A Chat With Monica Y Mateo
Monica Y. Mateo, from New Jersey, is a licensed social worker by day and writer/blogger by night. She is a 7 year survivor of Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma ALK+, which taught her to be the warrior she is today. Her memoir “The Cancer Warrior” will be published and available for purchase on April 1,2017. Learn more about this warrior below through her own words.
What inspired you to write a memoir? Did you always have dreams to become a writer?
I fell in love with writing when I was given a journal as a young girl. I accumulated so many over the years. Then when I took Introduction to Memoir my senior year of college, I was hooked. I knew I was going to write a book about my life, but I needed a story I was ready to share with the world. When I was diagnosed with cancer at 23, I knew in my heart that my story would become a book. This project has taken years to complete, but my son who will be 2 years old in April has inspired me to get the book complete.
What was your writing process like? What was most the difficult and the most enjoyable part?
It took 7 years to complete the actual process, but 1 year fully devoted to writing and publishing the final manuscript. I needed those 7 years to heal from cancer and make sure that I was mentally clear when writing. The 1st draft is venting and releasing old wounds. The drafts that follow are the real story. I needed to go through the healing process and realize that I was no longer that 23 year old with cancer. The most enjoyable part was seeing my work become art. I loved every ounce of the creative process and being the backbone of it all. Also, receiving a proof of my cover was a moment I’ll remember forever.
Did you have writer’s block during your writing journey? If so, how did you overcome it?
Of course! I think we all experience writer’s block at some point of the process. I took a step back and gave myself a moment to collect myself. I journaled about my feelings and allowed myself to free write. Then I called my professor who taught the memoir class when I was in college. She gave me clear insight into why I was stopping myself from diving deeper into the story. I realized it was fear crippling me. I was becoming scared of my work and needed to believe in myself again.
How long did it take you to complete “The Cancer Warrior?”
The entire process took 7 years. I would write short pieces and stop whenever I started to write about the treatment. I would start to get nightmares and it was difficult to move past it. So with therapy, support, and time I was able to finish this project. The last year was when I really dived in. When I gave birth to my son, I realized that I no longer was living in fear, but living in hope.
If you can pick one message you would like your readers to take away from “The Cancer Warrior” what would it be?
That’s a hard question. I feel that people are going to take away different messages depending on where they are in their lives. But if I had to pick one, I would say that being a warrior doesn’t mean never being scared—it means rising up despite the fear.
What authors have inspired you?
Jane Austin and Elizabeth Gilbert for the same reason—blunt and powerful voices.
What types of books do you like to read? What are some of your favorites?
I love memoirs and some YA. My favorites are Go Ask Alice, Night, and Tuesdays with Morrie. Those three were life changers for me.
Do you have plans to release other works of literature, fiction or nonfiction?
Yes, I am as a matter of fact. I am working on a new memoir called She Named Her Olivia and it will hopefully be published in 2018. It’s going to capture my experience with pregnancy loss prior to the birth of my son. I think it’s an important story to tell and so many people will be able to relate to it.
What projects, writing and non-writing related, are you working on now?
I have tons of eggs in different baskets. I am focusing right now on marketing for The Cancer Warrior. I am booking workshops, panel discussions, and book signings. The Cancer Warrior will be available April 1, 2017 on Amazon.com. I am also working on the new memoir, but I don’t want to lose focus. Oftentimes, writers will dive into a new book and forget the gem that they published. So I want to make sure The Cancer Warrior continues to be my main focus.
How has having cancer, and beating it, changed your life?
All I can say is: read the memoir. It will tell you every ounce of truth and some of it isn’t perfect. It’s painful, but it will explain everything.
What advice would you give to anyone going through a tough battle?
Allow yourself to feel the pain all the way through. Allow yourself moments of weakness and vulnerability. Allow the battle to take place because you will get through it. You will rise up. You don’t have to put on a fake front for others who may want you to “be happy” or to “get over it.” Don’t listen to that type of advice. The reason we take so long to heal is because we keep postponing the process with distractions. So feel all of the emotions and push through.
Tell me more about the Chic Warriors Movement.
The Cancer Warrior has become more than a memoir—it’s a movement. So the Chic Warriors Movement is my manifesto. The Chic Warriors Movement is a chic way to handle the chaos of life. It is a way to overcome hardships like a true warrior. It is understanding that life can be challenging, but with the right attitude—can be magnificent. It is the journey to health and healing.
What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my son and fiancé. I’m also a yoga addict so I make sure to hit the mat whenever possible.
What are some things on your bucket list? What have you crossed off already?
I crossed off going to an Ashram, which is where a lot of The Cancer Warrior takes place. Europe is on the top of my list! I want to see so much of the world and dive into other cultures. Also on my list is becoming a yoga instructor, perhaps even opening up a studio one day.
What is the most exciting thing that has happened in your life recently, besides the upcoming release of your book?
For me, developing relationships with women has always been a struggle. I feel that we often compete with each other versus supporting one another. But lately, I have met some empowering women who have changed my outlook. I love the friendships and connections that I am making. They genuinely have showed so much support and we are rising up together as a unit.
Have you ever felt your world shatter from one day to the next? For Monica, that moment would happen when she’d least expect it. She was twenty-three living on coffee and cigarettes when she woke up with a lump protruding from her neck. Four years after her haunting battle with cancer, she travels to an Ashram. While trying to master yoga poses-Monica struggles to heal from her dark and tormenting past. At the Ashram, a nightmare of a red-filled syringe piercing her hand sends her into panic. She realizes she must unravel layers of hidden pain and face her darkest truth-cancer. In her quest for healing, she discovers that survival has nothing to do with going into remission. THE CANCER WARRIOR is a courageous, yet gut-wrenching memoir of a rebellious cancer survivor’s journey from victim to warrior.
I am super excited to order my copy of “The Cancer Warrior.” It takes a lot of courage and strength to go to a difficult time in your life, relive it, and tell that story to the world. This memoir has the power to help other people fighting against cancer, or any other overwhelming obstacle, and help them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am proud to have had the opportunity to interview Monica and I can not wait to witness the rest of her literary journey.
Want More Monica?
Are you an author or artist that would like to participate in a Q & A? If so, comment below! & Don’t forget to order your copy of “The Cancer Warrior” on April 1st!