A year or so ago, I spent time with Jean Hanna Davis while she went through chemotherapy for the second time in her life, almost exactly 10 years after her first round. I was sitting with a friend, but we also recorded our time together because Jean knew she had a story to tell. She wanted to give people (primarily women, but family members in general) a look inside what it meant to have a diagnosis of breast cancer.
The book that came from those sessions, Keep on, Keepin’ on, was a raw and informative look at breast cancer from the inside. Jean’s goal was to help women who had the same diagnosis know what to expect. There were good days and some rough ones. Some days she was up-beat and other days, it took every ounce of energy she had to hold it together. I imagine most women who have been told they have breast cancer feel the same way. The most important message in the book was those feelings are universal and you are not alone.
In Jean’s case, following the release of the book, the cancer came back again. She had more treatments and is presently in remission again.
Earlier this week I interviewed Jean for the Writer’s Block radio show. You can listen to the podcast of the interview on VoicesofAppalachia.com. I asked her what she learned in the process of revealing herself at that vulnerable time.
“I always wanted to tell the story and I wanted to let people who are diagnosed that isn’t initially a death sentence,” she explained.
I asked Jean what she learned about herself while writing the book. She explained that even though she is comfortable talking about herself, the entire process wore her down. She thinks a lot of women dealing with cancer feel the same way.
“When you are healthy, no one wants to ask if you are still healthy. But when you are sick, everyone wants to ask how it is going. You are talking about it constantly, you get tired of opening yourself up. It is very exhausting, emotionally.”
This weekend is the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Charleston. I don’t know of anyone whose life hasn’t been affected by breast cancer in one way or another. Granted, there are loads of causes we can get involved with, and there is no possible way everyone can take on all of them. But, if you’re not doing anything this weekend, think about getting up Saturday morning and walking (or sleeping in) for the cure.
If you are interested in the book Keep on Keepin’ on, you can find it on Amazon in softcover and on Kindle and it is also available for sale at Tamarack.