Jay Lake, one of the most liked and well-respected members of the sci-fi/fantasy writing community, received a terminal diagnosis yesterday after battling Stage 4 cancer for years. I highly recommend reading his blog post on the matter.
I’ve only gotten to interact with Jay a few times, most memorably at World Jay Day (seen right), organized by Diana Sherman at WorldCon 2011, and at Norwescon 2012, when he critiqued one of my short stories for the Fairwood Writers’ Workshop. His critique was thoughtful and detailed, with broad observations and line-by-line notes typed up, printed out, and ready to go. It was a great experience, and both before and after, I’ve always tried to say hi when I see him, though he’s usually so surrounded by friends and colleagues that it’s difficult to say more than a brief hello.
It’s been both interesting and sad to watch the parallel courses of Jay’s cancer and my Mom’s, to see the differences and similarities with which two people and their families respond to an increasingly dismal series of diagnoses. Throughout, I’ve been both impressed and uplifted by the openness with which Jay shares his emotions, his treatment decisions, and his thought processes. In Jay’s own words, from his blog post linked above: Telling this story is one of the few good things I can derive from cancer. I cannot cheat death, but I can cheat the terror of the disease a little by easing it for others.
Which is, I think, possibly the best reason for writing that I’ve ever heard.
Through it all, Jay’s done some amazing things, including using crowdfunding to help pay for DNA testing, which unfortunately did not bear useful fruit. He’s fought the cancer tooth-and-nail every step of the way, in a way that’s been an inspiration for me, even after my Mom passed away from her own cancer in February. When I wrote Mom’s obituary, I wrote that in each of her roles in life, she left a legacy of love and friendship, and I see Jay doing the same thing every time I see him.
So in closing: Best wishes to Jay, his daughter, and his family. With luck, he has many months yet left– but cancer is a fickle thing.
Also, cancer really sucks. Have I mentioned cancer sucks? Because goddamn, it fucking sucks.