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Once a Cancer Writer, Always a Cancer Writer

If you're a writer who has had cancer, you won't be running out of story ideas any time soon.
PUBLISHED August 29, 2017
As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
My husband says that he looks forward to the day when I run out of cancer ideas to write about. If I run out of ideas, he thinks, I will be free of cancer forever.

This is a fallacy. Having had cancer twice, cancer has become one of my beats (writing specialties). I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but cancer gets in your blood. Once you have it, even if you never have it again, you are changed forever. One bout of cancer (never mind two) will give enough memories and perceptions to fill a writing career.

The good-looking, male oncology nurse who weighed you at your chemo sessions. How you hated stepping on the scale, seeing your weight climb to 190, feeling embarrassed that such a hunk was monitoring your weight. This little snippet of reality could easily become a complete blog post.

How your brother drove you to radiation every day and sat in the waiting room while you were treated. How four years later, you would discover that you were one in a million of those who developed cancer from radiation treatments. This little tidbit of information would certainly make a blog post.

How you didn’t quit your job, but worked through the cancer at the advice of your psychologist, who said working would keep you from going crazy. How she was absolutely right. What a story this would make.

How after your mastectomy, you developed a horrible infection and your temperature soared to 105 degrees. How when your fever came down, your husband and 6-year-old son brought you a get well balloon and flowers. Yes, this too could make a blog post.

How the young male nurse after your second cancer surgery told you that the belt that held your breast drainage bulbs close to your body looked like a “Star Wars Utility Belt.” How this young guy warmed your heart with his naïve demeanor and how you will never forget him. Another story.

So you see, each moment, each memory of cancer could become something larger. And people are constantly getting cancer. In fact, today, I just learned of two people very close to people I know have discovered that they have cancer. Unfortunately, there’s never a shortage of writing inspiration.

It’s all around us.

Am I happy that this subject is one of my beats? No. I wish I never learned of what it’s like to live through two cancers, but I have, so I’ve got to make the best of it. And making the best of it means writing about it. It’s how I process the pain of illness and the joy of survival.

And you’re along for the ride.

I thank you for your readership.

Until next time…
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