When I started blogging a few months ago, I wasn’t sure what theme would emerge. But one day I tried out a tag cloud and the word cancer screamed in 48-point type. (I decided the tag-cloud widget was not for me.)
My irresistible topic turned out to be the stereotypes that are laid on patients like a big glop of mayonnaise.
The brave, sunny cancer survivor. The trooper. The fighter. The optimist. Glass half full? Hell, the glass is spilling over with blessings and platitudes and concern for others and a bag of candy corn. A veritable positive-thinking forcefield!
Such a point of view is difficult to pull off even in the best of times. Try doing it with the anvil of cancer hanging around your neck.
I got lots of mileage out of that theme. The fly in the ointment for me was not anonymous flamers, but rather the exceptions I just can’t explain. Like Sherri Eberhart.
Sherri is no idiot. She is not deluded. She is not pious. Her feet are firmly on the ground.
But Sherri is a trooper. Sherri sent her husband, poet and Kansas City Star book editor John Mark Eberhart, to a movie while she was in the hospital recovering from surgery. To cheer him up.
Sherri volunteered to help get an ovarian-cancer awareness group off the ground even though her cancer was breast, not ovarian.
Sherri would deliver a pronouncement with such a devilish grin you’d swear she’d just dinged someone. But if you thought over what she said, you realized she’d taken the most charitable view.
Sherri was amused by life, even in the throes of a nasty recurrence. She survived six years. At this hour her family is gathering at her house, and I’m about to get dressed and go there.
Just days ago Sherri left with her husband for a vacation. Their sudden return to Kansas City was shocking. But then again, perhaps not so shocking. Who in the world would travel to New Mexico when (apparently) deathly ill? Sherri. Of course.
Tomorrow I’ll go back to defending the right of cancer patients to be sad and furious and frightened and tired. But today I’m paying homage to the little package of happiness known as Sherri Eberhart.
[Ed. note: Sherri Eberhart died at 6:20 a.m. on October 13. Read her obituary and sign her guestbook here. Family suggests donations to Kansas City Hospice or Turning Point. Read more about Sherri in John Mark Eberhart’s essay here.
“Goodbye for Now” by Robert Coleman Trussell was a favorite of Sherri’s. At the request of John Mark, Trussell performed at the funeral. Download a free mp3 file, compliments of the singer/songwriter at his website: In loving memory of Sherri Eberhart.]