WRITE: Interview with Yvonne Ortega
Note from Marti: Today I’m posting an interview with Yvonne Ortega, author of Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Revell, 2010), a recent review in the READ section of my blog. If breast cancer has touched your life in some way and/or if you have an interest in writing, keep reading.
CONTEST: Want to win? Leave a comment before midnight Eastern tonight. I’ll draw one winner who will receive a free copy of Yvonne’s book. I’ll announce the winner early next week.
- You share your very personal journey through cancer in this book. What made you decide to have your story published?
I began to journal to pour out my emotions in a safe place. I asked God to use my bout with cancer for good in my life and the lives of others, for His honor and glory and for furthering His kingdom here on earth. I never dreamed a book would come from cancer. When I was in the hospital after my second chemotherapy treatment, I wrote a devotion on notebook paper. The nurse read it and wanted to have a copy for everyone on the oncology floor. She and the other patients told me I should write a book. So I kept up the journal and transformed it into a manuscript for publication.
Another reason was to let people know it is OK to go through anger, fear and depression. God won’t love us less or disown us because of these emotions. He knows how we feel anyway. So we might as well talk to God about these emotions and allow Him to help us work through them.
- How did you handle feelings of powerlessness and fear during your journey and keep moving forward?
At first I struggled with feelings of powerlessness. I thought I controlled my life and didn’t want to give that up. The funny part is I never did have that control. When I asked God for help in this area, he reminded me of Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who strengthens me” (NIV). From then on I relied on his strength, not mine, and God proved Himself faithful.
After I received my diagnosis, fear almost swallowed me up. Two cousins had died of breast cancer, and I didn’t want to be next. I journaled and prayed about my fear and asked others to pray for me. God honored my honesty and answered our prayers. Fear seemed to dissolve once it was brought in the open and dealt with.
- You also talk about feeling the freedom to cry in the midst of your circumstances. How were you able to accept that as a part of your journey?
The Psalms give examples of David crying and soaking his pillow with tears. In Psalm 42:3 David says, “My tears have been my food day and night.” Yet God called David a man after his own heart.
God made us with tear ducts, and I used mine during my bout with cancer.
- Did you ever have trouble accepting help from others during your treatment and recovery? How did you handle that?
Like many Americans, my belief in the self-made person and independence interfered with asking for and accepting help from others. My doctor told me round-the-clock care would be necessary the first week after surgery. I informed him I didn’t need a babysitter, but he told me I could get the help or stay in the hospital for a week. I accepted the help.
The doctor insisted someone take me to and from chemotherapy treatments. Once again, I had no choice but to comply.
- What part of your experience was the hardest to deal with?
Chemotherapy caused me to lose my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. That loss humbled me. During the winter, I wore a wig and hoped it wouldn’t blow off my head. In the warmer months of spring and summer, a turban covered my baldness. My fingernails and toe nails turned black from the chemotherapy. Someone suggested a pretty color of fingernail polish to cover the nails, but with my asthma, I couldn’t tolerate the smell of the polish.
- If you could give someone out there dealing with cancer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Never, ever, give up hope. Remember that our hope is in God. A positive attitude and a sense of humor will carry a person through the trials of cancer.
- Do you have any advice for writers who want to share their own stories of pain or struggle?
Yes, I do. Ask God to use your pain or struggle for good in your life and the lives of others and for His honor and glory. What Satan meant for evil, God will use for good if you let him. Journal daily about your specific pain or struggle. Ask God for creative ways to share your story whether it be through a blog, weekly devotions, articles, contributions to an anthology or your own book.
- Do you have more book projects in the works? Can you tell us about them?
Yes, indeed. I wrote a devotional for alcoholics and other drug addicts. A publishing house is looking at the book proposal right now.
I want to write a Bible study on the book of Nehemiah. The topic of rebuilding fascinates me. I also want to write a book on grief. Within weeks of each other, I lost two aunts, my mother and my only child. The journey through grief provides considerable material for a writer.
Thanks, Yvonne, for blessing us with your book and with this interview. I look forward to watching as God continues to use your words and experiences for His glory.