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Inside Cancerland

This Magazine Staff

While we’re on the unfortunate topic of the passing of fine humans. I took a couple of hours yesterday and read — then re-read — Bill Cameron’s piece on living, then dying, with Cancer. It’s in the new Walrus, and it is one of the best pieces I’ve read anywhere this year.
My early impressions of Cameron were as a square-jawed, helmet-haired bingo caller on the CBC. It took me a while to realise that he was different from the rest of the breed: smarter, more compassionate, and more creative. I remember, for a while, he would read poems he’d written at the end of a newscast.
Then he disappeared, went to work as CEO for some obscure company, and magically reappeared writing features for the National Post. Cameron was an epic stylist; he’s one of the handful of writers I would read simply because I knew there would be a construction I’d be inclined to file away for future thievery.
Here’s Cameron, bringing his last article to a close:
Cancer is not the best thing that ever happened to me. Even if against all odds I emerge five years from now able to walk and talk, cancer will still have been a colossally enervating and humiliating drag, a sudden shunt to old age and infirmity….
I would just as soon have passed on the whole experience, even if that meant half-living on a remote asteroid of self-absorption: this is just a little stressful for an artist. But as an experience, since there’s really not much choice, it will do.

It took me three good tries to keep reading after this. This is glorious writing, dignified yet appropriately indignant.

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