Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Deal With My Name

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



The Babysitter said...

That makes sense why your keeping your name separate.

I think its great to be able to move on, and have another life, and its good not to delve into the past and get depressed on it.

Anon#1 said...

You are way too much!!!

It happens to be that I do know your real name, because I heard your first name a few times, and being the yenta that I am, looked it up on OnlySimchas and figured out who you are. And you're totally right - the only difference it'll make in my life is that when you have a simcha in your family, I'll know about it!!

Hatzlachah with all your decision making and speeches, etc.

And btw, my around-the-corner neighbor's daughter-in-law has cancer - can you speak to her?

StillinShidduchim said...

So if you had all these very valid reasons not to put your real name on your book, why'd you go ahead and do the book signing and the interviews? So Artscroll could capitalize on your cancer some more? I was pretty disgusted when reading the periodicals this past Shabbos...yes, it's cool that your book is being advertised on so many pages, and you should be proud of yourself, but it's too much IMO. You put yourself out there, and so now I don't think you can whine that people found your unlisted number. If you really don't want cancer to define you, stop with the publicity now.

Scraps said...

I think that's totally fair and reasonable, and it makes a lot of sense. You can't take care of every person in the world, and you need your kochos for yourself and your family.

I'm shocked that people would track down your unlisted number! Have they no respect for a person's right to privacy??

itsagift said...

You are the best Tzipi!! I love calling you by your new name - it has a whole new sound to it! Not here to boast about the fact that I know your first name LOL but just want to tell you - it was great speaking to you last night and you are SOOO SOOO RIGHT about this whole thing!!! Just keep being the most amazing person out there and pretty soon, people will get the message!!!
Tell them if they need some mentoring/emunah speeches and stuff like that - I can send them to someone who is really good at that LOL - and you know her too!! (get who I'm talking about?!?!)

Anonymous said...

Tzipi, just wondering: you blocked out your face for tzniyus reasons; what about the other ladies whose faces are clearly visible? Did they give their expressed written consent or whatever?

Etty Gruen said...

I love how you compared cancer to Harry Potter. LOL!

J.A.P. said...

Anon, The tzniyus comment was a joke, and the people in the picture are my relatives. They know its here. Though if it offends male readers I can take it down :-)

Etty, cute how you are sticking with your new name! ;-)

Anonymous said...

My wife and I both loved your book. There was one qustion that we each had. If you don't want to answer we will understand, but we were curious how much older your husband is than you?


J.A.P. said...

No big deal Anonymous,
My husbamd and I are nine years apart. I know it sounds like a lot, but we never think about the age difference. Our personalities and perspectives are what matter more.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading the book! If its not to personal what happened with that shtreimel kind of stuff???

Anonymous said...

i agree 100%. your first priority is your husband and family and you must keep your your age and stage in life you can't be expected to be devoted to everyone else when you have so much on your plate as it is.

Anonymous said...

yay let's hear it for the "Nine Years Apart" club! I've been married 31 years this Elul- I was 19 when I got engaged to my then-28 year old bashert... my kids think it's weird that I would've considered going out with a guy so much older at that time, even if the guy turned out to be their tati! Think of it this way: you'll always be a trophy wife LOL!

J.A.P. said...

Ahhh, the streimel question!

Well, surprise surprise, I was raised in a chassidish family. My father wears a streimel and my brothers went to our chassidus's yeshiva. I don't know why my parents sent the girls to regular flatbush schools, but my youngest sister is back in a chassidish one.

So the idea of marrying chassidish wasn't foreign to me. In the book I was against it just because I was 16 and went to a litvish school and wanted to do what all my friends were doing.

I didn't understand how a chassisish man would ever be on the same wavelength with a girl from a flatbush school-- and if he was, I figured he was probably a bum.

Then I met my husband and I learned that boundaries aren't always so clear cut and that it was VERY possible to be everything a chassidish man was expected to be while still being open minded and fun loving, and everything else I dreamed of in a husband.

So yeah, I married the streimel dude, and got a beard and a bekitshe and we had a son with future curly payos as part of the package, but it's all good. Hashem knew what He was doing...!

J.A.P. said...

Ohhh, yes, I love being 9 years apart! The whole Trophy wife thing is so true! Also, life never gets boring this way.

Anonymous said...

i love your book! my whole famil is in dept to you because it helped us through a really tough time!i was just wondering if your friend michal survived her cancer?

Anonymous said...

i love your book! my whole famil is in dept to you because it helped us through a really tough time!i was just wondering if your friend michal survived her cancer?

Anonymous said...

Dear Tzipi- or whatever your name is,
I hope you get this comment.
I am a girl who lives in fear of what may happen. My mother passed away when I was 17 in a car accident on the otherside of America. It was a shock to my soul and life. While I thought I handled it well, b"h- it still has its affects. I am scared that s/t could happen to me or a/o I know. After reading your book, I realized that HAshem gives you sstrength when your in a situation. That why it was so difficult for me to fathom being through another tzarah. I didn't have the koach to deal with it.The irony is the date of your wedding was also my mother's yahrzeit- rachel imenu's yahrzeit. I admire your ability to take each situation as it comes and your ability to laugh at the situation. Thank you so much!