Monday, August 24, 2009

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.


  1. ok, sitting here weeping.
    my heart breaks for her sweet family.
    i like the T shirt, it said it best!

  2. That tee-shirt is so eloquent, isn't it?

    Sorry to bring on the tears. Join the club.

  3. F*&$ cancer indeed.

    I am 29 and know five people younger than me who've had it--one of whom died at age 27, leaving a 2-year-old daughter. She was my BFF from high school.

  4. Kim- It seems to be taking them younger and younger, doesn't it?

  5. So sorry to hear about Anne. The T-Shirt is so true. I don't think there's a better way to describe the devastating affects of cancer.

    Last year, Corey (my husband) was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, cancer in the cartilage. They found a tumor in his femur. They were able to remove it and the doctor's are 98% sure they got all of it. He has felt so much better since his surgery, even though his leg still causes him a lot of pain, as his health had been declining for years and years before, for most of our marriage actually. He still has regular scans to make sure it's not growing back.

    My friend's mom was just recently diagnosed with uterine cancer. They did a hysterectomy which was supposed to take care of it. However, during the surgery, they found free-floating ovarian cancer cells. And, to my understanding, ovarian cancer is much more aggressive and harder to deal with.

    When I was 9, my oldest sister was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Luckily, with her hysterectomy, it did stop there.

    My grandma died of stomach cancer and my uncle died of melanoma. I didn't get the chance to meet my grandma as she died 14 years before I was born. And, I didn't get to know my uncle because he died the year after I was born. I feel like I was robbed by not knowing them.

    I've had only a little dealing with cancer, but I know how devastating its affects can be. I've never had anyone close to me (since I didn't know my grandma or uncle) die from cancer. I can only imagine what that must be like.

    I feel like even though Corey has had to deal with such horrible health issues for most of our marriage, we got off easy. I'm grateful that Corey wasn't taken from me, but I feel so horrible that others' have had someone close to them taken from them. The only consolation I can give for that is that I know those who have died from cancer are in a better place now and are no longer suffering. I know it's small, but it's something.

  6. Hey girlie...SO sorry :( Cancer does sucks even worse than Ender's Game :) I donated for your friend - not for the SWAG, okay not entirely (let's be honest), but for your Dad, my grandma, my bosses wife, and I'm sure one day me or at least Ben at the rate he is going!

    PS - see my comment on your last post in case you don't go back - I'm curious your thoughts on Outlander :)

  7. Jennie- thanks for venting. I wish your hubby health.

    Cam- thanks for donating. I'll pick a book for you and send it. I'll email you about Outlander- we can dish about it.

  8. I, too, am crying, my thoughts and prayers go out to Anne's family.

    Cancer is an evil that I don't think has left anyone untouched. My grandmother is a breast (twice) and colon cancer survivor. My mother is a Melanoma survivor (twice), in fact she just finished her last experimental treatments this month (which were a year long). My best friend's mother is a breast cancer survivor along with a couple friends at church (breast cancer & lymphoma). A close friend from the church choir, he just lost his battle to cancer along with our organist's hubby who lost his battle two years ago.

    I would love that shirt! Just yesterday, my hubby's mother found out she has lump in her breast (they found a year ago, biopsied and said it was nothing), now it's grown. They are going to schedule surgery this week to remove it. I cannot wait for the cure to be found! We loose too many good people to that awful disease.

    I donate to several people who do the Team In Training, but I'll check out the link!

  9. All a blubber here at the computer. I checked out Anne's site. What a beautiful writer she is! And those gorgeous girls - reminded me of my own three girls. What a loss that Anne is gone! Thanks for writing about her. We all need that reminder (even those of us with loved ones fighting the "obscenity" cancer) that this life is all we have for now. That we must drink it up. Inhale it deeply. Love easily. What a gift that you were able to know her Brodi. That was a tender tribute. As for courage in the cancer arena - weren't you the one that told me of another t-shirt: "If cancer were a person I'd punch him in the face!" So hard to submit, isn't it? So hard. Thanks Bro. And sweet blessings to Anne's dear family.

  10. i've tried to write a meanigful comment that would exactly describe how much i hate cancer. but its hard to do for some reason. not sure why.

    but I hate cancer
    cancer blows

  11. When my little sis was going through treatment, she would get lit. from "Friends of Cancer." We thought it was totally perverse to name an (I'm sure well-meaning) such a ridiculous name. We used to talk about assassinating the Friends of Cancer. I love the t-shirt. Koryn was always so good, she'd never say anything that gritty. We did yell about doctors being "stinky doo-doo heads" though. (Then laugh, as much as we could.) Cancer sucks. Anne sounds amazing, how wonderful to have such a great friend.

  12. I hate cancer too! But I love how connected we all are in this fight! No one is alone in this. Everyone has something or someone to fight for and live for. That's why I love John Huntsman. He has dedicated his life and his fortune to curing cancer. People like us have benefited from it. Anything we can do to help the fight. I will be happy and proud to donate in the name of Anne. My prayers go out to her and her family.

  13. Cath- I would so do more than punch cancer in the face... it would involve a knee to the sensitive area.

    Shell- I think you are an eloquent authority on hating cancer. I'll donate in your name too.

    Keersten- I didn't know about your sister. That is way way too young. Thanks for your comment.

    Erin- Amen. I've developed a total love for Jon Huntsman. Thank you.

  14. Thank you for finding my blog, Brodi, and letting me read about Anne from someone elses heart. It's still hard to believe that after all the months and months of fighting she's gone. My heart just breaks for her family.

    I was so glad she went to SCBWI in the fall--she'd wanted to go to writer's conferences for years but had been so busy. Then she just went, and met you and worked toward submitting. It was such a testament of her passion for writing.

    I've been teary all week--I still can't believe she's really gone. If you go to her blog and click on the 'Bott' link, you'll go to her sister's blog. She posted about Anne's last week and had some photos. I was glad to have found it.

    Maybe I'll see you at the funeral.

  15. Thank you for telling me that, Josi. I will definitely be at the funeral, and I will look for you.

  16. I. Hate. Cancer.

    This was a sweet tribute to your dear friend!!

  17. Cancer sucks.

    My aunt just got diagnosed with cancer about three weeks ago, and it has hurt our whole family. One of her sons is turning 19 soon and preparing to go on a mission, knowing that he might come home without a mother to welcome him back. I can't even imagine how hard that must be for him. Or how it must be for Anne and her family.

  18. Hannah- my prayers go out to you and your family. Thank you for commenting.

  19. I was already crying when I read your post. I posted mine, and then I read yours. Death stinks.

    And don't even get me started about cancer. My cousin died of breast cancer at age 26, and her sister, my other cousin died at age 37.

    My prayers are with all of you.

  20. Thanks for sharing Anne's story Brodi. I join you in sending lots of bad vibes towards cancer in general and lots of hugs and prayers for those suffering from it. My brother had melanoma at 19 and one of my BFF's was diagnosed last summer.

  21. Cancer freaking sucks. I hate it too, for some of the same reasons you do, even! ( It had my uncle Denny in it's grips for a while!)

    Cancer may be the one thing I won't be able to ever forgive so that I can go to Heaven. Cancer and Alzheimer's. Hmmmph.

    (Did I see something about you reading outlander? I'm on the last book by Diana Gabaldon. Same one?)

  22. Mel- I just read the first one in the series. Recommended to me by "Cam" on my sidebar.

  23. I happened to come across Anne's blog and this post this evening. Anne was my 8th grade English teacher almost 9 years ago in Ohio, I believe I was one of her first students. She was a beautiful woman, but being 13 years old I don't think many of us in her class knew how blessed we were to have her for a teacher. I am deeply saddened by the news of her passing and have cried for the past half hour now. My father, grandfather and both aunts have battled skin cancer. My heart goes out to her family.