By Tracey Shearer
I often heard that phrase growing up, usually from people much older than I was. But hearing something and believing it are two very different things.
I began to believe it when I lost my job after twelve years of service. Then I saw the flickers of truth when I was diagnosed with cancer just a few months later. But when my mom died right after my diagnosis, I was a believer through and through.
Time was a gift. And it might be a gift I had to enjoy quickly, because my chances of survival were 50/50. My cancer is extremely rare. And many don’t survive.
When you’re hit with the hard truth of a fifty percent chance to live, you can go either way. You can curse the time you might never have or you can cherish every moment you do have.
I remember sitting at my desk, my head in my hands, and hard tears shaking through my very bones. I couldn’t take any more. I couldn’t.
I grieved and cried and screamed and cried some more. It wasn’t fair.
I didn’t know if the cancer would come back.
I didn’t know if I would survive.
I didn’t know if I would get to achieve my dreams.
My life was never ever going to be the same.
And it never was. It actually got better.
Sure, the cancer battles weren’t great, but when I began to appreciate every day I was alive, something shifted within me.
I found a strength I didn’t realize I had. Sometimes you need to dive into darkness before you finally see the glimmer of your own light.
That light illuminated a dream I had put aside. A dream of writing.
My dad had been an amazing storyteller. He would sweep me, and everyone else within earshot, away into another land, another moment, another perspective.
My mom was the avid reader, always having a book nearby. She encouraged my love of reading and never once questioned my promises of becoming a published author one day.
But I believed in that ever elusive “someday” where suddenly everything I’d been wanting would start to happen. It would come, of course it would. Maybe when I had more time. Maybe when I was finally ready. I’m sure many of you have been on that “someday” path. And we never seem to reach it, do we?
Because it’s not assured. It’s a gamble.
Just like my cancer diagnosis.
But I didn’t want to have any regrets. Not any more. So, I took my first writing class to see if I had any talent in doing what I loved. Sure, my friends and family praised my work, but they’re biased.
I remember that first night of class. We wrote something from the teacher’s prompt and she asked who would like to read their work.
My body flushed, heat creeping up my neck and into my face before I even knew I was going to raise my hand. Because my heart knew. It understood why I was here. And the only way I would succeed was by taking a risk and being vulnerable.
The teacher called on me and I read my words, the page trembling in my hands. When I finished, I finally dared to look up. The teacher smiled and told me how much she enjoyed the emotion in my work. She could feel it.
I barely heard her words over my heart pounding, but I did hear them. Emotion. I knew that was my special talent. I understood how to connect emotionally with the words and translate that to my reader. I was on my way!
However, just two years later, my cancer came back in both my lungs, then a year after that by my rectum. I was scared, really scared. What if I died before I got my book published?
But I was determined to make it happen.
Much like my cancer challenges, my route to publishing was anything but smooth. I snagged an agent right away, but then we couldn’t get my first book sold. It was a vampire story set in Seattle and Russia. Too many vampires in the publishing marketplace. Then with my next book, Entwine, she had to suddenly retire to take care of her ailing hubby.
I was adrift.
I pitched my book just a few days later to new agents and editors at a conference. Everyone was interested. I was offered a publishing contract and decided to turn it down because it was too restrictive. I would have never done that when I first started out. But I knew my book was incredible. People just needed to read it.
I was tired of waiting. I needed to make my own future happen.
I formed my publishing company, Twilight Sparks Press and my first published book Entwine instantly racked up glowing reviews on Amazon. My New York and Seattle book launches were successes and I had kept my promise to myself. I had published my book. I was an author.
But cancer wasn’t done with me yet. After twelve years of clean CT scans, it swooped back into one of my lungs. I had surgery last Valentine’s Day to remove the tumor.
I remember waiting for them to wheel me into surgery. I stared at the fuzzy ceiling. It was fuzzy because I’m nearsighted and they had my glasses. But I saw everything very clearly in my heart. If I died on the table, I had achieved my dream.
I whispered, “I’m so glad I published my book.”
Isn’t it funny what comes to you at moments of mortality? It strips away everything to reveal your truest desires.
And thankfully I had the surgery done right before COVID hit - whew!!!
I launched my second book on Halloween 2020 and hit number five in one of my Amazon categories on launch day. Raven, my second book, already has five-star reviews of its own.
I was right. People needed to read my books. I had taken the leap and it paid off.
My follow-up CT scan from last December was clear, so the journey continues once more. I’m never free of the potential of cancer, but I don’t let it stop me.
You might not have faced cancer, but I know you’ve had other hardships on your journey. No one’s life is without a bit of darkness.
But, whatever you yearn to do in this life, take steps now to achieve it. Don’t wait. Listen to someone who lives on borrowed time and is the happiest she’s ever been.
I understand what they mean about time being a gift.
Bio & Links
Tracey Shearer is the bestselling author of Entwine and Raven. She’s also an Intuitive Storytelling Coach and uses her over sixteen years of writing experience to help others write and publish their dreams. Her two rescue kitties, Cleo and Feta, supervise her writing efforts in their Pacific NW home, a land teeming with writers, ghosts, and coffee shops. As a regular contributor to the podcast, “Your Writing Does Not Suck”, Tracey hopes to reach even more struggling writers to help them on their journey.
Tracey's books are available on Amazon. You can connect with her at Twitter, Instagram. She also has a free Facebook Writing Group, Motivated Magic Writing, offering trainings, tips, motivation, and support for writers, coaches, and visionaries who desire to connect more deeply with their words.