I’m thrilled to be featuring the talented, funny, and incredibly poignant author John Kerastas who shares my passions for dogs and gratitude for life. John, diagnosed with a brain tumor, had the courage and humility to write about it in his incredible book, Chief Complaint Brain Tumor (see links below for more info). It’s now my pleasure to turn this over to John.
One of the big challenges I faced in writing my brain tumor memoir was honesty: being honest with my reader, being honest with my family and being honest with myself.
Honesty takes some courage. And when I first learned about the tumor I felt anything but courageous. This feeling was compounded when, after the first operation, I learned that my IQ took several large steps backwards. That felt like a body blow because I used to think that my noodle was pretty darn good. The online intelligence test I took, though, didn’t lie. It clearly showed that I was significantly dumber (slower, cognitively-challenged, pick your own euphemism) compared to, well, almost everybody. I now feel that the book’s narrative didn’t really become compelling until I was honest with my readers about how bad my cognition was, and how I emotionally dealt with it (which is to say not particularly well).
I also became particularly aware that all my friends and family would read it. Part of me kept saying, “Do you really want your mother to know that you sent embarrassing emails announcing that you had a brain tumor and could die.” And “you don’t really need to admit that, while sitting in a hospital bed, that you flunked an imaginary job interview with yourself, do you? Who would know?”
I would know. And somehow, I knew that my section on post-operation employment worries would hit false notes without it.
Richard Bach famously said “The worse lies are lies we tell ourselves.” He’s right. The seductive memoir trap is the opportunity to tell yourself that you were more courageous during those operations, more accepting of the consequences and certainly better looking than that those pictures your wife took. But the sad fact is that I wasn’t particularly courageous, that I avoided thinking about the consequences of a brain working on less than four cylinders, and that those awkward pictures were honestly showing a guy who looked like he was auditioning for a part in a bruised banana commercial.
Perhaps the good news in telling the truth about operations gone awry, about my excessive denial of the truly obvious and about my admissions of embarrassing faux pas is that it makes for a much more interesting story.