Kati Heng, a Northwestern College senior writing/rhetoric and journalism major from Willmar, Minn., has had her creative writing published on the online literary journal theNewerYork.com.
Heng’s piece, entitled “New Jellyfish Lives,” is a transcript of dialogue between therapist John Lindgate, who was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer, and his suicidal patient, 20-year-old Michael Mansford. During a therapy session, the ailing doctor announces his “early retirement” due to his recent diagnosis and attempts to help his patient find a new therapist. Michael, suffering from a long bout of chronic depression, engages the doctor in a long conversation about life, death and the complications associated with both.
Heng took inspiration for her work after her friend’s mother, Lori, was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in October 2012. The two characters in the story are meant to represent the two sides of Lori after receiving her diagnosis. “There’s the therapist: the calm, reassuring, nurturing guy that’s always looking out for others … that’s the Lori I grew up with,” explains Heng. “The second character is more of an embodiment of every fear we went through as we thought about losing her.”
After submitting her piece to numerous online journals, Heng learned theNewerYork.com would publish her work. Although the story grew out of a project assigned in Heng’s advanced writing course, the piece ended up serving as a sort of therapy for her. “These two characters gave me a great outlet to talk through all the horrible questions and fears I had about Lori,” explains Heng.