Okay, here's the post you all deserve.
What's the deal with my pen name?
Well.... Long story, let's start at the top.
To begin with this was an anonymous blog just because I was trying to protect my family and the names of all the people I associated with at the time of my illness. I had to respect everyone's privacy, and even though my story was very recognizable to those people who know me, I had to keep it on the low for those that didn't.
I also wanted to keep it identity free because of all the readers who were reading this while trying to keep their illness a secret. For them, seeing that someone they might have known wrote this blog might make them afraid of reading it. I once had a reader email me to the blog addy and beg me not to tell anyone that she had read my blog. She thought I could tell who visited my site just by running it. She emailed me in a panic when she realized who I was and begged me not to tell anyone we knew. I know it sounds weird, but there are people out there who honestly know nothing about computers... and about how keeping cancer a secret (doesn't) work.
And then the idea came up for making this into a book. I was all for it, but I didn't want my name on it for a few reasons. One, I didn't want my students coming into class next year and on the first day waving the book in my face and asking if I was the bald kid who sassed her teachers.
Second- I didn't want to walk into a shop, hand over my credit card and have my name recognized. I can only imagine buying some clothing for my JB and having the salesclerk lean over and say "OMG EVERYONE!!! THIS IS JB!!! HE'S THE BOY WHO WAS BORN AFTER CANCER!!! THE ONE WHO LIVED AFTER HIS MOTHER FACED "THE DISEASE THAT MUST NOT BE NAMED!! LET'S RAKE OUR EYES OVER HIS FOREHEAD AND SEE IF WE CAN SPOT HIS LIGHTENING SHAPED SCAR!!" Yeah, I don't think so.
I also didn't feel right having my name on the cover of a book. I like attention, but I know when it becomes an ayin hara. It's one thing if I had written a fiction novel, it's another when the book is about my true life story and fairy tale ending for all to yenta about.
And then my book became more than a book. It's becoming a movement. People are asking me to speak all over the place and obviously, that means I'm not just Tzipi Caton, I have a real identity too.
I still chose to stick with Tzipi- (well by that time the book was already in print and I had no choice) but I had another reason for doing so. I have no problem getting on stage and introducing myself with my real name- and then explaining why I have a pen name.
This is why.
As much humor as there is throughout my book, cancer is a big deal. A scary, terrifying, nightmare of a thing to go through. I did it. I went through it, wrote a book on it, and hopefully gave and will continue to give a lot of chizuk with my story. Veni, Vidi, Vici.
But the fact remains that it is a very hard thing to live with every day. My trademark phrase is "That was then. I am now." Let the world associate the name Tzipi Caton with the kid who laughed through cancer. My name should not be stuck to that part of my past all the time- I want my name to just be me. The ME who is living life today, happy and healthy.
I always say that cancer has changed who I am as a person but has not defined me. I know that very clearly, but it's hard for others understand. I don't want to give them the permission to label me forever as that cancer person. I was, and I still have times that I am, but as a general rule, my life today does not scream "I WAS ONCE SICK!"
Even now that my book is out and some people have put two and two together and realized it was me, I am getting swamped with calls begging me to mentor this kid or that one who is going through treatment. This may sound so selfish, but I have a life, and a great one at that, and I can't invest my energy into developing close personal relationships with kids in tough times. It will kill my spirit as well as sap all my kochos. I wrote my book to help as many people as I can, but I know my strengths. My best tools are my writing and speaking. NOT my personal phone calls and the stresses of keeping tabs on a million kids on chemo.
I know this may be shocking to people out there, but I am not the expert on cancer. Far from it. I just touched the tip of the iceberg with my round. Yes, I chose to write about it and give the world a peek into what life forms on other planets are like, but that does not mean I have all the answers or that I would make a good mentor to others.
I have a family member who totally gives me that fish-eye every time she hears I got another speaking arrangement. She also went through treatment for another type of cancer and she thinks I know nothing because I didn't have the same symptoms as she did. Well Duh, She and I had two different diseases and took different chemos. I cannot speak for her pain as she cannot speak for mine.
I am involved and I do mentor the odd kid here or there, but it's proving to be a huge strain on me. I would rather keep my lives separate, my names separate, so that I can have the kochos I need to give strength to others and then forget about it all when I need to be a wife and a Mommy.
I hope this all made sense to you because it's all a little garbled in my mind right now- I am exceptionally tired right now as I had four phone calls just today from people I don't know who asked me to talk to people I don't know either to give them emunah from I don't know where. I am slightly annoyed that people don't respect my privacy and the decision I made by putting Tzipi Caton on the book instead of my real name, and that they still went and tracked down my unlisted number which is that way for a reason.
Oh well, can't win em all. :-)
Now, for those of you still following my kvetch rant for today- if you have been reading my blog long enough and still haven't figured out who I am, then why do you think that if I tell you my name it will mean anything more to you than Tzipi Caton does?
And my face? I blocked it off for tzniyus reasons... :-P