A Crushing Diagnosis Tested Her Spirit and Inspired Her Book
“It was a shock to be told that I had metastatic cancer,” says Carole Weaver-Linsner. At 72, she was enjoying retirement from her career as a professor and fundraiser, and had just become a grandmother for the first time. Suddenly, she faced a terminal diagnosis that threatened to suck the joy from the time she had left.
Yet Carole was determined not to let the diagnosis kill her spirit. As she waded through doctor’s appointments and treatments, she found ways to maintain a positivity and joy—an attitude that her oncologist now credits with Carole’s relatively good health five years into her diagnosis.
“My oncologist is very happy with me,” Carole says with a smile.
Carole had discovered the tools to live a positive, productive life in the face of terminal illness, and she didn’t want to keep that knowledge to herself.
“I decided to write a book, because I thought, there are other people who have this condition too.” She wants anyone facing terminal illness to have the tools she has to make the most of life. That in itself is one of her tools: helping others.
An Unconventional Idea
However, Carole’s book idea was unconventional and thus trickier to write. Along with life lessons for living with terminal illness, Carole wanted to interweave vignettes from her husband’s career as an art appraiser. The two topics might sound unrelated, but Carole saw many parallels between the aftermath of her diagnosis and the reactions of individuals involved in art appraisal cases. Many of her husband’s clients lost works of art through death, divorce, bankruptcy, or other life tragedies, and the range of their reactions to “losing beauty” provides insight into how humans react when threatened with the loss. Some reactions are humorous, some outrageous, and some heartwarming. Carole wanted to explore how these stories could inform a sick patient’s approach to holding on to beauty or surviving its loss.
Carole holds a PhD in English and taught at the college level for years. But to bring this unconventional idea to fruition in a manuscript about something so personal, Carole knew she’d need support from another professional writer or editor. Enter The Book Professor®.
Carole saw Nancy Erickson speak at a writing conference and was immediately drawn to her message.
“I haven’t met that many people who are absolutely doing the thing they should be doing, but Nancy Erickson is the living example of it,” Carole says. She recognized Nancy’s academic and editorial skill, and also appreciated the confidence Nancy seemed to have for the business side of publishing. Carole thought to herself that if anyone could help her figure out how to write and market an unconventional book, it would be this book coach. So, she approached Nancy at the first chance she got and spilled her book idea. “I want to write a book about metastatic cancer!” she said.
She wasn’t sure what this book coach would think of her admittedly somber topic. Nancy’s reaction was immediate: she thought Carole’s idea was fantastic.
“I couldn’t believe that she was so responsive to that,” Carole says. Encouraged by Nancy’s ‘atta-girl attitude, Carole looked into The Book Professor® program and chose the Group MASTERMIND course to help her complete her book.
Encouragement on Tap
Nancy’s support helped propel Carole throughout the entire book-writing process. “It has really been the wind beneath my wings, so to speak,” she says.
Carole was enthusiastic about the idea to blend art appraisal stories with lessons about one’s attitude to illness, but she went into the project knowing it would be a difficult balancing act to strike. The drafting process was not always easy. Figuring out how to seamlessly blend the two topics took persistence and dedication. But Nancy encouraged her every step of the way.
“She always said, ‘Go ahead, do it! Let it flow from you,'” Carole remembers. Even when Nancy pointed out sections of the manuscript that were unclear, needed rewrites, or didn’t flow well, it was done in a spirit of encouragement that kept Carole motivated.
The other writers in her MASTERMIND cohort became allies, too. Carole began to look forward to the weekly meetings when she and the others would share their writing from the week before. “I loved hearing what they had written the week before, and I loved reading my own stuff.” Their enthusiastic support for her work reassured Carole that a general audience would enjoy her material.
She also liked learning from other writers who were also writing about life lessons. One author wrote about parenting a mentally ill adult child. Another wrote about surviving childhood abuse. The topics were varied, but perseverance and hope were common threads.
Nuts ‘n Bolts
Carole framed her book around 12 negative feelings that accompany a terminal diagnosis—things like depression, thoughts about death, overwhelm with the medical process—and spent each chapter detailing how to overcome one of the 12 obstacles. The book emphasizes the positive areas of focus that keep life meaningful, such as leaving a legacy, staying true to your authentic self, practicing some form of artistic creation, and more.
The Book Professor® also helped Carole write a strong ending to her manuscript. Nancy told Carole to “think of the [book] ending as four or five braids, weaving them into one.” This helped Carole firmly tie the themes of her book together at the end.
Carole called the completed manuscript Pies to Die For: How to Live a Vibrant Life Despite a Fatal Diagnosis.
After Carole completed the manuscript, The Book Professor® helped her manage all the other details that go into publishing. Carole and Nancy collaborated to determine the best cover for the book, and finally settled on an artistic photograph of a sliced pie against a black background, acknowledging the seriousness of mortality while embracing all the sweetness that life still has to offer.
Writing a Legacy
Readers have praised Carole’s work, including, to her surprise, readers who do not have cancer or any other terminal illness.
“I’ve been told by people who don’t have cancer that they really enjoyed the art appraisal stories,” she says. She’s glad that she took the risk to include that material, and glad that The Book Professor® supported her vision for the book.
And, of course, Carole continues to practice the attitudes outlined in her book for a happy life. One of her biggest antidotes against depression, she says, is Facetiming her now-five-year-old grandson, whose birth coincided with her diagnosis. She takes his picture along to doctor’s appointments and uncomfortable procedures. “[That picture] tells me that life goes on, and that my DNA will flourish in his,” she says.
Thanks to The Book Professor’s guidance, Carole’s wisdom will also go on, lived out by other individuals determined to make the best of the time they have.