Finding Our Voices – a Book Project

Last night I had the opportunity to address a group of breast cancer survivors at their regular support group meeting. (That and the 3-hour season premiere of Lost explains why I am late getting this post up.)  The meeting was held at the cancer center where I used to work.  That alone brought back some strange feelings and memories.  Wandering around the place before the start of the meeting, I encountered several nurses I did not know, asking if they could help me (i.e. “Who are you and why are you wandering around my workplace?”)  How could I adequately explain?  It’s been almost six years.  How could I explain that this was my familiar territory just as it was theirs?  How could I explain that it was just really…what, a few weeks ago, well maybe bit longer?  How could I explain that this was once a place in which I not only earned a paycheck but also the respect of colleagues and the gratitude of patients?  That this had been a home to me.

Maybe it was too long ago.  And now I just missed it so.

But the reason I was there that night was to speak to survivors, another familiar role for me.  The last time I spoke to a group of breast cancer survivors was in Panama City, Panama.  Despite the cultural and language divide, we all were crying the end. Today I would speak about my favorite topic (other than Sophia, Isabel, Gemma and Molly) – cancer blogging.  I passed out six pages of writing by Amber, Alli, Christine, Karen, and Marilou – passages pulled from our Cancer Blogs lists.  My point was that other survivors out there had found their voice.  They had found truth and wisdom, courage and fortitude, and searing honesty whether expressed as fear, anger, despair, gratitude or hope.  Cancer bloggers had found a voice for all of us, resolutely surviving a hundred kinds of cancer.

I think they went away impressed by the writing.  Several times I made the point that these were not professional writers, but only people like us who had discovered a clarity of vision and an eloquence of the pen (or keyboard).

I told them finally that I am planning a new project.  I am working on a book that would be composed of some of the best writing from our community.  The book will attempt to examine this unique 21st century phenomenon of cancer survivors publicly sharing their pain and triumphs.  Who are these people and why to they expose themselves and their cancer experience to the world of unseen doubters, sympathizers and fellow travelers?  This will be a book in which one can share the journey not of a single survivor as in many praiseworthy cancer memoirs, but rather a book offering intimate glimpses of perhaps a hundred different journeys.

Life is a journey, but cancer is one hellavuh ride.  With our blogs we follow one another on our separate journeys.  I have long invited all to follow me on mine.  If any of you are interested in accompanying me on this new book journey, please write.  In each of our own blogging spaces we have found strength.  In pulling together we can be even stronger.


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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