How GET BETTER Began

 Dan Reach holds the slate for GET BETTER.

Dan Reach holds the slate for GET BETTER.

A little over a year ago, I kept the GET BETTER blog. This was my first post:

I’m the obvious person to write GET BETTER.

For one thing, I’m getting a PhD. in sickness literature—also called narrative medicine or medical humanities—and hope to teach at a medical school when I graduate.

And for another. My dad got sick. My dad died.

That’s why I need to say—right here at the beginning—to make it clear to you and to me. This isn’t my story.

I mean, I’m writing it. But it isn’t my story. Traysie Amick, who plays the daughter, won’t be playing me. And Robert Linder, who plays the dad, isn’t playing my dad. Traysie and Robert’s characters are ten years older than my dad and I were when he got sick. Robert’s character will have heart disease; my dad had late stage Lyme disease (ed. this has changed, Roy has chronic Lyme). GET BETTER is, in part, a comedy. But I don’t ever laugh about my dad’s sickness.

More importantly, when I say this isn’t my story, I mean it’s not the story I want to write about my dad. I do have a story I want to write, and I’ve had it for years. I had it when my dad first got sick, when we still thought he could get better, and I have it now. Only the ending has changed.

And for months I’ve been circling around the idea of a SICK LIT blog, writing ghost posts for no one, finding every excuse not to publish. But that’s the trouble with sickness. It stops your hand. Makes you pull back, sit tight, shut up. I taught a SICK LIT class for two years, as a way to sort all this out. To see how literature treats sickness. The most commonly shared theme in the works we studied was the difficulty of communicating sickness—sickness makes communication both vitally important and nearly impossible at the same time.

I think that’s what drew me to narrative medicine in the first place. I want to study sickness, and stories of sickness, not out of some morbid curiosity, but because I love words. I want to find the sickness words. The necessary ones. The vital ones. I want to find the words that will work at the very point when words usually fail.

Maybe GET BETTER will help me find these words, form my ideas, so that I can write the story I want to write. Or, maybe it will make me well enough that I don’t have to write my story after all.

Either way, I’m beginning to suspect that Chris made GET BETTER our next project…just so I’d have to start.