Cancer and Firsts

Before I get started, I'd like to clear the air so as not to mislead anyone: I do not have cancer, nor does anyone specifically close to me have cancer. This isn't THAT kind of post. But it does have a lot to do with cancer.

About Bridget Zinn

A couple of years ago, I blogged about a writer who'd died of cancer. Her name is Bridget, and her passing touched me very deeply. You can read that post HERE

To be clear, I didn't know Bridget at all. I just read about her story on a blog I followed and was compelled to write about her. I think that's because Bridget was all of us--a writer yearning to share her stories with the world, a person with dreams and ambitions, and a hard worker in the way that successful writers must be hard workers. 

Sadly, she never had the chance to see her efforts pay off or her dreams realized. And that crushed me--is still crushing me--because there was nothing I wanted so much as to be published, and I knew that desire had burned in her heart as well. It was a cosmic injustice of unimaginable proportion--which is exactly what cancer is to everyone who gets it: A random, cosmic F-U. 

About Cancer

I have a special hatred for cancer, and a somewhat unique relationship with it. Like almost everyone, it has taken people dear to me--I'd lost two grandparents to the disease by the age of 10--but that's not really why I hate it.

I don't think I've shared this with most of my writing friends, but my wife is an oncologist. Treating patients with cancer is her business, and it's a horribly bustling one. 

There's not a day that goes by in my life that I'm not aware of some travesty cancer has caused. I'm far too familiar with the struggles families face watching a loved one die in slow motion, the tragedy of a life cut short, and the hardships of treatments designed to kill cancer, but have the unfortunate side effect of killing the rest of the body, too.

Our lives are like that movie Groundhog Day--with cancer being the reoccurring main theme. I'm the equivalent of a front row spectator at the Roman Coliseum, my wife is the Gladiator I'm cheering for, and the battles are just as grim and gutwrenching as you could possibly imagine. 

Sounds like a blast, right?

Here's the thing: I'll gladly take all of that awareness, plus all of the 100 hour work weeks my wife and best friend spends away from me, and all of the tears, frustrations, and burdens she places with me because she can't share them with her patients (as you can imagine, it's not really a job that ends when the 5 o'clock whistle sounds ... especially psychologically). I'll take it all because HAVING cancer is worse.

It is a brutal, bullshit disease that doesn't give a damn about your age, race, religion, tax bracket, or societal value. Cancer is the boss from hell. It isn't concerned about your upcoming honeymoon, your retirement plans, your first prom, or if your kids need you--if you get 'chosen' for the task, you'll put in your time first, and if you've anything left over, you can dole it out however you'd like. And there is no promise of more time. 

And that isn't a unique relationship. No, in an odd bit of fairness from such an arbitrary and cruel affliction, cancer hates us all equally. That's why I hate cancer in return.

More About Bridget ... And Firsts

At the time of her death, Bridget's debut novel was still with her agent, and still trying to navigate through the various doors to publication. Fast forward a couple of years later, and her book, Poison, is finally finding it's way into the world. 

To memorialize Bridget, her agent and publisher are asking for the writers of the world to help share her story (both the make believe and real one), because Bridget never got to revel in the joy of getting a story into the hands of readers. 

They've asked author-bloggers to blog about their 'first time' being published, which seems fair and also like something Bridget would enjoy reading about. (See her video below...) However, I'd simply like to share Bridget's story. This is her day, after all. :)

I like to think that Bridget's legacy enduring, and her dream coming to reality, is our own F-U to cancer. It can strip away our health and number our days, but it cannot touch our spirit, nor can it dust away the fingerprints we leave behind on this life.

Poison by Bridget Zinn

About the novel

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Where you can purchase Poison

Barnes & Noble
iTunes Bookstore
Powell's Books

About Bridget Zinn

Bridget grew up in Wisconsin. She went to the county fair where she met the love of her life, Barrett Dowell. They got married right before she went in for exploratory surgery which revealed she had colon cancer. They christened that summer the "summer of love" and the two celebrated with several more weddings. Bridget continued to read and write until the day she died.

Her last tweet was "Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect."

Bridget wanted to make people laugh and hoped readers would enjoy spending time with the characters she created. As a librarian/writer she loved books with strong young women with aspirations. She also felt teens needed more humorous reads. She really wanted to write a book with pockets of warmth and happiness and hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bath time reads.

More about Bridget

A remembrance of Bridget written by her agent (with a video of Bridget that shows how vibrant and funny she was)

Bridget's path to publication - in her own words.

A post in which Bridget shares her Sneaky Tips for writing (which also has an audio file of her reading this post)

If you'd like to help with sharing Bridget's story, follow the link below. You'll find lots of information about the release, and ways you can help.


  1. She never got to see her dream come true. Props to her agent who continued on the path with her book even after Bridget was gone.

  2. Sad story. We write to become immortal. Bridget did succeed there.

  3. First of all, God bless your wife (and you). Without her dedication and your sacrifice the quality of life for many cancer patients would be poor indeed.

    Sadly, I've known three other writers who died just before realizing their lifelong dreams. It sucks.

    I'm glad Bridget made it to publication. It's a fitting way to be remembered.

  4. Very sad, but I think it's wonderful she had people who cared enough to help her reach her goal. I think that's a fear we all have. What if we die before we get the chance to finish everything we want to do? Sadly, this happens to some. I had a temp job for an oncology doctor for a couple of weeks, so I know what that's like. I saw others get attached to the patients then have then face the sadness of when they died. It's a tough job, but desperately needed.

    The book looks great. Love the part about the Piglet...too funny!

  5. Wow, what a powerful post, EJ. I've already pre-ordered her book for my daughter.

  6. As Wil Wheaton might say, SO MANY FEELS. Thank you for sharing Bridget's story with us. I'm off to buy her book!

  7. I think we all get emotionally attached to those we care about and Bridget sounds like she was a wonderful writer and human. Your wife is an angel--but I'm sure you already knew that.

  8. This has me crying. When I gather myself together...I'll visit the links you provided.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  9. Your wife's an oncologist? WILSON! from House is an oncologist! That's so cool.

    Probably way to enthusiastic for your somber and reflective post. I'm sorry for your loss. Cancer is awful.

    But I'm so excited to learn your wife's an oncologist!

  10. This is so sad and touching at the same time- I love the writing community because they can make this happen and the agent involved is an angel for helping.

  11. This brings tears to my eyes. A very power story; a very powerful post. And a wonderful way to keep her memory alive. Best :)

  12. Very touching post. Thank you for sharing!

  13. This post has touched me on so many levels. On top of everything else, it gives us a good indicator of the kind of man you are, EJ. Thank you.

  14. That is a very sad story. Your wife has a really hard job.

    I'm sure Bridget is smiling somewhere. Congrats Bridget!

  15. And now the tears begin. That is so terribly sad. Two family members are right now fighting against cancer. One is winning. One is not. I've lost friends and family. It is as terrible as you say.

  16. Thanks for sharing Bridget's story. I am going to go learn more about her.

  17. Cancer is definitely the worst! I lost three of my grandparents to it. Thank you for sharing Bridget's story. I'm so glad her book finally got out there. I hope she can look down from heaven and see it!

  18. Glad you cleared it up first!

    And your wife is a hero for sure. So many peeps I know have it or someone in their family do. Really puts life into perspective for me.

    On a more positive note, I love how writers around the blogosphere are coming together to support Bridget. Her dream is living on and that gives me chills to the bone.

  19. I don't think I can do a better job of telling this story than you did, E.J. I'm linking to your post on my blog tomorrow.

  20. Amazing post. Sobering to think this could happen to any of us but it's wonderful that Bridget achieved her dream in the end.

  21. Such a sad story! I remember hearing on various blogs when Bridget died, and it's so wonderful that her book was able to be published in the end.

  22. I love that the writing community is pulling together to do this--it's awesome. Also, I'm totally in awe of anyone who can handle being around cancer that much and work so hard to help. Hats off to you and your wife!

  23. Added her book to my list. Having family members with cancer has indeed made us more aware and I share your sentiments, E.J. Wishing Bridget the best, wherever she be, but her legacy lives on in what I'm sure is an excellent book. :)

  24. Thanks so much for sharing this E.J. Bridget was local to me and so the authors around here have been doing a lot to get her book out and tell the world about it. It really is an amazing story. I only met Bridget once (that I recall) but that video really shows the world her personality.
    I am attending an event Saturday to celebrate the release of Poison. I expect to have a lot of tears. I can only think that she's looking down an seeing how loved Poison is (the book, not actual Poison).
    Your wife is incredibly brave and strong to have the job she has. I'm not so sure I would be strong enough to deal with that every day.

  25. I've seen Bridget's book mentioned elsewhere; it's good that her work finally got publication, even though she's not around to see it.

    I can only imagine how much of a strain being an oncologist can be.


“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” ― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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