Lisa Reisman

5 Months 10 Years 2 hours

2015 Santa Fe Writers Project Award Winner

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"Those in search of another treacly cancer memoir need not even glance at this... Reisman's unflinching and moving tale puts to rest the image of patient as warrior. By linking her own ordeal to the triathlon she took on to mark her 10 year anniversaryshe reveals the true nature of cancer survival — not as a triumph of epic valor, but as a feat of endurance, forbearance and true grit."

—Lisa Sanders, MD, New York Times columnist and fellow cancer survivor

The fragility and preciousness of health at an uncertain time in our world

(I posted this on Facebook a few days ago.)

I found the zinnias and marigolds pictured below on my deck this morning. My mother left them there.

Exactly 18 years ago at this time, I was lying unconscious in my Upper West Side apartment. It was a Monday. I had been there since suffering a massive seizure sometime early Saturday.

Later today, I'll call and thank my stepmother, as I have every year since, for finding me on the floor of my bedroom early that afternoon. Thank you, I'll say, for doing what you did; as she well knows, I likely wouldn't have made it much longer. And she'll say, as she does every year, that she's just glad I'm healthy and doing well.*

But right now, if I may, I'd like to acknowledge Phyllis Bennett Kennedy, a woman I met at a reading in West Virginia last July. She had just experienced that bolt of terror on learning that something deadly was growing inside her--like me, a glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressively malignant form of brain cancer--the kind of news to which nothing compares.

Just as I did, I imagine, 18 years ago, she appeared pale and a bit destabilized. But she also had a determined look about her which I loved.

Over the past year, Phyllis, along with Miggy Lynn and NoOne Fights Alone and Shauna Pendleton, among many others, have eloquently reminded me that, in a world that's seemingly off its axis, it's so easy to forget the fragility, the preciousness, of health, and how quickly it can be stripped away, and how nothing is assured, except keeping going, or trying to.

So may I offer my thanks to them, and to my mom for the flowers, and to everyone else for reading this.

*Update: I called my stepmother at 6 pm. She said the same thing. She also said, as she does each year, that there's no need to call each year. And then I said, as I do each year, that I'm going to keep calling her each year because I can never thank her enough.