A New Look at the Old Phrase: “Write What You Know.” by Patch Rose

Can anything good come from brain cancer?

If you’re a writer, like me, the answer is most definitely, “yes.” All you need do is keep your head about you – no pun intended – and keep writing.

In November 2005, doctors discovered my malignant brain tumor, a friendly chap called a Glioblastoma Multiforme, or GBM. GBM patients, I learned, tend to live about a year; less, depending on the tumor’s size and placement in the brain.

Happily, and perhaps miraculously, I’ve survived now for 13 months. One survival tool I’ve used-and continue to use-is my pen. On that black day of diagnosis, I began a cancer journal, separate from my daily journal, detailing my experience.

For me, the journal was therapy, a means to put into words the terror and rage and hope and black humor boiling up inside me. My cancer journal also fed a series of emails to friends and loved ones, a daily check-in I sent out faithfully, right up to surgery day and beyond. And people responded. They said my stories helped them face their own challenges. They forwarded my emails to others fighting cancer. And they told me to keep writing.

One fan was the editor of my hometown newspaper. I’d been stringing with them for six months before diagnosis. As I recuperated and barfed and moaned and watched my hair fall away, I kept writing and emailing, and one day, my editor asked if he could share my writings with his readers.

That led to One Year to Live? A Nobody’s Guide to Surviving Cancer. This twice-monthly cancer column in my small town’s paper became website content. That site draws readers throughout the U.S.A. and Europe.

In October 2006, my cancer column won second place for weekly columns at the New Mexico Press Association Awards. After a front-page feature in the Sunday Albuquerque Journal, I’m discussing column syndication with other papers and pitching agents on a book version. In addition, I’ve sold other pieces born from my cancer journey, including a ‘how-to’ article on getting stingy HMOs to pay legitimate healthcare claims. The moral of my story? The lessons we learned in Writing 101 – write every day and write what you know – really do work.

Even for a guy with only half a brain.

In November 2005, freelance writer Patch Rose was diagnosed with a GBM brain tumor. Statistically, GBM patients live about one year after diagnosis. So far, Patch has beaten the odds.

Patch lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, alongside his wife, two cats and two Chihuahuas. Together, they make half a dozen Roses.