Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Like so many others, cancer has affected my life immensely. Not that long ago, the numbers of those whose lives had been greatly altered by this disease were much lower -- but now, almost everyone has suffered from the many pains of cancer. My father was diagnosed with leukemia six years ago and after cancer took his health and his adored job as a firefighter, it threatened to take his life. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in late 2010. My family held our breath for months, watching my dad suffer through one flu or infection after another. His immune system was obliterated for the surgery and took nearly a year to stabilize. Now, seventeen months later, my dad is finally getting his stride back.
This is a common story. The story that is not commonly told, however, is the story of what happens to a person in the in-between. The months my dad spent in the hospital and my mom spent living in a hotel down the street just to be close to him, were devastating. I feel like I aged tremendously during this period of my life; absolutely terrified but being as much of an adult as I could so that my dad knew I could handle seeing his excessive weight-loss and the tubes that reached into his shirt and burrowed through his skin, into his heart. There was so much about what happened to my dad emotionally during this time that I just didn't understand. I reacted and responded, but I didn't understand.
John Green helped me understand.
This book was almost like a lifeline to me. All the times I wondered why my dad wanted to be alone in his room or the times he said things that didn't make sense to me. I feel like all of a sudden, I get it. Green creates characters, more real than you can possibly imagine. Hazel, regardless of her age, was so similar to my dad -- it shocked me, both in emotions and attitude. Even her snarky remarks that made me laugh out loud made me think of my dad's funny sense of humour. She is sick, and knows that her life is being stretched thin and doesn't want to cause anyone more pain then she has to. Until she falls in love with Augustus Waters.
I don't even want to tell you anything about the actual plot. These characters had burrowed into my heart and unlike the tube's from my dad's chest, they will NOT be removed. I do not re-read books often, but I will re-read this. I will also make everyone I know who has ever had cancer affect their lives read this (...and everyone else too). Hazel, Augustus and Isaac were literary heroes to me, just like my father is my real life hero. Hazel's parents deserve an award too. Regardless of the box or two of kleenex I went through, this book healed my heart a little. It encapsulates and captivates.
John Green, thank you for helping me understand. This book stole my heart and I haven't quite got it back.