Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Stories of Mothers With Cancer

For the past nine years, Linda Blachman has been on a mission: to help women with cancer record their life stories for the children they will leave behind. She and other volunteers have spent hours talking to sick women, recording their hopes and dreams and messages for their children.

The idea to talk to dying women came to Blachman after she had been confined to her Berkeley home for three years in order to recover from a disabling back injury. Blachman’s mother, who lived in Milwaukee, died during that time and Blachman regretted not asking the questions that had always swirled in her mind.

"The hardest part of my grief was that I never really knew my mother's story,'' Blachman told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I hadn't asked her all the questions that children hopefully ask their parents so they know them as adults.''

The oral histories are meant as much for the mothers as for their children, a form of healing as well as a way to regain some dignity and control when your life has been turned upside down. "The illness becomes very large and opens up these large questions about your identity and your values and issues of faith,'' Blachman said.

The mothers said they found it comforting that they could still do something for their children. One mom referred to it as "emotional insurance. '' Even those who did the listening found the meetings inspiring. "I've done my whole family,'' said Carol Charlton, one of 10 interviewers for the project. "I've learned things I've never heard before.''

I met Blachman last summer at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, a week-long writing conference that brings together agents, publishers, published and aspiring authors. It was clear in our non-fiction workshop that Blachman was determined to share these mothers’s stories, and her dedication has paid off. Publisher’s Marketplace just announced the sale of her book:

“Linda Blachman's ANOTHER MORNING: How Mothers Live With and Battle Cancer, the inspiring and poignant voices of women speaking out about the challenges and surprising gifts of parenting through a cancer diagnosis, based on the author's Mothers' Living Stories Project, to Jill Rothenberg at Seal Press, in a nice deal, by Felicia Eth at Felicia Eth Literary Representation .”

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