Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Dr. Sherry L. Meinberg. For over fifty years, Dr. Meinberg has been involved as a teacher (elementary, middle school, high school, and university), mentor, reading specialist, language arts specialist, literacy specialist, school librarian, co-author of district guides, speaker, core adjunct National University professor, and a supervisor of student teachers in various districts. has been featured on numerous local, national, and international radio and television shows, as well as newspapers, magazines, and the Internet. Considered to be the longest-stalked person in the nation (50+ years), her third book, "The Bogeyman: Stalking and Its Aftermath,” became the premier episode of the “Stalked: Someone’s Watching” series on the Investigative Discovery channel.
Dr. Meinberg is an eight year cancer survivor and her thirteenth non-fiction book, A Cluster of Cancers: A Simple Coping Guide for Patients has recently been published.
Norm: Good day Sherry and thanks for participating in our interview.
I understand you have written several books, how did you get started in writing, what keeps you going , how many books have you written and which is your favorite?
Sherry: Thank you for the opportunity.
In my youth, I used to write stories at home. While in the third grade, my teacher let me read them to the class each morning, while she took the roll, and got her materials ready. I loved sharing my work.
Unfortunately, I could read at a much higher level than my current grade. And I began to compare my beginner writing efforts (of the Dick and Jane variety), to that of adult professional writers, and there was no comparison whatsoever. I would moan, “I could never do that!” And stopped writing, based on the decision I made when I was seven years old.
So it took me some 46 years later, before my first book was published. I lost all that time, when I could have been practicing! Making up for lost time, I have written 15 published books, and seven unpublished books, so far.
What keeps me going is that I don’t force myself to write. I only do so when I am inspired and enthusiastic about a subject. I am all about opening doors, raising awareness, and getting the word out. I have no specific favorite book that I’ve written, as they are all meaningful to me, in one way or another.
Norm: When and how did you first find out you had cancer? As a follow up, what was your immediate reaction, and how did your friends and family react?
Sherry: For about two years, I was experiencing low back pain, but figured that I was just restraining or reinjuring my back, twice a week, hauling a ton of books into and out of my car, and then to and from National University, where I was lecturing. But it finally dawned on me that my back persistently ached, even when on vacation. Since I have never been a whiner, I felt like I was a complainer, when broaching the subject with my primary doctor. She responded with a lecture, saying that if any symptom lasts over a week or two, that the doctor should be informed. Then she ordered a battery of tests. Ouch! Later, I was happily chatting with the technician administering a sonogram.
We were laughing, and having a lively conversation, when she gazed over at the display screen to check the results. She abruptly stood, and rushed out of the room, grim-faced. She never returned. I needed no words to tell me that something was wrong. Terribly wrong. Her demeanor said it all. And the next thing I knew, I was scheduled to meet with a urologist ASAP, which was a major clue that cancer was on the horizon. Indeed. I was told to get my house in order (a living will, an advance health care directive, or power of attorney, discuss financial considerations, etc.), which, to both my husband and I meant, “Then end is nigh!” Scary.
My immediate reaction was that I was irate, more than any thing else, shouting at the Universe, “Oh, come on! Cut me some slack here!” But I had already gone through the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—proposed by the great Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D., with previous probable death experiences, and didn’t feel the need to address those issues again.
Other than a short fit of anger at first. I thought I had paid my dues already. Since I was in the middle of writing Autism ABC (a book for both children and adults), the timing wasn’t right for me. I felt that I didn’t have the extra time, effort, or energy to deal with cancer, as I was so totally focused on my manuscript. The general public didn’t know much about autism back then, and I wanted to finish my book, without worrying about my own health.
Having cancer later was better for me, but the Universe had different plans. I figured that my cancer situation was just one more hurdle I had to jump. So I decided to treat my cancer as a temporary experience, and rolled up my sleeves, and carried on. I had learned early on that moaning, groaning, and crying about any situation didn’t help matters, and that I just needed to barrel on through the ordeal, and get on with my life. So I focused on raising autism awareness, and gave my cancer situation short shrift. After all, I had lived through other tough experiences (I never thought I’d make it past forty), and I was still here! My positive approach helped me to continue writing.
The good news is that I survived the operation, in which a five-pound cancer tumor completely encapsulated my left kidney, so both had to be removed. It was a “touch and go” procedure, in which a second physician had to come in and help). Thereafter, Autism ABC (2009) won 23 awards.
I never told my family, friends, neighbors, or co-workers of my situation, as I simply didn’t want to hear any negative cancer stories. I only told them after the operation. I didn’t see the need in informing the university, either before or after, since I made my own schedule, and all my work with student teachers was completed. So no one was the wiser.
Norm: After you were diagnosed, what were your main concerns?
Sherry: As a patient, I knew that I couldn’t expect the doctor to “fix” me, all by himself; that I had to actively participate in my own recovery process. So I had to get moving, take action, and do something toward regaining my health. I fully engaged myself in the subject. I knew that I needed to keep myself in a positive frame of mind, and lessen any stress involved.
Norm: How has cancer influenced your outlook on life?
Sherry: I felt that by being cancer-free now, that I could beat anything that comes round the bend. It’s a positive attitude adjustment. I was recently put to the test, upon being advised that I have spinal arthritis, and my response was, “Oh, I only have spinal arthritis? No problem!”
Norm: How did you decide you were ready to write A Cluster of Cancers: A Simple Coping Guide for Patients?
Sherry: I didn’t want to write a book about cancer. It was the last thing I ever wanted to do. But my oncologist begged me to write a book about cancer, so that he could use it with his patients. He said that the book he had always used was now 17 years old, and totally out-of-date, since so many advancements had come about over that time period. He was persuasive.
Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Sherry: The doctor promised to give me information, and examples, and stories of previous patients, to round out each section. So, I did tons of research, and wrote about 80 pages on the various cancer varieties involved, while waiting for said input. Which never came. The most difficult part was trying to get in touch with him. I was finished with my end, but never connected with him, as months rolled by. He finally said that he was swamped with work, and had no extra time in which to do anything. So I threw everything I had written in the trash, and started over.
Norm: Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
Sherry: I learned that I was much happier writing a book from my own perspective, since I have a slightly different take than the mainstream on some issues (such as statistics).
Norm: How does your book differ from the thousands of books dealing with the same subject? As a follow up, what purpose do you believe your book serves, and what matters to you about the book?
Sherry: A Cluster of Cancers is not a medical cancer book, it is a book about coping with cancer. It is to use, no matter what form of treatment the reader chooses. It differs from other cancer books since my personal experience is involved. Certain situations happened to me, and my take on them is a tad different from that of others. This little book is a fast, easy overview, without medical jargon.
Mainly, it has to do with mindset (body/mind/spirit). For instance: Attitude is everything! I believe there is no faster way to bring about a worsening of your condition than to think it is coming. Your mind is that powerful! Leave the pity party behind you. You bring about that which you think about. When you fill your mind with positive thoughts, you’ll produce positive results. Be your own cheering section! Hold a pit-bull, no-holds barred, attitude of positive expectancy: Expect the best. Expect to get well. Expect miracles. Set yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be optimistic about your future!
It is my hope that readers get the message that they can’t just lie around eating bonbons, waiting for the doctor to “fix” them; that they need to take better care of themselves. They need to take the reins and do some self-work (self-care, self talk, intentions, affirmations, visualizations, positive attitude). Participation is key! They need to put forth the effort to regain their health and wellness. They must believe in their recovery.
It is my intention that A Cluster of Cancers is a tipping point for change; that it jumpstarts the healing process for all readers.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
If readers have any cancer episodes or examples they would like to share in print, I welcome them with open arms. I can be reached at:
Norm: What is next for Dr. Sherry L. Meinberg?
Sherry: Along with A Cluster of Cancers, I wrote a total of three books in 2015, two of which are now published. The third, Alzheimer’s ABC, for both children and adults, will be published by mid-2016, since we are simply waiting for 19 pictures from the artist. I am now working on my 15th book, with the working title: In The Nick Of Time: Coincidences, Synchronicities, Signs and Symbols. It is an anecdotal look-see at oddball connections and encounters of same.
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors