The Light in the Darkness


The Light in the Darkness: 

Musings on Living With Cancer

by Jo St Leon

GENRE:   BODY, MIND & SPIRIT / Inspiration & Personal Growth

The Light in the Darkness is a must-have companion for anyone living with a serious illness, or caring for a loved one with such an illness.

With this collection of reflections and personal essays, Jo St Leon shares her experiences, her darkest moments and her greatest joys. She tells of the journey from fear and denial to acceptance and a determination to live her best life. She shares her deepest thoughts and feelings, always with her characteristic blend of wry humour and wisdom.

The Light in the Darkness is the book Jo wishes she could have found when she first received her cancer diagnosis.


Cancer is supposed to change everything—sufferers are supposed to devote their lives to their condition, and thanks to both their illness and their treatment, they are supposed to feel terrible. This has not been my experience at all. Since diagnosis I have felt progressively better apart from one serious, slightly alarming episode. Much of the time I don’t actually feel ill at all. For now, I am contented and have a good quality of life. Friends remind me that in the eleven years before I was diagnosed, I really did suffer—but somehow it feels as though if I could put up with it and carry on working it can’t have been that bad.

Cancer is not a competition, and one person’s experience does not invalidate another’s. What is important is not comparison but sharing discoveries and learning. I have tried in these pages to become a friend to those who are walking a similarly scary path. And cancer is always scary.

Regardless of whether your prognosis is terminal or curable, you will have to carve out a new normal for yourself. Trying to carry on exactly as usual, as I did, masking fear with humour and trivialising the concern of others, is a form of denial. After all, it was some form of the old normal that helped get us into this mess.

Cancer is shit. Always. But it does bring blessings in its shitty wake. If you are reading this book, you likely have cancer yourself or have someone close to you who does. By sharing my path with you, I hope you might occasionally say, ‘Oh yes!’ or ‘Oh, that really is a thing!’ Although my level of well-being is mostly good, I have dealt with all the fears that come with more ‘normal’ cancers—the fears of death, of what will happen if I can’t work, or look after myself, or take care of my cats. These fears are very real and can haunt a person’s waking and sleeping hours. I must remind myself sometimes that S├ęzary is by no means a fraudulent or insignificant cancer; there will likely be suffering aplenty in my future. My temporary status as a medical miracle does not rob me of my voice.

This is not a How to Overcome Cancer book. There are so many of them out there written by people who are way more knowledgeable than I. I have great faith in my medical professionals, but I don’t leave it all to them. I need to take some responsibility for my own wellbeing. At the outset, I experimented with many things, and I have learned that one person cannot possibly do them all. Self-care is important, but for me it was and is important to maintain some semblance of a quality life as well. Whatever choices I have made in this regard are mine alone. I am not recommending or prescribing them. Everyone’s choices will be different.

About the Author:

Jo St Leon is a musician and writer living in Hobart, Tasmania. Receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2016 prompted her to transition from being a full-time musician who loved to write to being a full-time writer who loves to sometimes play the viola. She shares her house with two very pampered felines. She loves reading, cooking, swimming and yoga.

Q&A With the Author

When did you first consider yourself to be a writer?

That’s a great question! Saying ‘I am a writer’ is one of the most confronting things about committing to a writing life. I still feel like a fraud every time I say it. Impostor Syndrome much?

I used to think it was because my writing income was small, compared to my income as a musician, which was a very comfortable living wage. But the money doesn’t matter now, and I still feel profoundly uncomfortable with that sentence.

I suppose I feel entitled to say it because the great majority of my time is spent writing. I solve my problems through writing about them, and I form and re-form my opinions as I write. I am a very fortunate member of a few lovely and supportive writing communities, so I feel very much part of the writing fraternity.

But I still say that sentence as fast as I can, and check over my shoulder to see if anyone is listening… 

What advice do you have for a new writer?

Nothing new or revelatory, I’m afraid. Just—keep writing! Don’t criticise first drafts as you go, just get your heart and your imagination on the page. But never submit a first draft, no matter how good it feels at the time—your inner perfectionist needs to have his/her day. 

Write every day, but if you really can’t, then do something completely different. Go for a swim, cook up a banquet, get out your yoga mat. Well, those are all my things—everyone will have their own.

I also find it useful to have a couple of deadlines—journalism is good for that, because even if you’re not given a deadline, your work needs to be timely. Journalism also suggests topics, but if you don’t have any publications that you write for, try writing prompts. I love the Writer’s Book of Days, and I also write Morning Pages. Not quite as religiously as I would like, but when I show up at the page regularly, magic happens.

And practise saying that sentence, ‘I am a writer,’ until you start to believe it. 

What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?

Well, the hardest part is often getting started, getting that first sentence on the page. But after that, usually, it flows. That’s my favourite time—when I’m completely absorbed, in the zone, creating sentences and passages of genius with every tap of the keyboard. Then, of course, I read it back and come down to earth with a painful bump. The fun stops and the work begins. I’m lucky though, because I love playing with words, feeling where they need to go so my sentences have rhythm and impact. So really, I love the whole process. None of it feels arduous.

In your writing, what stresses you the most?

When I put something out into the world, and people start reading my words. I’m a complete feedback junkie, and I’m always on tenterhooks waiting for reactions. Negative feedback is hard to hear, but I always learn from it. Many a short story has gone through multiple incarnations before achieving any measure of success. There is no writer alive who hasn’t experienced feedback and rejections, so I try to just roll with the punches. After all, a piece of writing would need to be very characterless and inoffensive to not elicit any differing responses.

Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter. Success is nice, but it’s the writing life—the process—that I really love.

Connect with Jo St. Leon





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Jo St Leon will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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  1. This is such an interesting and inspirational book.

  2. It is nice that you are sharing your journey with other who are walking the same path. I am sure that they appreciate it.

    allibrary (at)aol (dot) com

    1. Thanks Nancy. I hope they do - it was intended to be of benefit. Feedback so far suggests that it is.

  3. Not a book I would readily want to read. Too personal I think.

    1. Mary, I totally understand. It is personal, but universal at the same time I think. It will mostly be of interest to those living with cancer and their friends and families - they’re the people I wrote it for. And there are so many books in the world - we can’t possibly read them all.

  4. Sounds like an interesting story.

  5. I believe this book can help so many other - growth - wow sharing this with my grandson.

  6. This sounds like a great inspirational read. Love that with this subject matter she involves a bit of humor.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing! This sounds like such a wonderful read! :)

  8. This would probably be an excellent book for those caring for a very ill person to read--sometimes they have almost a harder time accepting what is happening than the actual patient. In either case, it would depend very much on their ability to be open to reading about someone else's path through illness.


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