Puppy Mom Writes a Book

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(Note from Carol:  A big shout out to Alene Nitzky, one of my oncology nursing pals and aspiring author!  Alene is a member of the Healthcare Writers Network and will be sharing the story of her author journey!  Alene is a Nursepreneur, Health Coach and Founder of Cancer Harbors. You can find Alene on Twitter @CancerHarbors)

We got two Australian Shepherd puppies last fall.

I can’t imagine life without dogs. I wanted to write a book, and I knew exactly what to expect with puppies. We’ve been through this with Aussie pups three times already. This is my first time writing a book, though. Somehow my mama brain didn’t grasp just how distracting it would be, even though I am home with them most of the time.

How we forget…

I don’t regret it, it’s just made my days more challenging. They are at the teething and exploring age now. And so far, writing my book is like taking two puppies for a walk, I find myself sprinting in a thousand different directions toward every piece of litter on the sidewalk or gutter. 

I’ve wanted to write a book since I was 10 years old but was warned by adults: “You’ll never make any money writing books!”

Well, guess what? I’ve never made much money doing anything, and whenever I’ve made the most money, I’ve been the least happy. It’s been a long path getting here, I’ve blogged and written articles on a freelance basis for twenty years but not as a steady source of income. Writing is something I enjoy, it’s a means of expressing myself that I do well.

It just so happens that I have something to say about healthcare and cancer and it needs to be said…now!

Furthermore, in healthcare, sometimes things need to be said that can’t be watered down to please the enabled, or to avoid offending those who need to be called on their enabling. 

I’m writing a book about cancer care from the perspective of a nurse who has worked both in the hospital and the community. The way we “do” cancer creates much more trauma than is necessary. My goal is to provoke thought and discussion among movers and shakers, while at the same time, improve quality of life for those whose lives have been adversely impacted by the way healthcare “does” cancer.

I’ve never liked to do things the way everyone else does. If everyone is doing something, that is enough reason for me NOT to do it. What I offer is unique and practical, but more than anything, it will make people reconsider what they have or haven’t been thinking and doing around cancer.

I’ve always been highly self-disciplined and self-motivated. The past few years I’ve been working on my own have been no different, but this book writing thing is a new creature.

Fortunately, early in the process I connected with Deanna Gillingham. I first connected with her via a mutual nursing friend, Lisbeth Overton, of Healthy Nurse by Design. Then I discovered Deanna and I had both joined the Healthcare Writers Network, and had a mutual connection with Carol Bush of The Social Nurse. Deanna is a published author and RN with a background in Case Management, and author of the popular Case Management Study Guide.

After her success in publishing her work, she wanted to help other nurses and healthcare professionals get their work out there. She realizes that we have much to bring to the conversation, and we communicate well with patients and the public, yet our voices are not always heard. She has started her own small publishing company for that purpose.

It sounded like a perfect match for me, so I spoke with Deanna further, and decided to try taking some of her advice.

Her first advice to me was about pre-marketing my book. I wrote a post the way she suggested, and suddenly I started getting more social media views, and I was contacted by a publishing company after someone saw my post on a cancer-related social media group and shared it with the publisher.

Deanna is now my mentor and coach in this process. She’s been easy to talk to, and she has great insight into what healthcare professionals need to do to market their work that differs from other authors. I am excited to work with her and I want her to succeed as much as I want to succeed.

Carol has been the catalyst in my moving forward, because we first connected years ago when we were both blogging for Oncology Nursing Society. We reconnected a few years ago when I started my business and have stayed in touch via our mutual interests in oncology and writing. She’s been actively working to provide outlets and opportunities for nurse writers via social media.

Having this support team and mentoring gives me a daily boost, even when I have those unproductive days, because I remember that people are cheering me on and want me to move forward and succeed.

Distractions are my biggest concern. I don’t have a set deadline but I am putting one on myself.

I need to get this show on the road. People are suffering while we continue to do business as usual. No moonshot is going to take the edge off someone’s post-treatment anguish.

Lately, it’s been one distraction after another, some of which I could have planned better, others that I have no control over. There was ACLS, taxes, the art show (see picture to the right), the workshop, and the ubiquitous puppies.

I try not to get too anxious about all these distractions. After all, I like keeping my ACLS up in case I need to get a job, I have no choice but to do my taxes, and I enjoy putting on the workshops and doing art shows. These all allow me creative and social outlets, and I need those adult interactions when I spend all my time at home with two puppies.

But I still feel that sense of annoyance, when I haven’t had time to myself, or my head feels so scattered, full of small details that have nothing directly to do with my book. Sometimes I talk myself down, reminding myself that I will have time to focus soon. Other days, it’s exasperating, and I feel resentful when the phone rings or I get pulled away for a detail.

At some point, I need to stop making social arrangements and get on with the work at hand.

I’m looking forward to returning to my private work space, the Woman Cave, my hideout in the backyard. Having the pups has necessitated that I work in the house, but as they grow and become more independent, I’ll be able to go back out there.

Fortunately, I have Deanna, Carol, and the Healthcare Writers Network to support me.


Back to work…


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Alene Nitzky, Ph.D., RN, OCN, is an oncology nurse, health coach and cancer exercise trainer. She works in the community with cancer survivors and has developed two programs, Cancer Harbors and FIERCE, to help with patients and caregivers with post-treatment restorative needs to optimize quality of life.

Latest posts by Alene Nitzky (see all)


  1. Horace on March 1, 2017 at 12:35 am

    Good luck! I look forward to reading your book because I know cancer is being done so poorly. Your voice needs to be heard!!

    • Alene Nitzky on March 1, 2017 at 4:33 am

      Thank you Horace, and for reading. Yes, cancer needs to be done differently in a healthcare system that desperately needs change. Everyone can help by speaking out where they can: patients to legislators, healthcare executives, physicians, nurses, the media, including social media to shine light on the dark corners. Our slow progress means that more people suffer, so it is imperative that we act as soon as we see something that needs to be changed.

  2. Deanna Gillingham on March 1, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Great article Alene. So glad our paths crossed. Carol Bush is doing great things in the Healthcare Writers Network and you are doing great things in the Oncology (and puppy mom) arena!

    • Alene Nitzky on March 1, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Thanks Deanna! I am so looking forward to see the results of our work together!

  3. […] This is a Part 3 of a series by our good friend and writer Alene, so be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 when you get a […]

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