The How and Why I Write ~ by Monica Reents

Nothing captures who I am more than when I am creating art,
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whether with words or paint. The mix of my emotions, thoughts, imagination, and feelings with the words I choose to work with is nothing short of magical (for what it does for my soul, anyway). It’s my love of creating that has always drawn me to writing. But it’s not my love of writing that brought me to sharing my work. Life events opened that door and changed everything about the how and why I write.

Writing was something I always did in my free time before shoving it in a drawer or saving it on some random file on my laptop.

Like so many, I have had a lifelong love affair with books. The
Photo: Deposit Photos
written word garnered a special place in my heart before I even began kindergarten. I excitedly read everything I could get my hands on, looking to escape into the fantastical worlds born from genius minds, as far as I was concerned. It was in middle school that I decided maybe I could write a book. A friend and I tried to write and illustrate a book together. I have no memory of what the book was about or what happened to what we wrote, but a need to write was born.

If you ask someone who writes, why do you write? You’ll gather various answers, but the principal reason may simply come down to need. That’s my why. It offers a release that nothing else compares to. But always keeping it to myself, that came from fear. Much of my writing is dark and emotional. Most of it has no tangible origin, it just comes to me.

Without giving you an entire timeline of my life, let’s jump to 2011. I had been writing poems and short stories for many years, never sharing them. Most people who know me never knew that I wrote. It was for me and, while I wanted to write and publish novels (someday), I was fine writing for myself (for now). Newly married, working on blending our families, and working full time as a pediatric ophthalmic surgical assistant, I didn’t have time to write and I needed the creative outlet it provided. Little did I know that my opportunity was fast approaching.

In July 2011, I began having severe chest pain that radiated up into my shoulder, across my upper back, and down my left arm. I was experiencing numbness and tingling, along with loss of sensation on my left side. After two or three days of coping with increasing pain, I went to the emergency room and was quickly taken back and hooked up to an EKG (electrocardiogram). My results came back normal. Which was great, but the pain persisted.  A week later, an MRI (magnetic resonance image) was taken of my entire back.

This scan changed my life.

The first neurosurgeon I saw (I’m leaving names out for privacy) read the results of my MRI to me, and my husband (of three weeks). Walking into the office, I felt fairly confident that I had a pinched nerve in my neck from a herniated disc. We weren’t worried.

Once the surgeon began speaking, I felt myself becoming hot, nervous, then came the tears. So many tears. I sobbed until breathing became difficult. I became a mess while hearing words like tumor… largest I’ve ever seen… entire spinal cord… not surgical… and about a year left… even, now, knowing that I beat the odds, it’s still emotional

At the age of 34, I was diagnosed with syringomyelia. My tumor (syrinx) was from C2 to T12 (2nd vertebrae in the neck to the last rib vertebrae)
and was extremely swollen. He was surprised that I could walk and still had use of my arms.

Syringomyelia is a rare spinal cord disease that creates a fluid filled sac (cyst) within the spinal cord. The cyst, called a syrinx, can expand and elongate, destroying the spinal cord. The damage can result in chronic pain, loss of feeling, loss of sensation, paralysis, weakness, stiffness in the neck, back, and extremities. There is no treatment or cure for this progressive disease.

It was a long, quiet ride home from that first appointment. By the time we had made it home, my husband had decided what he was going to do. He made me comfortable on the couch and then made  a phone call. We couldn’t accept that I only had one year left to live and our minds were racing with anxious thoughts. But that phone call he made, saved my life.

He called his cousin who works for a very talented neurosurgeon. I had an appointment within a week and surgery two weeks after that… these amazing people literally saved my life!

I survived surgery (obviously), moreover, I have survived ten surgeries!

Every day is different for me. Some days are ‘fine,’ I go about doing whatever I want as long as I can maintain a level of pain to my level of tolerance. Other days are high pain days and I don’t even get dressed, staying in my robe, minimal physical activity, and dozing whenever I need to. I’ve learned to listen to my body because I know that having a busy day means not having a busy day for the next two to four days. 

Post sx 2016
My life is all about the balance of activities. I hate nothing more than a wasted day, so I use my love of list writing and planning to try to prevent from overexerting myself. I see a pain management doctor once a month that helps me track my ever changing symptoms, as well as a myriad of medications. I’m thankful to say, that I have been stable for about a year and a half now. I have a lot to be thankful for.

It was during the recovery of my first surgery in August 2011 that I told my husband about my writing. He was surprised, but not overly. He knows how much I love books, so wanting to write them wasn’t a far stretch. I asked him for a notebook and pen; explaining how I had hidden everything I had ever written in the past and never even talked about it with anyone.

Here is where I walked through that life changing door I mentioned. I immediately began filling the pages with poems and story ideas, character profiles, world building thoughts, and plans for the hopeful future of my writing.

I read my poems to my husband every night. Now, he isn’t a reader, but he listened, said each one was great, and supported me as I had just (re)discovered what I was going to do with my life.

For me, writing out in the open has been a dream come true! I have had several major bumps in the road since announcing to my family and friends, most importantly to myself, that I wanted to publish my writing. Unfortunately, I was paralyzed for about a year in 2016 and was unable to write. I had a year of therapy and have regained use of my body, but I don’t have much sensation and my balance is questionable. Again, a lot to be thankful for. 

I have been diagnosed with several other diseases since learning about my syringomyelia. It makes writing challenging, if you want to publish, because chronic pain hurts more than your body. After years of pain, I have found that my mind isn’t always clear. It becomes a reflection of what my body feels, leaving me tired and weary. Later, reading what I write in those moments isn’t always anything I keep. I’ve learned to listen to what my body is telling me. I never feel rested or that I've had a good night’s sleep. So, I have again adjusted my thinking on what determines a “good night’s rest.” I know that I do best when I sleep from about 10 pm to 6 am. My writing feels most productive in the afternoon into the evening as long as I haven’t been physically active. It’s all a balancing act. But so worth it to have the opportunity to do what I love.


I have published two poems. The first one was in 2014 in the Cogs in Time 2 anthology, called Darkened Love. The second poem, Whispering Seduction, is in the novel Tempted by Kristine Raymond.

Currently, I’m working on a poetry collection and a debut novel. I know that I will publish, but I don’t have a clear deadline as to when. As long as I am taking steps forward, that’s okay with me.

Monica Reents was born and raised in Kansas, where she lives with her husband and Bentley, their dog. She grew up with a love of books and found a passion for crafting her own stories and poems in High School after reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. 
   Monica also runs a blog, My Chronic Happiness. She designed her blog to be a reflection of who she is. It is informative for anyone living with chronic illness, as well as anyone interested in the world of writing and books. You can find her at the links below.



7 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story and being our guest today.

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  2. Thank you for having me. The post looks wonderful! I appreciate your allowing me to share my story here.

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  3. Thanks for the mention, Monica. I'm glad you're doing well and still writing!

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    1. You're welcome and thank you! I'm doing well and I hope you are too.

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  4. Welcome, Monica! Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story. Wishing you the best of success.

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  5. Thank you so much! I appreciate your kind comments and support.

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  6. Talk about perseverance! So glad to hear you have found your path.

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