In the Face of Illness, Balancing Writing, Work, and Life

On May 1st I entered a diagnostic imaging center to undergo a biopsy. For the procedure, I had to lie face down in a tunnel MRI machine and not move for close to two hours. I was rolled in and out of the tunnel throughout the procedure and had to endure the obnoxiously loud screeching and honking noises of the machine’s magnetic fields as well as the whirring motor of the biopsy machine.

It was exhausting and excruciating, a procedure I needed to endure to find out whether or not I had breast cancer. The months leading up to that day had been stressful, consisting of repeat mammograms, ultrasounds, an MRI, conversations with my primary care doctor, panicked phone calls to family and friends, long talks late into the night with my husband.

After the nurses and technicians rolled me out of the MRI tunnel the final time once the biopsy had been completed, I prayed as hard as I could that it would be a false alarm, that the doctor’s suspicions would be wrong.

Try as I might, I couldn’t wish away the results of the biopsy.

“The cancer is very small,” the doctor gently told me later. “We caught it early.”

Still, I was stunned. I had breast cancer. Stage 1.

Soon, my calendar filled with appointments with the surgeon, the hematology oncologist, the radiology oncologist. I had pre-op appointments, then the surgery. Then post-op appointments. Also an appointment to enter a clinical trial.

Before my cancer journey, I had an informal system for keeping my writing on track, for keeping my life in balance. I’d write in spurts: a half hour before work, an hour at lunch, a bit of time after leaving the gym, a stop at the library on Sunday afternoons after church.

Now I write when I can, which is less often. I’m focusing on my health, spending more time taking care of myself. I’ve decided to do what I can to increase awareness of the importance of early detection and breast cancer research. I recently attended the kickoff event in Boston for Make Strides Against Breast Cancer. The organization asked permission to use a photo taken of me at the kickoff for their website to encourage the fundraising effort. I said “yes.”

And I plan to participate in the fundraising walk at the end of the month. My husband plans to join me.

Eventually I’ll get back to the informal system I had before to keep pace with my writing. Things will settle down at some point and I’ll get back to my normal routine in the other areas of my life as well. But sometimes life decides for you that you have to set some things aside for a while.


Author: Lisa Braxton

Lisa Braxton is an Emmy-nominated former television journalist, an essayist, short story writer, and novelist. Her debut novel, The Talking Drum, is forthcoming from Inanna Publications in spring 2020. She is a fellow of the Kimbilio Fiction Writers Program and a book reviewer for 2040 Review. Her stories and essays have appeared in literary magazines and journals. She received Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest magazine’s 84th and 86th annual writing contests in the inspirational essay category. Her website:

5 Replies to “In the Face of Illness, Balancing Writing, Work, and Life”

  1. Thank you, Lisa, for sharing this difficult time in your life. Hopefully things will get better soon and I am so looking forward to the publishing of The Talking Drum. (That baby has been a long time in the oven!)

  2. Lisa, you are a woman of true courage and conviction. All of your struggles have made you stronger. I cannot wait for the publication of The Talking Drum! There will be much to celebrate!!

  3. GO Lisa! You are a hard worker and a fighter. This will not defeat you. Very proud to be a part of your writing circle. Miss you! My daughter is a freshman in boston at Wentworth – let me know a good time for a meet up! Hugs Jenna

Comments are closed.