“I never thought I would be someone who needed so much support,” says Antoinette Truglio Martin, about reaching out to her support group after her cancer diagnosis. Antoinette was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in 2007, and within five years it had metastasized to her vertebrae and became considered stage four. Now, she will live with cancer for the rest of her life. However, Antoinette remains an optimistic person. She says that in her family the glass is not half empty, it is almost full.
Go Hug Everyone You Know
Antoinette Truglio Martin is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. The book is a memoir about her first year with breast cancer. She is a Antoinette Truglio Martin is a speech therapist and special education teacher, but considers herself a writer at heart. She received her MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University in 2016.
Martin’s book Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer is a memoir about her first year of breast cancer. 2-3% of all funds raised from her book go to cancer research. Hug Everyone You Know documents the first year of Martin’s life after getting diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. It includes email correspondence between her and her community, as well as Antoinette’s journal entries.
Cancer Doesn’t Deserve a Pretty Journal
Martin says that she always wanted to be a writer when she grew up, and she still does. While writing down her feelings about the first year after diagnosis, Martin documented everything in shabby journals. “I didn’t want cancer to be honored in any way, so it is going to get a shabby notebook,” says Martin. She did not have any special notebooks, pens, or bookmarks. Her day to day life of living with cancer was bookmarked by the dog-eared pages in those journals.
Keeping in Contact Through Emails
During her traumatic first year of battling cancer, Martin chose to update everyone in her life through emails. “It was easier for me to compose an email and send it out to everyone,” says Martin. Instead of talking on the phone, Martin decided that updates came best in the form of emails.
Antoinette chose to update people in her life via email, because sometimes it was easier than talking to someone on the phone. She found that talking about cancer on the phone caused her to have to relive the trauma. Martin never considered herself to be a “chatty” person on the phone, so emails allowed her to share her progress with loved ones.
Living Day-to-Day with Cancer
Within five years of her stage one breast cancer diagnosis, Antoinette’s cancer had metastasized and attached itself to her spine. She wants people to know that breast cancer does not kill people, cancer that has metastasized and attached itself to vital organs kills people. Stage four cancer still does not have a cure, but it can be managed with treatment. Antoinette considers herself very lucky to be living with cancer in a time with such advanced medicine. “I feel like I am living proof of the progress that has been made. I lived past my expiration point,” says Antoinette.
“I refuse to call it mine,” Antoinette Truglio Martin says about breast cancer. Though she will live with stage four cancer for the rest of her life, Antoinette does not consider the cancer to be “hers.” Instead, it is just something she has and will live with.
Cancer is no longer the focal point of Martin’s journaling. She has two daughters, with grandchildren on the way. She is a speech therapist, as well as a special education teacher. Antoinette is more concerned about things going on with her day to day life than the “looming cancer.”
Cancer and Community
Antoinette says that she never thought of herself as someone who would need to seek out support. However, after her diagnosis she found herself needing her community. She says that she never really had to ask for help, that people were just there. Throughout her entire process, she always had a shoulder to cry on.
Seeking out support can be hard, but a support group during traumatic times allows one to be resilient. Martin remains positive day-to-day despite living with stage four breast cancer that has metastasized to her spine. “Every day is a gift. We need to appreciate the moment,” says Antoinette Truglio Martin.
Listen to the episode for the full story.
Journaling Negative Thoughts
Sometimes, it can be hard to sit down and actually start the journaling process. When I first began documenting my life through journals, I was worried about everything I was writing ending up being negative. I didn’t want to write if everything I wrote was bad.
At first, I was worried it would seem as if I was complaining about everything. Here’s the thing, your journal will never complain about you complaining. Journals are a great way for people to express their thoughts and emotions.
Journaling helps you become more resilient. Writing your emotions down allows you to process through them, and through journaling you can discover new things about yourself and your thoughts. You can heal through writing down your life stories and experiences.
Through the power of the pen, you can claim control of your life. Don’t worry about capturing negative emotions. Writing these feelings down will allow you to cope through them. Maybe one day, your journal entries can be included in a memoir such as Antoinette Truglio Martin’s.
This weeks memoir: The Water is Wide
The Water is Wide was published in 1972 by Pat Conroy. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina, but for the handful of families on Yamacraw Island, America is a world away. For years people here lived off the sea, but now its waters aren’t safe. Industry waste threatens their existence unless they can learn a new way. But that’s impossible without someone to teach them, and their school has none—until one man gives a year of his life to the island and its people. Check out The Water is Wide and all the memoirs on this list at stacybrookman.com/100memoirs.
About Antoinette Martin
Antoinette Truglio Martin is a speech therapist and special education teacher by training but is a writer at heart. She is the author of Famous Seaweed Soup, and was a visiting author in schools for several years. She was formerly a regular columnist for Parent Connection (In A Family Way) and Fire Island Tide (Beach Bumming). Personal experience essays and excerpts of her memoir have been published in Bridges (2014), Visible Ink (2015), and The Southampton Review (2016). Martin proudly received her MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook Southampton University (2016). As a stage four breast cancer patient, she does not allow cancer to dictate her life. She lives in her hometown of Sayville with her husband, Matt, and is never far from My Everyone and the beaches she loves.
BLOG: Stories Served Around The Table
AMAZON: Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer
RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW: METAvivor
Metastatic Breast Cancer Network
Also published on Medium.