I love November, but not for the reason you might think. I hate mustaches. Not that I think raising awareness of prostate cancer is a bad thing. It’s not. It’s fantastic.
But I’m a writer so November 1st marks the beginning of the greatest of all writing challenges – NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month, where I must write 50,000 words in 30 days to call myself “a winner.”
The only evidence of my participation, however, is found in my account on their website. I don’t participate in local writing sessions. I don’t hang out on chat boards talking about writing.
I just write.
NaNoWriMo lets me track my word count easily and, for some reason I don’t fully comprehend myself, just knowing there are hundreds of thousands of writers out there doing the same thing brings me great comfort.
This is an annual pilgrimage for me – one where I totally immerse myself in the joys, angst and insanity of writing 50,000 words.
Some years this challenge is a cake-walk.
In 2017 I wrote a 106,000 word paranormal mystery novel in 30 days. It felt easy and effortless. I began, as I usually do, with a detailed outline of what I want to write. This allows me to write with wild abandon since I never have to think about what comes next. It’s exhilarating to pound out so many words so fast. Good words, too.
I love years like 2017. Those are the good years. Then there was 2018.
In July of last year my wife was diagnosed with Stage 3C breast cancer. NaNoWriMo took a back seat to chemotherapy sessions and taking care of my wife’s daily needs as she struggled with the aftereffects of the drugs that kill cancer, but also kill her immune system.
It took me 2 full weeks to break the 5,000 word barrier and, somehow, I managed to break the 50,000 word “winner’s line” with what felt like minutes to spare before November’s end.
This year is, thank God, easier once again. After chemo shrank and ultimately killed the tumor, and the examination of the tissue after her lumpectomy showed no viable cancer cells in her at all.
A walking, talking miracle doesn’t begin to cover it.
So yeah, it feels great to crank out 4,500 words on Day 1 of this year’s NaNoWriMo.
But I also know from past experience, one day does not a NaNoWriMo make.
There are 29 more grueling days to crank out the first draft of our experience with breast cancer. It’s a book I knew I would write from the beginning because there are so few resources out there for husbands of women with breast cancer.
I’m a writer.
This year my job is to add one more resource to that list, so the next husband who has to sit in a doctor’s office and hear the terrible words spoken to his wife, “It’s confirmed. You have breast cancer,” won’t have to suffer through that nightmare alone.