January 03, 2008

Dear Oprah, Dear Oprah, Valerie Courtney here- I’m fresh out of college and get this, my mother just lost her 8 year battle with cancer, a month shy of my 23rd birthday and what would have been her 59th. Christmas is around the corner and since Santa is probably swamped I thought I’d send my wish to you instead. I’m intent on writing a book chronicling the experience my family and I shared as we guided my mother through the dying process in her own home (with the much needed help of hospice nurses of course.) My fear is this: I’ve been freelance designing for some time now and I can barely make my rent let alone pay for health insurance. So the next step is to set out to find a full-time job with benefits, however, I still don’t know what I want to be now that I’m all grown up. And I’m terrified of ending up at a job where everyone eats at their desks and works until 9pm. If that were the case, I would have no time to write and the story inside me might curl up and die in a dusty corner of my mind. I’ve never been published, so in that sense, I guess I'm an amateur. However, I’ve been writing since I was a child, so I’m confident that with the right backing and a bit of coaching, I could produce something worth reading. I also feel strongly that the topic I intend to write about will hit home with a very vast audience. The “curse that is cancer” is no doubt prevalent in the hearts of so many people. I bet there’s not one soul that can say he/she has not been touched by the effects of this mysterious disease. My experience with it has surprisingly been a transcendent one. In telling my story, I aim to bring hope to individuals that are faced with a similar situation. I’ve always known that nothing in life happens exactly the way you expect it to and my mother’s death was no exception to that decree. Some might think it’s silly to be writing to you, but all I want in doing so is to send my wish out into the universe. And whoever it is “they” are, say: it never hurts to try. I always come back to this and I think Walt Whitman said it best in his “Song of Myself,” All goes onward and outward, Nothing collapses. And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier. Thank you for giving me a reason to set my plan in motion. Even if nothing comes of this, I’ll feel like I’ve done just that. Valerie Courtney

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