The silver lining


Last Wednesday was my birthday. I turned 49
“Happy Birthday to y…”
No. Stop. Don’t sing!

I’m not that into my birthday. You see, it is also the anniversary of my diagnosis of cancer – so when that date swings round, that day, that conversation and that incredible journey always comes back into my mind.
All the same, this year, I am celebrating! Because, ten years on, after surgery and chemotherapy and radiotherapy and drugs I AM STILL HERE! I am healthy and fit (-ish) and I am a writer. In clinical terms, ten years is a major milestone for cancer survival, and of course it obeys the law of NRN* as well. For me, it is important simply because it means that it was all a long time ago. It was a big deal, of course, and certainly not an experience I enjoyed but, ever the optimist, I now realise that it brought with it some real blessings as well.

When fate drops a bomb on you, you really come to understand the meaning of the phrase “life’s too short,” because you come nose to nose with the prospect of life being extremely short. So, you get on with making the most of it.
I’d already been writing for some time when it all kicked off. I had finished The Line of Duty the previous year and, as was the convention at the time, had been trying to get a literary agent or publisher sufficiently excited to put me on their books. Unsurprisingly in that very competitive market, it wasn’t working.

Then, with a potentially life-threatening disease to face, I decided that waiting for the miracle wasn’t good enough. So, with my father acting as editor-in-chief, I entered the, then, emerging market of self-publishing. The Line of Duty was published in April 2006 (in between the second and third cycles of chemotherapy) and for the whole course of my treatment – from January to August 2006 – I wrote Twelve Moon-Cycles. It proved to be a good distraction from the various challenges of being chopped up (surgery), poisoned (chemotherapy) and burned (radiotherapy). It was also something I could do on most days since it is sedentary and, when going upstairs leaves you panting for breath, and food makes you nauseous you need sedentary things to allow you not feel like a ‘sick person’ the entire time. I finished the first draft just as I returned to work and it was published the following spring.

From that time, I’ve never looked back as a writer. It was the impetus I needed to prove to myself that writing wasn’t just an idle fancy and that I had in me, not just a one-hit wonder, but the ideas and ability to produce a series of books. So, even though I could never choose to go through all I did ten years ago, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, that particular big black cloud did have an inspiring silver lining.
Oh, go on then – you can sing!

*NRN= Nice Round numbers

Cate Caruth is the author of the Bremmand Chronicles. To buy her books or learn more about them, go to
You can follow Cate on Twitter at

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