Journalist Susan Tifft’s “Chemo Blues”

 

Susan Tifft, the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy Studies at Duke University, is stepping down this year. After taking a year-long academic leave to research and write a book, she had to abandon plans to return to Duke this fall when she was diagnosed with stage 4 uterine cancer. (Former Washington Post managing editor Phil Bennett will move to Duke in the fall to take over as Patterson professor of the practice.) Tifft, a longtime writer for Time magazine, is the co-author, with Alex Jones, of The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind The New York Times (Little Brown, 1999), which was not only a delicious read but a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in biography. Her first biography, also co-authored with Jones, was The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty, a biography of the family behind the Louisville newspapers (Summit Books, 1991).

Susan Tifft and Alex Jones

Susan Tifft and Alex Jones

Duke reports that Tifft has undergone chemotherapy treatments to arrest the cancer, which had spread to her lungs. On her journal for CaringBridge.org, she documents her treatments, her emotions, her celebrations. She also rewrites a Dylan tune to describe her reaction to chemo. Here it is: 

“The Day Before Chemo Blues”

IF BOB DYLAN HAD CANCER, or ‘The Day Before Chemo Blues” (with apologies to Bob)

I feel good, I feel fine.

I’ve even had a little wine!

But them salad days are over and done.

Mass General Hospital again has won.

I got the knock-me-down, throw-me-up, I’m fixin’ to heave, day-before-chemo blues.

No more yoga, no more fun.

For the next few days it’s walk don’t run.

Phooey on rest, phooey on quiet.

I’d much prefer to stage a riot.

I got the knock-me-down, throw-me-up, I’m fixin’ to heave, day-before-chemo blues.

Food ain’t tasty, drink ain’t cool.

I stare at the wall, I start to drool.

My mind’s a fog, my brain’s a mess.

I even forget to brush with Crest.

I got the knock-me-down, throw-me-up, I’m fixin’to heave, day-before-chemo blues.

This isn’t such a woeful plight.

It’s just a week or so out of sight.

I’ll think of you, my dearest friends,

And be back to you when chemo ends.

I got the knock-me-down, throw-me-up, I’m fixin’ to heave, day-before-chemo blues. (see you soon! xo Susan)

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1 Comment

  1. Nancy said,

    May 5, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    I am getting my 3rd chemo tomorrow for breast cancer. I can soooo… relate to your rewrite of this song.


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