Can I call you John? I feel like we’re on a first name basis since I’m pretty sure at some point you stalked my life. But, just in case you did not, in fact, stalk me, let me introduce myself to you.
I’m Kati. I’m a retired actor and teacher, full time Mom and sometimes writer. And I had cancer when I was eight. I have one leg. This is what leads me to believe you followed me around.
I’m not late to The Fault in Our Stars- in fact I got to hear you speak in Atlanta when it was released. But, I couldn’t read it. I knew it was too close. I knew that it’d be hard. But, mostly I was extremely fearful that a writer I respect would get the whole teenager-with-cancer-thing TOTALLY wrong. I know. I should have had more faith. It’s so easy to make those teens martyrs and “strong” and “living life to the fullest.” I’ve lived being a teenager with cancer. We can also be complete and utter dipshits.
Then, I used the fact that I was pregnant with Eleanor as an excuse not to read it. My hormones could lead me to never recover from the book. Despite all of the amazing press/word of mouth from my friends, I just couldn’t do it. Even when my campers from cancer camp were telling me it was wonderful and epic and all of those things and still, I just couldn’t do it.
Finally, finally… I needed to work out post-Eleanor’s birth. I listen to audio books when I work out. I sucked it up and downloaded the book.
You got it so right.
I mean, I think I had those conversations that Hazel Grace and Augustus had. I can remember the calls from friends and being told that they had relapsed. I remember spending precious moments with friends and knowing that I wouldn’t see them again. The whole “I lit up like a Christmas tree?”- I’d heard that more times than I want to admit.
I sat on the rowing machine (next to a super athletic couple, but that’s another story) and let the tears stream and move and my breath stop coming as I listened to your words. I’d been there. I’d done that. I’d felt those feelings and I’d lived that life. I kept trying to row on the machine- I looked pretty ridiculous.
So, thanks for repping us cancer kids (even if I have kids of my own, I still belong to the club). Thanks for not making us saintly or preachy or martyrs. Thanks for that.
In closing, I’m going to sign off the way us cancer kids from Camp Sunshine always have- It’s not something we give to folks who don’t understand the cancer kid world- but you understand.