Rebecca Durkin, author of Chemo on the Rocks: My Great Alaskan Misadventure, and her short story, Behind the Smile, is known for her candor and sense of humor.
Rebecca is a featured speaker/creative trainer for an annual women’s retreat in California, where she shares her experiences and provides writing ideas. She is also a volunteer for the Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women's Lives ® program for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.
Rebecca spent the majority of her life living on the edge of the shore, first on Whidbey Island, Washington and then in rainy Ketchikan, Alaska where she lived a waterlogged existence for almost thirty years. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest where she enjoys road trips with her husband, hanging with her adult children, playing with her three Bichons—Scuppers, Scuttles, and Teeny Booty—and finding the humor in everyday life.
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About the Book:
Chemo on the Rocks is a shoreside seat on Rebecca (Becky) Durkin’s great Alaskan misadventure. It highlights the hilarity and heartache of a young girl who finds herself marooned in Ketchikan—fondly known as "The Rock"—where she remains on her self-imposed Alaskatraz for almost thirty years.
Chemo on the Rocks is witty, inspirational, satirical, and sometimes terrifying. It is a mix of pain and laughter as Becky walks the IV gauntlet, trailing behind the unfettered back end peeking through the drab hospital gown of the man shuffling before her. Chemo on the Rocks is a hard-fought battle in the fallopian trenches where Becky wages war on ovarian cancer—the ultimate wedding crasher—as it invites an entire medical team into her honeymoon suite. She slays the cancer dragon and has two children in defiance of the beast, but just when it seems life has returned to normalcy, she prematurely crashes onto Mount Hysteria and wanders aimlessly through the Hormone War Zone in the Land of the Ovary Snatchers.
Everything about having chemo on the rock was made more difficult by Becky’s fears of boating and flying—the only escape from the island—which became more terrifying with each trip to Seattle for surgery or testing. Chemo on the Rocks showcases the many parallels between sea adventures and cancer adventures, such as doldrums while awaiting diagnosis, the skull and cross bones of chemo, the bitter end of a failed marriage, tying the knot of another, listing dangerously, and perhaps a return to navigable waters.
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- Chemo on the Rocks: My Great Alaskan Misadventure is available at Amazon.
- Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
Thanks for joining us at the book club today, Rebecca! Can we begin by having you tell us why you wrote your book, Chemo on the Rocks: My Great Alaskan Misadventure?
Rebecca: Hello, I'm delighted to be able to join you! I didn't start out intending to write my story. It sort of evolved over the years. I was a young twenty-four year old bride who was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 1985, but did not begin writing my book until 2000. I think it took about that long to process all that I experienced as a result of my illness. I was fortunate to be able to have two children and they kept me distracted for a long time. At some point all that I had conveniently ignored about my illness, and its impact on my life, and future, socked me in the gut. I had no idea how to deal with the resultant depression and anxiety--the thought that I may have a recurrence and not be able to raise my children--but for some reason I became obsessed with writing about my feelings. I had never been a writer so this was new to me. There, in the writing, I found solace. After multiple notebooks were overflowing with little ditties, scrawled on sticky notes, my husband suggested I write my story.
Why did you feel you had to get your story out there? Was it therapeutic for you?
Rebecca: It was absolute therapy for me. Better than any prescription the doctors tried to feed me. Writing my experiences helped me acknowledge my fears, my joys, my sorrows. Writing was a salve for my broken spirit. I didn't initially intend to share my story with the public, but after joining a writer's group and telling snippets of my story with random folks I met, I realized my story is unique and that I'm a natural storyteller. Actually not too surprising since I love to talk!
What was it like living in Alaska at first? Was it a bit of a culture shock?
Rebecca: I grew up on Whidbey Island, Washington, but moved to Ketchikan, Alaska when I was eleven. It was definitely culture shock! All my schoolmates had established relationships. They were used to the 13ft of annual precipitation that the Tongass Rainforest dumped on my head. They were wise in the ways of church camp, boating, and Alaska. I didn't come from a huge metropolis, but the island I left had an easy escape to the mainland. Ketchikan's only escape was by boat or plane. I found myself trapped on the island for almost thirty years. I love to poke fun at my Alaskan misadventure, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
What do you miss about it?
Rebecca: I miss Ketchikan's people. I miss walking in the rain without an umbrella; the SE winds blow steadily and I once had an umbrella so tangled in my hair that I nearly fell over and had to hide behind a vehicle to disentangle. I miss stepping into stores for a rain break and chatting with the locals. I miss being in a place where everyone knows your name. I miss the celebration of the sun coming out of hiding and the happiness that spreads through the town when this happens. Guess I miss it a lot! Ketchikan was a tough place to face a major illness, but my fellow island dwellers rallied around me in a way that I think only happens in small towns, unless, of course, you are a celebrity.
When were you diagnosed with cancer and are you in remission now?
Rebecca: As I mentioned, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 1985 after being sick for years. I had a recurrence scare in 1996 at which point my oncologist suggested a complete hysterectomy. I have since learned how significant it is that I not only survived but was able to bear children after diagnosis and chemotherapy.
What’s next for you, Rebecca?
Rebecca: Well, I turned fifty-four this month and it would be fun to travel. My children are adults, and my puppies are never going to behave anyway so I might as well get out there! I love the feel of the wind in my hair as my husband and I buzz around in my Mustang convertible. I feel a roadtrip beckoning. And of course, I hope to finish Heaping Teaspoons of Sugar, the novel I started several years ago. I'm guessing all authors say this!