Local author publishes book on breast cancer journey – Chemo Fashion Fridays
When Dr. Julieanna Frost, an associate professor of History at Siena Heights College in Adrian, started writing books, it was in the context of her academic career, and she never expected it to be any other way. She has written two biographies and a historical perspective on the City of Adrian, all of which have been well-received in the niche markets for which they were written.
But her most recent publication is not only unexpected, but an entirely distinct genre from her prior works.
“Chemo Fashion Fridays: One Woman’s Breast Cancer Journey” started out as a weekly joke among her family and friends on Facebook, shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2015.
“I am the fifth generation of my family to have breast cancer,” she explains. “I was conscientious about self care, mammograms, and all that. Even so, I had always been very driven to do things on my bucket list, realizing that I might not have a long life. But I was not ready to receive a Stage 3 diagnosis at the age of just 43. I discovered that I carried the RAD51c gene, predisposing me to the disease.”
And so she started on a journey that was destined to take both a physical and emotional toll.
“All the books, all the standard advice, for those who are diagnosed with cancer, is to create a blog or an email list that will keep family and friends updated on your condition,” she said. “The problem is that making your story ‘digestible’ can be pretty hard. Not everyone wants to read the cold, hard facts on your diagnosis.”
Instead, as she began predictably losing her hair, she started a tradition that went through her course of treatment. When she went to a friend to get a 10″ purple Mohawk haircut, the ensuing photo became her first “#Chemo Fashion Friday” post.
With her characteristic sense of humor, Julieanna decided that instead of having a Care Page, blog, or other method of sharing her progress, she would make every Friday a “Chemo Fashion” day.
“I just started posting these ridiculous pictures with hats or every week,” she says. “I tried to find some humor in my situation. This is how I coped.”
Her “ridiculous” photos included some with head scarves, hats, or even more unusual headgear, including dressing up as Nefertiti or “Krampus’ Little Helper.” Or bald. When her driver’s license was renewed during treatment, she was unable to use her old photo, although she was told she could wear a scarf if she wished.
“To hell with that! I will be bald and beautiful!” she decided.
When her chemo was completed, Julieanna continued with radiation treatments, which finished this past May. By this time, she had been encouraged to turn her “Chemo Fashion Fridays” into a book. She started writing the text to accompany her photos, and her step daughter began designing backgrounds to match them.
“I just took most of the photos in or around my house with little attention to the background,” she explains. “My step-daughter did a great job of putting the photos into context.” Thus, the Nefertiti photo now has a background of pyramids and camels rather than a living room wall.
Each photo is accompanied by a facing page which might include a poem, haiku, or short narrative describing the picture. At 94 pages, it could qualify as “light” reading.
Her purpose in agreeing to write the book was to offer hope and encouragement to her fellow cancer patients. And, perhaps, to inject a little more humor into what is never a funny condition.
“I’d like to give others a laugh, hope, and some pointers,” she says. “So many books about breast cancer are quite depressing, even frightening.” She’d prefer that her readers focus on the ridiculousness of their situation, and “not allow [cancer] to steal their joy, humor and grace.”
As for the pointers, the book also includes a list of some of Julieanna’s “favorite things”–i.e., products and tips that she found useful during her treatment. She would like her book to find a wider audience through distribution at local hospitals and cancer centers, but since it’s only been available since Nov. 8, she is still early in the process of trying to promote and market her publication.
“This is my first foray into self-publishing,” she explains. “I’ve never had to do any of this before since my previous books were published through traditional publishing houses.”
“Chemo Fashion Fridays” is published through and available at Amazon.com, at a cost of $12.99.