Seven or eight years ago, I stopped being able to read regular books. My neck and shoulders couldn't handle holding the book or the looking down part. Before that, and for as long as I can remember, I carried a book with me wherever I've gone. Reading was my first love. I didn't so much read as inhale books and it started when I was a child. Every month, my mother would take me to the library in the next town over and I’d fill two large bags with books. The librarians loved me because my lending habits worked so well for their stats they were able to get extra money in the budget. Before I stopped being able to read regular books, I'd devour 3-5 books a week and suspect it may have worked equally well for the libraries I've used as an adult.
I remember hours, even days of disappearing into a book. I remember finding every opportunity, even if it was just 5 minutes, to dive back into the adventure and then somehow persuading myself to read just for another 2 minutes, maybe just to the end of this page or this section or the next chapter. I remember the years between the last time I was employed and my present work, getting a new book, something I'd looked forward to and spending three days doing nothing but read. I’d emerge out on the other side after a satisfying adventure, with a crick in my neck and being sore all over because I had sat still in one position, reading, for three days.
And then I couldn't. It was hard loss, being without this thing that kept me sane and whole and occupied since I was a child. For a year or two, I read only what I could find on the Internet and got used to shorter, actual pieces. In 2005, Ken came to the rescue (as he so often does), giving me a membership for Audible and I found fiction again. Since then, I have read hundreds of audiobooks and been very happy with this way of reconnecting with my first love.
It's a different way to read, though. When I read with my eyes, I read fast, flying over the words on the page (or monitor). When I read with my ears, I have to listen to every word as narrated by someone else. You catch more detail that way, but it’s not so easy to go back a paragraph or page to read something again. It also takes both more and less focus at the same time. More because there is no skimming over a sentence, speeding ahead while you gather the gist of what's going on, as opposed to listening to every word. Less, because someone else is reading to you and you can wash dishes while being entertained. I rarely read audio books for hours and hours, though. I thought it was because my days are pretty filled. I have only certain times where I'm able to read, such as when I'm eating dinner or the last hour of relaxing before bed while I putter and get ready.
And then Laurie’s book Not Done Yet: Living through BreastCancer was finally released in an e-book edition. I’ve had the regular book version since going to her Toronto book launch three years ago, but haven't been able to read it. Now that it's out on e-book, I grabbed it immediately. I started reading last Thursday. And then I read some more. And before I knew it, I was inhaling the book, flying through each chapter, finding just a few minutes to read just another chapter, then, talking myself into another 5 minutes and before I knew it, an hour and a half had gone by. It was like rediscovering a lost love, falling back into familiar arms that felt like home. I filled every available moment with Laurie's book and emerged on the other side sore all over, realizing that even if I read it on a monitor, audio books will have to be my primary source. They don't make my neck and shoulders hurt.
Not Done Yet is a wonderful book, filled with joy and fight and truth about what it's like to live with metastatic breast cancer. I had lent my book copy to one of my attendants who’s had breast cancer and she told me she wished she’d been able to read the book when she was sick. Now that I've been able to read the book myself, I can see why and I'm so honored that this brilliant woman is my friend.
Today, as our neighbours south of the borders have just come out of the Thanksgiving holiday, I am also thankful. For rediscovering reading with my eyes instead of my ears. And for my beautiful friend Laurie, without whom my life would be so much poorer. Reading the book about her journey through breast cancer feels extra poignant now. She’s having brain surgery today to deal with another tendril of the beast. I know the surgery will be a success - she has a fantastic surgeon who is very confident that all will go well. I know that she will pull through this new battle and continue being Laurie: beautiful, brilliant, funny. One of my favourite people in this world.
Still, if you have a moment, please send good thoughts her way.
If you want to read NotDone Yet by Laurie Kingston or get a copy for a friend who has breast cancer, there are a few print copies left at Chapters and you can also contact Laurie directly. However, there are no limits on e-book edition. It's available at Chapter's for Kobo (Canada’s version of the Kindle or Nook. Also available as a desktop app). Amazon Kindle edition to follow at some point in the future.