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Nanaimo writer's personal story about dementia care chosen for 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'

Nanaimo News Bulletin - 7/24/2021

For Nanaimo writer Sandra Cole, just submitting a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul was a major accomplishment. Learning that she made the cut was "unbelievable."

Cole's short story Beauty Doesn't Have to Come with Pain appears in the recently released Chicken Soup for the Soul, Navigating Elder Care and Dementia: 101 Stories for Family Caregivers. It's Cole's first time being published.

In the story, Cole writes about her mother Phyliss, who sold cosmetics door-to-door as an "Avon lady" and took her hair and makeup seriously. Cole recounts how as children she and her sister bonded with Phyliss during their weekly manicure sessions. She then contrasts that by describing what it was like to do Phyliss's nails for her later in life when she had Alzheimer's disease.

"I had been writing about the journey that I was on with her and it's not all sad," Cole said. "Once you adjust to the moments – what you have are moments, not a whole great visit with her, but moments – then it becomes, 'Oh, wow, was that ever a great visit.' And I think I wanted to tell people that. That it's the moments that are just so amazing."

Phyliss died two years ago, but Cole wrote the story while her mother was still alive. Cole said writing has been therapeutic, as her journal provided an outlet for her to process and express her emotions and what she was going through.

"It's a safe place to write things like 'I'm angry, I'm angry at my mom, I'm disappointed, I miss her.'" she said. "Things that I'm not going to say to her I can say with my fingers. I can type the words out and I can decide whether somebody's going to read it."

In the case of Beauty Doesn't Have to Come with Pain, it was a story she shared with her writing group. That's where she was encouraged to submit it to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Cole thought it was an ambitious goal, but she soon learned there was an upcoming edition focused on elder care and dementia. She said it was "right up my alley."

Her group helped Cole edit the story to the correct length. After being accepted into the publication, she took part in a Zoom meeting with all the other first-time writers. She said it was "amazing" to be able to put faces to the other uplifting stories for caregivers.

"To hear their different journeys and how they did it – I loved being part of the solution," Cole said. "Life is going to be hard and life is not going to be fair, but it is what you make it."

Navigating Elder Care and Dementia: 101 Stories for Family Caregivers is available here.

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