Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nora Ephron and AML

People have been reminiscing about their feeling that they knew Nora Ephron, the writer who died yesterday at age 71.

Her witty and acerbic style and her ability to tackle serious subjects with insight and a light touch spoke to many people. She was a friend who took my anxiety about my last child leaving home and turned it into a perfect, funny and sad and ultimately comforting little story. As my forgetfulness has increased with age, I've said to people "I remember nothing," the title and opening essay of "my friend's" last book of essays, published last year. When she wrote that she had found the perfect bag – so ugly it was cool – I went to the transit museum in Grand Central Station and bought the bright yellow plastic MetroCard bag. When I tried to describe what I was looking for, the salesperson said, "Oh, the Nora Ephron bag." I get compliments every time I use it.

At the end of "I Remember Nothing," she wrote a list of 10 things she won't miss and 10 things she will miss. She said she would miss Shakespeare in the Park. I read that to Katie. How profound, I thought. We love Shakespeare in the Park too.

Looking back, the writing of such a list makes sense. I read today that Ephron learned in 2006 that she had acute myeloid leukemia, but kept it quiet. She actually died of pneumonia, a complication of AML.

I had another shock of recognition: She had the same cancer that I had. When I hear of someone who has died of AML, I get a sickening feeling. I guess it's part of PTSD, a jolt reminding me that this fast-moving cancer can be deadly. As if I didn't know. I imagine that people who fought or are fighting other cancers might react in the same way.

A reality check was in order.

"You're not Nora Ephron," Barry said.

"You don't have leukemia," Katie said.

Of course I know these things, and some day I hope I'll internalize them.

But for now, I'm glad that I have such good friends and family who will say them for me.


donna said...

I was surprised to hear the news about Ephron, too. I have loved her writing for years. You are a good writer just like her, but you re not like her because you do not have leukemia! Love ya!

Robin said...

Must be very difficult to hear about cases like this. However you are healthy and here! Hang in there and stay strong :)

Anonymous said...

My Dearest Runder-Woman,

it was so great seeing you yesterday -- athletic -- far more energy than i have -- you inspired me to show your ny times article and blog postings to my students!

Yes! You do not have leukemia!

Yes! You have wonderful children, family and friends!

Here's to You! Runni Gordon!

Denise said...

You are right, Ronni, I think all cancer survivors feel the same way. I vividly remember having that sickening feeling when Elizabeth Edwards died 6 months after my mastectomy. I felt it again recently when Robin Roberts revealed she had a rare type of leukemia as a result of her breast cancer treatment.

Of course, my thoughts turned right to you when I heard about Nora Ephron. She was one of my dear "friends", too and I'll miss her. What a shame she couldn't be cured like you were.

Nelle said...

I had my lymphoma over thirty years ago. Last week I had a CT scan to monitor my lungs and they found some enlarged lymph glands. Those fears and anxieties don't go away but I have learned not to press the panic button. So many people I was treated with are gone but I am still here. While we may start out with the same disease, our paths can be very different. You are doing great and leukemia free. I will miss Nora Ephron.

PJ said...

You doppelganger you!We are very very lucky.