I spent today starting to catch up from a lengthy absence. I started sifting through the newsletters and other emails that I had passed over as less critical. I got to last week’s Funds For Writers and began reading. I promptly burst into tears.
The article was written by Patch Rose: he has Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). My grandmother succumbed to GBM one week ago today. Patch was diagnosed 35 months ago; my grandmother was diagnosed just under 24 months ago. GBM patients tend to live about twelve months from the initial diagnosis.
It wasn’t just the happenstance of a shared disease that got to me — if it was, I’d be crying every time Ted Kennedy is in the news. Patch’s article discusses how he writes about his illness.
Everybody loves someone with cancer. Everybody wants that someone to get well, to conquer, no matter who they are–man, woman, conservative, or liberal. Fighting, surviving and conquering cancer has become an urgent human desire, a human challenge that rises above partisanships of any kind.
While I was reading the article, I kept wondering how Patch does it. Writing about an illness — writing to both share information and experiences is one of the most difficult kinds of writing I think I’ve ever seen.
Patch has used his writing to help him move through his experience with cancer. And, as much as I am loath to admit that writing is more than a business for me, writing helped me in the last week. I had the opportunity to help my family put their memories of my grandmother into words: I helped my father write the eulogy and my aunt write the obituary. I helped put together a booklet full of memories for the funeral. It hasn’t been an easy time, but being able to talk, remember and write has helped me through it.
I’ll leave you with my favorite memory of my grandmother: I was three and overly fond of the question ‘Why?’ My grandmother pulled out a set of books, sat me down on the back patio one afternoon and told me that I wasn’t going anywhere until I learned to read. So, that afternoon, I got the basics — if only to keep my grandmother from going crazy. It stuck and not long after, she gave me a dictionary, pointed me towards the encyclopedia and told me to figure out ‘Why?’ for myself.