East Franklin woman's book takes honest look at life with ovarian cancer
EAST FRANKLIN – According to one local author there are two parallel worlds which exist side by side – one populated by those living healthy, busy lives, and the other inhabited by those coping with terminal illness.
That's how Jamie Schneider of Lemon Hollow Road describes her situation.
For the past three years, Schneider, 61, has been locked in a battle with a disease that has robbed her of the life she once led in that busy, healthy world.
In February 2010, she was diagnosed with stage-three ovarian cancer. Today, the disease invading her body is at stage four.
Not long after her initial diagnoses, Schneider decided to write a memoir about her experience of coping with and struggling against cancer.
Her book, published by iUniverse is called, “Who Will Make the Pies When I'm Gone?”
Its subtitle, “Living the Dark Side of Cancer – No Sugar Added,” says something about her storytelling approach.
Schneider refuses to put a positive spin on living with cancer.
And even though she doesn't sugarcoat her experience, readers will still get a dose of Schneider's sharp humor and wit.
“I think there are some people who want to know what it's actually like,” she said.
She wants to educate readers about the tough reality associated with cancer and help people understand how to talk to those who have it.
Schneider, who has always liked to write, honed her craft by attending the Gotham Writers' Workshop in New York City.
She recalled one particular assignment in which she had to write about something she hated.
That's when she began to write about cancer and found her voice in honest and unvarnished prose.
In her book, she explores aspects of her struggle which emerged in that assignment like the section called, “What's God got to do with it?”
She realized, through her writing, that even though the disease has at times taken away her hope, she has never hated God.
Parts of the book were difficult to write, she said, because the writing forced her to relive painful events. At night, her mind became flooded with thoughts and emotional memories which she eventually worked through on her lap top at her dining room table.
The title of Schneider's memoir came to her fairly early on in the writing process and may hold a special significance to area residents who frequented East Franklin's farmers' market.
“I worked at ARC Manor for 20 years, from 1977 to 1997,” said Schneider. “When I retired I wanted to do less things in more time, I wanted to slow down.”
Except that her idea of slowing down in retirement coincided with the area near her home having an abundant crop of blackberries and black raspberries.
She and her husband, Bill, went out with five-gallon buckets and filled their freezer with 40 quarts of berries.
So she decided to bake pies and made jellies and jams with seasonal fruit, and made freshly baked cinnamon rolls and breads, to sell at the Kittanning farmers' market.
After she became a regular at the market, other vendors told her they would know she had arrived because a whole wave of customers would emerge from parked vehicles to rush to her stand to wait in line.
“One customer came from Pittsburgh and would buy all the pies, he'd clean me out of pies,” said Schneider.
Reflecting on that time in her life, she said she wonders if people ever remember her – the woman who sold pies at the market.
She said that writing the book has given a measure of meaning to her life.
Schneider teared up as she spoke of how wonderful her husband and sons, Marc and Pat, have been.
And even now that the book is published, she said, she still feels as if she has more to say.
“After I was done, I would think – I can't wait to put that in my book. I wanted to keep writing even when I was done,” said Schneider.
And apparently, according to recent sales, a lot of readers like what she has to say.
Bookstores in the United Kingdom and Australia are selling her book, as are online sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iUniverse.
Schneider will be signing copies of her book from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Kittanning News along Market Street.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.