After the doctor told him, it was almost a relief. “How long?” That was all he asked. How long until sickness eats me from the inside out? How long until I die or take my own life? How much do you know even if you cannot heal me? The doctor told him, trying to be gentle, and the writer took the information in calmly and went home. To write. This was a deadline. His body. His death. His legacy. Everything else fell away from the future and he wrote the novel he’d have never tried to write earlier. The one he considered his Great Novel. The one that scared him, because it would eat him up as well and nothing he could write after would ever be as good.
The words flew out from under his fingers not like any metaphor at all and he wrote in record time, turned it into his publisher and held on grimly until the first reviews came in. It hurt to hold on, but by then the pain was an unwelcome friend he endured. He had forgot, in his eagerness, that this was the social media age. Everyone knew he was dying, if they wanted to. And every review compared his novel to his death. He told them: “No.” And: “I planned this novel years ago. It is not about the cancer. It is not about the fucking cancer!”
And not a single reviewer believed him.