English professor Matt Tullis will read excerpts from his powerful new memoir about life after cancer at University Bookstore, Oct. 24.
...When you encounter something like childhood cancer, it alters your life forever, and in ways you won’t realize or understand for more than two decades.”
— Matt Tullis, professor of English and author of the memoir, Running with Ghosts.
Fairfield University English and digital journalism professor Matt Tullis, MFA, will offer audiences a glimpse into his emotional journey as childhood cancer survivor during an upcoming book signing and author talk at the University's Downtown Bookstore on Tuesday, October 24, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and is presented by the College of Arts and Sciences, the MFA in Creative Writing, Department of English, the Kanarek Center for Palliative Care and Nursing Education, and the Learning for a Lifetime Program.
In his new book, Running with Ghosts: A Memoir of Surviving Childhood Cancer, Tullis details the transformative moment in his life when he went from being a carefree teenager to a young cancer patient fighting for his life. After being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 15, Tullis endured two years and three months of chemotherapy at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, an experience that drastically changed how he viewed both life and himself.
“Most teenagers think they're invincible,” Tullis said. “I knew I wasn't, because I very nearly died.”
While Tullis was lucky to make a full recovery, his memoir provides a touching account of five friends and caregivers he bonded with during his treatment at Akron Children's Hospital, each of whom were not as fortunate, and who ultimately succumbed to their battles with the disease.
“Once I started to understand the long-term side effects of the medication that treated my disease, and once I started to think about all of the kids I knew who died of their own cancers…I finally understood that it was a mistake to ever think I could get back to normal,” Tullis explained. “That’s really what Running With Ghosts is about; this notion that when you encounter something like childhood cancer, it alters your life forever, and in ways you won’t realize or understand for more than two decades.”
The idea for the book began a few years ago when Tullis decided to start running to lose weight and improve his health. "I found myself thinking about them a lot when I ran," he said. "I was trying to understand why I got better and they didn't. Maybe the reason I survived is so I could tell their stories.”
On September 23, 2017, Tullis returned to Akron’s Children’s Hospital once again — this time as the official race starter of the Akron Marathon. As a tribute to his fallen friends, whose treatment facility could be seen in the distance upon crossing the race’s finish line, he wore a pair of custom sneakers bearing the words “Ghost Runnr” on the tongue, and a motto for cancer, “There is no finish line,” on the back of the heel.
Tullis acknowledged that his life will never return to “normal” and he explained how writing has helped him to make sense of his journey. He hopes Running with Ghosts shows children and parents of children with cancer that it's okay to be “different.”
“I hope parents will take away the fact that their kid is different because of what they went through,” Tullis explained, “And truthfully, there is nothing wrong with that.”