By Sarah Herlong
When my friend, Neil, was diagnosed with colon cancer I was a continent away. We would stay on the phone for hours at night talking. He wanted me to write about him so he wouldn’t be forgotten. I made notes on all the funny stories as I could remember about him. Only once he died, and the pain subsided somewhat, did I work on writing the full version of my notes. Then my cousin wanted me to tell her about Neil. It ramped up my writing about him, culminating in what I call the Book of Neil.
It was a passion of mine to fulfill this obligation. Get the material down while it’s fresh. Document our relationship so I’ll have it for the future, and so I can share Neil with others. And I can read it in the years to come to remember him as a well-rounded person instead of a shadowy person from my past.
Now I’m faced with a slightly different situation. My friend Lizzie has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. Whenever Lizzie would come over she would show interest in my writing, asking me to read her my latest creation. I would, and it passed the time while she helped my mom with various tasks. She even enjoyed my comedy routine. She had me practice it over and over with her.
Now she is in the hospital waiting to hear if they can do surgery, and waiting to start chemo. She called me today and wanted to talk. I asked if she wanted me to be there in the hospital with her now, and she said yes. I grabbed my latest two stories and arrived at the hospital in record time. She requested that I read to her. I began with Bernadette’s Big Night. Then I read Ghost Story to her. As always she liked both of them. I asked if she wanted reading material, some magazines, but what she requested is for me to read her more of my stories. She told me it helps her stop thinking about the cancer for a while.
So now my work is cut out for me. I need to write as productively as I can to polish old writings, and create new work. Maybe then I can provide her a respite from cancer even if just for a few minutes.