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Writing always has been a part of Brittney Tooker’s life.
“I’ve been writing a lot, I always have since I was little,” she said. But since her mother’s death five years ago, she never had been able to adequately express her feelings about the loss.
“It was really hard to write about it because it’s hard to find the words to describe it,” she said.
But once she finally filled that blank page, her way with words caught others’ attention.
Tooker, a junior at John Hardin High School, won an essay contest offered by Gilda’s Club Louisville, a cancer support group, to high school students who have been affected by cancer. Tooker will be recognized for her achievement at an awards ceremony on Jan. 25.
Tooker learned of the contest at school, soon after she completed an essay for her English class about the death of her mother, Joan, from a form of leukemia. She decided to expand the essay and submit it.
This time, to find the right way to share her thoughts, she displayed many pictures of her mother to draw inspiration while she wrote. She discussed the ways she put up walls around herself, not wanting to talk about her mom with anyone. She also wrote about how eventually she began to open up.
“I kind of gave in to moving on,” she said.
Tooker was 6 when her mother was diagnosed, but said her parents shielded her from many parts the illness.
“I didn’t really understand how serious it was,” she said.
Tooker was at school when she learned her essay had placed first.
“I really didn’t expect to win at all,” she said.
Tooker found putting her thoughts down on paper was therapeutic.
“You can’t really find someone who directly understands,” she said, but when she’s writing, “the paper understands, because you’re basically writing to yourself.”
More than 130 students from Kentucky and southern Indiana entered essays, which were judged by many members of the Louisville community as well as Alan Zweibel, a “Saturday Night Live” writer who was friends with performer Gilda Radner, namesake of the club.
North Hardin High School student Andrew Holland received an honorable mention.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at 270-505-1747