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[cancer] Redefining myself - Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2008-10-19 19:37
Subject: [cancer] Redefining myself
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, personal

I don’t talk so much about the cancer these days. Not that the disease has receded from my consciousness — it has become an ineluctable part of me, and I can no more cast it away than I can cast away my childhood — but rather, I don’t want to be defined by it.

Yet I am. When I see infrequently-encountered friends, I am constantly asked about my health (excellent at this point, if you’re new to the blog and missed the adventures of last spring). When I examine my writing process and the words on the page, I see its pale ghost. When my daughter expresses a fear about a family member’s health, I know she remembers me in the hospital bed.

My six month post-surgical followup is this Tuesday, a week or two early. I wanted to get it done before WFC, just because. Not everything works the way it did before; physically, mentally or emotionally.

The redefinition of me cannot be denied. So what I have done since the very beginning of this odyssey is take control of that process, so I redefine myself, instead of being redefined by the cancer and the echoes of its discontents. From time to time I’ve mentioned the gifts of cancer, but this may be the greatest of them: how much I have taken control of my own life and health.

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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Elf M. Sternberg
User: elfs
Date: 2008-10-20 02:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Funny. My reaction when I ran into you at Foolscap was to avoid the subject; I figured you were more or less done with it unless you informed us otherwise. I was much more interested in how you'd managed 2800 words that morning even with your heavy 'con schedule.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-20 02:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't mind the questions. People want to know, and it's fine to ask them. At the same time, I appreciate your approach, a lot.
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Zachary Spector
User: blackmonkeymage
Date: 2008-10-20 03:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The redefinition of me cannot be denied.

I thought that a definition was something that you give to words and concepts. I am unclear on how one would define a person, with or without cancer.

I can certainly understand that your experience with cancer forms a major event in your history, and that history informs how other people deal with you and how you deal with everything. Is that what you mean when you say cancer has redefined you? Is your history, and the interpretation thereof, what you are trying to take control of?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-20 13:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, I don't mean "definition" in the lexicological sense. Think of it in terms of a telling detail -- how you define a person or a character. "She's a satellite mission planner", "He's a father of six," "That guy's a cancer survivor."

We are all defined by our actions, our experiences, the perceptions of others, on an ongoing basis. Most people reach a point where they project themselves socially and professionally in a manner which matches their preferred definition. This is why CEOs usually wear suits and skatepunks usually don't.

But sometimes life can overtake a person. If you survive a terrible accident that kills everyone else, people will see you in those terms, regardless of what else you do and who else you are.

I define myself as a dad, as a writer, as a person with certain political and social interests. Cancer could have redefined me as a patient, as a survivor (or not!), as someone to be pitied for feared for. That's what I have tried to stay ahead of.
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Zachary Spector
User: blackmonkeymage
Date: 2008-10-20 23:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, no Platonism here, then. Carry on.
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kzmiller
User: kzmiller
Date: 2008-10-20 07:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
All I know is that you look fabulous! Looking after your health is working.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-20 13:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thenk yew.
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Lawrence M. Schoen
User: klingonguy
Date: 2008-10-20 12:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
If it's any consolation, your name has come up quite a bit over the last couple of weekends (first, Albacon, and more recently Capclave), as a consequence of my hawking Alembical, and while there has been much positive commentary on your fiction, not a one mentioned your health issues.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2008-10-20 12:59 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Is all good, sir.
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