Wow, I just realized that title could sound very forboding. No, this isn’t about another recurrence.  But I would like to talk about Austin’s recurrence, in an artistic sense (if recurrences of pediatric cancer can be “artistic”!), and ask your advice.

I’ve been hard at work on my manuscript over the past few weeks in preparation for the Writers’ Digest conference in New York City in January.  The weekend includes a pitch slam, where you get 90 seconds to make an individual oral pitch to up to fifty literary agents. I’d like to have my book mostly done by then, so that 1) I can give an accurate summary and word count (which is expected) and 2) I can mail it out the next week on the off-chance that some agent says, “Wonderful! Can’t wait to read it, send me your work asap.”

Now, you may remember that I had written a book, one I was very happy with, after our first round of cancer.  It originally checked in at about 250 pages. I then revised to add our almost-recurrence, which I managed to describe in less than 25 pages.  I feel like that event is important to the story because, even though it ended up not being a huge deal in terms of Austin’s overall health, it was enormously consequential to me and Mark and how we thought about his disease and all of our futures.

But now I’ve spent weeks struggling with how to include Part Three, the actual recurrence, spanning from our worrisome fall through spring (end of treatment) and even summer (recovery of kidney). The truth is that it is dreadfully boring to write about. Dreadfully. It is repetitive and tedious — the same worries (oh, what should we do with his kidney?), the same procedures (day after day and week after week of platelet transfusions), the same ups and the same downs and ultimately, the same ending.

Now, of course, I am thrilled we got the same ending (a happy one) — that’s all we want, but it doesn’t make for interesting literature. The entire recurrence fails to move the story forward in any way.

That first part is full of drama, especially the mysterious and horrifying growth of his primary tumor, which occurs four weeks and ninety pages in. That is followed by two more dramatic surgeries and then, in perfect climactic fashion, the unexpected clear scan that fall. The story has flow–there’s build-up and mystery and climax and resolution.

The recurrence is just boring. It was boring to live and it’s boring to write (and I’m afraid would be boring to read). Yes, it’s true, it happened, which is why I feel the need to include it.  But honest memoir doesn’t mean you have to write about every single thing that’s ever happened to you. There are many reasons I want to include it — it was hugely significant in his life and in all our lives. It mattered.

And yet, it’s boring.

Mark suggested that I just include it as an epilogue, an abbreviated looking-backward kind of essay: overview of what happened, overview of how we felt and feel, overview of where we go from here. That’s it.

Oh, I just don’t know!  What do you think?

Advertisements