Much of our family reading time this summer was spent with Judy Blume books. It was a treat to revisit the adventures of the Hatchers in "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," "Fudge" and "Superfudge." It was also a treat to revisit Blume's work, to remember parts of the books I had forgotten, and to find her as comforting and charming as an adult as I did as a tween.
I remember reading "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret?" as did every other girl in my middle school class. It was as if it was required reading. She's written many other books for children and adults, and those books have sold more than 80 million copies. Part of the joy of being a parent of a tween is the chance to reconnect with books, music and media from our own tweendom but in a whole different way, from an entirely new perspective, while remembering why you connected with it in the first place through the eyes of your child.
The sad part of that, of course, is realizing how things change, and being reminded that although those books are frozen in your mind, the authors are not.
On her blog today, Blume, 74, announced that she has breast cancer in a post entitled "!@#$% Happens." She explained that she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma and had to cancel a trip to Italy to have a mastectomy.
She details her diagnosis and cancer journey of the past few months with the wit that has made her a favorite of multiple generations. She wrote, "I have small breasts (a la Margaret Simon). A-cups? The breast surgeon asked at our first meeting. She nailed it. I told her the exercises didn't work for me. Not sure she got my attempt at a joke. Like Margaret [of "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret?"] I used to think bigger was better."
I would like to think that referring to her characters helped her deal with her diagnosis, treatment and changing body, just as her characters have helped millions of tweens navigate adolescence and made millions of girls feeling better about their changing bodies.
Blume also wrote, "As I've told my friends who've also been treated for breast cancer, I've joined The Club - not one I wanted to join or even thought I would ever be joining - but here I am. I’m part of this Sisterhood of the Traveling Breast Cells (apologies to Ann Brashares). Medical diagnoses can leave you feeling alone and scared. When it comes to breast cancer you’re not alone, and scary though it is, there’s a network of amazing women to help you through it."
I think the message found in Blume's tween books is that it is okay to be scared of the unknown, but you are usually not as alone as you think you are. I'm so glad that this was true for her.
Good news is that she's hoping to return to writing soon. "I'm not working on my book yet (have just been given permission to type an hour at a time with arm exercises in between) but I'm thinking about getting back to it after Labor Day, kind of like starting school."
Wishing her a continued speedy recovery.