It’s hard to imagine a more difficult or heart-rending conversation than having to break the news to your child that you have cancer.
Monisha Parker not only found a loving way to do that, but she turned her experience into a published book: “What’s Going on With Mommy.”
Monisha will celebrate six years at Lawyers Mutual this month. May also marks another anniversary for her. She was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in 2014. On May 8, 2015, a few days after her 29th birthday, she was preparing to undergo a bilateral mastectomy.
I had a chance to talk to Monisha about how cancer gave her the courage to pursue a life long dream and how her purpose was “painted pink.”
LM: Tell me a little about your background … personal, education etc ... where did your talent for writing/journalism come from?
MP: I am originally from Raleigh, North Carolina (born and raised). I have always loved writing. I would say that I have always been a bit of an introvert and writing has served as an outlet for me for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I always kept a notebook with me and I would write poems, short stories and journal. I actually still keep a notebook with me now as an adult. By the time that I was in second grade, I had made up my mind that one day I wanted to write a book—I wanted to be a writer.
I was on the literary magazine in high school and the newspaper editor as well and I was able to jump in as a staff writer during my time at Meredith College.
LM: What was the seed and inspiration for What's Going on With Mommy?
MP: “What’s Going on With Mommy?” was inspired by my personal experience with breast cancer and having to explain my diagnosis to my boys who were 9 and 2 at the time. Having to sit my boys down and tell them I had breast cancer was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.
There were a ton of resources shared with me on how to deal with my diagnosis and treatment tips, however, there was nothing that I felt prepared me to have such a difficult conversation with my children. It’s my hope that this book helps parents who are going through the same thing, start the conversation with their kids.
LM: You describe yourself as the original "I got it girl." Say more about that.
MP: You know those people who no matter what’s going on their response is always, “I got it”? I am that person. I’ve always felt like I had to be the one to have it figured out and carry the load, but age and life experiences have taught me that it’s okay to say, “I don’t have it. I need help.” I have to say that is one of the things cancer taught me. I am still guilty of trying to do it all sometimes and I have to remind myself to take a step back.
LM: Why did you start blogging? have you enjoyed it? What feedback have you gotten? Please share any stories about connections you've made through your blog
MP: I had always wanted to start a blog but kept putting it off. However, once I was diagnosed with breast cancer I went ahead and decided to just go for it. The response and outpouring of support was overwhelming. I started the blog as a way for me to just share what I was going through and it was therapeutic for me. I have received so much support from people I have never met. I have connected with other women who have battled cancer and built friendships with them as well.
LM: Your posts - even the most serious ones - have notes of humor in them. Does a sense of humor run in your family? How has it helped you?
MP: My family is definitely full of comedians. My mother has instilled in me the importance of faith, family and laughter and I lean on that; it has gotten me through some rough times.
LM: What is Purpose Painted Pink?
MP: Purpose Painted Pink is the name of my blog. It’s also the name my mother and I chose for our first breast cancer event that we hosted last October. We hosted an event in which we had other survivors share their stories and it doubled as a book launch. I have plans to turn Purpose Painted Pink into a non-profit organization one day.
LM: It's often our deepest pains that draw us closest to our purpose... What do you mean by that?
MP: I believe that we are all most effective in the areas that we have been the most affected. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28, it was devastating. However, I’ve taken that pain and that experience and I’ve used it to help others and to pursue my passion and walk in my purpose. Everything that I’ve gone through makes sense when I am asked to be a guest blogger on a breast cancer site or asked to speak to a group of women and even in signing a book—everyone has a process that leads them to their purpose.
LM: How are your children?
MP: My children are amazing. My boys are now 13 and 6. My husband and I welcomed our “miracle baby” in December of 2017. I was told that it was very unlikely that I would be able to conceive after going through my breast cancer treatment, however, God had other plans and she’s here and happy and healthy. My kids keep me going.
LM: What books/authors have made biggest impression on you?
MP: I have to share this story every time I am asked about books that have made a big impression on me. My grandmother used to always write things down in a journal. She had so many notebooks and she was constantly writing in them (maybe that’s where I got it from). I always tell people that she was the ultimate storyteller. I have one of her journals that I keep on my desk and read from time to time—it’s a great source of inspiration.
LM: What are you writing now/next?
MP: I am actually working on my second book with my mother. My mom is a breast cancer survivor as well and we decided to collaborate and write a book together. The book is entitled "Self Exam." I am super excited about it. We have released t-shirts in celebration of the book release. The book will be available in December. I’m also in the process of updating my blog so I will have some new posts up soon.
LM: How can people buy your book and read your blog?
MP: My book is available on Amazon and through my website www.purposepaintedpink.com.