An Interview with Author and Cancer Survivor Julie Knose
I am so honored to have as my guest today Julie Knose, whose book Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? I recently had the opportunity to read and review (please click here to read my review). I’ve thought a good deal about what I’d like to say to introduce Ms. Knose and her work, and I think it best to state simply and unequivocally that her book changed and healed me. I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, but my mom died of it in 2002, and, as a recovering alcoholic, I found this book extraordinary. I believe anyone who has ever suffered loss or seeks healing and spiritual growth will gain enormously from reading it. Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? helped me quit smoking and started me on a path of spiritual growth and self-transformation. This book is truly unique in its perspective and stands out from the crowd of self-help literature in several ways (which I discuss in my review). May it help and inspire you as much as it has me.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.
My name is Julie Knose. I’m from Hamilton, Ohio. In June of 2009, at the age of 31, I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. I went through surgery, chemo, and radiation. I had a difficult recovery which prompted me to write a book about my healing journey. The title of the book is: Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? Using Art Therapy and Affirmations to Heal and Move Forward.
Is there a theme/message underlying your work that you hope comes across?
Hope is the message that I hope comes across! During my darkest days, it was hope that kept me going. I didn’t know if things were going to get better, but I never gave up hope, and things did get better. I want my book to be a glimmer of hope for someone who is still struggling. In the latter part of the book, I share the conversations I had with my spirit guide, Sunny. We talk a lot about hope, courage, and forgiveness.
If you could be any character in literature, who would you choose to be?
Probably Carrie Bradshaw. She’s a writer with an awesome wardrobe, three close girlfriends, and a cute boyfriend. Though I don’t want to live in New York; we get enough snow in Ohio!
Have you had to make sacrifices for your writing, and if so, what are they?
Yes, I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices. I’ve missed important family events and good times with my friends. I sold my car to my uncle to pay for editing. There’s a Natalie Goldberg quote that’s fitting here: “Know that you will eventually have to leave everything behind. The writing will demand it of you.” That being said, when writing my next book, I want to have a better balance, write faster, and get feedback!
What is your number one pet peeve when it comes to writing/reading books?
Just sitting down to write, giving myself permission, quieting my inner critic, and overcoming self-doubt. I thought I had to have an agent or publisher to validate my work, not realizing self-publishing is a great option. If I can figure it out, anyone can! When you want something bad enough, you figure it out. In the past, I would’ve said revision, but now I realize revision is the only way the writing improves.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think I’ve always known I was a writer, yet I was too shy or scared to claim the title. I heard the whispers and felt the nudges, yet I kept brushing them off. I’ve been an athlete most of my life. I didn’t get an English degree. I don’t know the grammar rules. I’ve always loved buying notebooks and journals. I like to be prepared when inspiration strikes. It took getting cancer to understand my soul’s purpose.
Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
The title of the book comes from a text message a co-worker sent to me after treatment ended. He asked me, “Have you put all that cancer stuff behind you?” Looking back, I think he meant well. At the time, I was reeling from everything I’d been through. There’s spoken and unspoken pressure for survivors to push everything under the rug and get back to normal. We don’t want to pretend everything is fine or get stuck in our grief. I found art therapy and affirmations to be a helpful way for me to process my feelings and make peace with my new normal.
Do you think a writer should write every day?
I think a writer should write as often as they wish, whether that’s many pages or a post-it-note. Everyone has different speeds. Practice will make us all better, and quality is important. For me, the words are always forthcoming, which can be annoying sometimes. I fight the words instead of allowing them. I write well after much revision, and writing brings me peace like soccer used to bring me joy.
What five words would you use to describe yourself?
On a good day: creative, loving, determined, honest, and funny.
Tell us something about yourself that few people know.
My nickname is JuJu. Only a few people call me that, and they say it with love! Also, I used to be afraid of the dark and had to sleep with a nightlight on. Now, I like the room to be dark when I sleep.
If you could marry a fictional character who would it be?
Well, I guess I’ll pick one of Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriends, Aidan Shaw. He was very sweet to her.
Do you have any charms, superstitions, or music that helps you write?
I like it to be quiet when I write, so the radio gets turned off. I like to drink cold water or hot tea. I keep my phone on silent all the time because I don’t like the annoying beeps. I always sit at the kitchen table only because I don’t have a desk. I rarely carry the computer to the couch. I’m superstitious about my computer crashing, so I always back up the word.doc file on a flash drive and take it with me.
Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.
Listen to your heart. Be honest. Aim for good enough, perfection is a trap. Hire a developmental editor. Forgiveness weighs less than a grudge. Tomorrow is another day. Breathe and smile. Turn off the television. Don’t apologize for how you feel. Get a second opinion. Eat healthy. Exercise often. Sleep well. Discover your passion. Spend time in nature. Love more. (Oops! That was more than one.)
What question didn’t I ask that you wish I had?
“What’s next for you?” More book marketing and writing another book. I’m also getting a car and part-time job. In October, pending acceptance, I’ll be at the Books by the Banks festival in Cincinnati. Stay connected with me through email, website, or Twitter. My book is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon. If you know of any cancer survivors or caregivers, please share this with them.
To find more about Julie Knose and her marvelous book:
Are You Ready To Put All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? is a breast cancer memoir and recovery guide. If you’re looking for hope and inspiration, you’ve come to the right place. Julie will make you laugh, cry, get creative, dream big, and believe in miracles.
Julie shares the story of her surprising diagnosis, aggressive treatment, and long recovery. Finding solace in art therapy, affirmations, and nature walks, she attempts to understand the disease that changed her life. She describes her path to self-acceptance, the loss of her father to lung cancer, and a visit from an angel who encouraged her to keep going.
There are 11 art therapy and writing exercises to help you express emotions, develop compassion, practice gratitude, and find the silver lining. There are 80 affirmations to help you build confidence and make positive changes in your life. You will experience stress relief, improved coping skills, greater self-awareness, and restored well-being.
Julie Knose has a MA in Art Therapy from Southwestern College, Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has a BA in Visual Arts from Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado. Julie enjoys listening to music, photography, and reading books about spirituality. Currently, she’s writing a novel and creating an affirmation card deck. She lives in Mason, Ohio.
Friday is not a good day for bad news. Friday has an exciting vibe, because it kicks off the weekend. It’s TGIF for a reason; no one ever says “TGIM!” Monday would’ve been a more appropriate day for bad news; everybody is a grumpy pants already.
I was at my follow-up appointment for the “it’s probably nothing” lump the surgeon removed the week before. I don’t like needles, blood, or hospitals. I didn’t know how to take my pulse or blood pressure. I had no idea what my body did on a daily basis; it seemed to be running fine, and I never bothered to check otherwise. My boss was expecting me in the office after the appointment, so there wasn’t time to stop and smell the roses. There wasn’t even a Starbucks on my route.
The only consolation, my surgeon was a cutie pie so I didn’t mind chatting with him about the weather. Unfortunately, our lighthearted banter ended abruptly. I squirmed in my chair when his cheerful demeanor turned serious. Could the lump be cancer? I took a deep breath.
In 2003, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico for graduate school. Since then, my gynecology visits had become sporadic. I wasn’t doing monthly breast self-exams or paying attention to the unusual weight loss and fatigue. I was more concerned with putting together an outfit for work that looked professional and caused my co-worker crush, Steve, to do a double take. I also tried to finish the never-ending pile of work on my desk thinking it was imperative to do so.
“You have breast cancer.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You’re joking, right?” This happens to older women with big breasts. I’m only 31 and wear a 34A bra. I’m a tomboy. I don’t like pink. I have my whole life ahead of me. I don’t have time for cancer.
I wanted to put the words back into his mouth, turn back time, and start the day over. I could skip the appointment, keep it a secret, and make everything okay again. I should’ve reminded him it was Friday, and all bets were off. He no longer looked cute to me.
“No, I’m afraid not. This is serious. And you’ll need a mastectomy.”
“I don’t think so.” There was no way in hell they were getting chopped off. I’ve never wanted fake boobs. My breasts are mine; they are small and perfect. Well, they used to be.
The surgeon handed me the pathology report as if I needed proof my life was over. I imagined an F+ written with red marker at the top of the paper. I had failed at the simplest task we’re given: to live a healthy life.
“My dad just died of lung cancer. This can’t be happening.”
“I’m sorry. I wish your mom were here. I assumed she would be.”
“She’s in Seattle. We didn’t think anything was wrong.” Just the previous September I had gone with my mom and brother to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We had a great time hiking, exploring the geysers, and taking pictures of the wildlife. We even saw a baby bear cub. I was happy and carefree. I couldn’t reconcile that image with where I was now.
“When I removed the lump, it didn’t just pop out. I took extra margins for the pathologist. I found out on Wednesday for sure.”
“I came here thinking you were going to check the incision, make sure it’s healing. I never dreamed you would tell me I have cancer.” I started crying.
“I’m sorry. I’ll give you the names of two oncologists who have practices nearby.”
“Thanks.” He did call me the night of the surgery to see how I was doing and remind me to take the Vicodin, but he didn’t tell me of his suspicion. Now I know why the recovery was so painful; he took a lot of breast tissue.
I tried to leave the office appearing strong and unaffected. I puffed up my chest like men do when they’re trying to be brave. No big deal; it’s just cancer. Oh my God, this is the worst thing in the world. Keep breathing. Put it out of your mind. Hold it together until you get past the ladies at the front desk. Breathe.
Nope. I broke down sobbing, louder than a fire truck siren, shoulders heaving, looking through my purse for a tissue. I was ushered to a private room to compose myself before I could drive home.
“Are you going to be okay?” the nurse asked. I told her yes even though I knew it’d be a long time before I was okay again. I went to the ladies’ restroom to cry in peace. I must’ve gone into shock because, when I looked in the mirror, I was white as a ghost and the tears had disappeared. My mind was protecting me until all of the information could be digested.
I walked outside to locate my car. It was a warm, sunny day, but everything looked different now. People walked by me. Their world was the same; my world had changed. Like children tumbling down a hill, my thoughts increased their speed. Something bad just happened. The lump was cancer. I’m going into work; they can help me. I have to tell someone. I can’t be alone right now. Everything’s going to be okay. This wasn’t the vacation I was hoping for; this wasn’t the future I had in mind. Turn on the radio and find a happy song.
I drove to work, found a parking space, walked inside the building, and handed my boss, Carolyn, the pathology report. We talked about breast cancer, how serious it was, and getting time off for treatment. I called the female oncologist the surgeon referred me to and set up an appointment for the following week. I was glad to see her oncology practice was a short drive from my mom’s house.
My co-worker, Terri, and I took a break like we always did. This time we talked about how nothing would ever be the same again. She sat with me while I called my mom who cut her vacation short and flew home the next day. I didn’t work much that afternoon. I made some photocopies, went home, and cried. The next few weeks were filled with doctor appointments, treatment planning, and breaking the news to family and friends.
4 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Matthew Peters - July 19, 2016 at 4:59 am
Categories: Author Interviews Tags: Are You Ready To Leave All That Cancer Stuff Behind You? Using Art Therapy and Affirmations to Heal and Move Forward, cancer, cancer survivor, healing, Julie Knose, recovery, recovery literature, spirituality
Here’s the skinny: I quit smoking for six years, but then last December I started again.
With a few exceptions, I’ve been smoking ever since, about a pack a day, up until four days ago.
I have a very addictive personality, and I find breaking habits especially difficult.
Here is what’s helped me not smoke for the past four days:
- Wearing the patch—I realize this may not work for some, but it is helping me.
- Breaking it down—Thinking of quitting smoking for the rest of my life is rather daunting, so I break each day down to hours and minutes and tell myself I only have to not smoke for the next hour, or even the next few minutes.
- Realizing that we are creatures of habit—If we do something long enough it becomes a habit. If we don’t do something long enough, it becomes a habit as well. This is very good news for those of us trying to establish new habits and break old ones.
- Knowing the cravings will pass—I will not always want a cigarette as much as I do today. In fact, each day that goes by, I will want one less and less. This is vital to the quitting process.
- Meditating—By this I mean thinking or reflecting on things like the potential health benefits of quitting and the money I’ll save by not smoking.
Above all, I think the key to quitting smoking is this: that I don’t smoke, no matter what. This is also what keeps me sober day in and day out. And here’s another realization that I try to keep close every day: There is nothing in this world that a drink or another drug (e.g., nicotine) will make better.
Now let me ask: What helps you break an old, less than optimal habit or start a new, healthy one?