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‘What I learned from dying’; newspaper reporter living with cancer writes weekly columns

cancer column
Posted at 12:00 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 12:00:52-05

When you’re a writer, the hope is your words can reach people and do something good. One writer’s weekly column is doing exactly that, taking on a very hard subject in which anyone can relate. His latest assignment is his legacy.

“Being a small paper, I do a little of everything, fixing the front door,” said writer Dave Taylor. “I love learning people's stories, because everybody has a story.”

The words written by Dave tell the stories of people, of the little city of Hawesville, Kentucky. It's all in the Hancock Clarion, where Dave is the editor. It's the good stuff. He’s a features guy. Girlfriend Jamie D. Hunt started a scrapbook to fill with Dave’s columns.

“This is your first one without a picture, and I said those don’t get enough shares on Facebook,” Jamie laughed, flipping through the scrapbook with Dave. “I’m his manager!”

Dave never wrote about himself. It was always about the people of Hawesville. A day in April changed the columns.

“I began having trouble swallowing,” Dave remembered. “That’s when they discovered that I had stage 4 esophageal cancer, and it’d moved to my liver and my stomach. I had one moment of despair near the beginning. It was just the realization cancer wasn’t going away. It wasn't quitting. It was trying to kill me all day every day.”

Then Dave thought, as someone who tells stories and who’s living this, he could do something to help people. He could start a new column: “What I Learned From Dying.” The columns include; “What Kind of Old Man Would I Have Been,” “How To Live Intentionally,” and “It Is Well With My Soul.”

“I’ve had several people come up and tell me they’ve had family members die of cancer and they always wondered what they were going through, but they never would say,” Dave said. “It gives them a little perspective on what their loved ones went through. What’s important when you’re about to die should be just as important when you’re living.”

“It was a huge leap of faith for me to buy a scrapbook,” said Jamie. “I honestly didn’t know; will I get to put two weeks of columns in here and the rest remain empty? I love every week cutting out his columns.”

“This one is you talking about all of your weight loss,” Jamie said, pointing out another article to Dave. “How you weighted 265, then you weighed 187. This one is ‘Everybody needs a Jamie’. He wrote this beautiful column about me.”

Dave decided to ask a question to the person who’s been here through all of this. Dave and Jamie are now engaged.

“I’m pretty convinced I wouldn’t be here if not for her,” Dave said. “I would’ve been gone a long time ago.”

Since April, Dave’s undergone difficult chemo treatments. Neuropathy in his fingers made it harder to type. He wasn’t sure he’d make it through a week in September, but the column continues.

“The week he was in the hospital, basically in a coma, I wrote the column for him from my perspective,” said Jamie. She began to read the article. “I felt in that moment Dave was in a burning building of cancer. Maybe I couldn’t extract him, but I could sit in the fire with him, and he wouldn’t be alone. I have chosen almost every second of every day since April 27 to love him without fear. I hope you have surprises as uplifting as what Dave has been to me."

“While I wish that my scrapbook was filled with all the adventures we get to have, my journey with Dave is different,” Jamie said. “I love that scrapbook very much. I’m very proud of him.”