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  March 26, 2001

Cancer Survivor, Poet to Speak
at Scholars Day Event

Lucy Grealy, cancer survivor, poet, and author of Autobiography of a Face, will be the keynote speaker for the Scholars Day celebration on April 3. The event, which honors the University's top students and outstanding faculty, begins at 4 p.m. in the Jorgensen Auditorium and is open to all members of the University community.

Grealy, who was diagnosed with a rare form of facial bone cancer at the age of nine, endured an 18-year ordeal that included radiation treatments, chemotherapy, and more than 25 operations. In 1995 she wrote the book Autobiography of a Face, which recounts her physical and emotional experiences during years of sickness and recovery.

The chronic illness from which Grealy suffered not only brought her physical distress. The pain and nausea she experienced during two years of intensive treatment were accompanied by changes in her relationships with her family. Her father no longer felt comfortable in her presence and her sisters began to behave differently towards her.

When Grealy returned to school, her altered facial appearance drew uncomfortable stares from classmates. She felt unattractive and unloved because of her disfigurement and became convinced that facial reconstruction and a restored appearance were necessary to make life bearable.

Through her years of reconstructive surgery, Grealy was anchored by a love of horses and a passion for poetry.

Today Grealy is cancer-free and divides her time between teaching at Bennington College in Vermont and writing poetry. She also co-wrote another book, The Man Who Listens to Horses, which was the basis for the movie 'The Horse Whisperer.'

"Her message is so much more than academic," says Kathy Usher, program associate for the Honors Program. "She is able to see into the souls of individuals and not judge them by what they look like - a beautiful lesson for everyone. Not only does Lucy Grealy tell a story of pain, heartache, and a little girl's despair but she gives us the ultimate gift - a happy ending - which will surely awaken the champion in all of us."

Grealy's visit is sponsored by the Aetna Chair of Writing, the Creative Writing Center, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Honors Program, the Office of Diversity and Equity, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Women's Center, and the Women's Studies program.

Rebecca Stygar