By Mary Anna Violi | @Mary Anna Violi
My favorite professor when I was an undergraduate student at Indiana University Bloomington was Susan Gubar. As an English major, I took as many literature courses as I could with her. My favorite of them was my Senior Seminar on The Brontes. I read everything, or nearly everything, Charlotte, Emily, Branwell, and Amy Bronte wrote. My only regret about the class was that I would be graduating; I wanted the course to go on and on, so intellectually provocative and rewarding was it. Throughout the years I have read most of Professor Gubar’s books, each unique, challenging, and fresh. Her literary criticism has taught me to think more spherically about literary works.
She continues to teach me now about matters of health. Her New York Times blog on its Well page takes readers through her enduring the highs and lows of ovarian cancer and experimental treatments. This morning I read her latest post dated September 17, 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/09/17/living-with-cancer-teal-ribbons/.
“Living with Cancer: Teal Ribbons” informed me that September is Ovarian Cancer Month. I had no idea of this, for I have read nothing about it in the media, nor have I seen billboards commanding attention about such a vital awareness month. We are inundated with all sorts of Awareness Months, but not about Cancer-related ones. This begs the question, Why not? Perhaps because we do not wish to face the possibility of our own mortality, which cancer forces us to do.
Another of her blog posts that resonated with me was entitled “Living with Cancer: Alone and Ghosted” from August 6, 2015, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/living-with-cancer-alone-and-ghosted/.
In this post, she reveals the loneliness when her husband has to spend several weeks in a rehab facility recovering from knee surgery. Her husband was the one who takes her to myriad appointments, primarily medical ones. With his absence, she realizes too how friends have vanished as her cancer of some years still has increased her dependency on others. In reading this blog post, I was reminded of how, when I was married, it was like being in a club, The Married Club; however, when I was separated and later divorced, those who had welcomed us as a couple, then deserted me as a single woman. Did other married women find me a threat, even though I was not covetous of their spouses? Professor Gubar’s sense of isolation and dependency reminded me of my own vulnerability at one of the lowest points of my life. Of course, her ovarian cancer trials and tribulations are much different from my married and unmarried state, but the sense of isolation is a reality I understand.
Ovarian cancer has not dampened the voice of my dear Professor Gubar, though it challenges her no end. She remains an indomitable force through her Well blog writing. I am grateful to have her continue to educate me throughout these many years.
Ciao for now.