by Gail Coufal
The best thing about my life has always been reading. I can read when I am not well, I can read in bed, in the bathtub, even while I’m walking. I can read while the TV is on and in any moving vehicle. I can delve into someone else’s universe in a big, fat book when I am in denial about issues in my own life. It is the Great Escape I have chosen my whole life.
Reading after a cancer diagnosis? Stay away from frightening Internet searches and tomes of doom. Choose books and essays and arts that support your view of life and living with illness with dignity and humor and raw inquiry, if you like. It is one aspect of this Thing you can drive and control, even on the unknown roads ahead.
Too sick and crazy and scared after chemo to focus on the page? Close your eyes and be transported by a book on tape, or ask a loved one to read to you. I especially loved reading and hearing poetry during this time, for its brevity and detail of life in small increments. Be sure to take your book or listening device to all the cancer-y appointments we have. Someone is sure to have stolen the best magazines in the waiting room.
When I had the opportunity to join a women’s writing group (an elite circle, cancer being the bind that ties), my reading continued and now informs my writing in ways that encourage me to flex my chemo-addled brain. There is healing in it, you can count on that. In the Land of Cancer Unknowns, this is a balm.
Writing gives us an opportunity to create our own world when the one we are in is not living up to expectations. It is where I find flight from the limits of illness that press down on me. The open page is like an open pair of arms. Go ahead, walk straight into them.
Gail Coufal lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two cats where she is busy reading, writing and exploring a life changed after cancer and treatment.