've used to help you through each day?
I have been memorizing scripture regularly for many years, and those words are the ones that come up the most when I need encouragement. When I faced retirement from 30 years as a rural route mail carrier, the Lord addressed my fear of the unknown with Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In a Biblical counseling course I took after I retired, I learned that I am not powerful enough to screw up the plan God has for me. That has been a very comforting thought ever since.
When I was returning home from getting my biopsy, the sign on a church near our home gave me a strong weapon against my fear: “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me,” from Psalm 23.
My husband once said, “Ultimately, freedom is the right to choose right. While it also includes the right to choose wrong, that choice ultimately leads to the loss of freedom." That has served to help keep me on the straight and narrow road more than once.
Give us a brief summary of “It’s Okay To Be Me” :
A cancer diagnosis is never welcome, but for me it was a call to battle rather than a temptation to drown in despair. My response was, “Bring it on!” I wanted to see what God would do with this.
My book chronicles the very personal account of my early years and the factors that contributed to my feelings of rejection. While not a victim of abusive, alcoholic, or drug-using parents–or even of abject poverty–indwelling sin twisted my experience, convincing me that I was terribly flawed and unworthy.
But God was at work in my life, calling out to me and holding me close even at my most rebellious times. It was when I was at my most vulnerable point, fearing a possible death sentence from cancer, that I finally got the message that I was infinitely valuable and eternally and unconditionally loved by the very Creator of the universe.
Walk with me through the revelational process of finding my true worth. Discover the ways God prepared me for my most difficult journey of breast cancer and continually supported me through the stress of the challenging decisions, surgery, and recovery. Read how I discovered, for the first time in sixty-five years, why it really was okay to be me.
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