It has been the best experience of my life. I now know how much Heavenly Father loves his children. I knew that before, but now I know that. —Kristin Bryant
Kristin Bryant will remember 2013 as the year she published her first book while battling cancer.
In August, the LDS mother of two from La Habra, Calif., saw her science-fiction novel "The Others" (Sourced Media Books, $14.99) hit the shelves, culminating a long process of rejection and revision. Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
After enduring a double mastectomy, 16 weeks of chemo therapy and five weeks of radiation therapy, Bryant can look back on the year with gratitude.
“It has been the best experience of my life,” she said. “I now know how much Heavenly Father loves his children. I knew that before, but now I know that.
“My faith has been strengthened and I’m a different person,” she said. “I feel like I’m a better person. I’m a better mom. I’m a better member of the church. I’m closer to Heavenly Father — it’s made all the difference in the world. I’m grateful. I’m so, so grateful for this trial that I went through.”
According to her father, Kirk Barrus of San Clemente, Calif., Bryant had never shown any particular desire to write a book before. Rather, it started as a simple idea and an interesting dinner discussion with her parents. She wondered how people from another planet would feel about a Savior who lived on another world. The idea wouldn't leave.
“She said, ‘Remember that conversation? I wrote the book,’” Barrus explained.
When Bryant began writing the book, she was having a hard time adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom. Bryant teaches anthropology and psychology courses from home for an online high school. She has a master’s degree in secondary education. She’d gone from working full time and attending graduate school to “making mushed bananas by day and folding laundry by night.” Writing a book, she said, became a welcome artistic release, done after the kids were in bed.
The book centers on Ryen, a man from another planet who is on a mission to Earth to uncover evidence of a Savior. Ryen’s homeworld is split between believers and non-believers, arguing over a Savior who never set foot on their world.
The book has elements of adventure and romance that, according to Barrus, could appeal to a large audience. But, he admits, “I don’t know if I could ever honestly take it apart whether I loved it because it was great or loved it because it was hers.”
Bryant has a bright, energetic personality, which made her optimistic about getting the book published.
“Not knowing anything about publishing, I thought, 'Well, my gosh, who is the lucky person that gets to publish my book first?’” she said, laughing.
But it became a long process. It took a year to write the first draft, and she dubbed her second year the “year of rejection,” racking up 15 to 20 of them. Undeterred, she spent Year 3 reworking the draft, running it by some other writers and friends, and started re-submitting. Sourced Media Books finally picked it up in the fourth year, and the book hit shelves in August.
“There were a lot of times that I truly thought, 'What the heck am I doing to myself? Why am I doing this? Nobody knows that I’m writing. Why am I putting myself through this?'” she said. But she attributes her teaching spirit, self-pep talks and faith with getting her through the ultimately rewarding process.
Right around the exciting time she found a publisher, though, Bryant received the distinct impression that something was wrong, and cancer came to mind immediately. She checked, and found a lump.
Bryant consistently obeys such feelings, according to her father.
“She’s an amazingly sensitive, spiritual young lady who really does listen — not just asks — but she listens,” Barrus said. “And she follows his promptings. There have been some amazing experiences from this.”
This particular prompting may have saved her life.
“The doctor informed her when she went in that she had a particularly aggressive type of cancer, and that if she would’ve come in just a couple of months later, it might have been a completely different story,” Barrus said.
Bryant continued to pray as she made important decisions about her treatment. She said she felt her burdens lifted through the process, as if she had been carried through the whole thing.
Her father called her a “very powerful girl.”
“She was always positive, always happy, even in the worst when she felt terrible, she would smile and laugh and say, ‘Everything is going to be fine,'” Barrus said. Bryant even hosted a “shaving party” when her hair started to fall out.
As she spoke on the phone with the Deseret News, she was at Disneyland, a place the family frequented during treatments to help keep things fun. The boys were riding rides with Grandma and Grandpa.
A book deal and breast cancer has made for quite the year.
“We have had some of the most difficult emotional struggles of our lives as well as some of the most wonderful blessings and exciting happenings all in this year,” Barrus said. “So 2013 is going down as the best of times and the worst of times.”
And Bryant wouldn't have it any other way.
“You can’t do this without faith,” Bryant said. “You can’t. There’s no amount of self-help books, no amount of group-help sessions that can replace faith. You cannot do this by yourself. You have got to find Heavenly Father in everything, and if you ask, he will be there.”
Although it wasn’t written for a strictly Mormon audience, “The Others” has aspects that will strike a chord with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bryant said. Faith is the overriding theme, and the characters learn that you can’t just rely on evidences. You have to go on faith.
“Trials can either break you or make you unbreakable, and it’s up to you which way it’s going to go,” Bryant said. “I’m in the process of trying to become unbreakable, just like the rest of us.”
To learn more about author Bryant and her book, visit www.kristinbryant.com.