Writing Facing Cancer as a Parent : Behind the Scenes

In preparation for my upcoming book launch, I’ve been gathering questions my readers have about the process of writing Facing Cancer as a Parent: How to help your Child Cope with Your Cancer and getting it ready to publish. The release date for Facing Cancer as a Parent is coming up, soon. I am formatting the book for print right now. Some formatting issues have put me behind schedule. My goal is to have it out by July 4th. In the meantime, here are some Q and A about writing Facing Cancer as a Parent.

Facing Cancer series seem to be part how-to and part anecdotal stories. Why the blend?

I love telling stories, especially to my family about my family, our history, and memories. It seems like daily I try to tell my kids a story and before I even begin, they groan and tell me the story as proof that they’ve heard it before. Apparently, I have told them these stories one too many times. I’m a storyteller. That’s part of being a writer. I also believe that most people are wired for story. Stories help them retain the information and know how to apply it to their own lives.

Is it difficult sharing such personal stories in your books?

I’m actually a very private person. Whenever I read a memoir, I wonder how the friends and family feel having their dirty laundry aired so publicly. So I’m sensitive to that and I’m careful to share things that are genuine, but at the same time don’t embarrass my family. That’s respect.

When I write a story about someone, whether they are a family member or a friend, I like to have them give me the okay.  If I write about someone I can’t get ahold of because we’ve lost touch, I change names and identifying details. Most people, including my kids, are pretty cool with it. I’ve never had anyone say no. But then, I don’t share everything.

Sometimes there are things that you might want to write about in the hope that it could help someone else in a similar situation, but you can’t do that if it’s going to embarrass your kid. Your kid has to come first. And you can’t make assumptions. Kids are unique and often sensitive to the spotlight. There might be something you don’t think is a big deal to share, but they might be mortified to see it in print. Ask first.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?

I think the editing process is my favorite. Not the whole grammar/punctuation aspect, but crafting the words. For a project like this, one of my goals is making the reader comfortable. I want the words to be easily digested so there’s no interference between me and the reader. So, I don’t want to throw overly-complex information at them or try to prove my intellect with a bunch of fifty-cent words. My readers are dealing with enough in their lives. I want to make life easier for them. That’s not always how I write, but it’s my philosophy when crafting my books about cancer.

Facing Cancer as a ParentWhat was the hardest part of writing Facing Cancer as a Parent?

By far the hardest part of writing Facing Cancer as a Parent was the end. There’s a section that deals with helping children through the death of a parent. I often found myself avoiding it and coming up with other things to do rather than finish the book. I didn’t want to think about it because that’s the reality that our family continues to face. Many people who have cancer are treated and cured and go on to live long lives. But there are people like my husband who have a diagnosis that doesn’t have a cure. We can put it off, but the day will come. So, that was an incredibly difficult section to write.

What’s it like working with Create Space to publish your book?

There are things about it that I love, like the ability to control your content, from the interior to cover choices, to how it will be marketed. There are also things I hate, like doing my own formatting. I could certainly hire a formatter, but I haven’t quite given up trying to save money in that area. I keep thinking, I’ve done this before. Why is it so hard? I will likely write about this in the future because it was such a difficult obstical to hurdle.

What characteristics from Facing Cancer as a Friend did you use writing Facing Cancer as a Parent?

I continue to write about things that the book’s audience is dealing with every day. In Facing Cancer as a Friend, that was the question of how to support someone you care about who is now diagnosed with cancer. In writing Facing Cancer as a Parent, I confronted the question of how to still parent even when your mind is constantly on your (or your spouse’s) cancer diagnosis. I researched the topic, extensively, getting the help of child life specialists, including Melissa Turgeon who at the time was working for the Angel Foundation, an organization that supports families facing cancer in Minnesota.

I’ve also lived this. For over 5 years, my husband has been fighting stage IV lung cancer. We have seen a lot of ups and downs. Our 3 daughters have lived for over 5 years, with the reality that their dad is sick and that his life is on the line. Our goal has been to help them adjust to this and face the future with strength and resilience. So, I share a lot of short stories from our lives.

How is Facing Cancer as a Parent going to be different from Facing Cancer as a Friend?

I learned so much, writing Facing Cancer as a Friend, including some things I wish I could redo (and plan to, at some point). There are some things that are stylistically more professional in Facing Cancer as a Parent. I am much happier with the cover and the formatting style of Facing Cancer as a Parent. When I have the time, I plan to rerelease Facing Cancer as a Friend with these same formatting changes.

What was your main goal while writing Facing Cancer as a Parent?

I want to offer a starting point for parents going through this difficult time. There are questions every parent asks and I hope to give them some answers and a direction in which they can go to help their kids. It won’t solve every problem they encounter, but it will help them feel more like they are on solid footing.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

8 thoughts on “Writing Facing Cancer as a Parent : Behind the Scenes”

  1. I love posts like this. Seeing how others do what I do is instructive. I don’t use Createspace but so many do, I really should check it out. the cover is perfect–a great mix of realism and the stark title.

    • Thank you, Jacqui. I too, enjoy reading about the process of other writers/authors. We are always learning, but experience ours and that of others is the finest teacher.

  2. I’m cheering for you my friend! Standing with you as best I can. With love and hugs!

  3. Hi Heather.
    First, I have to apologize. I thought I was signed up to be advised of new posts, but it looks like my signup was only to your newsletter. I’ll check the box below this comment and, hopefully, will be much more on the ball for future posts.

    I appreciate your openness in talking about your process, Heather. Facing Cancer as a Parent is going to be a hugely important book for people who are in that difficult position. That you can write about it while still immersed is a testament to your strength and to your determination to help others. I may not be a parent, but I will be a reader for sure.

    • Thank you, Karen. No worries about the sign-up. I handle my website by my lonesome and haven’t come up with a way to delineate the newsletter sign up from the subscription to notifications. I’ve wondered myself if it’s confusing to readers. So often it takes hearing feedback like this to get me in gear to find a solution. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

      Facing Cancer as a Parent was a particularly difficult book to write. I think it will be helpful, though. People have asked for it, so we will see what happens. 🙂

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