Bill Bradley (1976-2017)

William “Bill” Bradley was a professor of mine. He was also an allied traveller in the space where literature and medicine meet. His undergraduate years at St. Lawrence University, like mine, were marred by medical drama; he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his sophomore year and ended up leaving school for a time to pursue chemotherapy. The cancer went into remission, and he completed his studies and became a published writer. Much of his prose dealt with the human experience in illness, and one of his award-winning essays, “The Bald and the Beautiful,” epitomizes his sensitive touch.

When I returned to SLU in the fall of 2014, after brain surgery and sudden deafness, Bill happened to be teaching as a visiting professor, and I took his intro to nonfiction writing class. He was the first writer to affirm that my medical experiences were worthwhile subjects in of themselves, and even encouraged me to submit my work to journals. After the 2014-15 academic year, he took up a teaching position in Ohio, but we kept in touch via email. Sadly, his lymphoma returned in 2017 and he passed away.

In our last email exchange, I sent him a manuscript for an essay that I still consider to be my magnum opus. After reading the manuscript, he responded that I would be destined for great things as a writer. I consider this blog to be the next step in my development as a writer, and Bill’s life is an animating spirit behind this project.

Bill with his wife, Emily (© Raina K. Puels)