The road to recovery, one chapter at a time
Tigard author doesn't let cancer stop her from dream of becoming a full-time novelist.
Before the news came, Teri Brown was on top of the world.
Brown had dreams of writing novels for years. Her first came out in 2008, and after years of struggling in the hard world of publishing, the 48-year-old Tigard author had signed two deals with major publishing houses.
The deals called for four books over the next year, with two others to be written after that.
Her schedule would be intense, she knew, requiring rapid-fire writing and editing over the next seven months.
I knew the deadlines were going to be crazy, she said.
She quit her day job to focus on her writing, and by April 2012, she had finished the first of the four novels, Born of Illusion a paranormal story for young adults about the life of Harry Houdinis teenaged daughter. She was preparing to start the second book when she got a call from her doctor.
That growth on her neck? The one she had been assured wasnt cancer. It turned out it was. It was throat cancer, her doctor told her.
The good news was that it was treatable, but it called for a rigorous treatment plan.
Brown would need eight weeks of painful radiation. Her throat would burn and swell. She wouldnt be able to swallow and eating would be a nightmare. Her tonsils would need to be removed as would a sample from her tongue and esophagus for testing.
With deadlines looming, Brown was left with a choice, focus on her career and the chance she had waited years for, or jump headfirst into her treatments and get better.
Brown decided to do both.
I had worked my butt off for a really long time to get here, she said. I was not going to let cancer define me career.
Teri Brown's newest novel, "Born of Illusion" will be released in June. The author is hosting a release party in Tigard to celebrate.
What: "Born of Illusion" release party
Where: Max's Fanno Creek Brew Pub12562 S.W. Main St., in Tigard.
When: Saturday, June 15, from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Nonalcoholic drinks and snacks will be provided, with entertainment including a magician.
'Deadlines kept me going'
Brown said she knew what she was getting into, agreeing to write three books over the course of a year is a daunting task to begin with.
It takes months to craft a novel into a publishable form, Brown said. But adding cancer treatments, radiation and surgery friends told her it would be impossible.
Brown, who had survived a brain tumor several years earlier, was determined and told them she was going to tackle every challenge anyway.
My publicist told me that she didnt think Id be able to do it, Brown said. I had the normal melancholia and fits of anger that everyone has, but I didnt have time to dwell on that. I had deadlines. The deadlines kept me going.
Brown started treatment and began writing the first of three novels she would have to finish by the time her medical regimen was complete.
Brown said she dove into her work. Writing gave her the drive to keep going, she said.
I had these books that had to be done, and I didnt even consider asking for extensions, she said. There was a specific reason why they wanted (the manuscripts) when they did, and I was going to make them.
It didn't take long for Brown to slip into a writing rhythm she established a routine. Brown would try to eat something in the morning, go to treatment, then attempt to write 5,000 words each day.
Whenever I could, I would go out and write, she said. It was easy for me to just go to sleep if I was at home. The best writing I did at coffee shops.
After three months, she had finished Summerset Abbey, a piece of historical fiction focusing on three young women in Edwardian England, who move in with their uncle. While two of the girls are accepted with open arms, the last is forced to live as a servant in the manors underbelly.
Brown who wrote Summerset under the name T.J. Brown said the characters in her books really came to life for her during the writing process.
I was completely immersed in that world, she said.
'A far better writer'
Radiation for throat cancer is unbearable, Brown said.
You cant eat. Swallowing is so tough that you have to have smoothies that are as fattening as possible just to get the daily calories you need, she said.
By June she was on morphine constantly to ease the pain. She had lost 45 pounds and gotten mouth sores from the radiation. But she kept writing.
After another two months, she finished a sequel to "Summerset Abbey" titled A Bloom in Winter, which she dedicated to her doctors.
I was just so grateful for the team of doctors behind me, she said. I knew the book was theirs.
The last novel, a sequel to "Born of Illusion was finished a few months later, just as she finished recovering from radiation and two surgeries.
Looking back on that time, Brown said despite the obstacles, the experience was a good one.
I know I am a far better writer because I know at a gut level what my writing and my career means to me, Brown said, reflecting back. I went through hell to get these books out because I didn't want cancer to define the career I worked so hard for.
With her cancer in remission now, Brown hasnt shown any signs of slowing down.
The first of the young adult books, Born of Illusion is set to be released June 11.
Both "Summerset Abbey" books are in bookstores now, and a third will be released in August.
She is already hard at work researching another historical series set in India.