Life Consumed, A

By Diane Sims

Life Consumed, A
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In 1923 Lilly Samson, a teacher in a one-room school in Goulais River north of Sault Ste Marie, contracted TB. She was 22 years old and engaged to be married. A year later she entered a sanatorium in Gravenhurst, Ontario. She died there in 1927. Before she did, though, she wrote ... Read more


Overview

In 1923 Lilly Samson, a teacher in a one-room school in Goulais River north of Sault Ste Marie, contracted TB. She was 22 years old and engaged to be married. A year later she entered a sanatorium in Gravenhurst, Ontario. She died there in 1927. Before she did, though, she wrote a series of letters that her niece Diane Sims has made the centrepiece of a remarkably moving and thought provoking look at TB in Canada in the 20s, a time when receiving a diagnosis of TB, according to Susan Sontag, was like learning you have cancer today. In a combination of discursive prose, fictional recreation, forensic fact-finding and historical commentary, Sims arrays a variety of constellations around Lilly’s letters. There is the national, where the 22 sanatoria across the country embraced all classes of Canadians, including Mackenzie King’s brother Douglas who compared fighting TB to surviving on the front lines. There is the medical/political, where provision of TB care for all its citizens was Saskatchewan’s precursor to medicare. There is the social, where Lilly gets to know Dr. Norman Bethune, himself a patient at the Gravenhurst sanatorium, their isolated community within a community. There is the personal, where Lilly, by turns hopeful and deeply angry at this theft of her life, enters into a relationship with another patient.

Diane Sims

Diane Sims, now living in Stratford, grew up in Sault Ste Marie. She has worked as a journalist/editor for newspaper and magazine media, as a writer/broadcaster for CBC radio, and as corporate editor for a Crown corporation. She has been living with MS and ovarian cancer for far longer than anyone expected possible, and her previous writing has reflected this. Gardens of our Souls: A Correspondence of Gardening, Friendship and Healing, with Marla Fletcher (Macmillan, 1998, ISBN 0-7715-7582-3), was translated into Chinese and Japanese for distribution in those countries; An Ovarian Cancer Companion (General Store Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-894263-83-9), was translated into French for distribution in France; and Solace (Novalis, 2005, ISBN 978-2-89507-571-4) continues the correspondence begun in Gardens of our Souls. Rider Of The Clouds: Faith, Survival and Just Plain Hanging On (General Store, April 2008, ISBN 1-897113-64-1) was published in spring 2008.

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