Author and cancer survivor Amanda Prowse will discuss new book during Breast Cancer Awareness month at Bath's Waterstones28/10/2014
The thought of having to tell her son she had cancer was the hardest thing she's ever had to face, but internationally best-selling author Amanda Prowse, says it's made her a more courageous, adventurous person. Bath Weekend's Lisa Evans caught up with her ahead of her visit to Bath's Waterstones later this week where she'll be giving a talk to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Amanda Prowse's life almost sounds like one of her best-selling novels. After being diagnosed with cancer 14 years ago, she quit her job, sold her house and focused on doing something she'd always wanted to do - writing a novel. The book, Poppy Day, was rejected by every agent she took it to, but now she is an established author with 11 books to her name and she's sold millions of copies all over the world.
"What would you do with your life if you thought you only had a limited time left to live?" says Amanda who is coming to Bath ion October 30 to speak about her newest novel. "Well the truth is, that's all any of us have, so we should all find happiness now instead of waiting for something to happen before we learn to appreciate the little things in life."
After her cancer diagnosis, Amanda, who was a single mum at the time, faced the prospect of having to say goodbye to her son, Josh, who was just five-years-old, and says it was the most difficult dilemma she's ever had to face.
In her new novel, Will You Remember Me, Amanda expresses all the emotions that she once had to hide, by giving the book's main character, a busy mum from Wiltshire, breast cancer.
"The character, Poppy, is diagnosed with cancer, like me," says Amanda. "She's an ordinary mum from a normal family and cancer just happens to knock at the door. I had bowel cancer, but Poppy had breast cancer as more women can relate to that. You never think it's going to be you, but one in three of us will get cancer. You ask any person out there to name two people they are close to who've had cancer, and they will be able to. This book faces up to that reality."
The story is Amanda's worst fears played out on paper - wondering how you say goodbye to your child. But she describes the novel as an uplifting, humorous take on a dark subject.
"I decided not to tell Josh about my cancer because he was too young to understand, so I just told him I was ill," says Amanda. "I was a single mum, the bread-winner; I had to be strong for him, but I used to cry in the shower every day. This book, rather than being clinical, depressing or medical, carries the message that not only does life go on, but that with love as the glue, families can survive just about anything.
"I'm so inspired by other women - women who face struggle and overcome it. Whether that struggle is being a single parent, battling breast cancer, overcoming adversity - I think women are incredibly strong. I admire anyone who has the courage to change a situation that they're unhappy with, or who put themselves out of their comfort zone."
Facing the prospect of dying made Amanda assess her life and she realised that she'd never been completely happy. She describes her ordeal as a blessing in disguise that showed her to live in the now.
"We are all guilty of saying 'when I win the lottery I will do something I've always wanted to do or I'll buy something I've always wanted to own'. I used to be one of those people, but then, after my diagnosis I started to think 'any given day could be my last on earth, so why am I waiting around for something that will probably never happen, I've got to make my own happiness, now.
"I have become a real yes-person now. If someone suggested we jump in the sea with all our clothes on or juggled fire - why not? If my husband said 'get in the car we're driving to Scotland' I'd say 'let's go'. I'm much less cautious now and much more adventurous."
Amanda, in a sense, has won the lottery - not just because she's made money from becoming a popular author, but because she's found happiness. She'd always wanted to be a writer and wanted to make it her career but it was nothing more than a distant dream before. But after beating cancer, she plucked up the courage to go for it, but her first book rejected by every agent she met with. But that didn't deter her and she published the book herself, giving 100 per cent of the proceeds to the Royal British Legion. It went on to be a best-seller, and from then on she had no problem publishing her other books.
"Money means nothing to me," she says. "When I first quit my job to start writing I had to sell my house and live in rented military family housing with my husband Simeon [an army officer]. We couldn't afford the bills and had no central heating; we were more skint than we'd ever been, but we were so happy.
"I bought my first house eight weeks ago and it's small one - I don't want flashy expensive things - material possessions don't matter to me anymore. I only own three outfits! Happiness for me is having a meal with my family, seeing them smile, watching them laugh and sitting down together to enjoy some awful TV. It's the little things."
To coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness month, Amanda will be coming to Bath's Waterstones this Thursday to talk about her book and about beating cancer. "We are sheltered from talking about cancer but we should all discuss it," she says. "Years ago, cancer was a death sentence, but now so many people survive it, but we still live in fear of it and we shouldn't.
"I'm a big believer in positive thinking. Positivity may not change the outcome, but it'll definitely change the experience. We all know that when we feel sad, it can hurt physically - and it's the same in reverse, when we are physically ill it can hurt us mentally. You may not be able to control an illness but you can certainly control your mind to an extent. I always thought to myself 'the result of this cancer is going to be the same regardless of how I feel about it, so I may as well just stay positive."
Amanda says the main reason she wanted to write her first book was to make her family proud. She never thought that it would be popular or that she would go on to write many more - she says her goal was to have a book published so her family could see it in a bookstore.
"Never in a million years did I think I would get to this point," she says. "When I saw someone reading me first book, it felt like nothing on earth. It's pinch-me stuff to this day. Even now I still feel grateful that people enjoy my books - it doesn't lessen for me. I feel very lucky and honoured. Not just that people have spent their hard-earned cash on my stories, but that they're giving me their time. It's an incredible privilege and makes me glad every day that I dared to try being a writer. My motto is 'life begins when you let it'."
Amanda Prowse will be speaking about her new book Will You Remember Me? and her other novels on Thursday October 30 at 6.30pm at Waterstones, Milsom St, Bath. For tickets call 01225 448515 or visit www.waterstones.com/events
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