‘Please excuse the salty language’ – a cancer diary

For four years, Derek K Miller chronicled his battle with cancer – moments of optimism, setbacks and, ultimately, death. This posthumous essay shares his story

Published in the November 2011 issue of Reader’s Digest (Canada)

Derek Miller Story, Reader's Digest cropped

Around Christmas 2006, Derek K Miller, a 37-year-old blogger and technical writer from Vancouver, Canada, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. For four years, he blogged about his treatment, moments of optimism, setbacks, and the impact on his spirit and family. When the illness became terminal Miller wrote about accepting death, his anger and sadness, and what this meant for his two young daughters. His dispatches were raw and unvarnished. His writing was funny, touching, and sometimes ribald. He captured the sadness, joy, anger, acceptance, occasional banality, loss and reality of cancer. When he died, in 2011, he left a blogpost, to be published posthumously, which included a final, public message to his wife: “I loved you, I loved you, I loved you.”

Readers Digest Nov 2011 cover

As an editor for Reader’s Digest, I wove together four years of Miller’s posts, condensing more than 40,000 words into a mere 4,000. The challenge: keep the narrative thread and honour the writer’s moving and darkly humourous voice while creating a coherent, publishable essay. It is one of the most difficult, rewarding, and moving stories I’ve edited.

+ To read the story, buy the November 2011 digital edition of Reader’s Digest
Click here to donate to the Miller family trust fund