Becky Dennington is a nail tech, a wife, a mother of two, an author… and a breast cancer survivor. Three years ago, she was diagnosed with the illness, and took to writing to deal with it. In 2011, she released a book detailing her experiences: Me and the Ugly C.
[Images Courtesy of Becky Dennington]
BL: In 2011, your book, Me and the Ugly C, was published about your journey fighting breast cancer after you had been blogging about your experience. Did you start blogging right after you received your diagnosis?
Right after I was diagnosed, I found myself simply writing down who called to check on me, who sent me a text message or stopped by to see me. I needed something to DO and that’s all I could think of to occupy my mind. After a few days had passed, I began to spend sleepless nights writing about more than just which visitors I had. I began to pour my heart out into notebooks I had laying around the house. About a month or so later, I had a lumpectomy and was waiting for word on when I would begin chemotherapy. During this time, I found solace in creating a blog and adding my new journal entries to it. This became a perfect way for me to clear my head and to also share my journey with family and friends.
You must have been surprised when you got a call saying someone wanted to publish your writing. What was the first thing that went through your head when you heard the news?
It was mid-December when one of my best friends called and asked me, “How much do you like writing your blog?” Clueless, I rambled about how therapeutic it was for me to write all of it down. He then told me that he had pitched my blog to a publisher and they were possibly interested in offering me a contract. I received a proposal within the next couple of days. Before I received the official word, it was hard for me to even talk about. I was stunned and speechless. It sounded as improbable and hard to believe as, well, me being diagnosed with cancer. I was so thankful even just for the idea of it, just for hearing “book deal” associated with anything I had written. I smile when I look back on those first exciting days knowing that it was real. The day I held my own book in my hand is one I will never forget.
How did writing down all your thoughts help you through?
Being diagnosed with breast cancer turned my world upside down. I was 35 years old at the time, with no family history of breast cancer in my family - no history of cancer whatsoever. Someone telling me I had the “ugly c word” just seemed ridiculous. It couldn’t possibly be true: I didn’t feel sick, and I was so young. Writing down my thoughts and feelings allowed me to find a way to anchor [myself] when cancer caused such chaos in my life. It allowed me to sort out what was happening when I could so easily feel consumed by it all. It helped me realize that whatever I was feeling was never wrong. If I was sad, I had every right to be. If I was angry, that was okay too! It didn’t mean I was failing or not doing it right… It was okay that some days I got knocked down a bit. It just wasn’t okay to STAY down.
What little things helped keep you thinking positively in the midst of medical treatments?
When someone would send me a card or a text with words of love or encouragement or a scripture that inspired me, I would write them down on a small piece of paper and tape them to my mirror so that every day I would see them and be lifted up by a reminder of their love and of God’s mercy.
Have you worked on any other writings since your book?
Since the release of Me And The Ugly C I haven’t found the need to pour my heart out like I did when writing my story. However, a few weeks ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now that I have to look at the battle from the other side, I feel that familiar twist in my heart, that ache in my chest, that is only soothed by putting pen to paper. Maybe it’s time for book 2; this time the story about what it’s like to feel helpless, to have already been through what someone you love so dearly is facing now.
What advice do you have for other women who are facing a cancer diagnosis?
Don’t be afraid to be honest about how you feel. Whatever those emotions are, they are yours and yours alone and they can’t be wrong. It’s okay to cry, but dust yourself off and get back to the battle at hand. Never forget to look for that silver lining, to look around and take notice the blessings that God has set in place for you in your journey.
Has your book and blog had an impact on those facing breast cancer?
I have received numerous emails and calls since the book was released where women have told me that reading my story has taken some of the fear out of what they were about to go through. One of the hardest parts for me when I was beginning my journey with the ugly c was the unknown. Not knowing what would lie ahead, not knowing what chemotherapy would be like or radiation, not knowing what it would be like to actually lose my hair. How sick would I be? How tired would I be? Was it going to hurt? How would I look with no hair? Would I be different once it was over? Knowing what to expect empowered them and helped them face what was to come.