HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Right now, this very moment, stop and count your blessings. Just--think of something you're grateful for. We'll wait.
Doing it? (Years ago I saw a wonderful play called The Syringa Tree, and in it, a little girl's grandfather tells her: "You are a lucky fish!" Now I say that all the time. And that's why I put the fish. To remind you.)
Good, huh? I bet if they (they?) ever did a study about such things, they'd find blood pressure lowers, stress relaxes, frown lines disappear--you know, probably even calories burn. Whatever. Take that moment. Celebrate SOMETHING.
Because sometimes the universe forces you to do it. And as a result, amazing things can happen.
Gigi Pandian discovered the elixir of life. She really did.
Celebrating 3 Years of Being Cancer-Free!
When Hank offered me this day to join the Reds for a guest post, I realized it was exactly three years ago that I completed chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer. This week, I’m celebrating three years of being cancer-free!
And what better way to celebrate my three-year anniversary of kicking cancer’s butt than having my third book out this month?
The Accidental Alchemist is my “cancer book” in many ways – it’s the mystery I wrote after my cancer diagnosis caused me to throw myself into my writing, and it’s about an idea that was very appealing to me as I underwent chemo: a female alchemist who accidentally discovers the Elixir of Life.
Three-and-a-half years ago, right after my 36th birthday, I received the surprising diagnosis that I had invasive breast cancer. My husband and I had recently bought a house and were fixing up the backyard, I was enjoying my new train-ride commute to my day job (great for plotting mysteries), and my agent was pitching my first novel to publishers. I had plans in life, but cancer wasn’t one of them! It didn’t even run in my family.
But through the shock, sickness, and uncertainty, some amazing things happened. I saw with clarity what was important in my life: family, friends, and following my passion for writing.
My friends and family stepped up to take care of me, and we’re now closer than we were before my diagnosis. My writers group took me wig shopping before I started chemo and bought me a fabulous mystery-writerly wig: sleek black tresses with bright red steaks. I never would have selected that wig on my own, but it was absolutely perfect. Feeling inspired, I threw myself into my writing, penning a first draft of The Accidental Alchemist while undergoing chemo. (It wasn’t a good draft, but it was the first step.)
I made myself a promise that once I was well, I wouldn’t take things for granted that I used to. Like food that didn’t taste like cardboard. Or being able to drink coffee. Or having hair! Truly, I’ve never appreciated good food, strong coffee, or a head of healthy hair as much as I do today.
(My husband loved my short-cropped pixie cut from the start of growing my hair back out – which you can see in this collage – but I decided to keep growing my hair out, because I don’t feel like myself without a crazy mess of curls!)
After completing chemo and radiation three years ago, I still had some treatments left to go, but that was my first big milestone. Besides savoring simple pleasures like a cup of good coffee, one of the things I did to celebrate being healthy was seize the day with a trip to Paris and Prague. It was partly a romantic vacation and party a research trip to do the historical research involved in two mysteries I was plotting.
(Psst: If you read carefully, you’ll notice there’s a gargoyle referenced in each of my books; I’ve always loved the mysterious creatures.)
I can’t quite believe that three years and three books have gone by. Even though I’m pretty good at remembering to live each day to the fullest, life is passing by far too quickly. That’s because in my attempt to seize the day, this past year I said YES to every opportunity – which included writing two books as part of the two three-book deals I signed shortly after throwing myself into my writing. I love both books, but their creation was at the expense of leisure time with friends and family. I’m not exaggerating much when I say I set my alarm every single day in 2014.
Therefore my goal for 2015 is to SLOW DOWN a bit. I’ve asked for more time to write my fourth Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery, I’m not saying yes to every tempting invitation that beckons, and I turned off automatic email notifications on my phone (gasp!).
I’ve still got a book to turn in at the end of 2015 (one I’m really excited about), and I’ll be attending several mystery conventions (which I always love), but I’m dedicated to a saner pace this year. One that leaves time for long lunches with loved ones, planning a big trip for my 40th birthday, and having fun exploring the unexpected places where my new novels lead me.
Thanks for celebrating with me today! Anyone else have a scary life experience that caused you to make positive changes in your life?
HANK: Yay, Gigi! I remember when you got your diagnosis..and I wondered, of course, what would happen. You are such a rock star! One of the things that happens, here on Jungle Red,is that we get to know each other a bit more, and get a view into each others personal (and medical!) lives. Reds have been through a lot together, right? Shoutouts and special love today to Reine and Linda, and --who else?
And yes, good question Gigi--what scary (or surprising) experience caused you to make a positive change?
(I saw Jonathan trip and fall once, on concrete, and I still feel sick win I think about how close his head came to the sharp corner of a brick. Don't tell him, but sometimes if I get impatient or cranky, all I have to do is think about that, and I'm fine again. )
Reds, what's your elixir of life?
Gigi Pandian is the USA Today bestselling author of the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series (Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and the forthcoming Quicksand) and the new Accidental Alchemist mysteries. Gigi’s debut mystery novel was awarded a Malice Domestic Grant, and her short fiction has been short-listed for Agatha and Macavity awards. A cancer diagnosis in her 30s taught her two important life lessons: healing foods can taste amazing, and life’s too short to waste a single moment.
The Accidental Alchemist is a mystery set in Portland about a centuries-old female alchemist and her impish gargoyle sidekick who was accidentally brought to life by a French stage magician.
In The Accidental Alchemist: Unpacking her belongings in her new hometown of Portland, Oregon, herbalist and reformed alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing three-and-a-half-foot gargoyle—not to mention a master of French cuisine—and he needs Zoe’s expertise to decipher a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past... until the dead man on her porch leaves her no choice. Includes recipes.
“This reviewer is eagerly anticipating more from this series, and a return of a cast more fun than an episode of Portlandia.”—RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ stars
Find out more about Gigi and her books on her website gigipandian.com, and connect with her on Facebook facebook.com/GigiPandianand Twitter @GigiPandian