Purchase The Unlikely Gift of Breast Cancer
Diane Simard is a psycho-oncology influencer, a messaging strategist to senior business executives, an award-winning author, a national speaker on women in business and survivorship, and an advocate who brings attention to the psychological trauma caused by cancer. Her book, The Unlikely Gift of Breast Cancer, takes readers on a raw, inspirational, humorous ride, reliving her 10 months of treatment for late-stage III breast cancer that ultimately helped her embrace her differences and brought more attention to the often-overlooked psychological impact of cancer.
This interview transcription has been edited for length and clarity.
Joe: Diane, thank you so much for being here! I’m so excited to talk to you about your life, your work, your book, and your incredible story.
Diane: Always an honor! Thank you for inviting me.
Joe: So, I read your book (The Unlikely Gift of Breast Cancer) last week and it was amazing. You wrote it in a style that was both personal and conversational. You did a great job blending two genres – self-help and autobiography. I hope everyone reads it and enjoys it as much as I did.
Diane: Thank you, and honestly, I wrote it in memoir style for a reason. I was trained as a journalist and I needed help learning how to tell a story, not report a story. But I set out to write the book that I wish I could read when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So, I had that in my mind, and it really was the driver behind the book. So, I appreciate you mentioning that because a lot of people have told me that when they read the book, they feel like they are sitting right there beside me – experiencing this horrible cancer.
Joe: That’s how it felt. And with that, my first question is a little writing focused, and also human emotion focused. So, was it difficult for you to reflect on these moments when writing? Or was it healing in a sense? I’m curious to dive into the factors that went into writing a book about those brutal months receiving treatment for breast cancer.
Diane: It was both. But I would say it was more about healing, honestly. I was looking for a way to capture my experience and share it with the world with honesty since so many people were interested in my updates. At the time in 2015, I was emailing updates. I wasn’t quite comfortable with social media. But so many people were asking me to share what was in my diary throughout my journey – that was where I was really pouring out my heart and expressing all of my emotions.
So, the book ended up being very cathartic and healing. And what’s really interesting is the timing of the book. I started writing it exactly a year after finishing chemotherapy. I’m a morning person. So, I would write for an hour every morning before work. The writing process really speaks to how the brain is so powerful. As I was writing about these experiences and reliving them in my mind, I would sometimes have to run to the bathroom because I thought I was going to be sick. The flashbacks were such triggers. They were so strong. Honestly, going through it all again while writing, it really helped me cope with these experiences.
Joe: It’s good to hear that writing was healing in a sense because I could only imagine just how difficult it must be to relive those moments. But you did such a nice job of that. I go back to one moment in which you wrote that “breast cancer was a contrast of emotions like no other”. So, as a survivor, I’m hoping you can elaborate a bit on this and share some insight into the complexities of emotion that go into such a life-changing diagnosis.
Diane: Oh absolutely. There’s just so much to think about and worry about. When I started treatment, I was staged with late stage 3. Initially, the doctors were worried about even doing biopsies because they were concerned about spreading the cancer throughout my body. My medical team aired on the sign of caution, and they threw everything that my poor body could handle. And so, I was given the nuclear bomb treatment. It was one of those things in my life that I will never forget. My emotions would go back and forth.
At times, I was grateful that I had a cancer that was considered treatable, and yet I was angry that I had to go through so much nausea and pain. I just never would experience just one emotion all day long. It was so up and down, and I am typically a fairly stable person – so I was very concerned and troubled by my own behavior. And so much of this is fueled by the strong drugs. They certainly have a lot to do with controlling your brain and the signals that its sending to your body.
I knew that I was not just being medicated to kill the cancer cells and the good cells, but also to help me make sure that I was healthy enough to continue on with treatment. It was just overwhelming.
Joe: What’s interesting though is that throughout these intense moments of fear, anger, and sadness, you learn so much about yourself. And that is really wonderful theme to take away from the book. You learn how strong you are and how capable you are. You know that is something that I think readers will love and gain a lot of value from regardless of what they’re going through.
Diane: Thank you. It is important. I was forced to slow down. All of this happened to me at age 49. I never had been forced to slow down before, and this absolutely did that. But then with the treatments and medication, a lot of my past anxieties bubbled to the surface. It was shocking. I thought it was paranoia. And honestly, I was in a battle with myself. A lot of that involved negative emotions and negative experiences from my past.
All of a sudden, they appeared in my memories, and it was hard. I ended up being forced to confront all of this because I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I couldn’t run from it. But I ended up doing a lot of forgiving. Going through breast cancer, I ended up becoming a better person. It was symbolic that I turned 50 because I was ready to start a second chapter in my life.
I was determined that in Act 2, I would be a lot more clear with myself and others. In the book, you see how going through breast cancer really forced me to deal with the first 49 years of my life. That part was very healthy and healing. And so that is why I really started to focus on mental health. Nothing changes your perspective quite like facing your own mortality. Cancer did that to me.
I would ask myself, “what if I do die? Have I lived the life that I want?”
I started to ask myself those questions. I told myself that I’m going to make a lot of changes. I’m going to come back stronger and more at peace with myself.
Joe: That’s a nice way to start talking about the work you’re doing right now advocating for mental health. Before we jump into that, I have one quick question. You know, with your cancer treatment, you mentioned that you were getting the “nuclear bomb”. So, your body was clearly getting put through hell. But then there’s also this mental warfare that you experience. I know they are incomparable, but what was more taxing – the physical or the mental struggle?
Diane: I want to say the mental part, but honestly it was physical. It was so hard – especially during chemo. I had to take so many different drugs at the same time. What a cocktail that was! I was getting all these infusions and medications that you could literally hear what’s happening in your body. I describe it in my book and at times it’s a little graphic, but it felt like my body was eating itself. So, I couldn’t get past the physical discomfort.
For me, the worst was the nausea, primarily because I have a weak stomach. But there is just no relief to what you’re feeling. You just have to get through it and endure it. It was during those rare moments when I was physically decent that I was able to process some of the emotional stuff. I had to be feeling good physically to be capable of self-reflection and self-acceptance, and the purging that I was experiencing.
In those moments, I knew that when this was over, I was going to be a better, happier person. I was going to let go of a lot of the stuff that bugged me. I was going to be gracious and live freely. I would stop trying to fix everyone and everything. For the longest time, I thought that was my job. And it’s not. I was ready to let it all go and embrace life in a whole new way.
Joe: That feeling of making it to the other side and surviving had to be so extraordinary and unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced.
Diane: It was fantastic. So, the last part of my treatment was radiation. I had 33 radiation treatments. And so in December 2015, I walked out of my last treatment and just started to think about what healing would look like now that treatment is over. But there is so much to recovery after treatment ends. You know, so much of the recovery process doesn’t begin until months after you finish treatments. I had to start going on hormone therapy that launched me chemically into menopause. My body started to swell, and there was a delayed healing. It really took about 2-3 years before my hands would stop swelling and I could finally wear my wedding ring again.
I began to wonder whether things would ever settle down and be normal again. It honestly took me getting past the 5-year mark after finishing treatment for everything to finally settle down.
By the 5-year mark, I finally had forgiven everybody. I finally had forgiven cancer. It was a symbolic point for me because of the type of cancer I had. They say if you make it to 5 years and keep up with all your hormone therapy and medication, that’s a pretty good indicator that you’re in the clear.
Statistically speaking, obviously anything can happen. I can get sick with something else. But at that 5-year mark, I really started to breathe a big sign of relief. And then of course I started writing the book.
So many people now are curious about what life is like for me.
Joe: Yes, I also am curious! I want to know more about the work you’re doing with COPE, but let’s just jump right into that. What does life look like for you right now?
Diane: While I had cancer and until Summer 2022, I was either working full or part time at an aerospace company that I had invested in, and I was on the Board of Directors. We were developing electric airplanes for pilot training. Anyway, I had been working at that company until I got laid off last summer. There’s a whole lot to that story but regardless, it opened new doors for me to be a full-time author, podcaster, and blogger.
Now I’m doing the newsletter thing, growing my follower list. You know, doing all the things that we authors do! I have 8 books that I want to write, 3 of which I’ve started writing. I’m going to publish them all with BookBaby. There is just so much up here and so many stories to tell.
But I’m practicing better self-care than ever, and I’m at peace with myself. It took cancer, and a whole lot of other things happening to get to this point of self-acceptance and self-love. My messaging and emphasis on mental health and cancer is very important to a lot of people.
Cancer survivors undergo this traumatic experience. We face our mortality. And then we don’t have a chance to really understand why this happened. Now I’m encouraging everyone to heal from their traumatic experiences – so Heal Forward is going to be in the title of my next book. Right now it’s a working title. But it’s about doing something that has impact that helps others related to what your trauma triggers were.
Now we can talk about COPE (Center for Oncology Psychology Excellence). It involves training clinical psychologists while they’re still in graduate school how to work with cancer patients. Now it’s become a very popular specialty at the University of Denver. As of today, over 180 graduate-level students have taken these classes and it is specialized training that supports the unique needs of all who have been impacted by cancer. This includes not only patients, but also caregivers and survivors. The program supports you through what it’s like to experience the trauma of cancer, and how it impacts you for the rest of your life.
Joe: What went into founding it? Was it a collaboration with the University? What was the process?
Diane: Well, I’m very entrepreneurial by nature. So, all of this started because at the end of my chemotherapy, I found myself cycling into depression. So, I asked my oncologist for a referral to a therapist who could help me understand the processes and emotions I was dealing with. She said they exist, but there truly are not many of them.
This blew my mind. We have marriage and family counselors. We have sports psychologists. But we don’t have cancer psychologists? And if you can find someone, they almost certainly will not accept health insurance. So, I just started asking questions – and the few therapists who typically work with cancer patients typically don’t take health insurance. So, there are not a lot of training opportunities for them.
I just so happen to know some people within the university of Denver – which is a fantastic school. I had just finished chemo 2 weeks before, and I’m bald. It’s August and I’m having these hot flashes from hell. I walk into a room of psychologists, and I start pleading my case – telling them that people like me need help. Cancer is like nothing I have ever experienced. And I told them that I have no idea if I am ever going to recover from this.
They all had an open mind. But in 2015, we were just starting to have the mental health conversation. It wasn’t like it is right now today. And by the way, it’s great that mental health is having its moment.
I told the group that I would seed fund this specialist, and the University offered these 4 classes as part of the COPE specialty. It really grew over time and my heart is warmed that so many students who get into this prestigious school want to study the COPE specialty.
It’s so important for this to continue to grow because almost everyone is impacted by cancer in some way. If you have not been through it yourself, you know someone who has. You likely love someone who has been through it. One in every three women and one in every two men will have some form of cancer in their lifetime. It’s scary how prevalent cancer is. There are over one hundred types of cancer.
Joe: It really is shocking that psycho-oncology is only an emerging field. Like you mentioned, essentially everyone could name someone in their family who has had cancer. It’s just mind blowing to me that this has never been a prioritized field of study.
Diane: I believe in putting my foot forward and seeking solutions. So, in this case, I was willing to go out of my own pocket to get this started. If we’re going to bring more attention to this, we have to make sure we have enough practitioners who are specially trained in this. But back to cancer, people still just whisper the word.
It’s like saying the word “cancer” is frightening. And honestly, having it is not at all what I thought it would be like. Before I got sick, I knew cancer made your hair fall out. I knew cancer meant you likely are going to die. Sometimes people are afraid to touch you. And honestly, for how prevalent it is, there just are not enough people talking about what it’s really like.
Of course, some have cancer and recover never want to talk about it. I respect that. And then there are those who identify first and foremost as a cancer survivor for the rest of their lives. My point is, it’s all great. The experience is whatever you personally need to make of it. But I’m just still shocked that people call me today and are afraid to share diagnoses. They are afraid to say the word. We need to get more comfortable talking about it.
And for those who have friends and families who have cancer, I encourage them to just be listeners. I worry about what the cancer numbers are going to look like in the years after the pandemic. Many people were missing treatments and/or screenings. I’m not saying it was right or wrong. It’s just what happened. So, I am worried about what cancer numbers will look like in the coming years.
Joe: It is so scary. But it is just so important that people like you are doing meaningful work to advocate for those who are dealing with not only the physical effects of cancer, but also the mental impact. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing with the Ray of Hope Colorado Cancer Foundation’s mental health support grant program?
Diane: Of course. And I can’t take full credit for that. I helped advise this wonderful grant giving an organization called the Ray of Hope Cancer Foundation. It’s named after a young man who was forced to ride his bicycle to chemotherapy because he barely had any money. I mean, when I got chemotherapy, I could barely walk. It’s such a powerful story and unfortunately, Ray did not survive. But it was his medical oncologist who endowed this foundation to give out financial grants to people from Colorado who are in financial shambles because of cancer treatments. They’re faced with choices whether they can pay the rent, mortgage, buy groceries, or get cancer treatment.
I was approached about 3 years ago by the executive director of the Foundation and she had this brilliant idea to offer access to mental health therapists. If you applied for this grant and got it, you could have several sessions with a mental health therapist who was specially trained in working with cancer patients.
So, that program launched in 2022. They did a highly successful pilot. I was an advisor there to talk about where to start and how to start. Because with this, and it’s not just higher ed or mental health or cancer, it’s so important to have the necessary data to know what you should offer. We want to track the impact and importance of mental health therapy when it comes to cancer to see a positive change. We are looking for data that shows those who receive therapy are more likely to stay on their medications, continue their treatments, and go to checkup appointments instead of just giving up or being too overwhelmed to move forward.
Research is showing that having this individualized mental health support – and addressing past traumas – is making a big difference as we address the overlooked aspects of cancer that affect patients and survivors and their ability to heal. We also address the impact it has on loved ones and caregivers. Mental health impact is truly the most overlooked aspect of cancer treatment.
With support from mental health professionals, you can determine what kind of life, if you are fortunate enough to have a treatable cancer and survive treatment, that you can have after cancer. You need to also have support in your corner for things like fear of cancer returning. That’s a big deal. All these cancers are different statistically and the likelihood of recurrence depends on the whole cancer gene side of things.
You probably know this, Joe. There is not one cure for cancer. I wish there was. It is not that simple, and we are certainly working to find cures for all these different types of cancer. I’m not trying to scare anybody, but one of the things that concerns me is how much, like Covid, cancer genes mutate, and they change. Treatments that were effective years ago have to adjust, because the cancer changes. It’s all just so overwhelming and complex.
Joe: It is. And you know, I think you mentioned this earlier. But when it comes to mental health, these situations of such immense stress pull aspects from deep within you that you previously thought were under control. Powerful stress digs up your past and demons. There is nothing quite like the stress of cancer and facing your mortality. I can only imagine how this plagues your mind and leads to numerous mental health issues. These are fears and anxieties that you have to live with forever.
There is so much that goes into treatment like you said. I have always been a big advocate for mental health. Before reading your book, I never even thought about its specific and profound role in the oncology space. It’s been so impactful for me to learn about this and the demand for mental health professionals who are specifically and professionally trained in treating cancer patients.
Diane: I was just at a breast center conference that invites survivors like me to come and be there with other survivors. One thing that I advocated for this year is to be more vocal and start to gather information from survivors everywhere about what we think can be improved in the treatment process. Often times, the way things always have been done get stuck as routine. Because of my business background, I tend to be more solution-oriented. That’s why I’ve been so proactive about leading the charge to address the lack of mental health support for patients and survivors.
As someone who went through this process, I must be a part of the solution, right? I can’t just sit there and complain. That’s just my nature. When someone like me is invited to speak (which I do a lot and is an honor), I want to be someone who offers solutions about what can be done to make things better instead of just complaining about the problems.
I’ve had conversations with hospital and cancer care administrators who have said that they are actually concerned about liability when it comes to addressing mental health issues with patients. So many of my own mental health struggles bubbled to the surface from childhood quite honestly. And so, if there’s going to be services offered for mental health as part of cancer treatment, remember that it will take a long time to fully heal – mentally and physically.
When you finish formal treatment, you may have ripped off a scab so large that the person is going to need therapy for a long time.
Who pays for that? Who is responsible for that? Just like cancer, these issues are incredibly complex and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution or approach that works. But I hope that with my work and my book, people understand the value of mental health support and treatment.
I didn’t share the stories in my book to shock anyone. I just had to be honest because I personally wish I had resources that would support me when I was diagnosed. I ordered every book that existed on breast cancer. I was trying to get good at having cancer. I was trying to have all my questions answered.
But I could not find any information about what cancer feels like. What does it feel like to have this disease? Your first chemo? No one talks about that.
They just talk about what to eat, what not to eat, hydrate, all that surface-level stuff. That’s why I made this book so descriptive. Because I needed that. I wish I had that.
Joe: It 100% is a book that anyone should read if they receive a cancer diagnosis. But beyond that, I also believe it’s a book for anyone to read who is facing some sort of profound obstacle. You know, one of the things I really admired about it was early on – you just had that “game-on” approach – to this horrible disease. You showed that you’re never going to be strong all the time. But if you’re strong enough to keep moving forward, you can conquer something. I think that whether that is cancer or some other burden, the book is filled with impactful lessons. So, long story short, I think it’s much more than a cancer book, even though it’s an amazing cancer book.
Diane: I’m so glad you say that! And yes, some people even call it a love story. I put myself out there. I express my vulnerabilities. I’ll admit to the dumb things that I’ve done. I’ll say the stuff that I regret. I’ll talk about the stupid things I’ve done in college. I couldn’t write this book and talk about how I thrived through my cancer. No, I had to bear all and really this is a book about a trauma.
The trauma could have been a death, or a divorce. In my case, it happened to be breast cancer. But it was how all my childhood stuff, all my daddy-daughter stuff, how much I hate pink, and of course breast cancer, all came into play.
Breast cancer was an opportunity for this lifetime of emotion and trauma to all of a sudden come together into this perfect storm. And I dealt with it all. And when you face your mortality, because for 3 weeks, I knew I had cancer but did not know if it had spread throughout my whole body – you really don’t know if you will survive in that moment.
I would say the happiest moment for me was getting that PET scan and seeing that the cancer did not spread throughout my body. It thankfully only stayed the lymph nodes in my left armpit. I was given the nuclear bomb treatment, but it was treatable. I’m just so grateful for that – even though there was no promise that I would survive treatment. I had a chance. Throughout Unlikely Gift, I try to express this theme: it’s about what you do with trauma. Every day is a gift. It’s about how you address your specific trauma. Whether you work with a therapist or write a book like I did, you have to face your fears, and you’ll eventually learn that there are silver linings and gifts that come from that. Your life changes, forever.
Joe: Throughout the entire process of recovering to where you are now, what would you say has been the most fulfilling aspect of the journey for you?
Diane: Finding myself. I found my voice.
I was an entrepreneur investing in startup companies. Why did I do that? Well, it’s because I was raised in Central Nebraska – where you help other people. I had been part of a successful business sale. And I used part of my proceeds to help other entrepreneurs fund their companies.
I never did any of this to make money. It’s always a high likelihood of failure. There is a lot of failure, but also great success. But honestly, I just do it because it’s the right thing to do. Before I got sick, I was always the number 2 person. I never had my own voice. I never felt that I needed that. I never complained. I just got really tired of the lack of gratitude. People took advantage of me. A lot of people thought I was a complete idiot. And you know, I have no regrets.
But, now that I have done something of my own volition – I’ve started programs in higher ed, and it’s never easy – I’ve made an impact that will lead to change. Now, I’m just finally doing it for the things that I want to do. I’m not doing it to prop someone else up and make them successful. It’s just so refreshing to be able to drive change by doing what I want to do and through my own voice.
Joe: After reading about what your life was like early on in your book, it’s amazing how you’ve shifted your focus so much. It’s amazing to see how you have a whole new perspective. Have you been able to connect with a lot of readers? How about people you previously would not have typically connected with?
Diane: I have! And thank you. The book has appealed primarily to middle aged women because it was very symbolic that I turned 50 and this second chapter of my life is just beginning and everything is going to be better. I’m going to be better.
The book cover looks like a romance – it’s me and my husband as I’m getting my hair back. So it is a love story, but also so many readers have reached out saying that it was like talking to a friend. People who are going through similar breast cancer experiences also have really connected to the story. Readers have just appreciated me putting it out there in its most true and vulnerable form. There are miracles, and there is God in it. There’s funny stuff. There is bizarre stuff. At one point I ended up in the hospital with vertigo. It was brutal and absolutely debilitating. I got acupuncture for relief, and everything just got so much worse.
When I had vertigo, I was so sick that I thought about dying. I thought there was no other way to get relief from this. But then there were moments when I would look over at the wall and see a picture of our chocolate lab who had died 4 years earlier. I thought I was ready to go to Heaven and see him. And then truly an angel appeared and spoke to me – and told me that I need to capture all of this.
I had been journaling, and a lot of friends who were receiving my email updates were so interested in reading my diary when it was complete. And anyway, that’s why I wrote the book and hearing feedback has been so powerful for me.
With writing, I sort of had that renewed spirit. I remained motivated to continue getting up, to continue fighting for my life in treatments. But I came so close to the edge. I describe it all in the book. And if you come back from the edge, life is never the same.
Joe: The chapter that discusses your dog is just so heartbreaking and beautiful. We were talking about this off camera but just as someone who has dogs and loves dogs, I thought you did an amazing job describing your connection with Enzo and how tragic it was to lose him. There is no way to describe the helplessness you feel when they are sick, and you have to say goodbye. Readers can really see your strength as a writer in this part.
Speaking of that, I want to talk a bit about writing. This is your first book and it’s just so well done. I am wondering what the process was like for you to write the book? What resources did you turn to?
Diane: Thank you. And yes in the book, I describe my relationship with our chocolate lab, Enzo. He was like my child. Before I married my husband, it was just me and Enzo for the longest time. He eventually was diagnosed with cancer, and we had to say goodbye to him at home when he was too sick to go on. I describe in grave detail the night we had to euthanize him and much like my own cancer experience, it moved me. My life changed after that. It was part of my healing process – gaining the ability to let him go. It’s all relevant to the book. I don’t just to it to make you cry, although you might.
Anyway, writing. I was trained as a print journalist because I wanted a public relations degree. I knew I wanted a job where I would have flexibility. So, my writing style was pretty traditional, and I realized I was writing the book like a long newspaper article. I didn’t want to do that. So, I hired a writing coach to help me learn how to tell a story.
She was great to work with and I had a 6-month arrangement with her. She helped me outline the book and her specialty is memoir. So, she talked me into writing this book in memoir style – which worked well. It just lends itself to that because my cancer experience was influenced by stuff that happened throughout my entire life. And so, I had to explain a lot of stuff from my life along the way.
What’s helpful about the cancer treatment process, which is the foundation of the book, starts on the day I’m diagnosed, and it ends on the night we launched COPE – the night before my one year cancer survivor anniversary. There are so many parts to this book, and she did a great job helping me outline it and tie it all together.
Once per week we would get on the phone for an hour. She works primarily with a lot of business executives who want to write their life stories. It was a well-worthwhile investment for me. But I found that writing was so healing. I was re-living these moments and I needed to continue healing. COPE had already launched by this time, but people were so anxious to read the book.
Anyway, I finished my 6 months working with the writing coach and then ended up having some friends read the first drafts. After speaking to those who really know me, I decided to make some changes so it would be a little more personal. Anyway, I went back to the writing coach and had her read it again – and she hated it.
I almost didn’t publish it. I was just so crushed.
Joe: That had to be so difficult to hear and face because it’s not like you’re writing a fiction novel. Like, this is your story that you’re writing.
Diane: It was. I think she was having a bad day, too. She definitely gave me some helpful advice. But in general, I was just shocked. I was thinking – if this is how this whole writing thing is going, maybe it’s just not for me. Maybe I should shelf the project and be done. But I ended up connecting with the one Chancellor of the University of Delaware. She became a friend because both of her parents died from cancer. She caught wind of COPE and then as I was writing this book, she read it and brought me into her office. She told me to write the book that I want to write, and basically screw everybody else.
She was a woman of great faith. She told me that I need to do what I think is right and publish this book. Anyway, I followed her advice and wrote the book that I believed in – no one ever gave me any negative feedback after that.
I learned that you just have to go with your gut. I’ve committed myself to that. There are always going to be people who don’t like or disagree with your story. But I just kept moving forward and writing because so many people were interested in my story and needed it.
So, I published this book and at first didn’t do very much to market it. I really didn’t know anything about marketing yet. I just wanted to get the book out there – but I’ve gotten smarter about this marketing stuff since then.
Joe: I think that is one of the biggest benefits of independently publishing a book. You have this story to tell and you don’t have to allow anyone to influence it or sway it. You can tell it exactly as you want, and I think that leads to the most meaningful results and the best books to read. You never want someone to micromanage your own story.
Diane: Thank you for bringing up that point. Control freak – that’s me. But I’ve been approached by traditional and hybrid publishers and had conversations with them. They certainly have a role in publishing and are the right move for certain titles. But for my book, they made it very clear that they wanted to rewrite my manuscript so it would sell. And that’s just not who I am. I think it’s because I’ve had so many of these grounded experiences going through cancer. I didn’t want anyone to have control of my thoughts. I had to be true to myself. That’s why independently publishing was the perfect outlet for me. I wanted to be fully in control of my own story.
Being independent, there are no limitations to your creative expressions. As you can see, I’m already working on future books – marking up plenty of paper with all of my thoughts. With my next book Heal Forward (working title), I want it to be more of an inspirational book. I’m looking to do it in hardcover formats so I can work with companies to gift it in a corporate deal. And you can only do these corporate partnerships if you have independently published a book. Everything about my books – from having creative and intellectual control – is perfectly suited for being an independently published author. If you don’t own the rights to your own book, you can’t do these types of things. Your opportunities are limited.
Joe: It’s great to hear that going the independent route was so valuable for you and your work. There are a lot of authors like yourself who remain independently published for the same reasons. David Goggins is a perfect example of this. He doesn’t want anyone to have any influence over his story and how it is told.
People like him and you who have lived through something so profound and have such inspiring stories to tell, should not allow anyone to change their voice.
I’m so excited about your work and the new books that you’re writing. I can’t wait to read them and learn more.
Diane: Thank you. I’ve started to write the coming books and one of them is definitely going to be humorous. I have this quirky, weird sense of humor. But I’ve just had funny stuff happen to me. Growing up in a town of only 80 people in Central Nebraska… I have a lot of stories to tell! I won’t be naming any names, but I can’t wait to share some stories. People are not going to believe some of these experiences growing up, and what I saw in corporate America.
But like I’ve been saying, I’m at this wonderful point in my life. It’s a time to celebrate and forgive. I’m past the point of trying to please everybody.
Also, I do want to plug BookBaby. Everyone at BookBaby has been so supportive and offers me exactly the tools that I need. Just the fact that there is Bookshop, and I can send people there to buy my book where I can receive the highest royalties, it’s so helpful for me as an independent author. Thank you all so much. There’s a whole lot to this, and I’m no expert, but I’ve learned a lot since my first book came out. I’m going to continue to focus on my craft and tell the best story that I can. Everyone at BookBaby has just been so great and has guided me through the process with great advice.
I’m so thankful for that.
Joe: Well, we are very grateful to have you as one of our authors. I’m also grateful to have this opportunity to speak with you. I really want to just thank you for your time. It’s an honor to get the chance to hear more about your inspiring story and book. Please share anything you’d like about where readers can stay up to date with your work!
Diane: I do have a website and you can visit it here. I have a podcast called the Unlikely Gifts Podcast and it’s available just about everywhere. In May I’m launching a series of 10 Special Edition podcasts soon and I’m co-hosting with my good friend Amy Fairchild. Each of the 10 chapters, like my new book, will involve discussing my life principles. When you get the two of us together, it’s always so much fun. It’s just like magic So, I encourage everyone interested to follow along and listen to the podcast.
I also have a monthly blog and newsletter. You can sign up for all of that by visiting my website. I’d love to have you. And of course, just stay on the lookout for my next book! I am honored that The Unlikely Gift of Breast Cancer was named “one of the best breast cancer books of all time”. And remember, it’s a story about a trauma. It’s a story about resilience and inspiration and fighting through the bumps along the way. You know life will be filled with ups and downs. It’s about how you come back from the downs. That’s where you find richness in life. It’s the process.
Joe: I couldn’t agree more. This is amazing advice. Thank you for making such a wonderful difference in the world. I appreciate it. Thank you for being here.
Diane: Of course and thank you for highlighting BookBaby authors. It’s just another wonderful thing that BookBaby does. I appreciate you and your president Jim Foley for connecting us to make this happen. I wish you and your listeners the best.
Joe: We will be in touch!
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