This week, my Josie Lloyd novel, The Cancer Ladies’ Running Club hits the shops. It’s a big moment. I haven’t written a solo Josie Lloyd book since ‘It Could Be You’ way back in 1997. To say I’m nervous is an understatement, because this is by far and away the most personal thing I’ve ever written.
This book came about because in 2017 I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine scan and it came as a terrible shock. Overnight, it felt as my life as I knew it had come to a screeching halt. It felt to me as if a big ‘Cancer’ label had been slapped on me and I had no means of getting rid of it. I hated it.
My first instinct was to look for a book. In difficult times, I always turn to fiction for answers and clarity, but whilst there were plenty of memoirs and non-fiction books about various ways to get through cancer, they all felt a bit subjective. I wanted a comforting story. A story that would tell me that everything would be OK. I didn’t want something mawkish or sad, or more depressingly – about mothers dying with tubes up their noses. I needed to believe in a more positive outcome.
Representation in all forms of media matters. There’s a great organisation, SeeJane.org whose motto, ‘If she can see it, she can be it,’ promotes bringing positive female role models to the screen, so that young girls can imagine being astronauts, or politicians.
In the same, (but very small way), my hope with this book is to fly the flag for women who, like me, are not just surviving cancer, but positively thriving as a result of going through it. My hope is to do some debunking, because one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetimes and one in eight women get breast cancer. We need to start talking about it to stop it being so scary. Because, yes, it is terrifying and not everyone has great outcomes, but we have amazing treatments in this country and the means of early detection with scanning. Believe me, I thank my lucky stars every day that my cancer was picked up in time.
It’s important to get the message out there, too, that getting outside and exercising is massively beneficial, both physically and mentally. I know that for me, putting on a pair of trainers and being out in the sunshine was the most effective way of putting two fingers up to cancer. Running made me feel as if I was reclaiming my mojo. And it’s the same for Keira in the book. Because when she joins a group of women who have all experienced cancer, she finds her tribe and in doing so, finds her feet.
This week, I’m doing loads of publicity and was on Michael Ball’s show on Radio 2, which I’m delighted to say, resonated with some women who got in touch with me to share their stories. Hearing from people, who, like me are sensitive to bad-news cancer stories and found the message of positivity and hope inspiring has made me so happy. I’ll be delighted if the book is a best seller, of course, but if I can make a difference to just a few people, then that will be the best outcome ever.