“Cancer was everywhere. There was no moment, thought, idea, ache or pain, burst of energy or breathless moment that didn’t change, or wasn’t changed by my cancer– there was always a piece of it with me, somewhere, in something.” (67)
Jason Greer’s memoir Very Much Better holds within it a piece of his cancer. Diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma on the brink of adolescence, Greer leaves behind his hometown in Montana for the Children’s Hospital in Seattle, Washington. But he finds strength in support from his loved ones, family and friends . For Greer, “faith…is the crying from inside the soul to plunge into living”; his beliefs energize him throughout his journey (117).
Greer smoothly melds his retroactive retelling of the past with “a look back” from his present point of view. We become familiar with Greer as an 11-year old boy and as a grown-up adult, the during and the after of cancer, and we witness how the disease matures him hastily. He intersperses medical terms such as “pre-op” or “outpatient,” denoting their foreign nature by quotation marks (10;14). With witty chapter titles like “The Art of Throwing Up” and “The Cancer Patient’s Guide to Duct Tape,” personality and a sense of humor shine through each adventure (xi).
What struck me most about Greer’s memoir was his powerful grasp of his experiences. Particularly eloquent was his ability to capture one of the most emotional aspects of coping with childhood cancer: losing others to the disease. The deaths of Erik, Chad, and Jesse are each heart-wrenching in their own right, and Greer illuminates their important place within his own cancer experiences.
“Cancer threatened each of us, for a time was inescapable, and seemed to be everywhere. But as we sat in the company of each other’s encouragement, we surrounded the disease — and we defied it, every part of it” (83).