Nothing in fiction can top real life and I confess that I prefer fiction to memoir and biography. The sprinkling of imagination like spices on a gourmet dish can turn boring history into explosive fiction. Reality as the back drop for fiction needs to go outside the boundaries of hum-drum.
Belly of the Whale is the fictional account of twenty-four hours in the life of a young woman with breast cancer; a disease whose reality is lived everyday by so many people. If you look at statistics the numbers are staggering. Age forty, that mid-life crisis birthday, is when having mammograms should begin. Breast cancer occurs at any age, but more often as women get older. Your chances of not ever having cancer are slim, very slim. For most; it will happen.
Breast cancer is the nightmare turned real in the ordinary life of my character, Hudson Catalina. Bringing the quality of emotion that I felt was needed to depict a situation so grave and where all hope was lost began with the intention not to focus on the cancer but instead on what happens at an over-the-top level; when one person’s life is broadsided by bad news on a beautiful day.
Given previous experience and the fears that follow, how does someone cope with this type of diagnosis? How does the woman in my story maintain her ability to keep hope alive? Extensive research produced one common thread, family. The love, kindness and patience of a spouse, boyfriend, life companion, children, siblings, and friends are crucial to quality of life. Caregivers can have the opportunity to be the best they have ever been, the best husband, the best daughter, or the best brother.
Many people have been touched by cancer, as victim and as witness. Others have been touched by tragedy and by loss. What kind and how each are defined does not matter. There is darkness in every life. The challenge: can we come out on the other side spirit intact? We can because hope belongs to everyone. Without hope, there is nothing.
Blog what her hear, see, think and feel.
Linda Merlino, author, Belly of the Whale