Cancer battle, grandmother’s life inspire novel

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By Andreas Yilma, Staff Writer

Cherie L. Genua

PROSPECT — Cherie L. Genua drew inspiration from her battle with cancer and her grandmother’s experiences as a child to pen her first novel.

Genua, who lives in Prospect with her husband, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in November 2018. She went into remission the following year.

Genua, 37, who is originally from Waterbury, said many emotions and doubt about her future ran through her mind when she was first diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis, though, forced her to slow down a little, she said, allowing her to accomplish a long-time goal.

“I thought if I can go through cancer treatment and do all of these very hard things, I can certainly write a book. It’s a goal that I set for myself while I was going through treatment and I met that goal,” said Genua, a director of product for Green Check Verified, a software company.

Genua started writing “Greetings from Tucson” soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state in March 2020. She self-published the fiction novel through Amazon in September.

“Greetings from Tucson” is loosely based on the experience of Genua’s grandmother and her three sisters from over half a century ago. The four sisters were separated from each other in the 1940s after the death of their parents, Genua explained. The sisters, who were between the ages of 9 to 14, were adopted by two families. Two sisters stayed in Waterbury while the other two moved to Tucson, Ariz., according to Genua.

After her grandmother’s death in 2012, Genua discovered hundreds of letters the four sisters sent to each other to keep in contact.

“It just showed how they were able to stay in touch and persevere when the odds were very stacked against them,” Genua said. “This was a time way before the internet and texting and social media made it easier to stay in touch. They were four little girls who depended on letters to kind of keep them in contact and keep them really involved in each other’s lives as they grew up.”

Genua described the book as coming-of-age story between sisters that spans from their youth to their golden years. She said the themes of the book center on love, hope, strength, the importance of family and how the sisters preserved when they could’ve fallen apart.

“They accepted the hand that they were dealt and they moved forward. They really strengthened their bond and made it a point to stay in touch,” Genua said. “I think it’s so important.”

Genua said she missed her grandmother the most when she went through treatment and looked for signs that she was present and helping her get through it.

“When I was writing this book, one of the motivators was kind of feeling closer to her and feeling connected to her because I went through kind of a hard phase in my life,” Genua said. “I felt like I needed that connection and to feel kind of close to her even though she had passed.”

Genua said she found similarities of overcoming adversities between her cancer fight and what her grandmother overcame 70 years ago. She said it’s possible to survive, come out unscathed and live a life centered on love and family.

“I took that theme of the sisters beating the odds and strengthening the bonds between them all when the odds were so stacked against them,” Genua said.

Genua said her cancer journey changed her for the better and made her a stronger person.

“I feel like I’ve come out on the other side happier, healthier and kind of focused on the right things… It taught me the importance of family and what is meaningful to me and what’s not,” Genua added. “I do think mentally it has changed me in that way.”