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Festival of the Book Panel on Illness


March 20, 2014

The Virginia Festival of the Book is in its second day with more authors and readers coming together to discuss their works.

On Thursday, a panel of four authors focused on the challenges of living with an illness, and using writing to help overcome a disease.

Joanna Chapman was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.

She says even though she has no family history of the disease, six months later her mother was diagnosed.

"It brought us a lot closer and it was good because we kind of learned from each other," said Chapman, author of ‘The Divine Secrets of the Ta-Ta Sisterhood.’

Author Amy Ryan has been living with type 1 diabetes for almost 20 years, but said she was diagnosed late in life.

"Most people think it strike only children, but it strikes young adults, people in their twenties," Ryan said.

Others on the panel shared their stories of what it is like living with heart disease, and HIV.

They all chose to put their struggles and triumphs on paper so others could understand what it's like living with illness.

"There are general themes of acceptance and depression and coping and pulling yourself up by your boot straps lots of times and moving,” said Ryan. “I thought it was fascinating to me how many similar themes ran through our stories even though we have very different diseases."

The women say they hope that by sharing their stories others who are recently diagnosed can find solidarity

"One reader said to me you've enabled me to see my future. I never understand what it’s going to be like for the next 20 years."


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