Should I tell you it was cancer? A writer’s perspective

by Starla J. King on April 4, 2014

Should I tell you it was cancer?

The surgery I wrote about earlier, the one that some of you cautiously asked “so what was it for?”

Should I tell you it was a tumor? And where it was (in my ovary, the left one), and what size (15cm, 2.3lb), and what kind (Adult Granulosa Cell), and what stage (1A)?

Should I tell you about the treatment (full abdominal hysterectomy, no chemo)? And the outcome (they got it all; I’m cancer free) and the prognosis (very good, with tendency to recur 10-20 years later)?

discharge form segment

Or do I leave well enough alone and stay quiet (publicly) on all but the “I had surgery” part?

It’s an attention-grabber, the “cancer” word: the letters themselves hunched over like suffering humans, and the hiss in pronunciation warning like a venomous snake ready to strike, leaving whispers of mortality hanging in the air.

Cancer. Ears perk up, hearts beat faster, blog post traffic soars.

So I should write about it, right?

Because that’s what we essayists / memoirish-ists / creative non-fictionists do, right? We write about our lives to make sense of them, and we do it publicly to force ourselves to sharper clarity, to push ourselves to find the universal notes of meaning, and to offer a “yeah, me too” to the generous souls who take the time to read us.

I hesitate, though, because what about the friend of a friend who is actively dying of cancer? My “yeah, me too” doesn’t hold up … at all.

What about the friend whose cancer has just returned for visit #4? What about the friend who has external bags instead of internal organs, and the friend who is starting way too young on her first extensive course of chemo, and the one whose good news criteria has changed from whether or not the tumors exist to whether or not they’ve grown?

What about all of them, when I, in contrast, went from cancer to cancer free in 2 weeks, and now 5 weeks after my surgery am more concerned about when I get to start running again than whether or not I will live?

You see, I got the “good” kind of ovarian cancer; I kinda won the cancer lottery.

So I shouldn’t write about it.


I did have cancer. And it shook me. And nearly felled some of those around me. And it’s true, what they say, that cancer changes everything — even if it wasn’t a catastrophic or particularly painful or overly frightening experience for me.

I was surrounded by love so powerful and extensive that I’m still digesting the impact while contemplating the blessing… and the responsibility.

I watched my old habits disappear instantly with “You have cancer” then reappear gradually (some welcome, some not) as my health returned… a gift of unparalleled clarity to profoundly inform my daily choices.

I felt with delight the pull towards my work, the conversations with writing coaching clients an unexpected storehouse of energy, a healing balm, a nod to my life’s work.

And I filled up — automagically, zero effort — with writing.

So should I tell you it was cancer?

I have no idea. Maybe I’ll decide tomorrow.

Update April 16, 2014
Women: you can easily learn more about ovarian cancer symptoms by a quick Internet search, or just click here to start with info from the Mayo Clinic.  Give yourself the chance to catch it early.

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Daryl April 4, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Starla, it occurs to me that maybe *you* should have been the copy editor of the high school yearbook. You’re such a natural writer! You were surely the spirit leader of our team.

Thanks for sharing and inspiring us.


Starla J. King April 4, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Daryl!!! *big hugs* Well, thank you for that… but… I was soooo happy getting to color layout lines and such. 🙂

Thank you for reading with an open heart.


Daryl April 4, 2014 at 6:07 pm

Oh, you were great at layout, too. 😉

“…health returned… a gift of unparalleled clarity to profoundly inform my daily choices” – yes, that about sums it up. It’s so easy to get distracted by less important stuff.

Live long, dear heart.


Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Oh we had good times, didn’t we? And crafted some mighty fine yearbooks. 🙂

“Live long, dear heart.” What a beautiful beautiful “prayer” — thank you! <3


Dawn April 4, 2014 at 5:54 pm

thanx for sharing. sooooooo glad you’re ok


Starla J. King April 4, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Dawn, here’s to the miracle of health!


Cyndy April 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Positive love and healing light –>>


Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:07 pm

ah, thank you Cyndy. <3


Peggy April 4, 2014 at 6:28 pm

You have such a beautiful way with words! Thank you for sharing your story. We are all blessed in many ways. We are blessed because we know you.


Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Peggy, here’s to the blessings in all their forms! xo


Deb April 4, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Brilliant post. And I’m very happy for you!!


Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Thank you Deb! It’s a whole new level of happy. 🙂 xo


pat Murphy April 4, 2014 at 9:05 pm

So happy to be your friend. Thank you for letting us know just a little more about you! Hugs!


Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Pat, who would have figured, all those years ago, that we’d be having THIS conversation! Here’s to lasting friendship. xo


Mir April 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Yes, Starla j.

That is the Real.


Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm

Exactly, Mir. EXACTLY. <3


Mare April 5, 2014 at 10:33 am



Starla J. King April 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Mare, it’s quite the journey, huh? Love you! Mouse


Cheryl April 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Dear Starla,
A beautiful and truly thought-full piece. When I was working with patients and their families in Hospice, they brought a new perspective and consciousness to all the commercials about the “miraculous” treatments being done at well known hospitals, and how the Hospice families often still lost their loved ones despite some of these treatments. However, the one thing they almost universally did not lose was their hope, and that is what I see in your ability to share… HOPE. Thank you for this! Continue to be well. Cheryl


Starla J. King April 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Cheryl, thank you for your important addition to this post! Yes, indeed, HOPE is here. xo


Karla April 5, 2014 at 8:17 pm

You continue to bless and inspire me with your beautiful words and the open, honest way you live your life. Thank you for sharing your story and for being an inspiration to others. Sending you much love now and always. XOXOX!


Starla J. King April 7, 2014 at 5:55 pm

Same to you, Karla, same to you.


Patti April 8, 2014 at 8:46 pm

Yes….you should…and you did….and did it very well. 😉


Starla J. King April 9, 2014 at 8:37 am

PATTI, HI! 🙂 Thank you my dear… for everything. xo sj


Elizabeth April 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Someone I hadn’t seen in over a year told me that she, too, had been dealt a hand with cancer. It was a different type than the one I have been dealing with. With relative “ease” she got through her ordeal, but like you, it paled in comparison to what others dealt/deal with. She told me how awkward it was for her. It almost made her feel like a “fraud.” I am sorry to hear what you have been through, but am glad it was able to be dealt with the way it was. May it never have a repeat performance. I highly recommend that anyone who reads this read up on the symptoms of ovarian cancer. Many times it is missed until it is “too late.” It is one of the most lethal cancers for women for that reason. The only reason I know these things? It was the cancer I came face-to-face with 2 years ago, and am still dealing with. Had I known what I know now, maybe it could have been caught sooner and my story could have been more like yours. Lots of love to you.


Starla J. King April 16, 2014 at 10:19 am

Elizabeth, thank you for your response, empathy, and recommendation(s) — and for honoring this page with your experience of “the other side” of cancer. I just edited the post to include a link to info on symptoms; thank you for that nudge!

(Readers: to learn more about Elizabeth and her journey, just click on her name above — it’ll take you to her blog. To learn more about ovarian cancer, here’s one of MANY sites:

To you, Elizabeth, I raise a glass of strength, courage, and hope. xo


Julia Barnickle April 18, 2014 at 10:23 am

I’m so glad to hear you’re now cancer free, Starla. Yes, it’s a tricky question, and one I’ve also asked myself – and continue to ask myself. At first I said nothing – then left cryptic messages, for people who know me well, on Facebook. Then I mentioned some of the detail in my blog, but not all… But having now had 3 recurrences of breast cancer, and a more recent diagnosis of secondaries in the spine, I welcome both types of cancer story – the positive “I’m cancer free” ones, to give us hope, as well as the more gritty “I’m getting on with my life despite cancer” ones, to inspire us. And it’s up to each individual how much detail they want to disclose.


Starla J. King April 18, 2014 at 3:07 pm

Thank you for this response, Julia — it’s so helpful to hear your feelings from the other side of this cancer thing. Comparison of any sort really doesn’t help; we each have our own stories, and each is important in their own right (note to self).

UGH re: your recent spine discoveries! Sending you hope, courage, and a big dose of fight and/or determination. xo


Lisa Ross May 6, 2014 at 6:18 am

Just catching up on posts & saw you & Sandy toasting with a “we beat cancer” cosmo. I’m sooo happy for you!!! You ARE a vessel of wellness in every sense.


Starla J. King May 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

Lisa! Thank you for your affirmation of “the vessel of wellness” — I’m carrying that with me. Here’s to being on THIS side of cancer, eh? xo Starla


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