About The Fault In Our Stars

“You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing”–Augustus Waters, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Thank you, John Green, for writing this incredible book that made me think and laugh and cry. So many things about THE FAULT IN OUR STARS resonated with me that my thoughts feel scattered into a far off, peculiar constellation.

Ten years out from having cancer, I realize that I have largely been stuck in a post-cancer head space.

Time moves apace, but a part of me is often in that chair watching chemicals drip down the tubing into my vein. It keeps me from the next poem, the next chapter, from loving as deeply as I should.

I, too, do not want to detonate.

Knowing that I might have died, not knowing that I might someday be again in the might die is paralyzing.

I can spread the peanut butter on one side of the bread, smooth the jelly on the other side and slap them together. I can take the wet clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer, but the might, the maybe, the percent and possibility is always there, just one beat behind me.

(Maybe that’s why I run from my car to the house on dark nights? It’s not a physical threat I feel, it’s the fear, as Hazel put it, of “the universe’s need to make and unmake all that is possible.”)

No doubt Hazel Grace could write this post with much more eloquence than I am mustering at this moment.

I am glad, ecstatic, guilt ridden that I survived. Scared, angry, hallelujah hell yes happy and nervous that I survived. When happy I see the shadow of the anvil. When sad I see the sun coming up in the terrible sky and am reminded that the tenacity of my foothold is a mere scratch in the dirt.

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35 thoughts on “About The Fault In Our Stars

  1. While I hate that you feel this way, went through this, go through this, this was so clear and painfully beautiful. But what it reminds me of is the need to find the joy, b/c each one of us is a breath away. Toeholds are fiction. Don’t feel guilty when you shout hallelujah. Shout it every minute of every hour your whole life. And keep writing posts like this. I am kind of partial to the serious poetic Jennifer :-)

    • Pamela, You are absolutely right. “Toeholds are fiction” for every person. When I’m past the fear sometimes I see having had cancer as a gift because I’m dialed in to the privilege of being here every day. xoxox

  2. The need to make and unmake all that is possible…
    It is breathtaking isn’t it? And not always in a good way.

    Keep scratching in the dirty. I’m right there with you, fingernails full of mud.
    Holding on. Tightly.

  3. I kind of know the fear you are talking about. My son was born with a congenital heart defect and i’ve been struggling to find my place in the world again after the realization – not just logically but emotionally – that we are all mortal and that I have no control over when my children or I will meet our end.

    It’s been hard too, coming to terms with what the doctors say about percentages when we beat the odds twice in six months. 1 in 100 chance he would be born with a congenital heart defect and a 30 percent chance the holes in his heart would grow over. He’s alive and thriving and should never need open heart surgery…but the holes that are left still pose a risk however small of endocarditis…and so I live there – with that possibility. I don’t know how to live with the success and the miracle, and LIFE… when death and fear live just as close…one cold, one infection, one unfortunate twist of fate away…

    Anyway… I know its not exactly the same…but I kind of know what you are talking about.

    • Carrie, It definitely is the same, and I imagine much harder going through it with your child. Seems impossible to live with and yet you are doing it. I’m doing it. Living in the possibility. Maybe that can make every moment of health that much sweeter?

      • It does. The one good thing that came of it is that I don’t take my life or theirs for granted anymore.

        Your last two lines really struck a chord with me. That when you are happy you see the shadow and when you’re sad you “see the sun coming up in the terrible sky and am reminded that the tenacity of my foothold is a mere scratch in the dirt”.

        Omg so true and really beautifully described. I could never explain how I felt after everything that happened with my son – it all seemed so muddled. but you have done it and I am thankful for that. :)

  4. For once I’m almost speechless. Beautiful, yet haunting words you wrote there my friend.

    Isn’t the “might” always what keeps us all from “making and unmaking all that is possible”? The constant urge, yet paralyzed.
    I am so glad you made it and if anyone has the strength to leave a permanent mark in the dirt merely by scratching… it would have to be you!

  5. So poignant. So beautiful sad. It’s oil and water, the hope and fear. I cannot imagine what it must be like for you, yet I know you will live it gracefully. Love your way, always.

  6. when something terrible happens – a child is dangerously ill, or cancer strikes, or whatever it is – we become aware of the randomness of the universe and for me, anyway, that’s been the legacy of my brush with almost, with statistically almost impossible but whoops it happened – the awareness that we are NOT in control. Which is both a good and a paralyzing lesson. It’s like Frost’s poem “Design” … “what but design of darkness to appall, if design govern in a thing so small.” Which is worse: that someone/thing plotted this dark time for you, or that it was just a random lightening bolt of fear? That’s the question the poem asks – but the very act of asking the question (in your post, in his poem) suggests the answer: we fight back because we are creatures of light, because we have imagination, because we have love. Whether design of darkness or not, the poet sees the beauty in his world, creates a sonnet. And that’s what we have to carry us through, from washer to dryer, from driveway to house, from jam to bread. Beautiful post.

  7. Jen: so beautiful. You take cancer and make it terrifying a gorgeous. Which I know it is not. I know a lot about those “might be” or “could happen” thoughts. I also know too much about rape and silence and self-blame. You are truly one of my favorite writers. You show me something new with every post, in different voices – some strong, some angry, some timid, some kvetchy, each so filled with Truth I often feel you have tapped into something Divine. Happy Day to you, Jen. So many people aren’t here today. I’m so glad you are. And make no mistake, you are a fighter…just a different kind of war.

  8. An extraordinary post; you really capture the sort of general sense of dread that lingers long after the word “remission” comes into the vocabulary of everyone around you. As a survivor myself, I am struggling with this very feeling recently with my one-year follow up appointments, and I’m so glad I stumbled on your post just now.

  9. I’ve been through a few things in my life that made me grateful just to be alive, or grateful to have what I do (whether it’s health, my children, material things). Still, you’ve expressed a much more lasting emotional bond here – whereas I slip into the grumpiness of taking things for granted and self-pity at times, I don’t get the sense that you ever do. It’s more about having a visceral reaction to the potential that it could all go away. And, I’d imagine, that keeps your appreciation for what you DO have on its toes.

    Really beautiful.

  10. Oh, but this was eloquent. Cancer and tragedies of that sort, even when they are beaten, cannot be undone because you have seen behind the curtain, you have seen the real Oz. At times, this will make the beautiful that much more, but at other times, the fragility of it all can take your breath away. It is the human condition. You captured it in this writing.

    I can’t wait to read this book. Ellen

  11. To say that I loved The Fault in our Stars is such a lame understatement. It is a book that has the power to make people think, feel, change! And reading your beautiful post about how it touched you–having survived cancer–makes me love the book even more. Because now it’s even more authentic and beautiful and this is turning out to be quite an insufficient comment. I should have just written, “Bravo!”

    • Jen, I’m excited to have found another fan of the book. I feel like a proselytizer about The Fault In Our Stars these days. It’s just SO amazing. Thanks so much for commenting!

  12. Yes, that times a million. The having been in, and the fear of moving back to “might die” part. I wish I had thought of that phrasing, becase it is exactly right.

    I will, however, punch your cancer in the nuts if it even looks sideways at you.


  13. What an incredible post.
    Your perception is so accurate, it makes perfect sense, and you describe it beautifully.
    Afraid to be happy but too grateful to allow yourself to feel sadness.
    What a powerful post.

  14. Oh wow am I glad that I read this. Every time I visit you I wish that I had visited the day before. I had never thought of this perspective of a survivor and you are that, a survivor. I hope you feel strong so much more than you feel scared.

    • Thank you much, Jess. I do feel mostly strong. Having kids has brought the fear back a bit because there is so much to live for, you know? I try to hold on to the good statistics, though.

  15. “I can spread the peanut butter on one side of the bread, smooth the jelly on the other side and slap them together. I can take the wet clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer, but the might, the maybe, the percent and possibility is always there, just one beat behind me.”…You put this so, so well. I get living in a shadow. Not in the same way, but that ‘if something bad happened once it could happen again’..that shadow.
    What gorgeous heart and writing you have. I am so lucky to have met you. So, so fortunate. You are amazing.

  16. I am about two months in remission, and today they found a little “something” they need to biopsy. I just finished “The Fault In Our Stars” and I LOVED it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about it so beautifully. And that detonating thing? Yeah. That’s exactly it, isn’t it. That was one of the only books I’ve read so far that really describes what having cancer feels like emotionally in a raw, real, true non-cheesy way.

    Loved this post (Ann from Ann’s Rants sent me your way) and it’s a pleasure to ‘meet’ you!


    Ellie at One Crafty Mother

  17. I am learning, through my husband, that these things do not leave us. They become a part of our existence, a part of who we are. Disease tests our mortality and fucking scary shit! So I completely understand how you feel.

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