Woodbury writer enters ‘Dark’ territoryAfter being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, Nancy Roberts decided to write.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 10 years ago, Nancy Roberts decided to write.
The disease had stripped Roberts of her peripheral vision, so the Woodbury resident took time away from work as a nurse and became introspective of her situation. She went to Woodbury’s Central Park with her Bible and her journal.
“And I just sat there and I wrote,” said Roberts, who has since returned to the nursing profession at United Hospital, despite diminished vision capacity.
Her musings led to a self-published book, “Heaven Cent Prayers,” but her writing didn’t end there.
Roberts was one of 92 contributors to the new book “Upon Arrival of Illness – Coming to Terms with the Dark Companion.” The anthology contains different writers’ reflections on their experiences with serious illness.
The book was borne of the Kelly Culhane Writing Prize contest seeking ruminations on a topic that would become the book’s title.
Though many of the essays tackle different diseases, much of it focuses on cancer battles.
“It’s not a cheerleader’s guide to cancer,” Roberts said. “It’s very real.”
And moving, she said.
“It’s like, ‘Wow – this was an incredibly therapeutic thing to do for a lot of people,” Roberts said.
Roberts said she has come to understand the healing effects of writing.
“It helps me from a lot of different directions,” she said, “knowing, ‘Hey, that (MS battle) was 10 years ago and I’m not going to stop my life for this event.”
The contest was organized by publisher Mike Savage, who was seeking to honor his niece Kelly Culhane, who died of breast cancer.
“As Kelly’s uncle, knowing she did a tremendous amount of writing about her diagnosis, treatment, fears and joys, I wanted to honor her memory, promote writing as therapy … “ Savage said through a news release.
Shannon Esboldt, a third-grade teacher at Royals Oaks Elementary, also contributed to the book.
The write way
Roberts’ participation in the contest occurred nearly by happenstance.
Her daughter, a student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, noticed a posting on a campus bulletin board promoting the contest. So she thought of her mom.
“I was very intrigued by it,” Roberts said of the prospect.
Neither she nor Esboldt were picked as the winner – the prize, a trip to Ireland, went to a Plymouth woman – but Roberts said being included in the book is rewarding enough.
“Knowing that (the book is) out there is a really cool feeling,” she said. “You can overcome this dark companion. I think you’re a stronger person in the long run for having been through it.”
Roberts, who said she continues to feed her writing journals, said participating in the “Upon Arrival” book has been a natural extension of her profession as a nurse.
“As long as you can verbalize concerns, you want them to benefit somebody,” she said. “What you write is comforting to someone. It’s a different way of being a health care person. It’s comfort.”