Telling stories that mean something

press-1134538_960_720Originally published in the Batesville Daily Guard

Any reporter that has worked a significant length of time is going to come across stories that relate to something that affected them personally.

It can be one where we cover a crime and we see something from our own past in it, auto accidents where a loved one dies or even house fires where someone lost their beloved pets. When we emphasize with our subjects we can understand their pain that in turn helps us tell their story in a better and more respectful manner.

September gave me two such opportunities to write stories that meant something to me. One dealt with cancer and the other with suicide.

Earlier this month, I wrote a story about ovarian cancer, often called the “silent killer” because it’s often not diagnosed until it’s in its later, often fatal stages. For me, it’s not just a disease that affected the people I interviewed but also one that denied my son the opportunity to know his grandmother. Ovarian cancer, you see, claimed my mother-in-law in 2015.

For those who have never lost anyone to cancer, it can be a drawn out and painful process for everyone involved. There’s a cycle of treatments that often leave a loved one sick and weak. There’s a lot of emotional pain as they watch themselves change during the process, often losing hair and becoming skeletal.

Some days are really bad, with a person being forced to medicate themselves with painkillers, and then there are other days where they can get out of bed. It’s a process that seems to be like a roller coaster, except this roller coaster is designed not to be fun, but to inflict as much grief and fear as possible, for both the sick person and their family.

Anyone that has experienced cancer or lost of a loved one to it wants others to be aware of the disease and contribute to research that can make it survivable. While it’s probably the worst disease many of us will be touched by, it also brings the best out in many of us.

The families of people who’ve lost loved ones to ovarian cancer, as well as blood and childhood cancer which also have awareness months in September, have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness and money of the disease that denied them a family member. 

While awareness is still not where it needs to be, it’s good to see so many people don the teal. — It’s helped add a bit of variety when it comes the often pink-dominated landscape of cancer awareness.

The other story I wrote about was suicide. As we know, September is also Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

I’ve been lucky enough not to lose a parent, sibling or child to it, but suicide has claimed more than one person whom I’ve considered friends or affected people close to me deeply. One of those was particularly painful, a friend’s younger brother who was like the kid brother to us all.

While I didn’t experience the same deep and permanent pain that my friend did at losing his brother, I did see how it affected him.

newspaper-412452_960_720We live in a culture in which “sensitivity” has become somewhat of a dirty word. Many people, particularly if one looks on social media, consider acknowledging that words cause pain is somehow a weakness and consider it an attempted infringement on their rights to be, well, jerks. 

But I think anyone who has lost a close family member, especially a child, to suicide will tell you that words do have power. Just one word can pour salt in wounds that never heal. Imagine if you had a loved one that took their own life and every day telling yourself “I could have done something” or “if I hadn’t.”

I was especially hoping to get that pain across to those who are contemplating suicide. That instead of their choice ending pain, that it magnify and spread it instead.

Killing yourself may be quick, but for those that loved you, it’s a lifetime of hurt and sadness because you could be the grandparent who never meets their grandchildren, the big brother who doesn’t get to enjoy fishing with his little brother or the aunt who never gets to meet their niece. You’re leaving them dealing with the ghost of what should have been.

So now we’re coming to the end of the month and just because September comes to an end, doesn’t mean our awareness should. For many of those who are suffering, their pain doesn’t care about calendar dates. It’s up to us to carry on through the 335 other days of the year.

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