Saturday, February 4, 2012
Book Fight: Cancer Books Don't Suck
So, I had this book fight in my head. I just finished The Fault in Our Stars. It's beautiful and wonderful, and I, as always, give a standing ovation to John Green. His wit, philosophy, theology, and worldview are packed inside this work I will remember.
That said, my mind hung on protagonist Hazel Grace's statement that "cancer books suck." She goes on to explain the kind she means, and I totally get it. But wait, I thought. I wrote a book about cancer! It wasn't but a second later that I began to question my own work, and even worse, "Do I suck BECAUSE I wrote a book about cancer?" It doesn't take much, right? I know. Try living in my brain.
Anyway, I felt I had the right to speak back to Hazel as I sorted through my thoughts. Like her, I had thyroid cancer. I had thyroid removal and follow-up radioactive iodine treatment. I was radioactive in isolation for two weeks. I still have autoimmune diseases, one of which raises my chance of lymphoma 44 times more than others. Last week, doctors were checking for leukemia. Nope. But I am under watch regularly to verify I'm not lighting up the scans.
That said, I want to make the case that cancer books don't suck if they are honest. I loved the touchpoints between The Fault in Our Stars and my own work Loose Threads. There are themes, moments, and choices that echo between them because of common experience. But then there are divergent thoughts around the why and what for. Worldviews that split from each other; truths we wouldn't agree upon but are so thought-provoking and challenging, regardless.
Eventually, I did realize: Wait! Hazel loves a cancer book. The Fault in Our Stars is a cancer book. John wrote a cancer book. He doesn't suck. Loose Threads is equally honest and doesn't suck either. And neither do I. Well, for the moment. In this realm.
Here's to authors speaking the truth about cancer with realism and honesty. And here's to those on the journey themselves. "There's hope. Look." Loose Threads