Today we hear from Johnny about his book, Hotpants! Johnny is a 2x time brain cancer survivor, filmmaker, and new author.
“You should write a book about this John..!” My mom almost sounded serious when she proposed that one. It came when I was 17, two years after my 2nd rumble with brain cancer. A whole book? At 17? There’s no way! Of course I was still in high school, but, fueled by a mix of corn pops and summer shining through the open windows in my kitchen, I sat down to think.
Cancer is never really gone. Like a yummy cough syrup leaves a horrid goo on the walls of your throat after it’s swallowed, cancer is an experience that lives long after the radical cells are killed off. After treatment for cancer, any survivor to another may be left with a never-ending barrage of starkly unique side effects they must figure out how to live with for the rest of their lives. Life through cancer and beyond; it’s such an emotionally deep and intense experience, that it’s unhealthy to keep it inside. You can’t not share it.
A year after my mom’s bold proposal, I finally let go of the kinked water hose. I unleashed the parade of bulls with ropes tied to their nuts. From the first surgery to when I triumphantly burst through the hospital doors for the last time, my cancer time spanned nearly two years. My adolescent life was filled with incredible highs, lows, and a lot of strangeness because of everything that was still happening to me. I will never forget the moment when I first opened up Word 97 on my mom’s Dell desktop, and the intricate details of every little potent moment, every little thought and observance during my experiences gushed through me to the keyboard. I would jab at the buttons like a mad piano player who had an entire symphony trapped inside. So I started writing my memoir at 18, and it wasn’t until my senior year of college that a big heavy box arrived at my door filled with 20 copies of my story of cancer and beyond, HOTPANTS, bound and printed into what were totally legit books with barcodes and ISBN numbers. I was ecstatic.
9 years of life experience and two degrees later, I’ve seen what kind of positive impact my story had on people. I am empowered with the opportunities to share it as much as I have, and I am forever proud to call myself a cancer survivor. I believe as soon as anyone is diagnosed with cancer, a fantastic and very original story starts brewing inside. That story has some sort of special power that speaks to people. As a survivor, your story is your baby, and you should never give up on sharing it as much as possible.
This time around, as an adult writer, endless coffee and honey-covered Joes Ohs kept my creative juices flowing. I spent a year mercilessly bashing meaningless tangents, transforming words, and deleting whole sections I was once proud of. I recently published a new, shortened, and hopefully stronger version of HOTPANTS. Though it hasn’t reached the millions that I hope to share it with yet, it’s my baby, my magical brew, and I’m never giving up on it.