In the end the diagnosis came as something of a relief. She had been feeling unwell for so long and didn’t know what it was. She had had flu symptoms ever since the previous summer, when she and her companion Maurice Tempelsman had traveled in southern France. They went not to the beaches and shops along the Riviera where everyone imagined she liked to go, but along the Rhône, to the Roman towns at Arles and Avignon. She wrote a postcard to one of her authors, Peter Sís, saying she’d been to Roussillon, where they made a famous paint out of local clay and ochre- colored pigment. Sís was also a painter and an illustrator, and she loved talking to him about art. She didn’t tell him that she hadn’t felt quite right. She expected all that to clear up. Then, during the fall, when she didn’t improve, and in the Caribbean around Christmas, when she was worse, she knew she needed some help. When the doctors told her in January 1994 that she had non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma, it wasn’t the end of the world. Yes, it was cancer. But they thought they’d found it early enough to treat it and make her well. At least she knew what she was dealing with. She could read about it in a book. The doctors recommended chemotherapy, and even that wasn’t too bad. She told Arthur Schlesinger, once Jack Kennedy’s special assistant, now a distinguished historian and her old friend, that she could take a book along and read as they dripped into her arm. The woman who had taught a nation what it was like to have courage had an instinct not to overdramatize things, to play it low- key, to stay upbeat. She lost her hair. Well, she would wear a wig. She sometimes didn’t feel like going into her office at Doubleday. Well, she could telephone her authors from home.
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