This post is being published on 1 October 2012. On that day I will be somewhere in Cumbria, with Gemma, walking and remembering my friend Rach. It’s the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. So, here’s a refreshing antidote to all that pink. We are publishing Rachel’s blog, ‘The Cancer Culture Chronicles’ as a book.
While I am away, my blog is left in the capable hands of my guest editor, Ronnie Hughes. I will catch up with you when I return.
“I will never forget you Rach.”
I have written that and said that over and over again. I didn’t write it as a promise, but in a way it has become one. Although, would Rach have laughed at that with its ring of ‘the promise’ that Susan G Komen’s Nancy Brinker made to her dying sister?
Dying sisters aside – although it certainly felt like I lost a sister – this is about never forgetting. And future-safing. Future-safe. What’s that? In January 2011 Rachel wrote a blog post called ‘Preserving our Digital Legacy’, where she asked the important question of:
‘What will really happen to our blogs etc., once we are gone?’
She then went on to write about future-safing.
What we need and what is echoed in the New York Times article by pioneering blogger, Dave Winer, – who terms this issue of online content preservation as
“future-safing” – is:
“an endowment, a foundation with a long-term charter that can take over the administration of a Web presence as a trust – before the author dies.”
Well, that foundation doesn’t yet exist, as far as I am aware, but back in April as I sat in my shed on Plot 44, having a long distance Skype with Rachel’s mother Mandy, she said to me, ‘What about a book?’
Yes, what about a book? Could we make Rachel’s blog into a book? And so our project was born. Me and Mandy jumped into the project with gusto. It was something we could both do together, where we could use our grief to produce something. And so all summer we’ve worked together, via the magical medium of Skype, her in Perth me in Liverpool. And we have produced Rachel’s book. This is it.
As Rach wrote. Her digital legacy. Preserved. All 384 pages of it.
And so me and Mandy have crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s (so to speak), and here we have… Rachel’s book.
For me, it’s been like smoothing the sheets of her hospital bed. Rach didn’t want to die in hospital. She didn’t want to die. Her 42nd birthday passed this summer and I recalled (fondly) the conversations we’d had where we joked about ‘getting to 50’ – me included. And you know, it just all feels wrong. To lose my friend. For her to have endured so much. So much treatment, and to still died. And so, in the ‘never forgetting’ for Rach there are other things I have done in her memory. The short film me and Gayle made after her death, which contains the only video footage I have of Rach. The longer film – One More Spring – I made from the compilation of all the films I’d made for Rach over the last year, mostly filmed on Plot 44. The Wollemi Pine I planted for her at Plot 44.
And now. This book. The Cancer Culture Chronicles. In print.
We will never forget you Rach.
The Cancer Culture Chronicles is the collected writing of Rachel Cheetham, who died in February 2012, aged 41, of metastatic breast cancer. Rachel began her blog in June 2009 after her second recurrence of breast cancer, and continued to write until her death.
The Cancer Culture Chronicles has been compiled and edited by her mother Mandy Cheetham, and her friend Sarah Horton. The book contains all of Rachel’s blog posts in their entirety, with notes, resources and tributes.
The book will be available from 6th October 2012. This is a 5×8 hardback book, 384 pages and available at cost online from Blurb, price $30.95 (£21.50) plus shipping. Please note, there are no profits in this cost, so if you like the book please consider supporting Breast Cancer Action and METAvivor Research and Support, Inc. with a donation in memory of Rachel.
Download the pdf information sheet here.