Dear Anne: I Hate Cancer

Pardon this interruption. I had a post about the wacky goings-on at the book bloggers social over the weekend, but I’ll save it for Wednesday, because I have to just say something…

I hate cancer.

Last November, my agent Ted spoke at an SCBWI conference in Salt Lake City. Believe it or not, I totally lacked the guts to talk to him, and the rest of the editors in attendance. I was too new in this world. My sis-in-law E kept telling me, “He’s your agent. You are allowed to talk to him.”

But I couldn’t. I didn’t know that many people there, and I just didn’t have the gumption.

I happened to sit next to a woman named Anne Creager. About my age. Beautiful. Short pixie hair. Perhaps you've seen her link on my sidebar under writer friends.

We immediately clicked, and with Anne by my side, I approached every big shot there, introducing them to Anne as if we had been friends for years.

Those of you who were lucky enough to know Anne better, can you tell me how she did it? How she was able to infuse a stranger with courage, simply by her presence?

She told me she was just getting her strength back from her latest bout with cancer. She wasn’t specific. She looked healthy at the time, although I could tell her hair was just starting to grow back, and she had to leave early because of fatigue.

I told her my father was battling Pancreatic Cancer, and how cancer was so unfair. So unfair.

But we parted with each other’s email addresses, and the promises to keep in touch about our writing.

She and her husband Ward were kind enough to critique my book. They read it out loud to each other on one of their many trips to Colorado, where Anne received special treatments.

She also gave me her own manuscript- a middle grade novel called, “Fist Fights at Bible Camp.” The main character was a girl named Annie- the defiant daughter of a Preacher- who gets sentenced to Bible Camp. I wondered how much Annie was a reflection of Anne. Whether it was or not, I felt like her book gave me a further window into Anne’s soul.

Anne was such a talented writer. I curled up with her book one day at Barnes and Noble, and read it in one sitting.

Through a series of emails, and blog entries, I learned about the seriousness of Anne’s condition. Years ago, doctors discovered Melanoma on her arm, and removed it.

She was recovering, and living the life of a young mother to her three beautiful daughters. Then a year and a half ago, Anne developed a pain in her chest after a ski trip. The cancer had come back with a vengeance, snaking through her lungs, her liver. Encasing her sweet heart.

I have since learned that once Melanoma invades the organs, it becomes a most vicious adversary. Even places like the Huntsman Cancer Institute have few options to fight it.

I hesitated to write about her today, because I wasn’t one of the lucky ones inside her closest circle of family and friends. But I can’t help it. It’s the effect she has on people.

Even strangers.

Anne last emailed me three weeks ago. An upbeat letter. She was ready to submit her manuscript. She actually apologized for not writing sooner. She had been through every horrible treatment available, causing her pain, hair loss, weight gain, weight loss, and countless other side effects, and she still apologizes to me, and asks about my own road to publication.

Maybe that’s why I always failed to grasp the magnitude of her situation.

When my dad was receiving chemo treatments, one of his cell-mates – named Dov -- would often wear a tee shirt with just two words on it.
*Viewer Discretion Advised*

My family used to say: Guess which word is the obscenity?

Cancer is a loathsome affliction. It is a thief. It plunders and robs and violates all that life holds dear…health, joy, productivity, future, peace of mind…without discrimination or remorse.

On Saturday morning, cancer took Anne from this world.

So unfair.
(Anne and her family)

I would like to drop-kick something right now. But since cancer is not available to drop-kick, I have to look for another way to give cancer the bird.

I have a ton of books, many of them signed. And my friend Kathy Wismer is racing in the LOTOJA (Logan to Jackson bike ride) to raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. First five (maybe more) people to donate at least $25 get an autographed book from my stash, or a book of their choice from Amazon. You can donate in the name of anyone you want. If you're lucky enough to be untouched by cancer, donate for Anne. Send me an email if you donated. brodiashton (at) gmail (dot) com

I have to believe that someday, somebody much smarter than me will find the answer.

Anyone else hate cancer? Feel free to use the comments section to vent about it.