When Rain on a Distant Roof: A Personal Journey Through Lyme Disease in Canada hit bookshelves in 2013, it marked the first time my writing had ever been published in book form. That wasn't my intention. My first book was supposed to be a short story collection entitled The Things She'll Be Leaving Behind. It was the first book I had written and, by rights, should have been the first one to make it to print. But fate had other ideas.
Both books were written during a period of great upheaval when a devastating neurological infection prevented me from enjoying anything approaching a normal existence. Instead I was living a strange half-life, beset by seizures, paralysis, and cognitive deficits so troubling I rarely knew where I was, what I was trying to do, who the people around me might be and, worse, whether those people were real or the products of elaborate hallucinations.
Writing took on an important role back then. It was what I did to distract myself from horrifying symptoms, salvage what was left of my sanity, and convince myself that I wasn't as useless as I so often felt. If I were writing books, I reasoned, then this entire nightmare could be chalked up to a strange form of research.
Inevitably I would hit rock bottom. Like it or loath it, beating back an unrelenting illness would become the central focus of my life, consuming every waking moment and most of the sleeping ones as well. It didn't matter what I had been hoping to accomplish with The Things She'll Be Leaving Behind. Nor did it matter that I was far enough along with the manuscript that the only real work left to do was to find a publisher. Nothing mattered at that point except my physical and mental survival. So The Things She'll Be Leaving Behind was shelved in favour of Rain on a Distant Roof: A Personal Journey Through Lyme Disease in Canada, which recorded my epic battle with this merciless disease.
Two years after the publication of my memoir, I would finally dig The Things She'll Be Leaving Behind out of my filing cabinet and give it another look. My thinking then was that I would pitch it and move on to other projects, mostly because the book was synonymous with a period of my life that I no longer wished to remember.
But after reading the manuscript I changed my mind. In spite of everything, or possibly because of it, I'd managed to cobble together a collection of darkly humorous stories that examine what it's like to be a woman trying to survive in baffling circumstances. Some of the stories deal with illness and death. That was inevitable. Others deal with addiction, marital strife, enforced isolation, aberrant behaviour, and the fairly universal inability of the characters to deal effectively with their predicaments.
So 2018 will finally see the long delayed publication of The Things She'll Be Leaving Behind. The first book I wrote, the second to make it to print, and an enduring reminder that no matter how bad things get, there remains the possibility that something good can come out of an unbelievable amount of strife.