I Am With You

The book, front and back.

The book, front and back.

I Am With You is the title of a book of cancer essays, edited by Nancy Novak and Barbara K. Richardson. The collected authors are all veterans of cancer. Most live with it directly, while a few caregivers found eloquence within their experience.

The editors chose a version of one of my blog posts, Where the Wild Things Are, for inclusion in the anthology. Naturally, I’m pleased. As a writer, I appreciate the attention. Even more so, I am humbled by the company of the other contributors, in particular, Molly Ivins. I’ve long admired her for the scathing wit at the core of her commentaries. She had a knack for pinning politicians with the badge of their own hypocrisy. She died of breast cancer in 2007.

Critical thought about life’s final passage makes for compelling reading when handled by gifted writers. Lately, my favorite is Jenny Diski, a British author who often writes for the London Review of Books. Here is a link to an essay she composed after her diagnosis with cancer in 2014. She also keeps a blog, This and That Continued, which provides more examples of her unique prose style.

My health is good. The cancer, multiple myeloma, continues to follow a wayward course. It behaves like a damaged ship, adrift in a sea of chemo. I’m there with it, treading water in the toxic swill. The markers Dr. L and I watch track its aimless lurching to and fro. We can’t seem to sink the damn thing, but so far, are doing a decent job disabling its GPS. With myeloma, the concerns are kidney and bone health. Those organs don’t yet demonstrate any symptoms, so it’s “steady as she goes” with treatment.

It’s the middle of March. Oregon teeters on the brink of a lush spring. Recent rains feed an earth comfortably warm due to the mild winter. I planted a happy garden with pansies, petunias, and alyssum. Also, I stopped spreading seed for the birds in my neighborhood. It’s time for them to rely on natural sources, which can be had in the thickets where they make their homes.

Savvy with her birthday hat.

Savvy with her birthday hat. (Photo thanks to Grandpa Ed.)

My granddaughter’s birthday also occurs on the cusp of Spring. Savannah shares her anniversary, March 14th, with the commemoration of the mathematical constant Pi, as well as Albert Einstein. We celebrated her first big day with two other sets of grandparents, cousins, and a great aunt. Savvy’s universally sweet disposition entertained all. She crawls everywhere, curious as a bug. She can stand and take steps when holding onto something.

My son and daughter-in-law are wonderful parents and Savvy has loving support from other family members. All her needs are provided for. Yet, I can’t help but think it is she who provides for us. We are improved by the innocence of a child’s wondering.  It challenges us to re-visit the source of our prejudices. Children glow with the light of hope. Hope that things can work out; hope that anything is possible. That’s powerful medicine for all of us cancer “veterans.”

PS: For those who are interested, I’ve added another chapter, to Southwood, A Memoir. It’s titled, 3 Ways to Pick Up a Tarantula.

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5 responses to “I Am With You

  1. What good and well-deserved news, John. I went to read Where the Wild Things Are, thinking I would just be refreshing my memory. But I wonder now if I was a late subscriber to your blog because it rang no bells for me and, beautifully written and wise as it is, I would have remembered something. And here’s a little secret. Not only writers love attention. Everyone does. So glad you are feeling good.

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  2. “We are improved by the innocence of a child’s wondering.” So beautifully expressed and we certainly have found this to be true! Love the nickname Savvy and she is adorable.

    Congratulations on being included in “I Am With You”. Here’s to playing in the sandbox and raising a rumpus!

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  3. That’s great that your essay is included in the anthology. Congratulations. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed “Southwood, a Memoir.” I hope you add more. See you in Hood River one of these days! Savvy and Selah, I hope you get to know each other some day.

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  4. Wonderful and congratulation on the essay ~ it is admirable to see a life so well lived and with no signs of slowing. Inspirational…and I am sure Savvy loves that about you! Cheers to a great weekend.

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