This week I received a heart-felt book in the mail, by Rachel Pappas the story of a mother and daughter both diagnosed with bipolar disorder. They had a long, rough ride; then came the cancer diagnosis …
Here’s an excerpt from Hopping Roller Coasters (author interview follows excerpt):
She took the cancer hit like she was hearing dinner would be spaghetti from a jar again. I was stymied, but I was also relieved because she hadn’t gone to pieces on me. As far as I could tell, she wasn’t scared to death for me, or looking herself in the mirror, thinking she could be next, like this was Consumption or some other horrible, contagious disease.
“I can’t figure out how Marina’s taking the ‘c’ news,” I said to Paul a week later, kneeling at my pajamas drawer. “She hasn’t said anything to me. Hasn’t asked a thing.”
I’d started to wonder if maybe I didn’t give myself enough credit. Maybe I put up a better front than I thought, selling her on that cancer is not so big and bad. Or maybe I gave myself too much credit, thinking she’d see her world crumble when I told her.
That’s when I got my surprise from Paul. “Oh, it’s been on her mind,” he said. “She was asking me some rather specific questions. And apparently she was searching for answers before she came to me.”
“Like what? What was she asking?” I stopped getting dressed.
“She wanted to know things like what stage you were in. She asked about lymph nodes and wanted to know about your prognosis. She was crying.”
I was torn now. Though I hated for Marina to be sad, knowing she needed me felt good. She wanted me waiting at the end of the aisle on her wedding day. My baby wanted me around to spoil her kids rotten, like grandmas do. And to keep loving her. Even if I hadn’t always made her feel eternally safe or good inside, she still loved me.
Cancer sucks, but I had another shot at breaking the two steps forward, one step backward pattern with my daughter. I had another ‘second chance’—no matter how much longer l lived.
Rachel Pappas is a long-time writer for regional lifestyle magazines, national trade magazines, and she has a website: www.1UpOnCancer.com . Hopping Roller Coasters is her first book, and the project that has meant the most to her. You can buy the book at a discount at http://www.1uponcancer.com/rachels-memoir/ at Barnes and Noble.com or Amazon.com
Here’s Rachel’s Interview:
You’ve been a writer for 25 years; what inspired you to finally write a book?
I was hearing most of my adult life, “Rachel, you should write a book.” I thought, yeah, right. I do 1,000-word magazine articles. Doing a book would be like climbing Mt Everest. And do I really have that much to say? I got my answer when I got hit with the “You have Cancer Brick.” The story wasn’t just about getting sick. It was more an apology to my daughter. I wanted Marina to know the things I used to say over and over weren’t about me not loving her to pieces as I do. That it wasn’t about her at all, but me—my issues. My second motivation was to remind anyone who has ever loved, needed to forgive or be forgiven, that they are not alone.
What was hardest about writing Hopping Roller Coasters?
Finding a way to be brutally honest where people would understand. I didn’t’ want readers to dislike me. I didn’t want them turning the pages thinking this book’s a downer. And I DID want to break through stigmas about mental illness. It was hard to balance the darkness and the humor. To tell the story in a way where folks would hopefully enjoy the read—even say, “Hey, I can relate to some of this.”
What was it like getting through some of Marina’s lowest points?
I was swinging back and forth from numb to petrified. One day I’d wonder, “Rachel, why aren’t you worried and scared? You’re her mother! “ Then something would happen that would be like a jarring reality slap in the face. Like when she’d just moved home after a year in a residential treatment center. We were in Wal mart and I suddenly realized Marina had disappeared. I was up and down every aisle five or six times. Just after I got on my cell with her father, absolutely frantic, I saw her. She was walking toward me holding a CD, smiling.
What do you hope people will get from the story?
Many things, but these two messages come to mind immediatley:
It’s ok to stumble and fall, as long as you try to get back up. You will have more “second chances”… no matter how long you live.
Sometimes you have to redefine your idea of success for yourself as a parent, and success for your child. To see all that’s so worth loving and being proud of. When you do this, you can be more at peace with yourself and this person you love.