In 1998 Heidi Cave was an active young woman looking forward to all the possibilities life had to offer. That all changed when her car was struck by a reckless driver going more than 100km/hr (60 mph). The car crash resulted in a battle for Heidi’s life that would involve two weeks in a coma, seven months in the BCPFF Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit at Vancouver General Hospital and an additional five months in rehabilitation.
What should have been the darkest chapter of her life became a bright testament to the strength of the human spirit. Heidi is now a wife, mother, motivational speaker and author. The tragedy of the accident has been turned into a life message of hope. She knows the power of love and courage, and how to impart it to others. A gifted speaker, her story has inspired thousands to renew their own hope, and to believe that anything is possible. Her book Fancy Feet: Turning My Tragedy into Hope will be released in spring 2013.
The day I knew I had to write my heart was in my throat, tears in my eyes, as I took refuge in my car.
I’m in over my head.
I want this.
After completing the first day of a course on writing autobiography, in the obscurity of underground parking and a racing heart, I was hit with fear and love. All at once, I knew there was more.
I fell in love with words a long time ago. Sprawled on my bed reading just one more page before I had to turn out the light. Hiding novels inside text books at school. Excited by every creative writing assignment. I felt abandoned each time a great book ended until I found another. Words comforted, brought revelation and moved me to higher ground.
Before the writing course I began a blog on a dare. Fancy Feet became an online corner to store my thoughts and musings on life until it became more. I had been telling my story to people on behalf of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund, speaking to groups large and small about a 23 year-old girl who was in a massive car crash on June 12, 1998. She lost her best friend, suffered burns to her body, the burns so severe her legs needed to be amputated. It was a story of survival and hope, and it began to find its way to my blog. My audience grew, people were interested.
I’d been a reluctant story teller, cold to becoming the poster girl for burn survivors. Yet, speaking for the burn fund was a way to give back to this incredible charity that had a hand in saving me. Writing memoir would be different than writing speeches. There wouldn’t be the gratification of a positive spin and lessons learned in 20 minutes. This would take time, unwinding bandages and scraping 12 year old wounds. I worried about the damage I could do to a mostly healed mind and soul. I worried about room for another story of overcoming adversity. Celebrities’ memoirs of crushing and celebrating their addictions filled the stores. Shelves were lined with powerful testimonies of disease and recovery written by people like you and me. If I wanted to do this well and create a book I needed to learn more about writing.
“Write where the energy is,” the professor said as we pressed pen to paper. I looked around the room on day 2 at our small group, everyone earnest about the task she had given, eager to write what surfaced. As she continued to teach energy was a sign, a snap of God’s fingers. I had to tell the story.
The blog became a rough draft. It was the place to practice, practice, practice; spurred on by my readers, my friends and cheerleaders. Tears were shed, hands wrung and doubt didn’t shut up as I persevered. For two years my story has been turned over and redrawn, criticized and edited, sent to agents and finally, safely landing at a publisher.
In the middle of writing my memoir I joined a writers’ group where passion was fed, better sought and listening required. It was about being open. Open to ideas, feedback and honesty. We need ears as writers – to hear what’s being said, what’s not being said and what needs to be said. So we can give a voice to what lies in our hearts and rise to more.