Writing 220 Repurposing: Steve Brown

The story of how I came to attend the University of Michigan is one I have told many times to many different audiences. In short, I never thought about coming to Michigan until I was diagnosed with leukemia two weeks before my high school graduation and was forced to take a gap year between high school and college to receive treatment. I had committed to play football at Lehigh University prior to my diagnosis but was forced to give up football after undergoing extensive radiation. Thankfully, I am now cancer-free and am a proud Michigan Wolverine!

Since being diagnosed, I have spoken at several fundraising events on behalf of foundations that benefit the centers where I was treated and have written essays detailing my journey for scholarship applications. So when I encountered a topic in my English 125 class that required me to write a personal narrative, it was a no-brainer what I would write about. In the narrative, I detailed my battle with cancer from diagnosis to remission and received an A for the paper. In the same way that I had done before, I relied on the inherent drama of the narrative and simply replayed the story chronologically. I knew very well that by choosing to write about such a topic would pull on the heart strings of my instructor and most likely result in an A.

This semester I would like to repurpose the chronological personal narrative that I wrote in my English 125 into a new form that will allow for greater self-reflection and allow me to think about my experiences in a way that I haven’t before. When I was first diagnosed, my uncle bought me a journal and suggested that I record my thoughts each day throughout my treatment and eventually publish a book. At the time I was reluctant to do so because I largely rejected the idea that I was sick at all and tried to go about my normal life as much as possible. However, I have since tinkered with the idea of telling my story in the form of a comedic take on cancer. During my treatment, my friends and I often joked that I “pulled the cancer card” to get special treatment such as cutting the line at Chipotle, asking my mom to deliver me a glass of ice water (this was no easy task because my family uses an old-fashioned ice tray), and using my story to convince an employee at the Apple store to sell me the iPhone6 someone else had pre-ordered. I think writing a piece consisting of the humorous elements of my cancer treatment as opposed to the scary elements would be an interesting way of repurposing this narrative.

The pieces I have read by celebrities that have battled cancer such as Robin Roberts and Stuart Scott have all been extremely powerful and inspiring, however,  I have never read a cancer story that takes a lighthearted approach. I know I would have welcomed reading a piece that I could have related to and laughed about during my chemotherapy treatments. This may not be the best way to repurpose my personal narrative from English 125 and I am conscious of the fact that cancer is a very sensitive topic to many people. With that being said, I think teenagers and young adults undergoing treatment for cancer and serious disease would be able to relate to my experiences and get a good laugh. I am certainly not committed to this form and am looking forward to suggestions.


3 thoughts to “Writing 220 Repurposing: Steve Brown”

  1. Hey Steve! The idea of taking a paper with a weighty topic and turning it into something lighter is really cool. I think this piece would be a great opportunity to make use of your voice, not the voice that you thought would get you an A. I feel like being able to laugh through difficult topics is incredibly cathartic. I feel like it might be difficult for readers who haven’t had similar experiences to relate to the humorous approach you plan to take, which is totally fine if broadening your audience is not your concern. However, I feel like it would a cool challenge to create something that is both relatable for those who have experienced the same diagnosis and treatment process you did and engaging for those who have not. Either way, I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  2. Hi Steve! I also like the idea of flipping your approach to bring out the humor.

    Something I think is necessary though is to make sure it isn’t entirely humorous. I’m not saying this because I think it’s a heavy topic and you shouldn’t be able to laugh about aspects of it. It’s your story, so you can of course write about it however you want. I’m saying this because I think without some of the heavier information, it might feel ungrounded. You have all of this background in your mind when you are thinking about the humor, but the reader doesn’t have this. We still need to hear at least some of the struggle from your experience to give the humor something to sit on.


Leave a Reply