In the second year since the diagnosis I received in 2014 of a rare and treatable thyroid cancer, I find myself magnetized toward articles, essays, and memoirs concerning life-altering illness in general, cancer specifically, and writings on the subjects of loss, mourning, and empathy.
I seek them out as how-to guides proffering lessons in how to deal and live with cancer and its aftermath. I read them for clues about how the authors, themselves, and their families and friends deal with illness that becomes a long-term event. I look for lessons in empathy - what it looks like, feels like, how it gets expressed by different people in different situations. I look for people willing to authentically and directly write about fear, mortality, dying, death, soul-shocking change and how these elements change one's experience of living.
The Iceberg by the artist Marion Coutts is one such book. It is an astonishing memoir written in experimental, beautiful prose.
Reading The Iceberg, a certain type of courage is required, the courage to occupy a cavernous, treacherous space where grave illness and dying are ever present, as are fierce, beautiful relationships bound by love and friendship, language and art, breath-taking empathy, maturity, and perseverance.