In times of trouble and confusion, in grief and despair and in pure joy, Kathy Garver has always turned to the pen.
Writing gives her a way to express her feelings, but more importantly, it allows her to share a gift with others, Garver said.
When her parents passed away, some 14 years ago, she picked up a pen and wrote a story, a children’s book, about a young lion cub who loses his parents.
"I wrote it, then threw it in the closet," Garver said. "Then, for some reason, I took it out last year. This little cub is carrying all the feelings I had in me when my parents passed away."
Garver decided it was time to share Murphy’s -- and her-- story. She made some edits, found a publisher she liked, Tate Publishing, and decided to publish the book.
Then along the way, another major life challenge arose.
"I was very surprised," she said. I just woke up one morning, stretched and felt something in my breast. I didn’t think much of it."
As it turned out, it was an ugly surprise: breast cancer.
"It surprised me completely," Garver said. "It doesn’t run in my family. I’m 62 years old and never had a problem. But you just never know; it can happen to anyone at any age."
In fact, Garver, who works at the Exxon Station in Bethune, found out four of her customers had cancer as well.
Fortunately, they had caught hers at a very early stage, Garver said. She has undergone chemotherapy and is currently finishing up a series of radiation treatments. She has also been fortunate not to suffer major side effects from her treatments. Occasionally, she is a little tired, but never became sick. The entire time she was undergoing chemotherapy, Garver never missed a day of work.
Ultimately, the cancer, while nothing to take lightly, has been something of a gift, Garver said. Not only did it make her appreciate her own life and special gifts even more, but it helped her be more aware of everyone else, she said. Because of that, she is excited about being able to share her gift of writing on as many levels as she can.
"I believe things happen for a reason and God is in this with me," Garver said. "This has been a wake up call. It has been very life changing -- I am much more empathetic to others -- everyone deserves to be listened to and everyone has a story.
"Before all this, I was so busy with work I never took time to acknowledge people’s feelings," she added. "Now I am much more in tune."
More important, it has motivated her to share not only her stories but whatever success she enjoys. For every copy of Murphy the Orphan King Cub sold she will donate two dollars to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to breast cancer research.
Garver has actually written three other books and plans to write as much as she can. She doesn’t have any one point of inspiration; her stories just come to her and she is compelled to write them, she said.
"I think I help people with my writing," she said. "My books are written for children, the characters are all animals, but they’re about life lessons. For example, I have another one, Chester the Bully Bobcat, about a young bobcat who goes around bullying all the other animals in the forest. He really thinks he’s all that -- until the skunk teaches him a lesson."
She wrote another book about a three-legged cat who believes no one will ever want him because he’s different -- until a little girl comes along and loves him because she sees him for who he is and not what he looks like.
Garver is hosting a book signing from 4 to 7 p.m. April 23 at the Exxon Station, where copies of the book are on sale. Garver will have help from her "manager," twelve-year-old Hassan Khan.
"He helps me a lot," Garver said. "He’s very excited about this, too."
The books are available for sale at the Exxon Station in Bethune; they are also available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and her publisher, Tate Publishing.