Below is a Q&A with Fiona Finn author of Raw: One Woman’s Journey Through Love, Loss, and Cancer.
1. Why did you write a tell-all memoir about your split from your husband during your cancer ordeal?
Spousal abandonment during my fight against colon cancer was definitely the catalyst or event that kick-started this memoir. I know firsthand, that the lives of cancer stricken housewives are forever altered by unexpected, sudden, and untimely divorces. Statistically, 21% of women end up separated or divorced within six months after their diagnosis. With this knowledge, I feel driven to raise awareness about the dangers to these ill women when they become distracted by divorce.
2. When your husband left what impact did it have on your treatment?
Instead of focusing all of my energy on my battle with cancer, I refocused it on trying to save our marriage. Like many other women in similar circumstances I didn’t complete my therapy and had a higher rate of hospitalization. Truly, I didn’t care if I lived or died.
3. How did you turn things around for yourself after your spouse left?
One therapeutic technique that helped me heal was journal writing. My journal became my friend that was always there by my side to give me comfort as I struggled with the loss of my spouse. This act helped me re-focus on all the ways that coping with abandonment during cancer made me wiser, stronger, and more empathic towards others.
4. You’re very open about your twenty years of dysfunctional, abusive relationships and applying that to writing. Any fears about being so confessional?
At the end of the day, RAW: One Woman’s Journey through Love, Loss, and Cancer was written to help others. This explosive tell-all spans over two decades, two failed marriages, and my journey towards self love. That said I had to be prepared for the possibility of repercussions. But ultimately truth is an absolute defense in a suit for defamation.
5. You give inspirational talks about surviving cancer. Give an example.
After my recovery, I wanted to make a difference. Cancer can and does affect every part of your life including but not limited to: marital, social, physical, mental, emotional, financial, and spiritual. I have become an advocate for those women abandoned during cancer treatment. If I can inspire others in the form of wise words, either written or spoken from my experience as a survivor then I count myself as blessed.
6. You openly expose your attempt to commit suicide after facing the truth about your marriage. Why?
To tell the truth, my life was spiraling out of control, one horrific event caused another, and yet another. As with all traumatic events, you can’t see the sun when you’re crying. On top of my crying spells, I was filled with anxiety, desperation, and hopelessness. The sense of betrayal was so huge that it led me to believe the only way to stop the pain was suicide.
7. If you could speak to a woman who is currently feeling the pain and potentially disturbing effects of spousal abandonment during treatment what would you say?
I want to tell her to BE STRONG and courageous. It really is his loss, and your gain. You are worth so much more than you’ve been shown. Remember that actions speak louder than words. You will survive, and things will get better. You must become your own best friend.
8. How has all of these life events impacted your three children?
How can I ever forgive myself for not being a better mother to my kids during the last few years? It’s not just losing our place of residence nine times in the last three and a half years but the loss of their innocence. I wasn’t able to shelter our children from the cancer, the loss of our house, cars, business, the bankruptcy, divorce, and poverty. If that wasn’t enough their mother tried to take her life. Currently, they are struggling with letting go of the anger. And yes, there are moments of sadness, but thankfully they found joy again.
9. If you could wave a magic wand and change your past, what would you change about your journey through love, loss, and cancer?
I would have listened to my mother. She told me a long time ago that I should have kept an emergency savings account for myself and the children. But I believed everything should be shared in a marriage. That was until he took everything, leaving us penniless. Outside of that one change, I’d change nothing. I love who I am and I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t endured that difficult journey. And the same goes for my children who I love very much.
10. Your book is titled RAW which spells WAR backwards. Was that title intentional?
Definitely, every step in writing my memoir was carefully thought through. We are all familiar with the war on cancer but what about the war waging on housewives with cancer? Really, it’s just a simple equation; cancer plus divorce equals desperate housewives.
11. How did you use humor to defuse conflict and painful moments in your memoir?
It’s natural for me to laugh when I reflect back upon my life. As each chapter builds, the reader will feel the mounting tension. But then I hit them with a little humor, since laughter brings wellness. It’s what bridges the gap between happy and sad days.
12. You met some of the sanest people while in a ‘psych’ ward. Please elaborate.
After my suicide attempt I was sent to a psychiatric unit for crisis stabilization. Till then, I had only ever heard that you must be insane or crazy in order to be sent to a psych ward. Most patients are admitted on a voluntary basis. Some are dealing with serious mental disorders, such as clinical depression…Others are dealing with their reaction to stressful life events. And honestly, depression doesn’t make you crazy or insane, it makes you human.
13. As you speak out about your experiences do you have any reservations?
Truthfully, I don’t want to come across painting all men with too wide a brush. The statistics show that 79% of husbands stay by their wives’ side. What I find interesting is the disparity between when wives get cancer, 21% of husbands leave; when husbands get cancer only 3% of wives leave. The entire male population can’t be blamed for the acts of a few. I believe had I had this information when battling cancer, I wouldn’t have felt so blindsided.
14. Why did you choose a common onion as the visual theme throughout your book?
I love the fact an onion is seen as an ordinary vegetable with no special or distinctive features. I believe there is beauty in the ordinary. Like an onion, my memoir is raw, not refined or candy coated. The bleeding onion is an indicator that in reading this book it may cause one’s eyes to sting or even tear up.