Recently I read the novel, Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee. When the book first came out a couple years ago, I was excited to read it, but then I started reading reviews in which people expressed their disappointment in it. I ended up not reading it partly because I didn’t want to be disappointed and also partly because since chemo, I make incredibly slow progress tackling my to-read list. Recently my brother suggested I read his copy, and so I did. He also suggested I keep an open mind. I think I did that, too.
What does this have to do with breast cancer you might be wondering?
Let me explain…
Harper Lee’s story was hers to tell, even if we are somewhat disappointed in certain aspects of it. Okay really disappointed.
If you haven’t read this book yet and plan to, maybe stop reading this post right now.
Go Set A Watchman takes place two decades after Lee’s beloved, Pulitzer-Prize winning masterpiece, To Kill A Mockingbird.
The disturbing thing we discover in Go Set A Watchman is that Atticus isn’t quite the person of stellar character most of us, including me, have come to love in the book and movie, To Kill A Mockingbird. Far from it. Jean Louise (Scout) returns home for a visit with her aging father and discovers her beloved father is a racist. There’s no way to gloss over that.
Understandably, Jean Louise was devastated by her discovery, but by the end of the book, there is some resolution. There are a couple other surprises in Watchman, but I won’t mention those in case you haven’t read it and plan to.
That’s all I’ll say about the story line.
Some people were upset Harper Lee would release this book so many years after her first.
How could she do this?
How could she ruin things for us by turning Atticus into the sort of person who is not so admirable?
Quite simply, because it was her story to tell. It was her truth to share, including the good the bad and the ugly parts. And that racist part was a pretty darn ugly part.
Of course, if the publishing company was trying to cash in and took advantage of Harper Lee, that’s a different matter. As far as I know, that wasn’t the case.
Regardless, Harper Lee’s story was shared with the world.
And the world may or may not like this.
It’s the same deal with my story and your story, too. And not just our cancer stories, but our life stories, period.
Everyone has the right to do cancer, and other parts of their lives as well, the way they choose.
You don’t need anyone’s approval to live or tell your cancer story a certain way.
If your cancer story doesn’t fit the generally more accepted cancer narrative most people prefer to hear, so be it. It becomes more clear to me every day that some people, even some within the breast cancer community itself, will always prefer to hear a more sanitized version of breast cancer than the one I share about here on the blog and in my memoir.
Again, so be it.
Telling our truths matters. Not glossing over the ugly parts matters.
Some will turn away and choose not to listen because of those ugly parts, but some will not turn away. Some will listen.
In the end, truth is what matters most. It always does.
My story, cancer or otherwise, is mine to tell.
Your story is exactly that as well; it’s yours.
And how, or if you decide to share it at all, is entirely up to you.
Have you read, Go Set A Watchman, and if so, what was your reaction to it?
Do you share your cancer truths (whatever they are) openly, mostly privately or not much at all?
Featured image used under creative commons licensing.