When I learned that my book was accepted into the National Press Club Book Fair, I was ecstatic. And when I saw who would exhibit alongside me in DC on November 15, I felt like a Born Again come to Rapture! But I had no idea I would soon experience a different kind of rapture, born not of a fleeting fascination with the famous, but of, well, a kind of presumptuousness.
The roster for the night was impressive: PBS’s Jim Lehrer, Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Suskind, celebrity pundit Ann Coulter.
Uhhh….Ann Coulter, impressive? Yes, in a most disturbing way. Although I try hard not to hate (I’m a cancer survivor, and superstitiously fear that bilious feelings may feed embryonic tumors), I strongly dislike the woman. She smiles devilishly, then accuses others of being “Demonic” (the main title of her latest book), thereby deflecting back bullets fired from the Left.
Would I see her at the Fair? If so, would I approach her? And could I do so without rancor?
“Just ignore her, that’ll get her,” advised one friend. “Ask if she’s a natural blonde,” suggested my sister-in-law. (Should I ask her to prove it?) As someone once observed about Chihuahuas and cilantro, Coulter certainly evokes strong reactions.
Before the Fair, at the private reception for authors and their guests in the chandelier-lit dining room of the historic Club, white-coated servers proffered prosciutto-rolled asparagus spears and crudité, and I felt a bit like a sandwich myself, crushed between typically reclusive, clammy-handed writers deliberating whether to network or retreat to the corner and U.S. Senator-turned-authors eager to glad-hand the journalistic elite.
The volume in the room had reached the decibel level of a jackhammer when Jim Lehrer took the mic to welcome us. I stood on tiptoes to get a clear view of the iconic newsman. Glancing briefly to my left, I almost lost my balance. There was the Demonic author herself, just two feet away.
The tall, mini-skirted beauty brought to mind a Praying Mantis when I saw on her arm a young blonde who looked like he’d come straight from a cologne ad shoot. My first reaction was to grab my iPhone and Tweet a photo. But how could I treat her like a star, when I consider her akin to Rush Limbaugh, an entertainer with a shtick that’s as dangerous and to some magnetic as a black hole? I turned away lest I be sucked in.
Once in the ballroom where we stood at long tables stacked high with a spectral array of books, I felt as if I’d been rewarded for my restraint when I was placed just one author away from former NPR icon Bob Edwards. After taking a deep breath, I approached him, and tried not to gush when I said that I had nothing to say to him except that I deeply admired him. He smiled and I slinked back to my seat. A few minutes later, the author between us got up to take a powder, and Edwards reached over and picked up my book, which is about supporting cancer patients and those who care for them through the psychosocial challenges of the disease.
He shook his head and said, in that deep, inimitably sexy voice, “I’m probably going to need this. I’m a smoker.”
Suddenly I knew that this night really was about rapture, because I had something to give him.
“May I offer you some advice?” I asked.
“Go ahead. I know, 'Quit smoking,'” he said, rolling his eyes.
“As an ex-smoker, I’d never say that to you. You’re way too smart. If you wanted to quit or it was that simple, you would have done it already.
“But as a lung cancer survivor myself, I encourage you to get a CT scan to see whether you may have a tumor growing already. I’m alive today because my tumor was discovered accidentally, while it was still very small.
"The reason lung cancer's five-year survival rate is just fifteen per cent," I continued, "is that by the time symptoms appear, the disease has already spread, and it's almost impossible to treat. This is partly because the disease has been so underfunded. Also, people think it's just a smoker's disease, but it's not. About 17% of people with lung cancer never smoked."
He raised his eyebrows. He could see that I was neither judging nor nagging, just encouraging him - trying to instill in him the courage to face his fear, anxiety, and, perhaps, one of his demons.
Edwards sold out of books that night, and although a few stacks of mine remained after the throngs of shoppers, bibliophiles, and star gazers had gone home, I felt like I’d not only faced a demon, but that an angel had perched on my shoulder. I got to not only stand among the stars, but also got to touch one and maybe contribute to extending his life. Although I'll never know whether he took my words to heart or, more important, acted on them, I had done what felt like the right thing, in the moment.
If that’s not rapture, I don’t know what is.
Causes Lori Hope Supports
The Beverly Fund
The Lung Cancer Alliance
Women's Cancer Resource Center
The National Lung Cancer Partnership
The Bonnie Addario...