Yet another special treat: I had the opportunity to put some questions to the author of Hug Everyone You Know, Antoinette Truglio Martin.
First, here’s the book:
Blurb: During 2017’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, She Writes Press published Antoinette Truglio Martin’s touching memoir, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer. It is a 2017 USA Best Book Awards Finalist in Non-Fiction: Narrative and a 2018 Next Generation Indie Book Finalist: Non-Fiction Women’s Issues.
In 2007, Martin believed her call back doctor appointment was routine, maybe a scare, nothing worse. Her shock at receiving a Stage I breast cancer diagnosis was instantly compounded by her own deep fears. As a self-described wimp—afraid of needles and uncomfortable with sedation—how was she going to get through this?
Antoinette started her fight against cancer with words. She began by journaling and by writing emails to Her Everyone—the large close-knit family and circle of beloved friends wanting to offer their support, especially those who were fighting breast cancer alongside her. The emails not only helped to keep Her Everyone informed, they gave cancer less of a presence in Antoinette’s life, since she wasn’t repeatedly updating people or saying the word “cancer” over and over. The practice of writing calmed her and also gave her space to focus on living: on the house that wasn’t selling, an exciting new job, daughters in college, and summer beach plans. She signed every email with the reminder to “hug everyone you know.”
Those emails and journal entries are at the heart of this memoir, which gives the book an immediacy and raw power.
Hug Everyone You Know is a memoir about how Antoinette found the courage to navigate her first year of breast cancer treatment. It’s the story of how a community—colleagues, family, friends—rallied to support her. The book is moving, brave, informative, and occasionally funny—and it speaks to us all.
This sounds like an inspiring and very personal story. Let’s find out a bit more about the author…!
As a writer:
Do you have any writing quirks / odd writing habits?
Well, hmm, Okay, I’ll admit it. I need to hand write my manuscript before typing into a word processing program. It is time consuming, but I find that the words come through fluently if I add the kinesthetic-motor activity. Doodling in the margins also helps.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I work full time as a special education teacher and speech therapist (retiring in a few weeks, though), take care of home, hearth, and husband, visit grandchildren (two in faraway South Carolina), sail, beach bum, swim, collect stories from family and friends, and cook.
What do you most love and/or hate to write?
I love that I am so articulate when writing. In real time, my wit and words do not flow well. Writing allows me to rehearse the words and cadence.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I celebrate the good ones, tag the site, and personally thank the reviewer. I have not gotten a bad review. Yeah!
As a reader:
What genre is your favourite book (other than your own)?
I enjoy historical fiction. Lately, I have been reading books set in the early 20th century. I am fascinated by my family’s immigrant tales and how my parents grew up in Brooklyn, New York. My mother’s side of the family had incredible stories. They may have been tough people to like, but they were terrific storytellers.
With regards to THIS book:
Hug Everyone You Know is a very personal memoir about your battle with cancer, with the support of your loved ones. What was it that drew you to begin writing about this journey and to share it with us all?
I have always kept a journal. There are piles of notebooks chronicling my thoughts. Writing gives me a voice. I wrote in my journal during that first year with cancer to keep myself focused and as calm as possible. This allowed me to communicate with my family and friends—My Everyone—via the emails. When I was re-diagnosed almost five years later with metastatic breast cancer, I went back to that old journal and saved emails. Through writing the story, I saw that I did hone courage and that it would be possible to navigate through this next diagnosis.
The book is based on your email correspondence and journal written whilst you were actually going through the experiences. How did it feel to re-read everything when it came to writing this book?
It was difficult to read the journal, emails, and then the manuscript over and over again. It was such a scary part of my life story. I don’t like to be scared. But as I worked, I could see and believe the story’s message of hope.
What message would you most like to pass on from your own experiences to others who may be going through something similar?
All cancers bring a unique set of experiences and mindsets. I would say that cultivating a community is very important. But, a community cannot be nurtured during a cancer crisis. It is vital to be part of a family now. Your tribe does not need to be large and related but does need to include those who reciprocate care, love, and support.
My only other tip is to not own the cancer. I refuse to refer the cancer as mine. I do not use “my.” It is always and an “it” or a “the”. This way, cancer is not the main character. It is just one story in the collection of my life’s stories.
Is there anything else you would like new readers to know before they open your book?
I am not believing that the metastatic breast cancer within me is a forever condition. I truly believe a cure will be found in my lifetime. Such incredible strides have been realized in just the past ten years. I may be walking around with a time bomb, but I have not been given an expiration date. Research and science are so close. I am reaping the benefits of the sisters who have come before me, endured clinical trials, and lived and died through the unknown. It does not come cheap.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is all well and good for early detection and support services. Millions of dollars are raised to keep women in the pink. Unbelievably, metastatic breast cancer is given one day, October 13th, to shout out for funds dedicated to the cure. MBC is not pretty in pink. It robs more than hair. It is the cancer that seeks to destroy the body, invades families, and eventually kills. I would like to ask readers to be sure their donations go towards the research and science efforts in kicking MBC out of our life stories.
And be sure to hug everyone you know!
About the Author
Antoinette Truglio Martin is a life-long Long Islander, teacher, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. She is the author of Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer—a memoir chronicling her first year battling breast cancer as a wimpy patient. Personal experience essays and excerpts of her memoir were published in Bridges, Visible Ink, and The Southampton Review. Martin proudly received her MFA in creative writing and literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University in 2016. Antoinette had also written the children’s picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup (Albert Whitman and Company), and was a regular columnist for local periodicals Parent Connections (In a Family Way) and Fire Island Tide (Beach Bumming). Her blog, Stories Served Around The Table, tells family tales and life’s musings. She lives in her hometown of Sayville, New York with her husband, Matt, and is never far from her “Everyone” and the beaches she loves. Since being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2012, she strives to not let cancer to dictate her life.
Hug Everyone You Know is available on Amazon right now!
Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour (details on the poster below) for more great reviews and content!