On a Mission of Courage, Comfort and Joy:
A Success Story about a Book for Women with Breast Cancer

October 2003
by Lois Hjelmstad

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You have breast cancer. Those four words changed my life on April 20, 1990. How do you say good-bye to your breast? How do you bid your sense of invincibility farewell? How do you deal with a world turned upside down?


Write Your Passion

The night before my first mastectomy, I wrote a poem, “Good-bye, Beloved Breast.” I needed comfort. I needed courage. I needed a sense of certainty about what I had to do. I didn’t need to write a book.


However, poems kept popping into my head. When I shared 20 of them with my oncologist, he told me to “do something with them.” A year later, when I faced a second mastectomy, a sense of urgency propelled me to indeed “do something.” Somehow, in the midst of illness and surgeries, with the help of my daughter and an editor, I wrote Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness and formed Mulberry Hill Press. I chose self-publishing because I had no assurance that I would live long enough to suffer through multiple rejections or the amount of time a larger publisher would need to get a book to my readers.


Find Resources

Judith Appelbaum’s How to Get Happily Published and Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual guided us. Colorado Independent Publishers Association, PMA, and SPAN also were (and continue to be) excellent sources of help and information.

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